Old Sarum: The Pit, The Pile, The Possible Pillbox - an Update

News from Kerry O'Connor

In April 2020 we published on this website a theory that there was a Second World War pillbox at the foot of the 1909-15 archaeological spoil heap on the northern edge of Old Sarum, between it and Phillips Lane and in line of sight from a similar pillbox where Monarch’s Way crosses the Portway.

A local WWII historian Richard Drew has confirmed this, citing another, Norman Charles Parker as his source. Norman Parker was an eye witness, he worked at High Post assembling Spitfires and helped bring the story of Salisbury’s Secret Spitfires to light. He featured in the documentary film about them and at the age of 92 flew in one.

There were three main garages in Salisbury (building parts of the Spitfires) ….they came together were put on a lorry and taken either to High Post or Chattis Hill where they were assembled, tested and flown out”. Norman Parker 2020

After Dunkirk, there is a worry in the Government that the Germans may invade. Via an airfield by glider or parachuting on to the grass area within the boundary and then defending the boundary, Ju52 transports would come in with fresh troops. So to stop, or try and stop this, a defence scheme was established whereby a Battle HQ was built with a 360deg view of the airfield. (Old Sarum’s was behind Ford & Fulford’s building on the grass). Behind this BHQ was also a defence pillbox, another was on Old Sarum Castle, a second BHQ was established on the castle site and is now the toilets. The next pillbox is the one you are talking about. There would have been roadblocks, trenches and all sorts of Home Guard paraphernalia around as well. In the event of an attack, the Officer Commanding the airfield would take up his position in the main room of the BHQ with a small staff and several airmen runners (to take messages if the phone lines go down). He would then control the battle and order his defence force as needed.” Richard Drew.

The pillboxes were to counter enemy forces heading both to and from the airfield. The lightly armed Junkers Ju52 could carry 18 troops.

The Chemring Counter Measures Factory (in WWII the Wessex Aircraft Engineering Co) at High Post nearby, has one pillbox on site (so not accessible), one on the roadside almost opposite its northern gate on Jubilee Hill, one in the middle of a field, to its north and one in the corner of a field to its east.

All four and the one on the Portway and one that has been removed from Old Sarum Airfield were of the FW3/22 type so it would be reasonable to assume this lost Old Sarum pillbox was the same. (That on the Portway is incorrectly given as a FW3/24 in the original article and at https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archsearch/record?titleId=1609589 but it is a regular hexagon and FW 3/24s were irregular.)

“The people of Salisbury should be very proud of the contribution their city made to winning World War Two.” Norman Parker 2019, commenting on the life size replica Spitfire that is coming to Castle Road.


Drew, Richard T. Of www.atlantikwall.co.uk. Personal Communication. 2020

Parker, Norman. 2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-50055985

Parker, Norman. 2020 https://www.facebook.com/AmesburyHistory/videos/296172378152682/#

Re Norman Parker’s flight in a Spitfire Biggin Hill July 2018 https://youtu.be/oqvfIXHu77o https://www.secretspitfires.com/dream-come-through-for-a-spitfire-engineer/ https://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/16351123.secret-spitfires-star-norman-parker-flies-first-time/

Pillbox Diagram FW3/22 http://www.pillbox-study-group.org.uk/types-of-pillbox/type-22/

Pillbox https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/dob/ai_full_r.cfm?refno=7962

Pillbox https://services.wiltshire.gov.uk/HistoryEnvRecord/Home/ViewHERItem?HER=MWI63906

Pillbox https://services.wiltshire.gov.uk/HistoryEnvRecord/Home/ViewHERItem?HER=MWI63907

Pillbox https://services.wiltshire.gov.uk/HistoryEnvRecord/Home/ViewHERItem?HER=MWI31777

An addendum has been added to the original paper https://www.stratfordsubcastle.org.uk/old-sarum-pit-pile-pill-box