Mod. 1942, half-buried, double-walled
(Gruppenunterstand, teilweise versenkt Blockhaus mit Doppelwand fuer Sumpf- oder Waldgelaende)
Shelter shown covered in soil, but not camouflaged
The current shelter is designed for the purpose of deploying in the area near the front command points and other control bodies on the Corps, Army, or Army Group levels where it is not possible or not profitable to deploy completely buried shelters.
The deployment of underground shelters is usually impossible if the aquifer is high and the shelter can be flooded. Alternatively, it is also impossible in rocky, near-rocky, and frozen soil, which is very hard to work in.
Author’s note: Rocky soil would be tolerable – you could, if nothing else, soften it up with explosives – especially given that you would immediately found a use for the broken rock. On the other hand, it is the most foolish thing in the world to make underground shelters in frozen soil, which is close to granite in hardness. As soon as stoves start working in the shelters, the soil around the shelter and under it will begin to defrost, and water will gradually begin flooding the room. Worse yet, often in the areas of eternal frost the soil is very saturated with water, and therefore moves when it unfreezes. It begins pushing against the walls, gradually destroying the shelter. Even a lack of heating does not help. Freezing water expands – and completes the destruction of the shelter.
Constructing underground shelters is usually undesirable in forested areas, as the earthwork needed there is far more extensive, while the likelihood of artillery barrages on major HQ points is either zero or very low. The forest, furthermore, provides quality natural concealment, which means that even if the opponent knows of the presence of a large HQ, finding it and accurately striking it is unlikely.
Author’s note: While many German generals (particularly Manstein) love telling in their memoirs of their spartan habits (sleeping in automobiles and tents, eating soldiers’ meals, hiding from bombs in slits with the men, headquarters working in the open air, and so forth), actual facts, including captured headquarters buildings, suggest that the Fuhrer’s generals preferred to fight in comfort. For examples, such shelters were found at the area where Paulus’ HQ was located near Stalingrad (near Golubinsky, near Nizhne-Chirskaya, in the shallows near Gumrak Station). And this is in an area with no woods, where every log needs to be ferried in – and yet timber is also fuel. It does not matter that troops are freezing in snow-trenches – Paulus and his staff require comfortable shelters – comfortable enough you can simply walk in to them, not merely descend underground on stairs!
In its design, the shelter is a wood cabin (Blockhaus in German) with double walls. The space between the walls, 1 meter wide, is filled with rocks. The outer dimensions of this frame are 8.5 by 8.5 meters. The logs are 25 centimeters in diameter. Inside it the frame has twoo rooms – 1) A main room 5.5 by 4.0 meters (22 square meters of useful area), with the ceiling 2.3 meters high, and 2) A corridor 8.5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide, with the ceiling 2.3 meters high.
One gets into the corridor through two doorways on opposing sides of the frame. Both entrances to the corridor are closed with protective doors (1.2 by 1.8 meters). Access from the corridor to the main room is made possible through two doorways with protective doors in the internal wall. The corridor is intended primarily for guard posts.
Author’s Note: The very look of this shelter inspires certain thoughts. The main room is amazing in size. It might not be a hall, but it is a very large room. Our fortification manuals do not mention such rooms – and not a single support pillar, which is unusual for field fortification. The ceiling is 2.3 meters high – this is a wonderful, large room! And the doors? Normally in fortifications doors are sized just large enough to squeeze through without much comfort. Measure the rooms in your own apartment, dear reader – they’re likely to be a bit smaller.
And two separate entries, from different sides of the shelter? That’s no shelter, that’s some kind of conference hall for North-South Korea negotiations.
Therefore, the protective thickness of the shelter frame, horizontally, and excluding the soil coverage, is 50 cm. of wood and 1 meter of rock.
For illustration I am showing the shelter on the surface. From above the shelter frame is covered by three layers of logs, 25 centimeters in diameter and 9 meters in length. The roof and side walls are coated in pressed clay 30-40 centimeters roof, with the roof cover made with an incline from the center to the sides to allow rainwater or meltwater that seeps in to run off towards the edges of the structure. Then the walls and roof are covered in rock, with thickness of 1 meter at the walls and 50-60 centimeters on the roof.
