A pillbox is a type of blockhouse, or concrete dug-in guard post equipped with loopholes through which to fire weapons. It is in effect a trench firing step hardened to protect against small-arms fire and grenades and raised to improve the field of fire; the origin of the term is disputed. It has been assumed to be a jocular reference to the perceived similarity of the fortifications to the cylindrical and hexagonal boxes in which medical pills were once sold the first German concrete pillboxes discovered by Allies in Belgium were so small and light that were tilted and turned upside down by a nearby explosions of mediumshells. However, it seems more that it alluded to pillar boxes, with a comparison being drawn between the loophole on the pillbox and the letter-slot on the pillar box; the term is found in print in The Times on 2 August 1917, following the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres. Other unpublished occurrences have been found in war diaries and similar documents of about the same date.
The concrete nature of pillboxes means. Some pillboxes were designed to be transported to their location for assembly. During World War I, Sir Ernest William Moir produced a design for concrete machine-gun pillboxes constructed from a system of interlocking precast concrete blocks, with a steel roof. Around 1500 Moir pillboxes were produced and sent to the Western Front in 1918. Pillboxes are camouflaged in order to conceal their location and to maximize the element of surprise, they may be part of a trench system, form an interlocking line of defence with other pillboxes by providing covering fire to each other, or they may be placed to guard strategic structures such as bridges and jetties. The French Maginot Line built between the world wars consisted of a massive bunker and tunnel complex, but as most of it was below ground little could be seen from the ground level; the exception were the concrete blockhouses, gun turrets and cupolas which were placed above ground to allow the garrison of the Maginot line to engage an attacking enemy.
Between the Abyssinian Crisis of 1936 and World War II, the British built about 200 pillboxes on the island of Malta for defence in case of an Italian invasion. Fewer than 100 pillboxes still exist, most are found on the northeastern part of the island. A few of them have been restored and are cared for; some pillboxes are still being destroyed nowadays as the authorities do not consider them to have any architectural or historic value, despite heritage NGOs calling to preserve them. About 28,000 pillboxes and other hardened field fortifications were constructed in England in 1940 as part of the British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. About 6,500 of these structures still survive. Pillboxes for the Czechoslovak border fortifications were built before World War II in Czechoslovakia in defence against a German attack. None of these were used against their intended enemy during the German invasion, but some were used against the advancing Soviet armies in 1945; the Japanese made use of pillboxes in their fortifications of Iwo Jima.
Pillboxes required artillery, anti-tank weapons or grenades to overcome. Notes Bibliography CBA staff, A Review Of The Defence of Britain Project, Council for British Archaeology, retrieved 30 May 2006 Hellis, John. "Why the name Pillbox?". Pillbox Study Group. Retrieved 10 September 2009. "pillbox, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. September 2005. Oldham, Peter. Pill Boxes on the Western Front: A Guide to the Design and Use of Concrete Pill Boxes, 1914–1918. Pen & Sword. ISBN 9781473817227. Oldham, Peter. "'Pill box','pillbox' or'pill-box'? What's in a name?". Stand To! The Journal of the Western Front Association. 112: 15–21. Schneider, Richard Harold.
Għajn Ħadid Tower
Għajn Ħadid Tower known as Torre di Salomone and known by locals as Xaghra Tower, is a ruined watchtower in Selmun, limits of Mellieħa, Malta. It was built in 1658 as the first of the De Redin towers; the tower has been in ruins since its upper floor collapsed in an earthquake in 1856. Għajn Ħadid Tower was the first De Redin tower to be built, was constructed between March and May 1658; the total cost of construction was 2 tari and 8 uqija. It was built on a cliff face overlooking Mġiebaħ Bay, having views of l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa, Gozo, St. Paul's Bay and Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq; the design of the tower was based on the Sciuta Tower, built in 1638 in Wied iż-Żurrieq. It had a square plan with two floors and a turret on the roof, with the entrance being a doorway located on the first floor, that could only be reached by a retractable ladder; the design continued to be used for all the other De Redin towers in Malta. According to a 1743 report in which all coastal towers were inspected due to the fear of a plague, the tower was armed with two bronze cannons, gun wheels and stock, eighteen cannonballs, fifteen rotolos of gunpowder, four muskets and twelve rotolos of musket balls.
It was manned by six people. The area around the tower contains a number of fields with rubble walls that were used to grow crops and house animals. A well dug into solid rock is found a couple of metres away from the tower. Both the fields and the well were used by the militia stationed in the tower since the tower was in a remote location and was difficult to supply; the tower was therefore self-sufficient. A small defensible room pierced by musketry loopholes is located nearby, but it is not known if this predates the tower or if it was built after it; the remains of a small sentry room can be seen in the area. All these features are unique to Għajn Ħadid Tower. Għajn Ħadid Tower was damaged in an earthquake on 12 October 1856, when its upper floor collapsed. Most of the stones were removed to be used in other buildings, but part of the scarped base still exists; the defensible room near the tower survived the earthquake, still exists today. Despite the tower's collapse, its ruins are still important as they show elements of the tower's architecture which are not visible in the still standing towers.
