WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

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myt1prod
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WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by myt1prod » 12 Dec 2012 15:33

Hello

Since long I have been wondering about the long gone bunker marked with a red square in the underneath aerialphoto; this aerial clearly shows that this bunker is of the same type as the still present bunker in the black cutout. Of this bunker - in the black cutout - we can find several more in the immediate proximity; some of them carry names as 'La Rochelle', 'Melun', 'Bar-le-Duc', etc... All of them consist out of an observationtower and one or several rooms with several MG-embrassures, all bunkers of this type have slight constructiondifferences compared to each other, but the outside view always fits the wellknown image of the 'La Rochelle'-bunker found near the beach.
(When refering to the bunker marked with a red square this article will always mention 'Belgian Melun-type bunker', when refering to this specific bunkertype in general this article will always mention 'Melun-type bunker')
WO1 kustverdediging dp2bis.jpg
This one Melun-type bunker on Belgian soil, marked with a red square, had to look something like this... (photo of a Melun-type bunker called 'Troyes')
Stp Anna - maginot observation2.jpg
The fact that at least one of these Melun-type bunkers was clearly built on Belgian soil leads to this...
Conclusion (in my opinion)
This rules out the possibility that this specific bunker and others of the same type were built as part of and at time of the Maginot Line! At the dawn of WW2 Belgium was a neutral state, therefore and because of diplomacy the French didn't develop the Maginot Line along the Belgian border to it's full extend as seen on parts of the Maginot Line along the German border. Also not to compromize the Belgian neutrality the French wouldn't have dared to built even the smalest bunker on Belgian soil. An other reason why the French didn't built the Maginot Line to it's full extend allong the Belgian border was because they thought Belgium formed a nice bufferzone in case the Germans did decide to attack France through Belgium, as seen in WW1 the French thought that - in this case - Belgium would serve as battlegrounds leaving most of the French territory out of German reach. Having ruled out the possibility of being Maginot Line bunkers, they must date back to WW1!
Sources with support the claim that all Melun-type bunkers are built during WW1:
- The book by Julien Depret concerning fortifications in the Bray-Dunes area mention them to be WW1 (many other sources - mostly WW2-based sources - mention them to be Maginot Line).
- Several claims by local eyewitnesses who lived true WW2 and claim these bunkers to be present long before WW2.
- Studies by the local historical community of Bray-Dunes claim them to be WW1
- Their - often poor - condition seen on photos dating back to operation Dynamo; the tilt and damage on the few displayed bunkers suggest they must date back much longer then the recent years in which the Maginot Line was constructed.
- The recently discovered bunker in the barn of Mr. Dezwarte who claims with certainty that this bunker was there eversince he was born in 1925!
- etc...
other indications which could support this claim of them being WW1:
- The wellknown German position map of De Panne (A, B, C, ...Q, R-map) clearly shows the existance of WW1 bunkers in the area (Belgian side of the border) although without refering to a specific type or features which could help to identify the bunkers this map is pointing out.
- Many other resistancedocuments and local historians make notice of WW1 constuctions in the Bray-dunes and De Panne area (also note; in De Panne several WW1 bunkers can be found which proves the need for bunkers 'this far' behind the front during WW1 and also adds up to the possibility that this was also the case on the French side of the border)

... Still the question remains; Why is this (at least) one Melun-type bunker built on the Belgian side of the border??

A new book I recently received on the world reknown military WW1 hospital "L'Océan" which was located in De Panne deliveres a whole new perspective which could explain why this one bunker is built on Belgian soil...
Before comming to that a situationsketch of the military situation for the De Panne area during WW1 is necessary. These informations are based on this new book which based it's research on documents from the Belgian Military and Royal archives)
Book: "Het hospitaal van de Koningin - Rode Kruis, L'Océan en De Panne 1914 - 1918" by L. De Munck & L. Vandeweyer
WO1 kustverdediging dp3bis.jpg
(please wait.... coffeebreak :lol: )
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CNOCK
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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by CNOCK » 12 Dec 2012 16:51

Hello Jean,

don't want to be pedant, but Lange Max was at Koekelare, and the Germans had no 'battleships' at the Belgian coast, only torpedo boats and destroyers.

cheers,

Eddy

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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by myt1prod » 12 Dec 2012 17:05

what does this map show...
- Already shortly after the war on Belgian soil started, the Belgian front settled near the banks of the river the 'Yser' leaving only a small portion of the province of West-Flanders - known as 'Bachten de Kupe' - into Allied/Belgian hands.
- As De Panne was the the only part of the Free Belgium furthest away from enemy artillery it was chosen to be the capital of Free Belgium as it was also the place where the royal family stayed during most of the war. For this same reason De Panne (and Adinkerke) was best suited to set up hospitals, army command, trainingcamps and facilities for off-duty soldiers. In the early years of war the dunes in between the border and the aglomeration of De Panne were used as millitary trainingcamps where entire German trenchsystems were built used to pratice several new techniques of attack.