Author’s Note: Why two walls ( the front and rear wall) have no clay or stone cover, the author cannot tell. But this is on the drawing – the text does not explain or mention it. I can only surmise this is an error on the drawing, while the walls are actually supposed to have both clay and stone cover.
The shelter is constructed in a foundation pit 10.5 meters wide and long, and 1 meter deep. 111 cubic meters of soil need to be moved. At the entrances, stairs are to be dug and covered in boards (this is described specifically in the manul). In front of the stairs, drainage well are made in the floor for rainwater.
Should groundwater levels allow, ceramic drainage pipes are installed in the floor to remove water from under the shelter. If the water won’t flow independently, preparations for a pump must be made.
While the drawing does not show this, the descriptions mentions that, for protection against cold, the main room is equipped with two stoves mounted near the internal wall with the doors. Provisions must be made for electric cabling for light, and if candles or kerosene lamps are used for lamps, two ventilation pipes must be installed. A flooring made from 10×10 centimeter section wood beams is laid on a sand bedding.
The complete shelter is covered with soil. On the roof, over the rock layer, one adds a soil bedding (including a layer of grass-turf) 30-cm. The minimal width of the soil level at the upper angles of the wood cover is 1 meter. The slopes are made as light as possible, based on the camouflage conditions, so as to make the resulting hill as little noticeable as possible, with the hill’s total height at 3.85 meters above ground. The protective thickness of the walls is, therefore, 75 meters of wood, 30 centimeters of clay, 60 cm. of rock and 30 cm. of soil. Total – 1.95 meters. That’s quite solid!
Internal fittings of the shelter are not defined in Manual 57/5.
Expenses in materiel and labor:
- Digging the foundation pit – 111 cubic meters of soil
- Covering the structure – 600 cubi meters of soil
- 25-centimeter diameter logs – 130 cubic meters
- Timber – beams and sheets – 54 cubic meters
- Split rock – 190 cubic meters
- Pressed clay – 22 cubic meters
- Labor (exluding preparing and delivering materiel, camouflage and internal fitting work) – 1980 man-hours
P.S. In the 1960′s the author had visited such a structure about 20-25 kilometers west of Chernyakhovsk (former Insternburg) in Kaliningrad Oblast. The shelter was found by accident, over more than 20 years after the end of the war, even though it was in the forest, only several kilometers away from a village. IT was expected to be mined, so the village Soviet called out a sapper team. There were no mines. Inside, the ceiling and walls were covered with tarpaulin. Two metal stoves were present, as well as a small supply of coal in two crates. A large desk, as well as several chairs, were present, and another small desk in the corner, to which 3-4 dozen pairs of phone cables lead from the wall. Two empty metal cupboards were present. There was no electric lighting. The floor was covered in water to a depth of about 20 centimeters. It seemed the shelter was built and made ready, but never used.
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2. Field Fortification Guide for the Engineering Forces [PF-43], Moscow, 1943
3. Shmelev, I. P. AFVs of the Third Reich, Moscow, 1996
4. Karelian Front Combat Engineer Commander’s Field Manual, Karelian Front, 1943
5. 5.H.Dv.220/4b. Ausbildungsforschrift fuer der Pioniere (A.V.Pi.). Teil 4b. Verlag “Offene Worte”. Berlin. 1939.
6. 6.H.Dv.130/2a. Ausbildungsforschrift fuer der Infanterie (A.V.Pi.). Heft 2a. Die Schuetzenkompanie. Verlag “Offene Worte”. Berlin. 1941.
7. 7.H.Dv.316. Pionierdienst aller Waffen (Au.Pi.D.). Verlag E.S.Mittler und Sohn. Berlin. 1936.
8. Temporary Manual for Winter Fortification Works, Moscow, 1942
9. The German Defense System, a Manual., Moscow, 1942
10. Weltz, G. The Betrayed Soldiers, Moscow, 2011
11. Guderian, H. Memoirs of a Soldier, 2003
12. Westphalia and other Fateful Decisions. The Journey to Stalingrad, St. Petersburg, 2001
13. I. Wieder The Stalingrad Tragedy, Moscow, 2004
14. von Senger, F. Neither Fear nor Hope, Moscow, 2003
15. Adam W. I Was Paulus’ Adjutant, Moscow, 2005
16. Army Field Fortifications, a Manual, Moscow, 1962
Translated by MicroBalrog from this page.