Fairbourne anti-tank defences

Fairbourne anti-tank defences

The concrete blocks along the seafront at Fairbourne form one of the best-preserved examples in Britain of Second World War defences against invasion.

In 1940, after the fall of France and the Low Countries, there was great anxiety in Britain that the Germans might try to invade. While it was likely that any attack from mainland Europe would come from across the English Channel, it was important that the military prepared for every eventuality, including offensives along the Irish Sea coast. In fact, Hitler and his generals twice considered attacking Britain from this direction which they codenamed Operation Green.

To stop an invasion force getting off the beaches and heading inland, large trapezoid blocks were constructed at Fairbourne. In all, 691 concrete tank obstacles were built, weighing around two tonnes each. They stretch over 2,400 metres along the coast to the Mawddach Estuary. They were fabricated from local stones and pebbles encased in concrete by local men, women and boys under the supervision of the Royal Engineers. Some of the blocks are inscribed with the names or initials of their creators, including a Betty Price.

Interspersed along the line of blocks were five “pillboxes” – squat huts with thick roofs and walls. Each had embrasures (slit-like holes) through which soldiers could fire on the approaching enemy.

The anti-tank blocks and the two surviving pillboxes are now the only visible remains of a defensive system that also included barbed-wire entanglements, a minefield and vertical posts on the beach to impede an amphibious invasion.

As only a couple of roads lead away from the beach at Fairbourne, they would have had to be used by invading forces to move inland. There is evidence at the southern end of Penrhyn Drive South, just after passing under the railway, of other concrete blocks which would have slowed down the advance further.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno

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