The War Tourist, February 2009

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Information about The War Tourist, February 2009

Published on February 19, 2009

Author: wartourist



The War Tourist Magazine, February issue, is out now. A sixteen page “Theme Issue” this time, dealing with the mighty 380 mm batteries at Hanstholm in Denmark and Kristiansand in Norway, that were to seal off the strait of Skagerrak during WW2.

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The War Tourist Magazine is issued by • Reprint only with permission • No. 3 • February 2009 • Theme Issue The mighty GUNS at HANSTHOLM and KRISTIANSAND The Skagerak New TWT layout As you will notice, the TWT has a new layout. “Again!”, you’ll Gatekeepers, page 4 probably say; “-three issues, three different layouts; why can’t this guy make up his mind?” Visiting Fair question, and perhaps we will get there eventually, but for the time being, I am keen on experimenting. The TWT Hanstholm, is still in its early infancy, and as with any toddler, new and page 8 exciting things happen almost every day ;-) One thing is fairly sure, the Coat-of-Arms or Crest you see Visiting in the upper left corner is here to stay (or so I think ;-) We’ll Kristiansand, need some sort of logo to signal that; “Hey, here is the TWT. page 11 Cool..!” The issue you have in front of you is also special in the The mighty sense that it concerns itself almost entirely with one topic, namely the two mighty fortresses that guarded the entrance Tirpitz guns, to the Skagerrak. I have been wanting to do this article for a page 12 long time, so... here we go! Enjoy...

