By Rob Morgan
I thought I’d lost these two photos, but they cropped up earlier with the note about what I’d intended to ask. I took both photographs in Normandy a few kilometers inland from Omaha Beach, near Formigny. Another one of those small and half-planned, half-hearted attempts at a D-Day museum or reliquary. A few broken defensive items, a limber, a Gulaschkanone and the odd item of ordnance, well rusted. The steel observation cupola is remarkably intact and, of course, the design is well known, as it appears in many of the standard works. But I’m not familiar with the white concrete cylinder which stands a short distance away.
The sign describes it in English and French as a German sentry post. It’s concrete with a steel-hinged door, a couple of air vents on the sides. It’s cast, about seven feet tall overall, and the walls are perhaps three or four inches thick, at most. The hook at the very top made me wonder if this was intended to be lowered into place by a crane. As the structure was secured by heavy wire, it wasn’t possible to look inside, but it must be cramped, to say the least, and access for a soldier wearing any kit difficult.
My guess is that this is a one-man air raid shelter, thick enough to protect from some blast and splinters, but no more than that. I haven’t seen anything like this in any of the books and documents or the exhibitions on the Normandy Campaign. Is it, I wonder, a standard German shelter? Or a design developed and intended only for local use? It seems very unlikely this is a “one-off!” (Interestingly, it could be made in 15mm scale with remarkable ease from the screw end of a Biro ballpoint pen.)
I wondered if any other member had encountered a similar guard post on his (or her) travels in former Occupied Europe. One other question arises and that’s the emplacement of it. The cupola, of course, would have been bolted to a concrete structure and covered with protective layers of earth. Was this the case with the sentry post? Was earth piled around the sides and rear, or sandbags perhaps? It could have been screwed down, possibly.