Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Exploring Antwerp's Nazi Bunkers

George and I like to explore, with both of us displaying equally childish enthusiasm, albeit yours truly with somewhat less energy.

And so, how could we possibly resist Second World War Nazi bunkers?

In Antwerp's City Park there are three bunkers, part of a network that made up the headquarters of the 89th Corps of the German Army.

The two rather large and ominous looking ones are 'ST 608' battle headquarters bunkers. Sadly, for us, they are sealed up. The remains of the third, an 'ST 622' twin group bunker, which I would assume was used for accommodation of troops, are accessible.

There are some interesting brick works here; I may be wrong, but I suspect that there may be the remains of what was a platform for an anti aircraft gun.

The 622 was on two levels, and a number of the underground rooms remain accessible, as long as one is prepared to overlook the somewhat murky legal area that is known as 'trespassing'.

Anybody looking to investigate this slice of history should look for a derelict cafe on the west side of the park.

Behind this there is an overgrown area which is fenced off, but the intrepid amongst us will overcome that little obstacle in moments and with little effort. There you will see some stairs leading underground - beware, the steps are very slippery and if you get into trouble down there, you are on your own.

Its a mess down there, and very dark and damp. In more recent times it appears that heating and water pipes have been routed through the bunker, presumably for the cafe.

The two 608s are also worth close inspection: the central bunker clearly took some heavy fire from the west side at some point, judging from the size of the shell marks and the grouping, clearly in threes, I would guess a .50 cal HMG.

The British 2nd Army, with the help of the Belgian resistance, liberated Antwerp on September 4th 1944, and these are certainly scars from that time. These bunkers are minutes from the centre of the city, so this would likely have been towards the end of the action.

The City Park itself is worth a visit. Small, and it has seen better days, but very peaceful, with a small lake. Its about 10 minutes walk from the Central Station, which is something of a Mecca for railway buffs.

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