Submarine defense boom, Cramond Island, Edinburgh, Scotland
Not one of the structures is much older than sixty years, yet in these stunning pictures by photographer Jonathan Andrew, many look as though they could be far, far more aged. You might even be forgiven for thinking them ancient ruins from some forgotten race – a very warlike race, certainly, as they are actually the remains of European World War II military installations.
Rising up out of the water, these partially submerged monoliths are the pillars of the Cramond Island anti-submarine boom. As the name implies, this was a defensive structure meant to keep invading subs away from this part of the Scottish coastline.
When they were in use, these columns would have had fortified concrete panels between them, providing extra protection for the causeway. They certainly would have made a formidable barrier!
Type V143 Mammut Radar Antenna, Waringzelle, Nord Pas De Calais, France
Located in Waringzelle, Nord Pas de Calais, this bunker was built by the Germans to accommodate their marines, while its roof supported a radar antenna known as “Mammut”. German forces occupied this part of France during WWII, launching many attacks against England from here before the region was liberated in 1944.
Casemate Type 623, Koudekerke, The Netherlands
It wouldn’t have been a good idea to approach this robust looking fortification carelessly while it was operational. Those small holes and slots in the side were not so much windows for looking out as places from which to fire weapons. Like this example in Koudekerke, Dutch casemates were usually surrounded by flat empty countryside, making them difficult to sneak up on.
Casemates, fortified gun emplacements, weren’t entirely pleasant for their occupants either. Little thought was put into the comfort or needs of the soldiers who manned these concrete bunkers, which lacked both proper ventilation and adequate storage for supplies. There is even a story about a soldier having to resort to (putting it delicately) “relieving himself” on an overheating machine gun after they ran out of coolant!
Radio Transmitter Bunker, Spaandam, The Netherlands
During WWII, German forces occupied Holland and set up bunkers for different uses around the country. This particular structure is a rare example of an antenna bunker (L438). Though plain looking, during the war this concrete block played a vital role in German Luftwaffe communications.
Type 669 Heenschemolen, The Netherlands
North Brabant in The Netherlands saw a lot of fighting between Germany and the Dutch resistance during WWII. The Germans installed this Type 669 bunker here in the town of Heensche Molen as part of their “Heensche Molen Battery Rack”.
As you can see from these photographs, the most important factor when building a WWII bunker was that it had to be strong. These constructions, made of steel reinforced concrete, had to shield their occupants against artillery fire and sometimes even direct bomb blasts.
R636 Fire Control Post, Lekrinckoucke/Zuidcoote, France
This coastal bunker, known as a Fire Control Post, was part of a chain of German fortifications that spread down the western coast of Europe. The purpose of this defensive line, known as the Atlantic Wall, was to keep Allied Forces from trying to take Europe by sea.
This type of bunker (R636), seen here at Zuydcoote Beach in France, was commonly used to defend beaches from coastal invasion and attack. There is an emplacement on top of the structure for an artillery rangefinder, while surveillance was carried out through the horizontal slits at the front. Definitely not a comforting sight if you’re an invading soldier who has just landed on the shore...
Observation Tower, Fliegerhorst, Belgium
This unusual looking bunker also has an unusual history. Built a little like a fortified lighthouse, it is in fact an observation tower for an airfield that was never actually built. Instead, the site was built by the Luftwaffe to appear as if it was a fully constructed airfield in order to lure enemy planes into landing and, it was hoped, crashing. Ironically, it worked so well that one of the Luftwaffe’s own aircraft was fooled into landing there!
Type 703, Emminkhuizen, The Netherlands
It’s hard to imagine a more minimalist design than this bunker in Emminkhuizen, again situated in The Netherlands. From this angle, it doesn’t look far off being a cube, only with a few bits strategically missing.
The Type 703 seen here is part of a line of defense known as the “Siegfried Line” by the Allies and the “Westwall” by the German forces. There were over 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank traps along the Siegfried Line. Bunkers were standardized due to the shortage of materials and labor. As you can clearly see, no frills on this one.
Type 583a / M 178 Fire Control Post, Heerenduin, Ijmuiden, The Netherlands
Here is another of the intriguing-looking Fire Post bunkers, this one in The Netherlands. It's part of a string of installations (you can see another one in the background of this picture) that belonged to the Anti-Aircraft Battery Olmen, south of the German defenses at Heerenduin. One of the prime purposes of this set of structures was to protect a nearby E-boat bunker in Ijmuiden. The way this photo has been taken, it certainly looks like this bunker has a personality all of its own!
Dragon's Teeth Anti Tank Defence, Den Helder, The Netherlands
These little pyramid-shaped objects might look harmless enough, but they were quite literally a death trap. The job of the aptly (and dramatically!) named “Dragon’s Teeth” was to slow down military tanks and guide them into the fire of waiting anti-tank weapons. Just to make it all a little more deadly, landmines were also sometimes buried between the blocks and barbed wire was laid alongside them.
Dragon’s Teeth were used extensively by both sides in WWII, but particularly by the Germans along the Siegfried Line and Atlantic Wall; like this example in Den Helder in The Netherlands.
Thousands of these little blocks of concrete can still be seen along the German defensive lines today, along with the other installations in this series. They stand as a memorial to the kind of all-out war our planet had never seen before and, considering today's improved killing technology, can never afford to see again.