Since the other De Redin towers are identical, more information about their construction can be found by studying Għajn Ħadid Tower. The commemorative plaque, on the tower is on public display at a garden in Tas-Salib Square in Mellieħa; the tower's 6-pound cannon was retrieved in 1975 by the Historical Society of Mellieħa, it is now displayed along with the plaque at the same garden. On the plaque it is written: FR. D. MARTINVS DE REDIN MAGNO S. R. H. MAGISTROSEXTAM SPEULAM. PRO GARINARVM. AC INCOLARVM TUTIORI STATIONE, ERIGENTI, MELITEN S. POPVLVS PRINCIPI SVO CLEMENT PRO. VT IN CORDE. SIC IN L…RIDE GRATES DEBITAS REDDEBAT AN. 1658. National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands
De Redin towers
The De Redin Towers are a series of small coastal watchtowers built in Malta by the Order of Saint John between 1658 and 1659. Thirteen towers were built around the coast of mainland Malta; the Mġarr ix-Xini Tower, built on Gozo in 1661 after the death of de Redin, has a design similar to the De Redin towers. The Spanish knight Martin de Redin was elected Grand Master of the Order of St. John on 17 August 1657. In March 1658, he contributed 6428 scudi for the construction of 13 new watchtowers to strengthen the existing coastal defence system, which consisted of the Wignacourt and Lascaris towers; the design of the new towers was based on the Sciuta Tower, one of the Lascaris towers, built in Wied iż-Żurrieq in 1638. Each tower had a square base with two floors, with a turret on the roof; the entrance was on the top floor, was reached by a retractable ladder. The upper room was used as the living quarters for the garrison of four men, while the bottom room was used for storage. Two cannon were mounted on the roof of each tower.
Each tower had two neighbouring towers in its line of sight, so that signals could be sent from one tower to another, in order to maintain a communication link between Gozo and the Grand Harbour. The signals consisted of cannon shots by day, or fire by night. Construction of the first tower, located at Għajn Ħadid in Selmun, began in March 1658, it was complete within two months. Twelve other towers were built within the following year, with the last tower being complete by July 1659. In 1661, shortly after the death of de Redin, Mġarr ix-Xini Tower was built on the island of Gozo, its design is similar to the thirteen towers and it is sometimes considered to be one of the De Redin towers. The De Redin towers were the last series of coastal watchtowers to be built in Malta; the only tower built after them was Isopu Tower, completed in 1667. In around 1715, as part of a programme to improve Malta's coastal defences, Aħrax Tower and Saint Julian's Tower were upgraded into coastal batteries. A gun platform was built around the seaward face of the tower.
Both batteries still survive, although they are either in a dilapidated state or extensively altered. Fougasses were dug in the ground near some of the towers in the 1740s. Today, fougasses still exist near Saint Mark's Tower. In the 1760s, entrenchments were built close to some towers, but many of these were demolished in the early 20th century. A small mortar battery was built close to Delimara Tower in 1793; the De Redin towers did not play a role during the French capture of Malta in 1798, since by this time they were obsolete. However, St. Julian's Tower was involved in the subsequent Maltese uprising, when it was captured by Maltese insurgents; the upper floor of Għajn Ħadid Tower collapsed on 12 October 1856 during an earthquake, but the ruins of its base have survived to this day. Most of the other towers were decommissioned in the 19th century; the only exception was Madliena Tower, modified to have a role similar to the Martello towers. A battery was built nearby in 1908, it remained in use until World War II.
In the late 19th or early 20th centuries, the British demolished Bengħisa Tower, Delimara Tower and Żonqor Tower to clear the line of fire of new forts or batteries. By the end of the 20th century, there were nine surviving De Redin towers. Most of these were intact but rather dilapidated. Triq il-Wiesgħa Tower and Ħamrija Tower were in a bad state, were in danger of collapsing; the first restoration work was carried out by Din l-Art Ħelwa on Għallis Tower and Saint Mark's Tower between 1995 and 1997. Since 2008, Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna has restored Madliena Tower. Ħamrija Tower was restored by Heritage Malta, it now forms part of the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Archaeological Park. The only towers which were not restored are Aħrax Tower and Wardija Tower. Today, Għallis Tower and Saint Mark's Tower are open by appointment, Saint Julian's Tower is open as a restaurant. Over the years, several structures were built with a design similar to or inspired by the De Redin towers. One of the earliest examples is the Torre dello Standardo, a tower located near Mdina's Main Gate, forming part of the city's fortifications.
