Post Pillbox Pontifications

31st August 2018

Forêt du Junda, south of Montalivet Les Bains, Aquitaine, France

Amy and I had a smashing early morn walk along ‘our’ deserted beach and adjacent forest. The beach is seemingly endless in both directions and I have taken a photo to give you the general idea but I regret to say it doesn’t really do a very good job. The limitations of a smartphone camera, or just possibly it's operator, I’m afraid!

Our beach at first light

Dotted regularly along the beach are WWII concrete relics. ‘Pillboxes’ built by the occupying German forces - and here I am just guessing - to protect the French coast from Allied naval infiltration with particular regard for the strategic Nazi U Boat base to the north at Lorient.

Track 20 - 'Fire guard barrier' and 'no vehicles except land owners and workers'

The potholed forest road we are currently calling home runs due north-south about a km in from and parallel to the coast. Crisscrossing this road are sand tracks running east-west which invariably terminate at a coastal pillbox or, more accurately, it’s remains. These sand tracks, today, do not permit public vehicular access and are primarily intended as ‘fire barriers’ but, in all probability, were originally installed by the German forces to construct and subsequently maintain these concrete coastal defences.

Walking along them, earlier today, I couldn’t help but muse on how very different their function today is from that of their original purpose.

Track 20 - today a 'fire guard barrier' with no public vehicular access but probably first utilised by the German occupying forces in WWII to build and subsequently service a concrete coastal pillbox.

Of course, there is an even more interesting story behind their construction. Its a popular myth taught in British schools that all of France resented the German occupation and that everyone French was in (or at least supported) the ‘Resistance’ movement - an informal collaboration of ‘cells’ covertly trained, armed and supported by the British. The truth, however, is rather different.

Many French people were happy to accept German occupation as a prelude to sitting as ‘number two’ at the ‘big European table’ after the Germans inevitably conquered all of Europe - a sort of forerunner to the EU, actually! That’s what ‘unoccupied’ Vichy France was all about and the Resistance was more of an occupied northern France enterprise where the locals witnessed frequently brutal Nazi Gestapo and SS oppression at first hand.

Many Frenchmen of the day profited quite nicely from the Germans like, presumably, the local man who sold them all the concrete for the many pillboxes hereabouts! One wonders how his descendants are doing today and if it still an influential and powerful local family clan, as it must have been back in the war?

Thanks mostly to the hatred fuelled spectacular gallantry of many young Polish Spitfire pilots the Germans never gained vital air supremacy over UK skies and consequently were never able to send their unstoppable Panzer armoured divisions across Le Manche but one wonders just how the Brits would have responded had they done so.

Churchill greatly feared its prospect and set up his highly covert SOE operation unit intended to frustrate the invading Germans to the greatest possible extent but it was not a universally supported initiative even within the cabinet of the day. Germany at that time had many influential British (Edward VIII) and American (Joe Kennedy) supporters who thought that a stable Europe ruled by a firm German hand would be no bad thing!

One can’t imagine those coastal pillboxes ever being recommissioned as modern warfare has mostly moved away from gunboats and even, increasingly, ballistics of all kinds. Today’s wars are all about wealth and are stealthily waged and won by mighty corporations devastatingly deploying their staggeringly large financial resources.

Money makes today’s world go round - for the West, God died sometime in the 1950s and money filled the gap!

Everywhere I go in my travels I see at first hand the ultimate product of all this new wealth - a veritable tsunami of destruction, detritus and the detestable culture of ‘self’.

Gandhi is paraphrased as saying Live the change you want to see. If, like me, you don’t want to be a ‘Nazi supporter’ of the current invader ‘corporate wealth’ then you will also need to start thinking long and hard about in what ways you can actually support the ‘Resistance’!

And just exactly how and where we spend our money would certainly be a very good start!

Montalivet Musings

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