Thursday, 17 November 2016

631 and Jager Casemates at RN L'Oeillère

Today we take a look at beach defence casemate bunkers of type 631 and "Jäger", following a trip to L'Oeillère headland (between La Pulente and Petit Port) where one of each is open to explore - which is unusual (and why West Is Best for bunkers - sorry JB!) - so make the most of it while you can because it's inevitable that some killjoy will eventually come along and seal them up like so many others.

L'Oeillère is French for Blinker - as in horse blinkers - as you'll see from any official map there's no second i - despite it being so tempting to add one and make it L'Oeilliere. Considering other nearby names Corbiere, Carriere, Ouziere, Crabiere and Rosiere, it's an understandable mistake which I've made myself, before now :)

Looking at the RN from the other side of Petit Port, the 631 bunker faces this way. The Jäger bunker faces La Rocco Tower in the big bay.

I have a cunning plan, so study it for full benefit of the following guided tour. It's aligned as per the average map.
A nice short walk from the quarry near the bend at La Pulente, we approach the resistance nest heading west...
.. close up of some camoflage stonework hanging off.
Still facing the same way, above the dip that leads to the entrances. But first, let's head further along to see what's there...
.. and from up on the rocky outcrop, we can see the Tobruk tank turrent position (housed an FT17).
Looking in, in a westerly direction, steps down to the adjacent square section. The other square shaped part farther away (pointing to Corbiere) is above the ladder down to the passageway below.
The tank turret machine gun covered both directions here.
Wider shot from the rocks, showing the path from where we approached, and down on the right you can see the square outline of the top of the escape shaft from the 631.
Peering over the side, at the business end of the Jäger.
And before looking inside, we clamber down to see the scary side of the 631 too...
.. the metal embrasure...
.. and from here we can get a preview of the interior. Two rooms on the left and one at the back with the escape shaft. Unusual for a 631 (this is a modified variant to the design) to have a view all the way through.
OK, so we're now down in the dip below the safety railings. The entrance to the passageway, Tobruk and 631 is on the left, but let's see the Jäger first.
Entrance defence gun embrasure, originally these were wood-lined to absorb flying nasty stuff.
To the right, a view through the Jäger down to the gun roon, the Jäger design features this central corridor. Be careful on the damp wooden boards that some people say cover some drops to below?
Inside, to the left, and left again, the inside of the entrance defence room and the other side of the embrasure.
Directly behind, after a 180, at the side entrance to the crew standby room. We didn't walk through here, we headed back to the central corridor and...
.. this is the view from the other doorway. Note the escape shaft exit on the far left
The other side of the corrider, on the right, features two rooms for ammunition storage...
.. and someone's been practising their painting and decorating. Can't say I'm a fan of the colour scheme.
At the end on the right, down a step or two, this is where spent shell casings were posted to, via a pipe in the wall from the gun room.
And on the other side of the corridor, a foul air extraction room, to clear the gunsmoke away...
.. from the loud room. Popular place for spray can enthusiasts and bird defecation.
The view and field of fire for the 10.5cm field gun.
Looking back inside from there, the view all the way through to the other side..
.. where we are now, at the entrance to a long dark passage...
.. dark enough to have discouraged me until this year. Perhaps my super mega torch was overkill, in reality a simple and modest torch is enough to convince you that there's nothing scarey lurking in here :)
At the other end of the passage, we'd have been shot in no short order. And to the right of here there are (were) rungs up to...
.. the Tobruk position we saw from outside earlier. No easy climb, this, so we didn't. We couldn't.
Looking back in the other direction along the passage. There was water noisily dripping onto litter here every minute or so, making the original exploration slightly puzzling!
OK, time for some 631 views. Here we've entered the entrance room and we've turned right. Through this doorway, the entrance to the crew room is to the left, and on the right...
.. the other side of the "Nazi glory hole" (sigh)
Spin 180 and we're at the entrance to the standby room. Other rooms to the left, and to the right...
.. the escape shaft. 180 from here...
.. and we have the view all the way through. The ventilation room isn't worth showing (and is curiously littered with numerous talcum powder bottles and fag packets at the moment)...
.. so here we are in the 4.7cm anti-tank (pak) gun room, on the other side of the embrasure we peered into earlier.
A moody "available light" shot. BTW the K36(t) gun had MG37(t) machine-guns attached.

Looking out...
.. over Petit Port.
To the right of the gun, on the front wall (behind the end of the exterior flanking wall) a shaft with some "hedge porn" at the bottom. (sighs again, but probably not as much as the saddo who enjoyed these).
In the opposite corner, what looks like the hatch to access the lower level.
And out we go, back to fresh air away from the stink of pigeon droppings. This is the first little room in the 631, the passageway is to the left. Original cabling still in place up there, I believe.

