In military science, a blockhouse is a small, isolated fort in the form of a single building. It is intended to serve as a defensive strongpoint against any enemy which does not possess siege equipment or, in modern times, artillery. A fortification intended to resist these weapons is more likely to qualify as a castle, or in modern times, a bunker.

Age of Exploration

Originally blockhouses were often constructed as part of a large plan, to "block" access to vital points in the scheme. But from the Age of Exploration to the nineteenth century standard patterns of blockhouses were constructed for defence in frontier areas, particularly South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

Blockhouses may be made of masonry where available, but were commonly made from very heavy timbers, sometimes even logs arranged in the manner of a log cabin. They were usually two or even three floors, with all storeys being provided with embrasures or loopholes, and the uppermost storey would be roofed. If the structure was of timber, usually the upper storey would project outward from the lower so the upper storey defenders could fire on enemy attacking the lower storey, or perhaps pour water on any fires. When the structure had only one storey, its loopholes were often placed close to the ceiling, with a bench lining the walls inside for defenders to stand on, so that attackers could not easily reach the loopholes.

Blockhouses were normally entered via a sturdy, barred door at ground level. Most blockhouses were roughly square in plan, but some of the more elaborate ones were hexagonal or octagonal, to provide better all-around fire. In some cases, blockhouses became the basis for complete forts, by building a palisade with the blockhouse at one corner, and possibly a second tower at the opposite corner. Many historical stone blockhouses have survived, and a few timber ones have been restored at historical sites. In New Zealand, a number of one storey timber blockhouses survive from the Maori Wars, while stone blockhouses from the Boer War are relatively common in South Africa.

Concrete blockhouses

During the First and Second World Wars many types of blockhouses were built, when time allowed usually constructed of reinforced concrete. The major difference between a modern blockhouse and a bunker is that a bunker is constructed mostly below ground level while a blockhouse is constructed mostly above ground level.

Some blockhouses like those constructed in England in 1940 were built for traditional fortification reasons, often hexagonal in shape and were called pillboxes. 20,000-30,000 were built in Britain during WWII in preparation for a possible German attack.

In London the Admiralty Citadel is one of the most sturdy above ground structures built during World War II. It was constructed in 1940–1941 as a bomb-proof operations centre for the Admiralty, with foundations nine metres deep and a concrete roof six metres thick. It too was intended to serve as a strongpoint in defending against the feared invasion.

In Berlin and other cities during World War II some massive blockhouses were built as air-raid shelters and anti-aircraft artillery platforms. They were called "Hochbunker" (lit. "high bunkers") and those which functioned as anti-aircraft artillery platforms were also called Flak Towers. Some were over six stories high; several survive to this day because of the high cost of demolition. The Pallasstrasse air-raid shelter Schöneberg has a post-war block of flats built over the shelter. During the Cold War the shelter was in use as a NATO foodstore. [ Pooter] .]

Afghanistan 2006

Blockhouses and Sangars have become a feature of the 2006 conflict in Afghanistan, being used by the British coalition forces, amongst others, as strong points to control the contested Southern provinces. These positions have served to draw out the Taliban, who have taken to attacking repeatedly in numbers. Sometimes British forces also used Blockhouses in Northern Ireland as defensive structures.

ee also

*Battery tower
*Flak tower
*Martello tower


External links

* [ Pillbox Study Group]
* [ Royal Engineers Museum] : Blockhouses during the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902)
* [ Berlin Air-raid Shelters, Flak Towers and Bunkers]
* [ Pillboxes]
* [ British World War 2 Fortifications]
* [ Bunker Pictures] : Pictures, locations, information about bunkers from WW2 and The Atlantikwall

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Blockhouse — Block house , n. [Block + house: cf. G. blockhaus.] 1. (Mil.) An edifice or structure of heavy timbers or logs for military defense, having its sides loopholed for musketry, and often an upper story projecting over the lower, or so placed upon it …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Blockhouse — (spr. Blockhaus ), Name eines der drei den Hafen von Portsmouth deckenden Forts …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • blockhouse — c.1500, of uncertain origin (see BLOCKADE (Cf. blockade) (n.)). Also in 16c. French, Dutch, German …   Etymology dictionary

  • blockhouse — ► NOUN 1) a reinforced concrete shelter used as an observation point. 2) US a house made of squared logs …   English terms dictionary

  • blockhouse — [bläkhous΄] n. 1. Historical a strong wooden fort with a projecting second story and openings in the walls for the defenders to shoot from ☆ 2. any building of squared timber or logs ☆ 3. Mil. a small defensive structure of concrete ☆ 4. a dome… …   English World dictionary

  • blockhouse — UK [ˈblɒkˌhaʊs] / US [ˈblɑkˌhaʊs] noun [countable] Word forms blockhouse : singular blockhouse plural blockhouses a small building used in the past as a shelter during a battle …   English dictionary

  • Blockhouse Bay, New Zealand — Infobox New Zealand suburbs name = Blockhouse Bay caption1 = The Blockhouse Bay town centre. city1 = Auckland City city2 = ward = established = area = population = 5,454 popdate = 2001 trainstations = ferryterminals = airports = hospitals = north …   Wikipedia

  • Blockhouse (Central Park) — The Blockhouse is a small fort in the northern part of Central Park, in New York City, New York, and is the oldest structure standing in the park. The fort was hastily constructed by New Yorkers during the War of 1812 in anticipation of a British …   Wikipedia

  • blockhouse — noun Date: 1512 1. a. a structure of heavy timbers formerly used for military defense with sides loopholed and pierced for gunfire and often with a projecting upper story b. a small easily defended building for protection from enemy fire 2. a… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • blockhouse — /blok hows /, n., pl. blockhouses /how ziz/. 1. Mil. a fortified structure with ports or loopholes through which defenders may direct gunfire. 2. Also called garrison house. (formerly) a building, usually of hewn timber and with a projecting… …   Universalium

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