Sunday 8 March 2015

Steel Pill Boxes (1/35)

One of Nystrup Gravel's 600 mm. lines passed close by the outer defensive perimeter of the air field the German air force was building at Mellemaaen during the occupation of Denmark. It made the railway unique among Danish industrial railways in having a view to several machine gun positions from the train. My research now reveals that Nystrup Gravel's railway on one occasion was used to transport steel pill boxes.

An image taken during the occupation years clearly showing Nystrup Gravel No. 2 transporting two steel pill boxes. The train is about to pass under the viaduct for the road to Ubehage and is probably en route to the northern line to unload the pill boxes south of Mellemaaen. Photo: From Thorleif Petersen's archive.
The steel pill boxes were transportable and designed to be dug into the ground. The front top of the pill box was of thick, cast steel, while the part designed to be buried was much thinner. Transportable steel pill boxes were first used during the World War One and many were used in the hastily constructed Dutch defensive lines before the German attack in 1940. When the Germans were pushed back in the defensive, they designed and deployed many pill boxes themselves. Dug in and camouflaged properly they were hard to see and offered small targets to the attacker.

Rear view of a steel pill box in position. The small hole in the front, where the machine gun would stick out, is visible through the open hatch. Photo from the local historical archive in Skovby.
Most of the pill boxes north of Nystrup and Ubehage were removed after the war and sold as scrap, but one of those that could be seen from the railway is still there today.

Two pill boxes salvaged in the late 1940's waiting for transport to the scrap merchant. Photo from the local historical archive in Skovby.

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