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Along the Moray coast, in the forest of Roseisle, lie the remains of coastal defences from World War Two.

In the summer of 1940, the threat of German invasion was very real. The British defence plan outlined a need to protect areas of the coast where the enemy could land.

One such area was Moray. This led to the construction of a series of defence structures that ran between Cullen Bay and Burghead Bay, through today's Roseisle and Lossie Forests.

Along the beach at Burghead Bay, where Roseisle Forest now stands, a line of concrete anti-tank blocks and pillboxes were constructed.

Due to coastal erosion and the movement of the sand, some of these defences have been lost or moved. For example, a few pillboxes have tipped over due to the movement of the sand.

Nearby Lossie offers a more complete representation of what the defences would have looked like during World War Two. Even there, however, it is difficult to picture what it was like.

Lossie forest coast smallest

Aerial photographs, taken by the Royal Air Force in 1941, show a dramatically different looking landscape.  Various observation posts ran along the coastline, some to keep watch on the beaches and others to keep watch for aircraft.

The barbed wire that lined the beaches is now long gone. Lengths of man-made earth banks and dug-out ditches created more obstacles for the Germans to cross. Today these are difficult to detect, as ditches were filled back in with earth and the banks levelled.

Roseisle pillboxes

pillbox small

Several World War Two pillboxes survive on the beach at Roseisle Forest.  These small gun stations formed an important part of the coastal and inland defences and protected important military targets such as airfields.

Pillboxes are small concrete structures. Soldiers could stand inside the structures and open fire on the enemy at close range. During 1940, over 18,000 were constructed all over Britain.

In June 1940, branch FW3 of the War Office Directorate of Fortifications and Works issued twelve 'Standard Design Drawings' for building pillboxes. In practice, designs were often adapted to suit local tactical needs and availability of materials. The Roseisle pillboxes are Type 24, an irregular hexagonal shape.

Despite variations in design, all pillboxes are flat-roofed buildings, no more than 2m in height. A small concrete wall often protected the back entrance of the pillbox.

Small rectangular windows are called firing loops. The size and shape of these openings allowed the guns inside to cover the area between this pillbox and the next.  At the same time, they limited how much enemy gun fire could get in, protecting the soldiers.

Some pillboxes were cleverly camouflaged as buildings; others, like Roseisle, were painted and covered in netting.

It is thought that the concrete walls could not have withheld enemy fire for long, however, they would slow down an enemy invasion. During battle, this could have proven vital in allowing the Home Forces time to organise a counter-attack.

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