Rommel, the mason the campaign made a court crushing them on the beaches the Allied rapidly advanced martial (as considered by Hoth), during attempted landfall. With inland and after a few days were or even a reprimand, impossible. that in mind, the Normandy beach unstoppable for the insufficient and of the Atlantic Wall It was, however, primarily during became his “Hauptkampflinie” – the overstretched German forces. his service in Africa that Rommel main battle line - and fortifications achieved the nimbus of an and obstacles were designed and On his way back from a meeting outstanding – almost invincible erected to support that tactic. His with Hitler in his forward HQ on Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel was After the war Rommel became - tank commander, earning him boyhood engineering skills came in July 17th 1944, Rommel’s staff car born in Heidenheim, Germany, near an instructor at the Dresden the flamboyant nickname he is handy as he toiled to make the best was strafed by an RCAF fighter, and Ulm, in the state of Württemberg Infantry School from and the remembered by; The Desert Fox. out of sparse resources, and e.g. the Field Marshal was hospitalized on November 15, 1891. His father War Academy in Potsdam from his infamous “Rommel’s asparagus” with severe head injuries. While was a Protestant headmaster of 1929 to 1938. During that period Rommel in Normandy should prove themselves deadly to recovering, he on several occasions the secondary school at Aalen. The he published what was originally Recalled to Germany by Hitler many Allied soldiers during D-Day. rather bluntly expressed his dismay Rommels had three more children, his war diary. Titled; “Infanterie before the final disaster in Africa with the Führer and the way he was two sons, Karl and Gerhard, and greift an” (Infantry Attacks), this waging the war; a carelessness that a daughter, Helene. Little Erwin quickly became a highly regarded later should prove fatal, as it was had to his own account a happy military textbook, and attracted the overheard and reported by local childhood. He was interested in attention of Adolf Hitler. Nazis. mechanics and engineering, and at the age of fourteen, he built a full- Rommel, now a colonel, was Following the failed plot against scale, operational glider together appointed commandant of the War Adolf Hitler only three days after with a friend. This technical Academy at the Theresian Military Rommel’s incident, a widespread aptitude steered young Erwin Academy in 1938. He wrote a investigation was conducted Portrait: Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, courtesy Wikipedia (Deutsches Bundesarchiv, towards becoming an engineer, but second handbook; “Panzer greift to identify the instigators and for non-commercial use). at his father’s insistence, he joined an” (The Tank in Attack), a book supporters. Some of the coup a local Infantry Regiment in 1910 as that even renowned US Panzer ringleaders’ documentation A word from the editor... an officer cadet and proceeded to Ace, George Patton, read and mentioned Rommel as a potential The February issue of The War Tourist, which the Officer Cadet School in Danzig. acclaimed. After a relatively brief supporter and an acceptable you have in front of you, turned out to be period at the school, Rommel was military leader take charge after a a special or “Theme Issue” as mentioned In 1911, while still a Cadet, Rommel handpicked to take command of successful coup. No evidence linked on the front. As you will note, all the usual met 17-year-old Lucia Maria Mollin Adolf Hitler’s personal protection Rommel to the plot, nor that he had stuff; the editorial, details, E&OE, rating who was to become his wife. battalion (Führer Begleitbataillon). system*, website of the month, news etc. could taint his image, Rommel To the question of tank support, been contacted by any of the plot has been left out to cater for the lengthy Graduating in November 1911 he During this period he met Joseph idled for a period. He was finally Rommel argued, that due to ringleaders, but in the paranoid article on Hanstholm and Kristiansand. was commissioned as a Lieutenant Goebbels, the Reich’s minister of given command of a newly formed overwhelming dominance by the Führer entourage, suspicion was on January 1912 and four years propaganda, who would become Furthermore, the article on Rommel came as Army Group B, assigned to defend Allied in the air, tank forces should more than enough. an afterthought and consequently delayed later, in 1916, he married Lucie (her a fanatical admirer of Rommel, Northern Italy, but after General be split up in smaller units and the publishing. Reason for this is that I aim pet name). In 1928 the couple had tirelessly exploiting the model Albert Kesselring assumed sole dwell in heavily fortified positions On October 14th Rommel was to write a series of articles on Danish coastal their only child, a son, Manfred, soldier’s victories in the propaganda Italian command