History Files





Panoramic View of the Command Bunker

by William Willems & Philippe Vercoutter

During the Cold War a top-secret military underground bunker was built into the Kemmelberg by the Belgian defence forces, between 1952 and 1956.

The operations room extends over levels -1 and -2. This was the beating heart of the command bunker. Each staff arm (whether land, air, or naval forces) had an insulated office on level -1 with a view of the ops room overlooking the map room on level -2.

This 360-degree panoramic photo was taken in the map room.

Photo © Philippe Vercoutter.

While originally intended as a command post for an international air defence system, the Kemmelberg bunker would never hold that function. By the time its construction was completed, the bunker was already technologically obsolete.

After the Iron Curtain came down in 1961, it was not until 1963 that the supreme command of the Belgian armed forces decided to set up the Kemmelberg bunker as a secret command centre in the event of war or conflict, or to use it for training purposes.

The Kemmelberg command bunker also served as the centre from which the logistical orders departed for Belgian troops at home and in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Level -1 is where the technical installations were also located, such as for the power supply, plus heating burners and an air ventilation system.

On level -2 the communications system was equipped both with an automatic exchange and a manual telephone exchange, a transmission centre with telex equipment, a radio service, and a military postal service.

The last secret underground exercise took place in 1995. The command bunker became a Cold War witness museum in 2009, and was finally opened to the public.

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