I hope you enjoyed this visit to these casemate bunkers, which I found educational. These 631 and Jäger design bunkers account for the majority of beach defence bunkers in the island.

More details required? OK... 631 bunkers were designed to house anti-tank guns, built into rocky headlands, and are characterised by having a side entrances and 3 or 4 main rooms - crew standby room, ammunition store, gun room, and ventilation room. Two other left-handed (firing South or East) 631's are found at La Carriere (between Le Braye and La Pulente) and Le Grouin (St.B/Ouaisne).

The 631b versions are sited behind sea walls, have rear entrances and the 4 main rooms arranged in quadrants. Left-handed versions were sited at High Tower (L'Ouziere - Big Vern's) and La Crabiere (pair of left/right handed 631b's built into seawall south of the Barge Aground). Other right-handed (firing North or West) examples are at RN Lewis Tower (half demolished at Les Laveurs slipway), High Tower again (another pair, the north right-handed one being mostly demolished as it blocked the slip), Bel Royal (toilets side of slip, used as store for cafes), Grand Charriere (toilets at Greve d'Azette slip), Grand Hotel (West Park), First Tower, Le Braye, and Millbrook.

Jäger type casemates are named after the Organisation Todt official who designed them, as they never had an official Standard Construction Number. They were designed for the 10.5cm K331(f) field guns of 1913 vintage, captured from the French in large quantities with many installed in the Channel Islands (34 in Jersey).
Left-handed and right-handed versions of the Jäger swap the sides of the standby rooms and ammo rooms either side of the corridor, but the smaller rooms near the gun room are always arranged on the same sides.

You can find other right-handed Jägers at Strongpoint Corbiere, and RNs Aubin Fort, La Carriere, Elizabeth Castle South, Le Fret (east side of St.Brelade's Bay), Steps 43 (El Tico), and a fishy example at L'Etacq combined with extra rooms and a 6 direction MG turret.

Lefty (South/East) examples are found at the other side of Strongpoint Corbiere, and RNs Elizabeth Catle North, High Tower (L'Ouziere), Kempt Tower, and Lewis Tower (home to the military museum).  

Types 670 and 680 can wait for another blog posting!

As for Tobruks, having just watched the movie Tobruk (1967 with Rock Hudson and George "A-Team Hannibal" Peppard) it is apparently pronounced "toe brook". But I'm going to refer to them as Ringstands from now on, as the Germans knew them officially as Ringstände; the Allies only called them "Tobruks" because they had first encountered the structures during the fighting in North Africa (including the port of Tobruk in Libya).

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Monday, 7 November 2016

RN Noirmont Manor at Belcroute Bay

Belcroute is beautiful quiet bay with great views and the bonus of some bunkers to look at too. Here at the corner before the final stretch down the to slipway (near the other end of the long driveway that starts on the sharp bend of Mont Es Tours near the Somerville) there's something buried... and also, behind, amongst the bushes...

.. a little tobruk / ringstand (Wikipedia)...
.. closer...
.. inside. The gun here was an MG311 in an FT17 tank turret (Wikipedia) (you can see an FT17 turret on the wall in the War Tunnels car park opposite the tunnel entrance - the one at the museum near Lewis Tower is an APX-R (see Wikipedia)...

.. it's right on the wall, and before it was bricked up there was access from below in the manor gardens via the loop rungs wall ladder you can just about see in this shot.
Moving down the hill then, and there's a little concrete either side here, possibly a site of a roadblock to delay liberators?
A little farther down and a gun position is visible at the top of the slip, and I can't help wondering if this gateway was open during the war?
On the left, a garage for the pak (wheeled anti-tank gun) and steps up to an MG / lookout position.
Pak garage again, note the bit at the side, behind on the left.
Looking through the grill, there's an interesting opening back there on the left...
.. it definitely looks like there's a lot more buried concrete all the way down to a filled in position and...
.. original german barbed wire and a metal post still present.
Back up a little, and shall we head up there?...
It's a fairly simple climb, but looking back here gives an idea of the height.
After clearing away some gorse and overhanging branches, here's the position. There would be a great view over the bay but for the trees in the way.
If you stand on the end of the pak garage you'll get a view down the slipway, and look up there in the manor garden...
.. interesting! Not very well hidden at the moment :)
And so, down to the gun position...
.. and looking back from the slipway.
A memorial on the wall.
Looking back up the hill from the pak position. The anti-tank gun was a 7.5cm FK 231 (f) (Wikipedia). Other weapons deployed here included MG34 (Wikipedia) machine guns of the le. and s. varieties, and it took a fair bit of googling to find s. = schwer = heavy, and le. = leicht = light!

Storage nearby.
The views from here are great, all the way around from the harbour and Elizabeth Castle, to St.Aubin's Fort here captured here...
.. to the back of St Aubin's southern pier.

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