Hanstholm – WWII fortifications guarding the Baltic Sea

Hanstholm fortress

Hanstholm is a fishing town that is nowadays Denmark’s largest consumer fishing port. However, what piqued my interest was not the fishing port but extensive fortifications from the Second World War.

The First Battery of Hanstholm is an open-air museum that is one of the best-preserved German coastal batteries in Denmark. The area is the western part of the German 38 cm battery and covers 100.000 m2. The bunkers were built by Germans during Second World War to protect them in Jutland against an Allied invasion. Together with a corresponding battery on the Norwegian side of Skagerrak, the battery was intended to cut off the approx. the 120-km-wide channel between Denmark and Norway. The Germans also laid mines in the Skagerrak to prevent allied ships from entering the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea. Inshore, there was a 10-nautical-mile-wide opening through which German ships could navigate, that was guarded from land by the First Battery, which was armed with four 17 cm naval guns, anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, and searchlights.

The Hanstholm battery consists of 19 larger bunkers. All of the bunkers in the area were built in the period between the summer of 1942 and spring 1944 as part of the Atlantic Wall. In gun bunker number 3, some of the rooms are still kept in their original style and with the original equipment. There is also an exhibition telling the history of the defense system, how it functioned and giving insight into the daily life in and around the bunkers. You are also free to wander in the area and explore on your own, peeking into all the bunkers. Just remember to bring the torchlight!

The area itself is open all year round, and you can venture on your own for free. However, you still need a ticket if you would like to have a tour of the gun bunker that is now a museum.

More about the museum and its history, you can find under this link.

Check out also a little ammunition train that is cruising around in the area. During the war times, it was used to transport ammunition used in the 38 cm guns that were too heavy to be simply carted around on handcarts. Because of this, a system of narrow tracks was set up inside the battery area, where shells and charges were transported by small locomotives to the four gun emplacements from six large ammunition bunkers. Nowadays, it functions as a tourist train being a pretty cool attraction.

Next stop in our journey through top sights in Jutland: Bulbjerg!

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