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A day at the bunkers

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  • A day at the bunkers

    About a month ago I took part in a bunker cleanup subbotnik, organised by the Fortification History Club, supported by the "Silver Ring" centre for culture and history. The bunkers of the Krasnogvardeisk fortified region have been neglected since the end of the war and either became garbage dumps for local villagers or simply remained piles of moss-covered concrete by roadsides. Our little group decided to contibute to the preservation of these bunkers by cleaning them from rubbish, tree branches and leaves, as well as attaching special memorial plaques to them. After so many years, these simple cookie-cutter concrete boxes remain some of the starkest testaments to the most desperate days of the Battle of Leningrad in August - September 1941, being both war relics and battlefields at the same time.

    Constructed in great haste in a couple of months after the beginning of operation Barbarossa, the Krasnogvardeisk fortified region guarded the southern perimeter of the city, starting on the coast of the Gulf of Finland (a bit east of Peterhof), went further south to Gatchina and reached Kolpino in the east at the left bank of the Neva. On the map below St. Petersburg (Leningrad then) is in the upper part and the city inside the bulge is Gatchina (Krasnogvardeisk then). The area we went to is just to the north of Gatchina, right where the road to Leningrad crosses the red line.

    The group initially split up and a few people came to clean up the bunker in a hard to reach area, while most people arrived at the site of the second bun, located on the motorway from St. Petersburg to Gatchina. All trash was promptly cleaned up and a plaque was attached to the bunker.

    "A no less grave situation appeared on the left flank of the defensive belt along Izhora river, where the detachments of the 1st company were garrisoned between two highways. Here the platoon of junior lieutenant Sokolov, which occupied the pillbox next to the Kievskoye highway, fought successfully. In cooperation with an army battery of 76mm guns, which was located nearby, the bunker's garrison fired at the enemy which appeared from the south.

    But then the ammunition ran out. German submachinegunners started penetrating into the rear areas of the company and the threat of encirclement appeared. Having blown up the bunker, Sokolov's platoon retreated to the north together with the army battery along the Kievskoye highway and went further towards Pushkin. Thus, by the end of September 11, the line on the northern bank of Izhora was abandoned by the battalion". G. Koval, Y. Smirnov "History of 276 OPAB [bunker battallion]"



    View of road from the approximate location of the bunker's embrasure

    It's a bit late now, I'll finish it next evening.

    Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

  • #2
    After putting up a plaque on the Soviet bunker we went to check out a German "Tobruk" type pillbox located in a field to the north of Gatchina.

    It appeared to be covered with a concrete slab, but as our expert said it didn't belong to the pillbox originally and was placed there in order that noboby would fall inside by accident.

    Pull it up!

    This is where a machine gun rail was located to turn it smoothly into different directions

    The inside of the bunker

    Part of an air filter

    Remains of hydroinsulation and an opening for air pipes

    This doorway leads to the observation cupola

    This is where the cupola was mounted

    Bunker walls protruding out of the grass

    An approximate view from the embrasure

    I've searched through several books and websites on bunkers of the Tobruk family but couldn't find this exact type. Maybe it was custom-made as the simplicity of its construction allowed to improvise with the types of armament and general layout. Just to give you an idea what it looks like, here's the view of a similar type

    Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


    • #3
      After checking out the German pillbox (sorry, no plaque), we went to the last bunker on our schedule, located at the outskirts of Romanovka village just north of Gatchina.

      180 degree turn view taken from the same spot

      Here is what official documents tell about the events which took place next to the village, at a bunker just to the south of this one. I haven't found any Russian or German mentions of the battles around these particular bukers, but one can assume they were attacked by the same forces and at approximately the same time.

      "On September 13, 1941 fascists tried to break through the line of defences next to Romanovka village with the forces of 17 tanks and a group of infantry up to 100 men. Platoon commander junior lieutenant cmd. Levin timely noted the appearance of enemy forces and destroyed 3 enemy tanks in the first minutes thanks to his decisive actions and precise fire of his guns.

      Despite the fact that 2 out of 3 guns were knocked out of action and casualties amounted to 15 men, comrade Levin together with gun commander comrade Matveyev routed the enemy infantry from an open position under fire while having only one gun without a crew, therefore ensuring the passage of our troops through Romanovka along the Pushkin highway."

