Make a World War Two pillbox

A World War Two pillbox near a crossroads.

A World War Two pillbox in Swanton Novers. (© NCC)

The pillbox is probably the most familiar type of 20th century defensive building in Britain. There are many records for pillboxes in Norfolk. The earliest dates to World War One. These early concrete pillboxes were built in north and south Norfolk. The north Norfolk pillboxes were circular. They were called ‘pillboxes’ because they looked like boxes used for containing pills.  These boxes were placed mainly in a line inland from Weybourne to Sea Palling, broadly along the seaward side of the course of the River Ant. Most have now been demolished although examples can still be seen at Weybourne (NHER 32502), Stiffkey (NHER 23980) and Bacton (NHER 17017 and 23625). 

A World War Two pillbox on Elmham Road

World War Two pillbox in Brisley. (© NCC)

In South Norfolk, pillboxes were hexagonal, (the prototype of the most common type seen in World War Two) and were positioned to protect Yarmouth from overland attack. Very few of these still survive although several can still be seen in Great Yarmouth (NHER 18493 and 18494). 

World War Two pillbox on Horsey dunes

World War Two pillbox in Horsey. (© NCC)

The pillbox is much better known as a World War Two structure. At the time of writing, there are some 672 World War Two pillboxes in Norfolk registered on the NHER database. Some of these are records from aerial photographs of demolished or destroyed (e.g. by coastal erosion) sites, but the majority survive. World War Two pillboxes come in all shapes and sizes – hexagonal (NHER 32170), rectangular (NHER 25012), octagonal (NHER 16972), square (NHER 32700) and occasionally circular (NHER 24185). The most common type is known as a Type 22. In the event of German invasion soldiers would have hidden in these hexagonal concrete and brick structures along a line of defence. Firing loopholes would have enabled soldiers to fire at the enemy whilst being protected from returning fire. Pillboxes were often disguised as other things – for example sheds, ice cream shops, windpumps and lighthouses. They were also often camouflaged with nets, vegetation and paint. 

World War One pillbox

World War One pillbox in Stiffkey. (© NCC)

For more information read Pillboxes in Norfolk.

A World War Two pillbox.

A World War Two pillbox guarding a level crossing in Kilverstone. (© NCC)

Make your own World War Two pillbox 

Photograph of a completed pillbox.

A complete pillbox. (© NCC)

You will need:

A print out of the pillbox template


Paint and paintbrushes, felt tips or colouring pencils


Glue or sellotape 

Drawing of the template used for making a model pillbox.

Template used for making a model pillbox. (© NCC)

1. Print out the pillbox template. Draw the door, windows, gunholes and any other features you want to include on the template. 

2. Colour in the pillbox template. You could make it plain concrete or brick or a combination of both. You might want to disguise your pillbox as an ordinary building like an ice cream shop or hide it by painting on trees or camouflage paint designs. 

3. Cut around the template carefully. You could stick the template onto card to make it more sturdy before you cut it out if you want. 

4. Carefully fold along the dotted lines to form the roof, walls and sticking tabs. 

5. Using glue or sellotape stick the insides of the pillbox walls together. 

6. Your pillbox is now complete. You may want to add grass, leaves or pieces of string to form camouflage netting to disguise it even further!

P. Aldridge (NLA) and M. Dennis (NLA), 11 September 2006. 

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