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This article is based on an interview with Ron Smith by Nigel Finch in July 2009.

Ron was a member of the Home Guard platoon based in Creech and describes some of his memories during the Second World War.

During the Second World War it was recognised that England was vulnerable to attack from the Germans by invasion in the South West. The West Country would then provide the bridgehead for an attack on England from the West.

The first line of defence was along the coast. Second line defences were built along lines that stretched from the Bristol Channel to the English Channel.

One defence line, known as the Taunton Stop Line, ran from Bridgwater to Creech, following the line of the Bridgwater to Taunton canal, then along the lines of the former Creech to Chard canal and continuing on to Seaton.

The Taunton Stop Line stretched 44 miles from Bridgwater to Seaton and contained over 350 pill boxes. An interesting website documenting the pill boxes can be found at www.pillboxes-somerset.com.

Creech St Michael played a major role in the Taunton Stop Line as it was considered a vital access point for transport. In addition, it was thought that a parachute drop by the Germans would most likely take place somewhere along the Taunton Stop Line and Creech could be one of the first places to be attacked. Creech St Michael was therefore designated as an anti-tank island and formed the third line of defence against an invasion.

Many measures were taken to prepare for a possible invasion and thwart enemy advancement.

The anti-tank island of Creech St Michael involved surrounding it with a ‘ring of steel’ (or ‘concrete’ perhaps?) defence mechanisms consisting of pill boxes, anti-tank ditches, anti tank blocks and gun emplacements. Visit the map of Creech defence placements.

Around a dozen pill boxes were constructed and situated around Creech. Pill boxes were built from solid reinforced concrete and many can be seen to this day. One of the most accessible is the pill box next to the former pumping station at Charlton. Each pill box was manned by four or five members of the Home Guard, including Ron Smith and Tacker Sweeting who also describes some of his memories of the Second World War.

Home Guard platoon no. 5 comprised the sections of Creech St Michael, Monkton and surrounding areas with Creech section consisting of approximately 35 men.

Some pill boxes were cleverly disguised. The old Lock House (now demolished) in Laburnum Terrace appeared to be a normal house however it concealed a reinforced concrete pill box built inside.

Another obstacle to delay enemy advance was an old car filled to the brim with concrete that would have been dragged on to the road at the old aqueduct Creech St Michael. This would delay a southerly advance into Creech from Ruishton.

All roads in Creech, including side roads, had holes made in them in which triangular-shaped old railway lines could be inserted to slow access in the event of an invasion.

The wooden swing bridges across the Taunton to Bridgwater canal were removed, again to delay enemy advance. However, after the bridges were removed this was not considered a wise move, as it stopped farmers accessing their land on both sides of the canal thus preventing them growing vital crops needed during the war. The army were then called in to hastily build low level bridges allowing farmer access that were then capable of being easily destroyed!

The brick-built canal bridges on the main road into Creech and at Charlton were charged with explosives so that they could be detonated in the event of an attack. These bridges were guarded by the army 24 hours a day until the Home Guard were sufficiently organised to take over. At this stage the fuses were removed for safety reasons as there was not a full time guard.

One interesting story surrounds the demise of pill box (no. 1) next to Hopkins abattoir. This pill box needed to be removed in 1960 to help flood defence works. Of course, reinforced concrete is naturally designed to resist attempts to explosion, therefore the best way to remove the pill box was to simply bury it! An enormous hole was dug next to the pill box where it was gradually pushed and remains buried to this day (2009) next to the River Tone, map reference ST 2734 2520.

Interestingly, Ron described how pill boxes would actually be built on very thick cardboard foundations. The reason being a direct hit would cause them to remain intact and slide rather than be blown to pieces. One can imagine pill boxes now slowly sinking as cardboard starts to decay!

Anti–tank ditches (no. 2) were built around the Island of Creech to delay tank movement. In the base of the ditches, anti-tank blocks known as ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ were placed. These were concrete triangles measuring about 3ft high.

The HQ of the Creech Home Guard was at the Old Vicarage, Creech St Michael (now demolished and redeveloped as Vicarage Lawns) where Captain Percy lived during the War. What few weapons and ammunition the Home Guard had were stored at the Old Vicarage.

Ron describes one amusing story when the Old Vicarage was unmanned one day and Captain Percy’s son found the very first Lewis machine gun to be stored in the house. Out of curiosity, and not realising it was loaded, he decided to try it out. Needless to say the front parlour was suddenly riddled with some 30 or 40 bullet holes to his utter embarrassment and the severe consternation of his father. One can only guess the banter he would have received from Home Guard members!

Finally, during the war, there was a rumour in the village that one of the pill boxes was packed with enough explosives to completely blow up all of Creech St Michael. Ron believes that this was a rumour to spread propaganda as part of the war effort. See comment by Brian Vowles.

“Thank you Ron most kindly for your insight and memories of Creech in the Second World War“, Nigel Finch