late November 43, as close to the coast as possible. approached by generals Meisel batteries while traveling the west coast this who would later become the Lord after the outbreak of WW2. Rommel moved the Army Group to As the Allied onslaught began, & Burgdorf, delivering the death summer and thus found it appropriate to Mayor of Stuttgart (1974-96). Normandy, France, where an Allied they would not have to move far sentence and conveniently bringing start with a few words about the “mason” or World War Two invasion had long been expected. in long, vulnerable columns. Gerd the necessary poison vial. As a architect behind this epic structure. World War One After the Polish surrender, Rommel Following an inspection tour along von Rundstedt, his superior, on his national hero, Rommel was to be Anyway, here you have your TWT. Hope you Rommel, now serving in the elite returned to Berlin to organise the the entire Atlantic coast and finding part feared that the overwhelming spared the humiliation of a public are happy with it, and if so; pass the good Alpen Korps (Mountain Corps), Führer’s victory parade, taking part it little more than a mere garden firepower of the Royal Navy would trial and granted a hero’s funeral news (and the link) on to your friends ;-) saw action in France, as well as in himself as a member of Hitler’s fence full of holes, he was utterly destroy any shelter no matter how – provided he took the offered Romania and Italy during the Great entourage. Rommel then used his dismayed and wrote a critical report well built. He believed that the few cyanide post haste. Despite the War. He soon gained a reputation good relationship with Hitler to to Hitler, who in turn put Rommel in tanks available should be formed heroic offer from his Aide de Not a member yet..? for quick tactical decisions and gain command of the 7th Panzer charge of the repairs. into large units inland, allowing the Champ, Captain Aldinger, that they for taking advantage of enemy Division. During the invasion of Allies to overextend their forces into could try to shoot their way out, The War Tourist Group perplexity following an attack. France and the Low Countries in Throughout the winter of 1943 France before the panzer cut them Rommel immediately realized that on facebook and plaxo Three times on the stretcher with 1940, Rommel showed considerable and the early months of 44, he off from their supply lines. Hitler, the race was over and he had to are rendezvous points for the seasoned devotee of battlefield wounds, he was awarded skill as a panzer commander, worked tirelessly on this, knowing whose “intuition” told him, that the comply with his Führer’s command. battlefield sightseeing the Iron Cross twice; First and wading high-speed through the that the boasting charades of Dr. landings would take place at Pas de He kissed Lucie goodbye, hugged and touring the great Second Class, but industrious Erwin bewildered enemy. His division Goebbels about an impregnable Calais, vacillated, and ended up by his 16-year old son Manfred and fortifications throughout also managed to gain the highest was thus nicknamed “Gespenster- Atlantic Wall would not fend off an placing the tanks somewhere in the drove off in his callers car. history, focusing on the two World Wars. It is medal Prussia could muster; the Divisionen” (Ghost Division), due invasion on their own, and that middle, where they were of little a place for war history cadres to meet, and Pour le Mérite – not the everyday to its speed and surprise; 7th when invasion came, the German use to either plan. Ten minutes later, the Field Marshal to share photos, data and links to places of decoration for a mere lieutenant. Panzer e.g. captured the vital forces could not hope to match was dead. interest. “Knowledge not shared is lost” as The high award – presented to him port of Cherbourg on June 19th. the overwhelming weight of arms D-Day the saying goes, so discussions should thrive Sources: by the Emperor himself - came as a Although often misappropriating the presented by the Allied. His simple As it turned out, Rommel was right here, for mutual benefit. “Rommel in Normandy”, Friederich Ruge, 1979 result of the capture of 150 Italian supplies of neighboring divisions, conclusion was that the only and the invasion did take place on “Erwin Rommel”, Wikipedia (Link) Members receive the TWT Magazine in officers, 7,000 men and 81 pieces in order to keep up the pace (and option with any hope of success the beaches of Normandy. Allowed their mailbox six times per annum and are Background: Rommel in Africa, courtesy of artillery at the fortress of Mount thus angering his superiors), the would be to deny the invaders to secure a beachhead within hours Wikipedia Commons encouraged to contribute with their own Above: Rommel in Normandy, courtesy LIFE Matajur, Slovenia. fame gained by Rommel during establishing a bridgehead at all, due to lack of efficient resistance, articles and photos. Magazine (non-commercial use) 2/16 3/16

