Battery Waldam, a unique defender on the Atlantic Wall – France


Battery Waldam Drehturm and Fire Control

To the north of Battery Oldenburg lies Battery Waldam, named after the village Waldam nearby. Both batteries are situated north of the French city Calais.
Unlike Battery Oldenburg, Battery Waldam lacks the huge casemates of it’s neighbour, but has some very unique features of it’s own.

Invasion of France

The coastal battery started out as a French coastal defensive battery. After the invasion of France by Germany it changed ownership.
In 1941 -1942 the battery had open gun emplacements, later on it was decided to fortify the battery with the construction of bunkers and pillboxes.
The guns were placed inside bunkers, the Germans constructed personnel bunkers, ammunition storages, a kitchen, a sanitary building, medical facilities and a fire control bunker on the perimeter. It housed a garrison with 6 officers, 36 subordinate officers and 200 soldiers.
This stretch of land around Calais was so well defended with numerous batteries and observation post that it was nicknamed Hellfire Corner.

View on Battery Waldam standing on the kitchen.
View on Battery Waldam

The photo above is taken from the roof of the kitchen, you see all kinds of bunkers here from ammunition storage, the M270 regelbau casemate, the rotating bunker (Drehturm in German) and the Fire control bunker.

Marine Artillery Section 244

Battery Waldam was part of the Marine Artillery Section 244 like Oldenburg was.
It was also named “Coastal battery M1” for it was the first battery of Marine Artillery Section 244 and is situated about 300 meters from the beach. Its armament in 1941 consisted of three 17 cm SL L/40 ship guns in open emplacements. After the Kriegsmarine took over the coastal battery they placed three 15 cm SK C/28 guns. At first in open emplacements, but over time two guns were placed in M270 regelbau type casemates and one gun in a unique experimental concrete cupola, a SK Drehturm which could pivot 360°.
Besides the 15 cm guns the Kriegsmarine placed one 7,62 cm gun, one 7,5 cm gun, one 2,5 cm anti tank gun, 7 FLAK guns of different calibres, a searchlight and 10 machineguns to protect the gun battery and the beach.

Note: SK stands for SchnelladeKanone or quick loading cannon.

M270 regelbau type casemate Battery Waldam
M270 regelbau type casemate – Coastal Batterir Waldam
On the roof of the M270 casemate Battery Waldam
On the roof of the M270 casemate
The backside of the M270 Battery Waldam
The backside of the M270 casemate of Battery Waldam
Inside the M270 casemate of Battery Waldam
Inside the M270 casemate of Battery Waldam

 

The SK Drehturm – The Rotating Casemate

Drehturm with ammunition storage
Drehturm with ammunition storage

The unique rotating bunker in Waldam solved the problem of limited spread of fire which troubled static gun emplacements. Research on this limitation started in 1943 in France and one year later a prototype was build at the Pioneerpark in Gennervillers. Marine Küsten Batterie Waldam or MKB Waldam was selected to experimently build the first, and only, operational rotating bunker model.
To place the rotating cupola, weighing a massive 750 tons, they installed a rotating bearing mechanism which was used to rotate the big guns on the French battleship Provence.

Drehturm Battery Waldam, the lower and upper part are two seperate pieces
Drehturm Battery Waldam, the lower and upper part are two seperate pieces

Battleship Provence

The British high command feared the French Fleet would fall into the hands of the German army after France surrendered on 22th of June 1940. Battleship Provence was hit by the British fleet in Mers El Kébir in North-Africa and settled on the bottom of the harbour.
After being raised she was transferred to Toulon. The German army occupied the city shortly after and the French scuttled the Provence in the Harbour of Toulon and for the second time and she settled herself on the bottom of the Harbour with her deck above the waterlibe. This gave the Germans access to the guns rotating mechanism of the Battleship Provence. The bearing mechanism could hold up to 800 tons of weight and fitted the requirements to build a casemate with a concrete rotating turret.

Rollers underneath the rotating turret.
Rollers underneath the rotating turret. The triangle device helped them aim the gun.

3rd Canadian infantry division

In 1944 the 3rd Canadian infantry division was ordered to clear out the coastal defences in the Strait of Dover. From the beaches of Normandy they moved north into France and Belgium. On 30 September 1944 they reached Battery Waldam.
This is probably why the Drehturm points away from the sea and into land. For the last 80 years it is locked in its last position, ready for the 3rd Canadian Division back then.

Video content
Video content

 

The Fire control bunker or Leitstand

The Fire Control Bunker of Battery Waldam
The Fire Control Bunker of Battery Waldam

Another unique building from Battery Waldam is the fire control bunker which can be found next to the rotating casemate. It has three levels and multiple observation heights. The entrance to the second level used to be on the outside of the building, but is missing today.

Fire Control Bunker Battery Waldam
Fire Control Bunker Battery Waldam
Inside the Fire Control Bunker
Inside the Fire Control Bunker

Some of the bunkers on the perimeter still carry names that the personnel gave them, as can be seen on the photo below. In total there are 5 ammunition bunkers on the site, most of them are positioned between the two big M270 casemates.

Personnel bunker Rosemarie - Battery Waldam
Personnel bunker Rosemarie – Battery Waldam

 

Visit Battery Waldam

Battery Waldam is situated on a natural reserve today, and is a bird hunting ground. Beware of the hunting season before you enter, you do not want to get an accident while exploring history. The garage building is used by the hunters these days, we walked straight by them, but if you doubt if you are in or out of the hunting season we suggest you ask them.
The area is overgrown with thorn brushes, really nasty stuff. Take care you don’t rip your clothes apart or worse. The floors inside of the two M270 bunkers and the Drehturm are blown up, mind your step while exploring the place.


1 thought on “Battery Waldam, a unique defender on the Atlantic Wall – France

BILLY SHERRATT on

Visited the battery at the beginning of May 2017. No problems in accessing the bunkers ( besides the usual overgrown foliage ). The only thing is, that the roads to the site are very poor and potholed, so be careful when driving, just take your time. We parked up on a clearing on the right, just past the guard post.

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