The tower was used for signalling purposes. It was built in 1725 by the architect Charles François de Mondion, on the site of the medieval Torre Mastra, as part of a project to restore the city after the 1693 Sicily earthquake, its design is similar to the De Redin towers, but it is of finer construction, with more importance being given to decorative elements such as escutcheons. Today, the tower is used as a tourist information centre. Another structure whose design was similar to the De Redin towers was the Falkun Tower, located at the Montekristo Estates in Ħal Farruġ, limits of Siġġiewi; this tower, along with other parts of Montekristo Estates, was constructed illegally without the necessary permits. It was supposed to have been demolished in November 2013, but the courts stopped the planning authority MEPA from carrying out the demolition. Since the failed attempt at demolishing the tower and the other illegal structures, new roofing works were carried out on the tower, while more illegal structures were constructed elsewhere in Montekristo Estates.
The tower began to be dismantled according to MEPA orders in April 2016. Another tower was built in 2016 in Gozo as a rural structure, similar to the coastal towers but located inland; the emblem of the Armed Forces of Malta consists of a gold De Redin tower on a r
Aħrax Tower known as Torre di Lacras, known as Armier Tower, Ta' Ħoslien Tower or the White Tower, is a small watchtower overlooking Armier Bay in the limits of Mellieħa, Malta. It was built in 1658 as the sixth of the De Redin towers. An artillery battery was built around it in 1715. Today, the battery are intact but in a dilapidated condition. Aħrax Tower is the northernmost fortification on the main island of Malta. Aħrax Tower was built by November 1658 in the area known as "l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa". Construction had cost 5 tari and 15 grammi, its structure is similar to the other De Redin towers, having two floors. However, the base of Aħrax Tower is larger than some of the other towers. An escutcheon once stood over the main doorway with De Redin's coat of arms, although this is no longer in place. Just as was the case with Għajn Ħadid Tower, a well was located close to the tower to supply water to the militia stationed in the tower. In 1715, an artillery battery was built around the tower, it was called Batteria della Harach.
The battery consisted of a semicircular gun platform with an en barbette parapet, a blockhouse, built on the western wall of the tower, two walls linking the tower to the gun platform. It was surrounded by a rock hewn ditch. In the 1743 inspection, Aħrax Tower was armed with two bronze cannons, gun wheels and stocks, sixteen cannonballs, four muskets, one rotolo of musket balls and ten rotolos of gunpowder. Thirty years in 1770, the battery was armed with ten iron cannons with 700 iron balls and 150 grapeshot rounds; the gunpowder was stored in Saint Agatha's Tower. In the 19th century, the British used the tower as a naval station and they added several rooms to the tower's structure. At a point it served as the Governor's summer residence and a British coat of arms replaced De Redin's personal arms. After World War II the tower was owned but it was abandoned; the area around the tower is now covered with concrete and the foundations of some walls of the battery have never been excavated. Over the years Aħrax Tower was modified so it is now difficult to see which parts are original and which were added later.
The battery remains intact, with the exception of one of the linking walls. In 2009, the tower was passed to the Mellieħa Local Council, it is in need of restoration. National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands YouTube video showing a 3D model of Aħrax Tower and Battery
Saint George's Tower
Saint George's Tower is a small watchtower in St. Julian's, Malta, it is one of the Lascaris towers. Today, it is located in the grounds of a hotel. Saint George's Tower is located at St. George's Bay, St. Julian's, its site was occupied by a medieval watch post. The tower remained in use during the British period but was converted to a Fire Control Station once Fort Pembroke was built; the tower served as a radio communications post in World War II. The tower appears in a 1916 painting with the British additions, it was listed by MEPA as a Grade I National Monument in 1995, in 1997 the fire control tower added by the British was demolished, which restored the tower to its original state. The tower is now incorporated within the grounds of the Corinthia Hotel St George's Bay. Lascaris towers List of monuments in St. Julian's National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands
Saint Julian's Tower
Saint Julian's Tower known as Torre di San Giuliano and known as Sliema Tower, is a small watchtower in Sliema, Malta. It was completed in 1658 as the fifth of the De Redin towers. An artillery battery was built around the tower in 1715. Today, the remains of the battery are a restaurant. Saint Julian's Tower was built in 1658 to protect St. Julian's Bay, it follows the standard design of the De Redin towers, having a square plan with two floors and a turret on the roof. It has Saint George's Tower in its line of sight to the west, the capital Valletta to its east. In 1715, a semi-circular artillery battery was built around the seaward side of the tower. Part of the battery had a parapet with four embrasures, with the rest of the parapet being en barbette. A free standing wall and a redan pierced with musketry loopholes enclosed the tower's land front, protected by a shallow rock hewn ditch. In 1798, during the Maltese uprising against the French, insurgents led by Vincenzo Borg captured Saint Julian's Tower and Battery.
