GHQ Line

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A FW3/22 type pillbox near the Kennet and Avon Canal

The GHQ Line (General Headquarters Line) was a defence line built in the United Kingdom during World War II to contain an expected German invasion.

The British Army had abandoned most of its equipment in France after the Dunkirk evacuation. It was therefore decided to build a static system of defensive lines around Britain, all designed to compartmentalise the country and delay the Germans long enough for more mobile forces to counter-attack. Over 50 defensive lines were constructed around Britain. After the coastal defences, the GHQ Line was the longest and most important, designed to protect London and the industrial heart of Britain and was considered to be Britain's last chance of defence.

The GHQ Line - green ran from the northern end of the Taunton Stop Line near Highbridge in Somerset, along the River Brue, across the Mendips from Wells and following the railway from Maesbury into the Wellow valley. This joined the GHQ line - blue which followed the Kennet and Avon Canal to Reading. The green line continued from Bradford-upon-Avon along the river to Malmesbury where it met the GHQ line - red which headed for Abingdon, along the Thames to Pangbourne and rejoined the blue line at Theale. The green line continued to Avening then down the valley to Framilode, thus encapsulating the strategic areas of Bristol, Avonmouth, and Sharpness. Lines A, B, and C ran in concentric circles around London, with the outer line A running south of Guildford and Aldershot being the most comprehensive. The Eastern line ran inland of the coast from Essex to Edinburgh.

On the section of the line in Essex, between Great Chesterford and Canvey Island, the defences were made up of around 400 FW3 type concrete pillboxes, which were part of the British hardened field defences of World War II. Well over 100 pillboxes still exist on this section in 2014, with around 40 highly visible FW3 Type 22, 24, 26, 27 and 28 boxes between the Rettendon Turnpike and Howe Green, mostly alongside the recently constructed A130. Many more FW3s are still in place north of Chelmsford along the Chelmer Valley and towards Great Dunmow.

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