      Quoted from the book "V surovy chas" by N.A. Prokhorov

      Given that there was not so much damage on this bunker, it was abandoned by its crew as the Germans, having captured the one to the south, might attack it from the rear.

      Front view of the bunker

      Probably an anti-tank gun embrasure

      Damage on the side wall


      Probably some homeless guys burned a cable they'd stolen right inside of this bunker, that's the only explanation to the charred walls


      Embrasure view



      Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


      • #4
        Examining the top

        View of the area as seen from the embrasure (taken from the top)

        Attaching the plaque

        Oh the irony (see camo patches)


        The plaque reads:

        Long term defensive position (DOT or bunker)
        Krasnogvardeisky fortified region

        This object is under civil protection with the support of the Administration of the Leningrad province
        View from the far range

        Having attached the plaque, part of the group went to see another bunker located about 200 meters from this one.

        This one was heavily battered by artillery and tank fire

        Part of a German shell stuck in the armoured embrasure plate, possibly from a 50mm tank gun

        Bent reinforcing rods

        Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


        • #5
          Front view

          Top view

          Embrasure view, shot from the top of the bunker

          Rear view

          Embrasure from the inside

          One of the shells must have flown inside

          Damage on the ceiling

          Some TV guys came to take an interview from the director of the "Silver Ring"

          Hopefully these plaques will last long and raise people's awareness of the historical legacy of their region. It's amazing so many locals have no idea what these concrete boxes are, up to the point of calling them German strongpoints. We even faced some opposition from "bunker puritans" who maintained these bunkers had to stay in their pristine condition, but we hope they'll do more good than the "harm" they're speaking about.

          As we were preparing to set off back to the city, it seemed like nature itself gave us its sign

          Last edited by ShAA; 15 Oct 10, 15:00.

          Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


          • #6
            Fascinating post and great shots of the bunkers.
            Good luck with the history club.
            "Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against infection of peoples by the mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships."
            Hero of the Soviet Union, Andrei Sakharov 1968


            • #7
              Originally posted by Slim Fan View Post
              Fascinating post and great shots of the bunkers.
              Good luck with the history club.
              Thanks, I've got more reports coming

              Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


              • #8
                A new German invasion of East Europe has begun, this time by Flektarn type camouflage suits. I owe a couple of sets myself btw...
                “For there is nothing more serious than a lunatic when he comes to the central point of his lunacy.”

                Max Sterner


                • #9
                  Some maps of the region:

                  The bunker is exactly north of the "1/56" number to the east of the Gatchina "bulge".

                  I don't know how to make links to Google Earth, but here are the coordinates of the bunker with the rainbow - lat=59.6151077834, lon=30.2276397764

                  The one mauled by German shells is 860 meters away from it to the northeast at the rim of the forest.

                  Another map of the area, the bunkers are next to the 270th OPAB (detached artillery-machinegun battallion)

                  And finally a German map, if you can read the word "Gatschina" in the lower left corner - the bunkers are northeast of it. Seems like they were attacked by elements of 269th or SS "Polizei" division.


                  Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


                  • #10
                    Shaa, try print screen for Google Earth and then post. I've done that before.
                    "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                    Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                    you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
                      Shaa, try print screen for Google Earth and then post. I've done that before.
                      Thanks, seems like it's working better. I'm still wondering why Google hasn't come up with a convenient tool to give links to Google Maps/Earth.

                      Here's the big map:

                      Here is a closer view of Gorki - after another check I've found out this was the name of the village. Romanovka is just to the north of it. Well, better late than never.

                      And here are the bunkers on the satellite map:

                      Attached Files

                      Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


                      • #12
                        Argh, I've never used attachments before! How can I make them appear only once?

                        Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


                        • #13
                          Just attach the image and do nothing else. It used to be you needed to attach AND link the image, but now all you have to do is attach and it will show up on your post.


                          • #14
                            I went to your coordinants on Google Earth, and I seem to be in an urban area right on top of a PolyTechincal University.


                            • #15
                              Lots of great pics, thanks for sharing.
                              (I did have to look twice when I first saw the German uniforms though - you had me confused for a moment....)
                              45B10 1986-91


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