This is the second part of my series exploring the German bunkers and defensive gun positions on Elizabeth Castle in Jersey. If you’ve not seen the 1st gallery, please click here to see photos.
German WW2 bunker in Elizabeth Castle’s parade ground
The gun position and bunker shown here was built by the occupying German army in or around 1941. This is one of two similar positions on Elizabeth Castle, but this one being placed in the parade ground area and looking out eastwards towards St. Helier.
The mighty Tudor stronghold of Elizabeth Castle dominates the entrance to St. Helier Harbour from its rocky islet in St. Aubin’s Bay. Added to and re-fortified over the centuries, it has always been a vital key in the defence of the Island’s capital town, which the occupying Germans recognised.Quote from the Liberation Route website, www.liberationroute.com
You can see just how thick the walls are, and how heavily fortified the German gun position was.
The small details of the German wartime architecture
When visiting Second World War heritage I think it’s the small details which are often just as fascinating as the more obvious aspects. For example, here’s a ventilation pipe on the outside of the bunker.
Our visit was during October, and whilst we were blessed with good weather, it wasn’t as hot as a Jersey summer would be. You can imagine why ventilation would be needed once you get into the bunker itself.
As with the first bunker position I have already documented from Elizabeth Castle, this one also has quite a low ceiling in parts. In fact, despite the warnings taped on the ceiling, I still managed to bang my head and ended up breaking a tooth whilst walking in!
Only seconds before my wife had warned me not to bang my head. So, she was proved correct in two ways: one, I am clumsy, and two, I don’t listen to her.
Inside the Second World War bunker
When you walk into the bunker, there are several small rooms splitting off from the corridor. Check out how heavily secured the internal doors are.
Here’s a close up of those thick German doors…
Much of the construction of bunkers such as this was done using slave labour as well as those employed by Operation Todt: a civil and military engineering organisation from 1933 to 1945, named after its founder, Fritz Todt.
Below you can see the view back out of the bunker towards the opening back onto the parade ground. Elizabeth Castle was built in the 16th Century and has been home to various armies who would have used the grounds.
Accommodation inside the bunker
Despite the size of Elizabeth Castle, and the ample accommodation it offered, the gun position bunker had a room with bunks in. As you can see from the photos below, it appears there was room for 6 soldiers to sleep.
The bunks were suspended on chains. The fact there is a sleeping area in the bunker suggests it was a 24/7 manned operation to defend Jersey from an Allied attack.
When walking back into the corridor, there are a few more details that the casual observer might miss…
The gun position (aka “resistance nest”)
The final room in the bunker as you reach the end of the corridor, is the gun position which overlooks the water towards the port of St.Helier in Jersey.
The German forces converted the Castle into a powerful strongpoint consisting of two resistance nests, one facing west and another to the east, equipped with long-range coastal guns. The Upper Ward of the Castle became an anti-aircraft battery; searchlights and roll bombs, anti-tank guns, flamethrowers and a host of machine guns were also employed to protect the fortress. An underwater minefield at the entrance to the Harbour was controlled from a blockhouse on the Elizabeth Castle Breakwater.Quote from the Liberation Route website, www.liberationroute.com
Original German range-calculating sketches
Something that I was not expecting to see were the original diagrams sketched onto the walls which would have helped the German army with targeting. These are original sketches drawn on the wall to assist with range finding.
I assume the sketch above relates to distances to St.Helier locations that the gunnery would have seen from their resistance nest.
You can actually see where they sketched Albert Pier and Victoria Pier in St.Helier (Viktoria Pier) in the detail below.
The image below I believe is meant to represent a location to the south of St. Helier. If you can identify what it shows, please do contact me so I can update this blog post.
To see the scale of the range finding sketches, the entirety of the German drawing are shown below.
And lastly, a little more detail of the German wartime engineering I spotted.