The Skagerrak convinced him, that the era of the battleship was coming to an end (in which he was right), losing ground to aircraft carriers, of which gatekeepers Germany had none. Consequently, feeling that their impressive armament was more effectively employed in coastal defense, he, in 1943, ordered all major fleet units “paid off” and the focus shifted to submarine warfare. Several guns that were originally ordered for Following the invasion of Norway and places a formidable obstacle and a upgrading of lighter battleships, as Stretching from Norway to the Denmark on April 9th 1940, it was deterrence to any attacker. well as entire turrets cannibalized Pyrenees; Hitler’s Atlantic Wall important for the occupiers rapidly from decommissioned ships, to seal off the entrance to internal Also the west coast of the Jutland hereafter entered service in this waters between the two countries, peninsula, mainland of the small land-based role. primarily to protect the transport Danish nation, received its of troops and material to Norway. generous share of concrete in the A number of locations in Denmark As a bonus, this denial of access shape of thousands of bunkers, were initially appointed to receive to allied naval forces would later, counting gun emplacements, heavy batteries, including in conjunction with the subsequent radar bunkers, ammunition- and conquest of Russian territory, also crew compartments, storage render the Baltic a German inland bunkers, command bunkers, field sea. hospitals; you name it. Most of them remain visible to this day. The Thus, in the wee hours on the crucial entrance to the Skagerrak invasion day, the Kriegsmarine was subject to special attention, saturated the Skagerrak with requiring two mighty fortresses mines and only a day later, a to be erected at Hanstholm in mobile battery placed at Hanstholm Denmark and outside Kristiansand provided artillery coverage to in Norway. These locations were a narrow passageway in the chosen for their proximity; at this minefield for German warships point the Skagerrak is just some and submarines bound for high- 118 km wide. swore to avoid – became even sea. In May this makeshift solution more adamant in reinforcing the Hanstholm, the tiny island of was replaced by a permanent 17 square kilometers and comprising emplacements commenced in the Battleships on land garden fence of Fortress Europe. Laesoe in the Kattegat, Blaavand cm battery, later to be known 450+ bunkers, this was to become fall of 1940 and was completed in Germany had never really been Issuing Führerweisung 40 in March near Esbjerg and the island of as Hansted 1, reaching some 20 the largest fortified area in 1941. Originally designed for 40.6 Britain’s peer on the waves and 1942 and the order for the “15.000 Bornholm in the Baltic. As it turned kilometers off the Danish coast. Northern Europe. cm (16 inch) guns, 38 cm (15 inch) the further demise of her naval bunker program”, the Atlantic out, Laesoe was given up, but gun pieces were eventually decided power through the loss of her Wall (so baptized by Goebbels) emplacements in the form of huge However, in spite of these efforts At Moevik, west of Kristiansand, upon and installed in the spring greatest battleships; the Graf Spee was born. Although somewhat bunkers were built at Blaavand and an intermezzo unfolded in April the battery had to be carved into of 1941. Guns no. 3 and 4 were (December 1939), the Sharnhorst oversold in Nazi propaganda as on Bornholm. However, in the end 1940 as three French torpedo solid rock, a backbreaking job that test-fired in May 1941 and no. 1 (December 1943), the Gneisenau an impenetrable 5000 kilometer only Hanstholm was ever to receive boats managed to penetrate the was carried out by workers from and 2 in August. Thus, with a slight (February 1942), and most notably, long wall of concrete and steel, guns and become operational. barrier and engage in a skirmish Norway, Denmark and Germany. delay to schedule, the battery was from a propaganda point of view, bristling with artillery and manned with German naval forces. Although In 1942, they were joined by pronounced serviceable in the fall the mighty Bismarck (May 1941), by crack SS troops (a far cry from At this site construction of the actual damage was minimal, the Russian slave laborers. Four gun of 1941. Covering more than nine rendered Hitler disappointed and the truth), this “wall” was in some four 3000 square meter gun incident added weight to the emplacements were commissioned Führer’s wishes for heavy batteries for this battery too, but only three to be placed on either side of the guns were ever installed. Two of the narrow strait, capable of effectively guns were pronounced serviceable fending off even major enemy in May 1942, the third in November. vessels. The fourth gun, however, was to be installed in a huge casemate As the onslaught on Russia in June that took a long time to build. Most 1941 failed to deliver the expected parts were installed by late 1944, quick victory, war in the east but the 110 ton barrel, while being progressed, and in 1942, with USA transported on the vessel Porto engaged in the war, the tide turned Alegra, was sunk February 1945 in in disfavor of the Wehrmacht on the Kattegat by a British fighter. all major battlefields. Hitler – now facing the dreaded two-front war Left: Regelbau 671 gun bunker at Hirtshals. on the European mainland he once Above: The Tirpitz with elevated guns. Secondary armament twin turret (10 mm) from the Gneisenau. Now at Stevnsfortet Huge “cathedral” bunker at Mövik. Note people in yellow wests inside the bunker. Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons /16 /16

