UK defence issues and the odd container or two

The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Like many words that have found their way into the British Army’s common vocabulary Sangar has its origins in India. According to uncle Wikipedia it comes from the Persian for stone (san) and built (gar) although a more learned source describes a more complex origin;

The etymology of this word will be traced in Pushto and other languages of Indian sprachbund (Indian language union or linguistic area). Lahnda: sãgaṛh m. ʻ line of entrenchments, stone walls for defense ʼ.(CDIAL 12845) گ • (sang) m, Hindi spelling: संग stone, weight; association, union (Persian. Hindi)

Whatever the origin it was commonly used by the British Indian Army to describe a small temporary fortified position used on the North West Frontier where it was impossible to dig trenches.

The official description is;

A sangar is a protected sentry post, normally located around the perimeter of a base. Its main function is to provide early warning of enemy/terrorist activity/attack in order to protect forces both within the base and those deployed within sight of the sangar

Originally using stones and rocks the Sangar developed to include sand bags, construction materials and in some cases, concrete culvert pipes.

Wherever the British and Commonwealth Armies fought they would make use of sangars.

British troops manning a sangar in South Africa The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

British troops manning a sangar in South Africa

A Sangar at El Alemein NZ Electronic Collection The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

A Sangar at El Alemein – NZ Electronic Collection

Sultans Armed Forces 1973 74 740x535 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

These sangars,on the plateau of the Jebel Akhdar, are being built using dry stone walling, and are superbly constructed by local villagers living on the Jebel Akdar. (Image Credit – Flickr Brian Harrington)

A British sangar overlooking the Kajaki dam. Helmand Province Afghanistan April 2007 740x447 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

A British sangar overlooking the Kajaki dam. Helmand Province, Afghanistan, April 2007. (Image Credit – Flickr James Birt)

The Britain’s Small Wars web site has good photographs of Argentine sangars around Stanley, click here

In Northern Ireland the sangar was developed even further to include RPG screens, bulletproof glass observation panels and sophisticated surveillance equipment.

Northern Ireland Sangar1 740x411 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Northern Ireland Sangar

Northern Ireland Sangar The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Northern Ireland Sangar

RUC Station Crossmaglen 740x555 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

RUC Station Crossmaglen

RUC station Keady Co. Armagh October 2001 March 2002. e1399912511370 740x607 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

RUC station, Keady, Co. Armagh, October 2001-March 2002

Super Sangar Removal Newton Hamilton Northern Ireland The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Super Sangar Removal Newton Hamilton Northern Ireland

Borucki Sangar dismantled

In Afghanistan the Sangar has been transformed by Hesco although wriggly tin, timber and sandbags are still in widespread use.

Hesco Sangar 01 740x491 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Hesco Sangar

Hesco Sangar 02 740x555 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Hesco Sangar

Hesco Sangar 03 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Hesco Sangar

Sangar 02 740x555 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar


Sangar 03 740x555 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar


Stones and rocks are so last century and with the advent of Hesco and Defencell gabions the build times and resources used have greatly reduced.

Borucki Sangar dismantled

They even get the occasional VIP visitor

Sangar 01 740x491 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Guardsman Paul Jackson on duty in one of the patrol base sangars talks to The Prince of Wales about life in Patrol Base Pimon.

The website of the Coldstream Guards has a good article on the Royal Engineers production of a Hesco Sangar, click here for some great before and after images.

In my post on Generic Base Architecture (GBA) and FOBEX I had a look at deployable Super Sangars and the Marshall Safebase system

Marshall Land Systems Safebase Armoured sangar at FOBEX 740x827 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Marshall Land Systems Safebase Armoured sangar at FOBEX

Super Sangar 740x555 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

A complete range of Improved Army Operational equipment as used in Afghanistan and Iraq was demonstrated and displayed at Salisbury plain Wiltshire. Particular emphasis is placed protection as industry and the military work constantly together to update and counter evolving threats faced by the modern day Soldier. Pictured here is the Armoured Super Sanger with the Enforcer Remote Weapons System

Although not as sexy as the exotica on display at FOBEX the latest evolution of the humble sangar is the EES, the Expeditionary Elevated Sangar.

Cuplock Sangar in Afghanistan 740x491 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Cuplock Sangar

The EES is a prefabricated kit of parts with the elevation being taken care of by a Cuplock scaffold tower. Cuplock scaffolding has been used for many years in the Army but mainly for elevating water tanks, see the details on my post on water supply.

Expeditionary Elevated Sangar 01 740x492 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Royal Engineers Working at FOB Shawqat

The Cuplock scaffolding and DuAl beam system (data sheets here and here)is made by Harsco Infrastructure (formerly SGB), a British company, although it is widely copied.

It uses an innovative node point that allows up to 4 components to be connected at the same point.

