Hidden entrances allow air to flow at western bunker site
TWO entrances at one of the Island’s most important Occupation sites – which half a century ago were filled with rubble to keep people out – have been reopened as part of a refurbishment project.
After negotiation with the Planning Department, the Channel Islands Occupation Society secured permission last year to excavate two hidden entrances to the warren of underground corridors at Batterie Moltke, which dominates the north-east corner of the Island. It is an important development because the entrances provide ventilation for corridors and rooms that contain historical maps, photographs and artefacts that provide an insight into the operation of the site for visitors.
Occupation Society president Tony Pike explained that the site, housing four marine batteries to protect the sea approaches to the Island, is one of the Society’s most important assets.
‘It is a totally restored gun emplacement, with extensive underground passages that link up to a bombardment proof personnel shelter that could accommodate 27 men. There are also four ammunition shelters built to serve the guns and three of these have now been converted for display purposes,’ Mr Pike said.
To give further insight into the building of the complex, he has imported a reinforcement bar cutter – donated by Jersey Water – from ammunition tunnels at Grands Vaux. A device of this kind would have been used to cut sections of the metal rods that strengthen the concrete used in the construction of the gun emplacement.
Photographs of a similar cutter being used during the war, on display underground, show how it was used to cut the 10mm metal rods into lengths suitable for reinforcing the emplacement’s concrete passages, store rooms and gun housings.
Mr Pike explained that Batterie Moltke, which comprises four gun emplacements, was built using the cut-and-cover-construction method, first digging into the landscape, then pouring in the concrete and finally covering the construction over again to create underground chambers.
From above ground, it is the gun emplacements themselves which are obvious to the eye, but underground there is a network of connecting rooms and corridors where ammunition would have been stored and brought to the surface by lifting gear that is still visible.
Mr Pike, who has spent hours underground while working to finish the project, has led a team from the society which will reopen the extended site to visitors this spring and summer. He is putting the final touches to the refurbishment, treating and repainting metalwork, drying out some of the corridors and ensuring that health-and-safety notices are in place.
And further works are planned on the Batterie Moltke site to enable other parts of the complex, once sealed off to prevent public access, to play their part in conveying the experience of Occupation to the wider public.
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