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Kemmelberg

Photo Focus: The Command Bunker

by William Willems

 

Kemmelberg command bunker, West-Flanders, Belgium
Photo © Paul Van Caesbroeck

During the Cold War, a top-secret underground bunker was built in the Kemmelberg with the original intention of being part of a Nato air defence system: a command post to be used in the event of a potential conflict with the Warsaw Pact.

The operations room pictured here extends over two levels. Large maps displaying information about weapons systems were displayed and updated when necessary. More than fifty years after the bunker was first used, the ops room still looks impressive.

Kemmelberg command bunker, West-Flanders, Belgium
Photo © Paul Van Caesbroeck

The staff of land, air, and naval forces each had quite an insulated office on Level -1, with a view over the ops room. Here they received the most up-to-date information via telephone or telex. The telexes were passed through small hatches in the walls.

Kemmelberg command bunker, West-Flanders, Belgium
Photo © Paul Van Caesbroeck

A few years after the Iron Curtain went up in 1961, the Belgian Army began using the bunker as a secret conflict command centre, and as a training centre. Belgian military aircraft positions were accurately recorded and regularly updated on this board.

Kemmelberg command bunker, West-Flanders, Belgium
Photo © Paul Van Caesbroeck

The comms system was modern at the time. Equipment was installed on Level -2, including this radio receiver, but no transmitting antenna as it could give away the bunker's location. A signal cable instead ran to Ypres military barracks.

Kemmelberg command bunker, West-Flanders, Belgium
Photo © Paul Van Caesbroeck

Two telephone exchanges were installed: (left) an automatic Siemens exchange; (right) the manual exchange. This linked underground to the national telephone company, military barracks, and the air force's transmitter network atop the hill.

 

 

Text copyright © Archeo Kemmelberg. An original feature for the History Files: Kemmelberg.