On during the blockade, the battery's guns were transferred to other insurgent fortifications such as the Corradino Batteries, in order to bombard the French in Valletta. The tower gave its name to Tower Road, today one of Malta's most popular seaside promenades. Today, the tower is intact and in good condition; the battery is missing its land redan, which have been replaced by a promenade. In addition, the parapet with embrasures has been replaced by a low boundary wall; the tower and battery are now used as a restaurant, known as It-Torri Restaurant. Frendo, Henry. "The French in Malta 1798 - 1800: reflections on an insurrection". Cahiers de la Méditerranée. University of Malta. 57: 144–145. ISSN 1773-0201. National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands YouTube video showing a 3D model of Saint Julian's Tower and Battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of artillery, rocket artillery, multiple rocket launchers, surface to surface missiles, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles etc. so grouped to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems. The term is used in a naval context to describe groups of guns on warships. Artillery battery origins from a Grand Duchy of Lithuania bajoras and artillery expert Kazimieras Simonavičius' book Artis Magnae Artilleriae published in 1650, which contains a large chapter on caliber, construction and properties of rockets, including multistage rockets, batteries of rockets, rockets with delta wing stabilizers; the term "battery" referred to a cluster of cannon in action as a group, either in a temporary field position during a battle or at the siege of a fortress or a city. Such batteries could be a mixture of howitzer, or mortar types. A siege could involve many batteries at different sites around the besieged place.
The term came to be used for a group of cannon in a fixed fortification, for coastal or frontier defence. During the 18th century "battery" began to be used as an organizational term for a permanent unit of artillery in peace and war, although horse artillery sometimes used "troop" and fixed position artillery "company", they were organised with between six and 12 ordnance pieces including cannon and howitzers. By the late 19th century "battery" had become standard replacing company or troop. In the 20th century the term was used for the company level sub-unit of an artillery branch including field, air-defence, anti-tank and position. Artillery operated target acquisition emerged during the First World War and were grouped into batteries and have subsequently expanded to include the complete intelligence, target acquisition and reconnaissance spectrum. 20th-century firing batteries have been equipped with mortars, howitzers and missiles. During the Napoleonic Wars some armies started grouping their batteries into larger administrative and field units.
Groups of batteries combined for field combat employment called Grand Batteries by Napoleon. Administratively batteries were grouped in battalions, regiments or squadrons and these developed into tactical organisations; these were further grouped into regiments "group" or brigades, that may be wholly composed of artillery units or combined arms in composition. To further concentrate fire of individual batteries, from World War I they were grouped into "artillery divisions" in a few armies. Coastal artillery sometimes had different organizational terms based on shore defence sector areas. Batteries have sub-divisions, which vary across armies and periods but translate into the English "platoon" or "troop" with individual ordnance systems called a "section" or "sub-section", where a section comprises two artillery pieces; the rank of a battery commander has varied, but is a lieutenant, captain, or major. The number of guns, mortars or launchers in an organizational battery has varied, with the calibre of guns being an important consideration.
In the 19th century four to 12 guns was usual as the optimum number to maneuver into the gun line. By the late 19th century the mountain artillery battery was divided into a gun line and an ammunition line; the gun line consisted of 12 ammunition mules. During the American Civil War, artillery batteries consisted of six field pieces for the Union Army and four for the Confederate States Army, although this varied. Batteries were divided into sections of two guns apiece, each section under the command of a lieutenant; the full battery was commanded by a captain. As the war progressed, individual batteries were grouped into battalions under a major or colonel of artillery. In the 20th century it varied between four and 12 for field artillery, or two pieces for heavy pieces. Other types of artillery such as anti-tank or anti-aircraft have sometimes been larger; some batteries have been "dual-equipped" with two different types of gun or mortar, taking whichever was more appropriate when they deployed for operations.
From the late 19th century field artillery batteries started to become more complex organisations. First they needed the capability to carry adequate ammunition each gun could only carry about 40 rounds in its limber so additional wagons were added to the battery about two per gun; the introduction on indirect fire in the early 20th century necessitated two other groups, firstly observers who deployed some distance forward of the gun line, secondly a small staff on the gun position to undertake the calculations to convert the orders from the observers into data that could be set on the gun sights. This in turn led to the need for signalers, which further increased as the need to concentrate the fire of dispersed batteries emerged and the introduction fire control staff at artillery headquarters above the batteries. Fixed artillery refers to guns or howitzers on mounts that were either anchored in one spot, or on carriages intended to be moved only for the purposes of aiming, not for tactical repositioning.
Historical versions closely resembled naval cannon of their day, "garrison carriages," like naval carriages, were short and had four small wheels meant for rolling on