Dutch Water Line

FORT VECHTEN

Location: 52° 3'30.11"N    5°10'1.87"O

Address:

Marsdijk 2
3981HE  Bunnik

Fortress Vechten is the second largest fortress in the Netherlands and it is also located on the high plain access "De Houtense vlakte".

It is a few kilometers south of fortress Rijnauwen, at the other side of the railway and highway, coming from the east to the town Utrecht,

Fortress Vechten was built between 1867 and 1870.

In 1880 a large ground covered brickwork troop barracks building was added. 

On top of this building a row of ground covered brickwork gun garages was made.

This were a so called "bomb free" buildings.

Here you see an aerial photograph of fortress Vechten before the Second World War.

The fortresses were very visible from the air.

Of course these fortresses were made in a time, when there were no airplanes at all.

For an enemy on the ground they presented only vague and low contours and were quite good blended in the landscape.

At the left you see the railway, being and important access, to be defended.

It looks all very neat and organized, almost without any trees.

There are quite high main walls, with steep paths leading from the center space up to the walls, for bringing the guns to the gun positions on the Bastions.

The Reduit, at the center-back, is shielded against direct hits, by a quite deep earth wall.

This fortress has a main wall with Bastions, of which the flanks contain flanking gun Casemates 1, for flanking fire of each other and covering the moat. The back moat is covered by the gun Casemates in the back corners of the Reduit 2.
Ground covered corridors 3, called "Potèrnes" are leading to the flanking Casemates.

There are gun positions 4, gun garages 5, called "Remises", gun powder storage rooms 6, troop barracks 7 and Artillery sheds 8 for guns, carriages, horses, etc.

At the back, were the main entrance bridges used to be, are Guard houses 9 and at the center-back is the "Reduit" 10.

The fortress used to have three entrances over partly removable bridges.

One of these gave an entrance to the Reduit exclusively.
These bridges are all gone now.

A dam with a road was made were a bridge was, at the south-west side.
Here you see that entrance, with a "modern" guard office.

 

Here you see the old guard house.

The shooting holes on the right covered the bridge.

The guards on duty would have been standing in the niches on both sides of the door.

This door is directly opposite the location of the original bridge.

It seems, that originally, the ground covered corridor behind this door, was actually a "Potèrne", which lead to the inner area of the fortress. And the path, now running through the main wall next to the guard house was made later.

All buildings on the fortress are marked with a letter.

Here you see also the name plate and the date, that this building was finished.

All above the entrance of the guard house.

Here you see the facade of the ground covered troop barracks building.

In the year 1882, the fortress housed 514 soldiers, half of them were Artillery men.

There were also some hospital men for the hospital in the troop barracks building.

There was just one woman on the fortress, for doing the laundry.

This is the ground covered gun garages building (Remise), on top of the troop barracks building.

In 1882 it is stated, that the fortress had 22 gun positions, for large fortress guns.

The guns were steel barrel guns, with calibers of 12 cm and 15 cm.

For close defense and flanking fire, there were a large number of 8 cm guns and some mortars, type Coehoorn.

This is the main corridor, behind the main entrance, in the middle of the troop barracks building.
At the back of the troop barracks building, a small corridor is running along all of the rooms.
This is one of the many rooms.

You are looking to the small corridor at the back side of the room.

In this room are no iron eyes in the side walls. So this was not a troop room, but an office, or storage room.

Here you see a gun powder storage building, number 6 on the layout.

At the right, you see some open toilets in front of the sanitary area of the troop barracks building.

Here you see the entrance building of a "Potèrne" (ground covered corridor through the main wall) to a flanking Casemate.

This is a number 3 on the layout.

Here you see another entrance building of a "Potèrne" (ground covered corridor through the main wall) to a flanking Casemate.

This is a number 3 on the layout.

 

This is the entrance to the Reduit.

The Reduit is a small fortress, within the fortress, to enable a good last stand, if the main fortress was overrun by the enemy.

For that purpose the Reduit was surrounded by its own moat and equipped with shooting holes to all sides.

Also outside, on the roof there were gun positions on all sides.

These guns could shoot at the enemy at the main walls of the fortress and beyond. 

These shooting holes were used for close defense, with rifles and 8 cm guns, loaded with grape (canister) shot.
This is the main entrance on the inside.

Directly behind this entrance, you can go into an interconnecting corridor, connecting all gun rooms.

Here you see a part of such a corridor, however in this case, at the front of the Reduit, opposite the entrance on the back of the Reduit..
This is one of the rooms, with a rifle shooting gallery.

At the left, you see a water basin with pump.

As is the case with most ground covered bomb free buildings, the layer of soil and sand on the roof is used as a water filter and a water chimney system leads the water to a water cellar, beneath the ground floor.

Here such a water chimney, in which is water dripping all the time.

Here you see some more of this room.

Most gun rooms were used as troop sleeping room as well, but this one seemed to have been in use as a kitchen.

There are of course also sanitary rooms in the Reduit.
This is the main corridor, running from the main entrance on the back-side straight to the Capponière (Casemate) at the front of the Reduit.
Here you are looking into the front Capponière.
This is one of the flanking Casemates, at the corners of the Reduit.

At the right, you see a shooting hole for a flanking gun.

This is the stairs to the first floor.

On the ceiling is a hoisting mechanism, for hoisting gun barrels to the roof of the Reduit on which are five gun positions.

At the first floor level, the Reduit has also this mortar Casemate.
On the main wall are a few of the most interesting items, on the fortress Vechten, because only five of these are left intact, in the Netherlands.

This is a so called "G-kazemat", an exclusively Dutch design. The word "kazemat", means Casemate (bunker).

The G stands for "Gietstaal", meaning cast steel, in this case a special alloy of armored steel.

The armored steel part is a cylindrical pill-box, with a dome shape top, which is embedded in a large foundation and protection block, of steel re-enforced concrete.

Eighty of these G-type bunkers were built in the Dutch Water Line.

Only five of them remain with the armored steel pill-box in place, because during the Second World War occupation, the Germans did demolish them (making use of explosives), to use the steel for their war weapons industry.

As you can see, the shooting hole is very well shielded against enemy artillery.

It presents a very small target, also very difficult to hit with flat trajectory weapons, such as anti tank guns.

These bunkers were built in 1939 and 1940 on strategically important positions in all Dutch defense lines.

In May 1940, the G-type bunkers proved to withstand the German artillery very well.
Here you see the entrance hatch at the top and back of the armored steel pill-box.

The pipes sticking out at either side are the fresh air inlet and the gun smoke outlet.

A small hand pump was used, to pump the gun smoke out.

There was also a bucket of water, with a hose and hand pump, for the cooling water of the water cooled barrel of the machine gun.

These bunkers were fitted with a light or a heavy machine gun.

As a light machine gun a Lewis M20 was used.
The Dutch type of this MG had a small caliber of 6.5 mm, a range of 1500m and a firing rate of 450 rounds/minute.

For the heavy machine gun, the shooting hole was closed with a gas-tight MG-mount (this photograph).

The heavy machine gun was the in 1940 outdated, but very reliable Schwartzlose M.08, with a caliber of 7.92 mm, a range of 3500m and a firing rate of 400 rounds/minute.

The G-type bunkers proved to be very effective and caused a lot of the German casualties.

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Last revised on 31-12-2013