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Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie -
 View of Nitration Hills, Unit 2 (Edingham)

Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie
World War II Cordite Works

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Pillboxes and Perimeter Defence :

Key Points :-

  • Chain link fence topped by barbed wire.
  • Boundary follows acquired land.
  • 2 Type 24 Pillboxes visited on northwest side.
  • 1 modified Type 26 pillbox at Southwick Halt.
  • Defences staffed and patrolled by Home Guard.
  • Some graffiti evidence of patrols.
  • Main threat from air attack, not armed raiders.

Edingham Pillbox - front view - M/S Factory Dalbeattie
Edingham Pillbox - front view - M/S Factory Dalbeattie

Factory Defence Works :


Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie was a critical part of Britain's ammunition supply industry, as such a presumed target for air attack, fifth-column sabotage and possible commando raids. As the factory was in South West Scotland, all these possibilities were rather low risks, compared to the need to prevent staff from entering with 'contraband' such as matchsticks or tobacco. This may explain why the perimeter is so poorly provided with defences, although the writer guesses that entrenchments and the site's raised earth banks (traverses) themselves offered reasonable rifle defences. The site was naturally protected by a ridge and gulley on the north-east side, by the Kirkgunzeon Lane burn on part of the north-west side, and again by the Lane and by Edingham Moss to the south. This could explain why the only two good pillboxes are on the northwest side covering the Edingham and Dumfries approaches. The real surprise is that a third and smaller pillbox at Southwick Railway Halt was thought necessary. However, the real security concentration appears to have been on supervising the entry of staff, which in the circumstances was the correct thing to do.

The Perimeter Fence

This fence of chainlink, mounted on steel stanchions and with barbed wire above it, was the longest single structure on the site. Many parts still remain in good condition, even after almost sixty years. There are four major sections, but none of them are complete and most are damaged. However, one can still make out the rather crumpled rectangle of the factory site perimeter.

  1. South Eastern Section : From Southwick Halt railway station to Kirkgunzeon Lane Viaduct, then to the north of Edingham Moss down to the new A793 road from Edingham. One pillbox at north east end of Southwick Halt station buildings. Fence crosses the Kirkgunzeon Lane on the viaduct. In poor repair.
  2. South Western Section : From the new A793 north and west around the hill in which the westernmost magazines stand, then almost parallel to the A793 causeway across the gulley west of the present Industrial Estate entrance and to the old railway line. then round behind and up to Castle Cottage (the old guardhouse and contraband search room). before crossing the field beside Edingham Castle ruin to the farm entry bridge.
  3. North Western Section : From the old guardhouse (beside the site of the main road entry gate) across the field to the farm entry bridge, then north east past the chicken houses to the pillbox overlooking the junction at Edingham, then first east then north east of the Unit 2 stoving and drying house area, passing the pillbox overlooked by Meikle Culloch cottage, before running along the north side of the Kirkgunzeon Lane burn to the Culkiest Farm Bridge. Some sections across the fields from Edingham up to and beyond the Meikle Culloch have vanished.
  4. North Eastern Section : From the Culkiest Farm Bridge, past the farm gate on the former north gate of the factory site, then east and finally south east beside a track and the north east side of the forestry plantation down to Southwick Halt.

Edingham Pillbox - Doorway
Edingham Pillbox - Doorway
Edingham Pillbox - Gunport shelves
Edingham Pillbox - Gunport shelves
Meikle Culloch Pillbox - approach
Meikle Culloch Pillbox - approach

A Survey of the Pillboxes :

To date (June 2006) only three have been definitely identified. As suggested in the introduction, this may be simply because there was no need of any others, their very visibility making them into a kind of bluff to deter entry by saboteurs and the like. At this stage it is not clear whether the Home Guard patrols would have kept sentries at intervals along the fence, or patrolled occasionally.

Pillbox details are as follows. Although the Pillboxes are given the Type assigned by Ian Sanders in PillboxesUK, the writer was warned by David Easton of the RCAHMS that many pillboxes were built according to designers' own ideas, rather than to a standard plan. :-

  1. Edingham Pillbox : Type 24 standard design, irregular hexagon with one step-side loophole to each outer face, the rear face having a doorway flanked by two loopholes. Central freestanding blast wall aligned on doorway, with a Y-shaped blast wall slightly blocking the entry through the door. The blast wall is presumably intended to prevent grenades or small shells from killing all inside. It would take two direct hits on a loophole or loopholes to kill all inside, or a shell or charge large enough to destroy the entire structure. The aiming shelves for the riflemen's elbow support and spare ammunition are mostly in place, even after 60 years of visits by local boys.
  2. Meikle Culloch Pillbox : Type 24 design, like Edingham, with the roof protected by stanchions and barbed wire. The internal woodwork is not in as good repair. A remarkable feature is pencil graffiti of Patrols and their officers just inside the left side of the door.
  3. Southwick Halt Pillbox : Half-concealed by roof being built into the station building, but free-standing. Three loopholes for rifleman or light machine gun, allowing them to cover the station platforms, level crossing and access track. The most effectively sited pillbox of the three identified, for actual defence. Postwar, the north east loophole has been masked by construction of a lean-to shed on the station building.

It is suspected that other pillboxes may be concealed elsewhere on the perimeter or that they were demolished. Despite its position commanding the Edingham junction, there is no sign of loopholes in the walls of Edingham Farm.

Meikle Culloch Pillbox - Interior
Meikle Culloch Pillbox - Interior
Meikle Culloch Pillbox - Graffiti by Entrance
Meikle Culloch Pillbox - Graffiti by Entrance
Southwick Halt Pillbox
Southwick Halt Pillbox

Conclusions :

The perimeter fence and pillboxes essentially reinforce existing natural obstacles to entry of the site. One is left to believe that the Home Guard dissuaded casual entry by the curious and saboteurs but that the perimeter was not intended to cope with a serious attack. Gatehouse security was more important and air attack a more likely problem.


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