- Quickly after having occupied most of Belgium the Germans strenghted their naval presence by ever growing numbers of ships and submarines in the Belgian harbours of Ostend and Zeebruges. Next to reinforcing their naval presence, the Germans started building several coastal batteries along the Belgian coast.
- The Allied forces and Belgian Army command feared that this could mean that the Germans were preparing an attack and/or landing by sea.
- When looking at the above map we can see that the only location suited for a landing would be the stretch of dunes in between De Panne and Bray-dunes; this was the furthest away from the town of Dunkirk and it's heavy protected harbour and also the furthest away from the front near the river the 'Yser'. It was the only place where the Germans would have time enought to organize a landing before the Allied forces had a chance to reorganise their troops and/or ships.
- Should the Germans succeed in such an landing it possibly would have changed the outcome of the war! This small stretch of landingbeach gave immediate access to the town of De Panne, the capital of Free Belgium, capturing the King (highest rank in armycommand) could mean the surrender of the Belgian front. If not it gave the Germans the possibility to attack the front near the Yser from the back. On the other hand it opened up possibilities for the Germans to attack the town of Dunkirk in the back, this town gave way to the English Channel and therefore of great importance to the Germans.

- The Allied forces and Belgian army command realised this treath and decided upon organising a coastal defense in the most vunerable places; the dunes in between Bray-Dunes and De Panne. In order to do so the stretch of dune between the border and the aglomeration of Bray-dunes was given into Belgian military command by the French, meaning that the Belgian military command decided upon everything concerning the Free Belgium and the blue marked area on the above map!


The organisation of the Belgian coastal defences
General defences:
- 21 mai 1915: aerial defense (FlaK) De Panne: 2 x 75mm 360° + 1 x 37mm aimed at sea (location unknown)
- 3 coastal batteries divided in 6 sections: 2 sections in the Bray-Dunes area, 3 sections in the De Panne area and 1 section in the St.-Idesbald (Koksijde) area. Each section had 2 x 75mm fieldhowitzers with a reach of 3km; standard one gun was always pointing to the sea and ready to fire, the other gun was flanking the beach.
(no information this far if this guns stood freely in open air or inside a bunker??)
Defences in the possible enemy landingzone (blue marked area)
- In between the aglomeration of Bray-Dunes (also on French soil!!) and De Panne three 'stellungen' were constructed; each 'stellung' consisted out of three 'weerstandsnesten' (resistance-nest) which could operate indivudual and provide support if another 'weerstandsnest' was being attacked. Within such a stellung there was also artillery present; or heavy MG-guns in a bunker, or 75mm guns in a bunker. Next to the artillery bunkers their where also bombproof shelters (= bunkers) for officers and troops. Note also: this map indicates that three different types of bunkers were built... exactly the same number as the number of the remaining bunkertypes on French soil of which the origins are unknown/uncertain... and amongst these we can identify some bunkers as being 75mm artillerybunkers, MG-bunkers and troopbunkers.

This first map from the book shows only two of these stellungen in between Bray-Dunes and De Panne
WO1 kustverdediging dp bis.jpg
This second map (added to the original above map using Photoshop) shows the (possible) full extend of this region. It also shows the translations for the french writings.
WO1 kustverdediging dp1bis.jpg
This proves the following:
- yes, indeed WW1 bunkers were built in the region between Bray-Dunes and De Panne, on both sides of the border
- that some remaining bunkers on the French side of the border could actually be Belgian bunkers (or at least built under Belgian command)... in this case possibly the ones of which the origin remains unknown/uncertain?? (The French namegiving of some of these bunkers could be explained as: the Belgian armycommand was Frenchspeaking or a sign of respect towards the French on whoms soil these bunkers were built)

In relation to the Belgian Melun-type bunker (marked with red square at the beginning of this article)...
Could this mean that this specific bunker and therefore all resembling bunkers of this type were part of these 'stellungen' built under Belgian command???

It is just a 'new theory' of mine and off course doesn't prove this to have been actually so... but noticing this undeniable map from the Brussels millitary archives and noticing the presence of at least one of these Melun-bunkers on Belgian soil, it is something that we must take in consideration when further investigating the true origins of the many 'unknown' bunkers in the area. (Also note: this specific Melun-type bunker can't be found much further than the extend of the blue marked area).

... now hoping to find confirmation on these facts; where exactly were these 'stellungen' built, can we match the shown configuration of bunkers to the still remaining ones, were the planned bunkers also built to the full extend as mentioned on the WW1 map, photo's, .....
The search for the Bray-dunes 'mystery' as I like to call it continues!!