Cuplock Tower 04 740x598 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Cuplock and DuAL Decking

Cuplock Tower 03 740x361 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Cuplock Scaffold Node Point

Cuplock Tower 02 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Cuplock Scaffold Node Point

Cuplock Tower 01 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

Cuplock Tower stairs

The loading jib on new Iveco Tracker Self Loading Dump Truck (Protected) is long enough to fill the Hesco bastion containers but where this or other long reach plant is not available they have to be filled by hand, lifting 16 tonnes of aggregate in bergens, nice!

Expeditionary Elevated Sangar 03 740x551 The Expeditionary Elevated Sangar

2 Section, 7 Troop of 42 Field Squadron, 28 Engineer Regiment attached to 4 Armoured Engineer Squadron were tasked at Patrol Base Wahid at the beginning of October to construct a new section of perimeter wall from Hesco, remove the existing wall, strip out the existing Sanger and construct an EES (Expeditionary Elevated Sangar) in its place. Easy!!!!. Image Credit 21 Engineer Regiment

The EES is a clever design because it minimises the use of labour and it is labour that is expensive. It also means that a finite number of always in short supply combat engineers can ‘do more’

So how much is one of these marvels of British military engineering?

We can get a few clues by looking at the military aid budget and export control publications. One source lists the cost of an EES at £25,942 and another describes how five of them cost £120,921.

All of them were gifted to Afghanistan.


About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!


  1. Alex

    That Omani photo: some bloody good dry stone work there. I remember as a kid in Wharfedale being asked – “our kid” – to put a stone on the last course by a waller. I thought it was great, said I’d love to do the job. “Don’t let him! like cyanide in the blood..”

  2. Mike Edwards

    hmmm….Not sure on this. Nothing beats Terra-firma as a foundation. Being up in the air on an exposed position with wooden boards under foot and no cover for the struts propping you up? So if a shell, rpg or other hit’s under the Sangar and detonates in the struts holding this up what then? A normal Sangar doesn’t have this weakness.

    Unless of course it is designed to be completely encased in HESCO, then that would make sense, but the ones in the Photo’s above aren’t.

  3. Mike W


    Most interesting post.

    As far as the armoured sangar idea is concerned (e.g. the Marshall Safebase), do you happen to know what material(s) the armour consists of?

  4. Observer

    Mike, and an RPG hitting a sanger at ground level is going to spew rock sharpnel out the other end.

    Either way, you take your chances. I’m not too worried about the RPGs though, look at the placement of the sanger, behind a preexisting HESCO wall. The struts are protected from the front and side, with only a limited number of angles for the shot and most RPGs are shaped charges anyway, which gives a very narrow damage cone.

    As for shells… run!! He won’t be shooting at the struts, he’ll shoot the sanger post directly and tear it up.

  5. Phil

    “Unless of course it is designed to be completely encased in HESCO, then that would make sense, but the ones in the Photo’s above aren’t.”

    An acceptable risk in order to dominate a larger area of ground. Stagging on is shit for many reasons!

  6. Mike Edwards

    @Phil Agreed that being on Stag isn’t great but that doesn’t mean you should tolerate a bad design, or rather a good design which is being implemented badly .

    Dominating the ground is fine, just like Castles of old, the high ground or observation positions are always of great utility. In a number of the pictures above there is no HESCO or cover around the Struts on the Sangar with a direct line of sight from outside. Like this one.

    (See Cuplock EES Sangar above to see that SANGAR is exposed)

    Granted a direct hit from an RPG/Shell is a “bad day” but what of PK’s or Dhsk rounds inbound or any other 10 a penny LMG/MG/HMG? 3ft of Dirt filled HESCO is better than a lattice work of metal which will deflect / splinter or shatter incoming fire and the last thing you need is people inside the compound becoming casualties from rounds passing under/through/ richoceting from the struts into the compound. The lack of a solid floor to the top of the tower is also a weakness, HESCO is like LEGO and pretty cheap and quick to build, why not make use of it properly rather than coming up with another system when you can just stack the things in to Turret based shapes and add a reasonably sturdy Roof to it?

  7. Observer

    ME, your observation point is backwards. The pictures were taken inside the base facing out. Look at the other side of the sanger, the part screened by the HESCO wall. That is the part that is facing out.

  8. Phil

    Observer has it, that CP isn’t finished yet and you’re looking at it from the rear and with no camouflage. There will be more Hesco going up, just that the tower gets put up early so the build itself has better force protection.

    The thing with Hesco sangers is that they need to be rebuilt every so often.

  9. Think Defence

    Mike, not sure on the Safebase armour although I expect it is something off the shelf from NP Aerospace or other supplier.

    On the EES, you have to understand that defensive works evolve, I would imagine the point of EES is to get something at height, with a reasonable level of protection in a more than reasonable time frame completed by a less than reasonable level of resource!

    It can then be consolidated, extra protection, concealment etc

    Its a quick build kit of parts that, as phil says, allows the local ground to be dominated

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