How big is a 15 inch gun really? Well, you’re looking one in the eye right now... The guns installed were originally Life in these refugee camps was produced to upgrade the 28 cm (11 demanding; little room, poor inch) battle cruisers Scharnhorst facilities, shabby workmanship of The background photo is the muzzle of the remaining 15 inch gun at Mövik outside Kristiansand in scale 1:1 and Gneisenau. As they were the barracks and no work for the never installed on the ships, actual men. All in all, the Hansted families turrets were not produced and to some extend suffered social 800 kilogram shell might result in the protruding point where the longer do business, workers could entering service as land-based downfall but also – reportedly damages, even collapses. However peninsula of Jutland curves inwards, not go looking for employment artillery, special “land turrets” – experienced a new solidarity nothing dramatically happened creating the Vigsoe Bight, whereas and there were rumors of a curfew were designed. Most notably, these with neighbors. Post-war, the and for future test firing it was today it has become synonymous running; life in Hansted certainly turrets had very modest armor dismantling of German installations, considered sufficient if residents with the town itself. had changed, and not for the better. (50 mm) offering protection only the clean-up and mine sweeping opened up their windows. Batterie to splinters and small caliber fire made it 1946 before the residents Vara at Moevik, situated some eight In 1940, this fishing village, The winter 1940-41 was cold and and with limited automation of the could return to their now ravaged kilometers outside Kristiansand, did home to some 800 farmers snowy and on several occasions, munitions transport and loading town. In the end, only some 500 not have that problem. and fishermen, was known as work on the fortifications, system. out of originally more than 800 Hansted. With the arrival of large especially pouring of concrete, had returned. garrisons from Wehrmacht and to be postponed. A considerable Kriegsmarine, its population grew workforce was applied to clear Above: Abandoned cement mixer at The areas today by the thousands and life changed the road Thisted-Hanstholm as Kristiansand Kanonmuseum Hanstholm today is a thriving forever for the rural community. well as the work site itself for community with more than 3000 April, large quantities of weapons Initially coexistence was practiced snow. As winter yielded, work on residents. After much continued and material were transported with reasonable ease, judging the fortifications was reassumed, debate, the harbor was eventually from Thisted to Hansted, so it from a local journalist’s diary; the culminating with the test firing of finished in 1967 and is today one must have seemed obvious to villagers went about their business the first two 38 cm guns in May. of the most important fishing and everyone that something major like before and the invaders Work continued over the summer, transport centers in Denmark. was going to happen here. The reportedly behaved courteously but came to an end in August 41 tension apparently softened and tried to mollify the locals with where heavy equipment again could The huge guns were dismantled somewhat during the month of sports arrangements and the like. be observed on the highway, just and cut up for scrap in the early May as the German fear of British However, the mere presence of a going the other way. Rumor had it, 1950ties and the whole area countermeasures faded, and large contingent of foreign troops that it was shipped to Norway. abandoned and left to itself. much of the troops and weaponry and up to two thousand Danish was retracted again during the workers obviously did have a Deportation The Museumscenter Hanstholm is summer, but activity climbed again shattering impact on this small One year later, in November 1942, Both batteries in action, the beyond comparison the most in the fall as huge truckloads of Life in the village of society that had developed almost and coinciding with a sudden OKW Skagerrak strait between Norway comprehensive and well presented gravel, sand and cement filled the Hansted during occupation entirely from organic growth the order to stop the construction work and Denmark could be taken under of its kind in Denmark. Besides the road from Thisted to Hanstholm, In the Stone Age, sea level was past couple of centuries; school on Hanstholm harbor and clear the radar-guided fire in a distance up impressive, fully refurbished 3000 clearly indicating that preparations several meters higher than today, rooms commandeered, access building site for all scaffolding and to 55 kilometers off the coast, square meter exhibition bunker, the for massive construction works and Hanstholm was at that time roads cut off, massive quartering of machinery, the relative calm was thus covering the major distance area comprises a variety of bunkers were taken. The journalist had an one of many small islands (“holm” troops, farm land expropriated etc., over for the people of Hansted as it between the two countries - at this of most known Regelbau types, opportunity to accompany the local meaning islet) later to become and – symbolic for the situation was decided to evacuate (or rather; narrow point some 118 kilometers. many already accessible to the Mayor to the building site, where he the undulating part of the coast one might say - the lighthouse shut deport) the entire population. The That left an eight kilometer wide public and more being unearthed counted 22 heavy cement mixers as it appears today. From the down. reason was the German desire zone in the middle to be protected every year. The original munitions in action and estimated some 800 earliest days and up to the time to make Hanstholm a secluded by mine fields, not an easy task train used to transport the mighty workers employed. Also, he was of the German occupation, the Construction work commences military facility, with full right of as this stretch of water runs deep shells is available for a joyride that awestruck to see 15 meter deep name Hanstholm thus referred to From the outset and throughout disposal over town dwellings and – some 700 meters at the deepest. will take you through the typical holes excavated for the heavy freed of any obligation to feed west coast landscape as well as the gun platforms and the amount of the villagers in case of a siege. The guns of Hanstholm and two-storey ammunition bunkers, reinforced concrete used. From Even the church was closed and Kristiansand have never been and the documentation center is the same source we know, that reopened only on special occasions fired in anger, but test-fired on a well of information for the war the first gun barrel arrived on April e.g. at funerals where the spouse of several occasions. During the first tourist. 11th 1941 and two more on April the departed was already interred trials in Denmark, the residents of 23rd, a fact hard to conceal as the at the cemetery. the Hansted fishing village were On the Norwegian side, the 21 meter, 110 ton barrels had to instructed to leave their houses

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