Your opinion and all information which could support or contradict this theory of mine are welcome!
Thanks

Jean
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Last edited by myt1prod on 12 Dec 2012 17:53, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by myt1prod » 12 Dec 2012 17:13

CNOCK wrote:Hello Jean,

don't want to be pedant, but Lange Max was at Koekelare, and the Germans had no 'battleships' at the Belgian coast, only torpedo boats and destroyers.

cheers,

Eddy
Ok Thanks for your corrections Eddy!!
- The canon 'Lange Max' doesn't really apply to this article, but i thought it would be nice to mention it... although on the wrong spot so it seems :roll: :roll: (thought I've read it was near Gistel... should doublecheck next time)
- I'm not into naval terminology... I know there are many several types of ships but didn't know what to call the ones near Ostend and Zeebruges, therefore I thought the name 'battleships' would nicely sum up the several types of ships present... but then of course a 'battleship' is a type in it's own... so again, badly chosen name by me :roll: :roll: (The book from which I got the information only speaks of German fleet and submarines in General without defining the several types present)

Jean

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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by dirk Peeters » 13 Dec 2012 09:02

not bad at all Jean
a really logical thought
Dirk

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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by myt1prod » 14 Dec 2012 15:53

For those still doubting WW1 bunkers being built in the region ... :D

these first two maps I found in a new book on the developpement and history of the dunes in between De Panne and the French Border. Both maps date back to 1933 and are not related to a military topic; these maps show the - luckely never completed - plans for dividing the dunes into buildinglots. As we know the part of the Maginotline between Luxemburg and the English Channel was built starting 1934, these maps - dating back to 1933 - show proof of military installations.

This first one only mentions the short term for 'Battery' in French, being 'Brie'. It shows 3 batteries (perhaps sections?) in between the border and De Panne.
WO1 kustverdediging dp4bis.jpg
This second one shows - next to the dividing into buildinglots - the archeological findingsites in the dunes and also...
... the existance of some fortifications, being bunkers of which two line up with the known location of the Melun-type bunker 'La Rochelle'.
It also has some resemblance to the first map;
- the red dots near the border on the seaside match the 'Brie' (battery) on the first map
- 2 of the yellow dots match up with '1re Brie' (1st battery) and '2e Brie' (2nd battery) + one extra 'Brie' in the aglomeration of De Panne.
... so now we have already 4 batteries (sections?) in this small stretch of the Free Belgium.
WO1 kustverdediging dp5bis.jpg
This third one comes from the book which I've mentioned earlier in this topic; the book about the WW1 hospital 'L'Océan' at De Panne.
This map dates back WW1 (archives armymuseum Brussels) and shows the trenchsystems of the trainingcamp in the stretch of dune in between the border and De Panne. These trenches were used to excercise charges on enemy trenches, so they rebuilt entire Allied and German trenchsystems as seen on the Front. Most of these trenches had names; historical, funny or related to a nationality. Next to many other details, the map also shows the huge military bakkery at Adinkerke providing the troops in De Panne and on the Front in daily bread.

But most importantly it again shows the location of 3 'Brie' (Batteries) wich match up with the above maps from a much later date.
WO1 kustverdediging dp6bis.jpg
Jean
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CNOCK
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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by CNOCK » 14 Dec 2012 18:55

Jean,

sorry I have to shake a bit Your theory,

What You read as 'Brie' is 'Bne'
'Bne' is french for Borne (a distance indication, difficult to translate), and reads not as Batterie!!!

Eddy

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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by myt1prod » 14 Dec 2012 19:03

Thx Eddy
This way we learn!
I wasn't entirely shure it really said 'Brie' as it isn't that clear written, but it seemed to be the most logic in my opinion also because it would relate to the coastal defenses.
I guess these must then be some kind of measuremarker (geodetical signal?) as we nowadays still have the 100metres-markers along roads etc...

Anyway the red markers on the second map still proof the presence of fortifications before the Maginot Line was constructed in this region.

Thanks for your remark!
Jean

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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by AvB » 14 Dec 2012 19:54

And you know these forts are the bunkers which are still there?

I don't think these bunkers were built as part of the Maginotline with its Ouvrages etc but they were later incorporated only administratively, to fill up the gap along the Belgian border. Probably these are from the 1920s?

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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by myt1prod » 17 Jun 2013 11:19

Hello

Can anyone help out to identify these uniforms??
This photo shows a WW1 coastal defence consisting out of machineguns (type?). The identification of the uniforms - of which I know nothing - is crucial to know on which side of the frontline this coastal defence was located.

Reason I ask...
the layout of the machinegun coastal defence as shown on the photo seems to fit the above discription of the WW1 allied coastal batteries in the dunes between De Panne and Bray-Dunes + I found this photo in a collection showing only photo's of De Panne, Koksijde, Bray-Dunes and Dunkirk.
kustverdediging wo1.jpg
thx
Jean
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CNOCK
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Re: WW1 Allied coastal defense and the Bray-Dunes "mystery"

Post by CNOCK » 17 Jun 2013 19:26

Jean,

this is a WWI German Matrosen battery, equipped with 3,7 cm quick firing guns, often used as AA

greetings,

Eddy

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