Have you been inside the German bunkers at Noirmont? I’m not talking about the many gun platforms and ammunition rooms that are always open, I mean the huge observation tower and command bunker.
If you drive all the way out to the end, you see these curious-looking things above, along with the big tower in the image below. These are a Type M.132 Command Bunker and a MP1 Observation Tower, part of Germany’s Atlantikwall fortifications built in WW2. These structures plus the numerous gun platforms and ammo bunkers scattered about the headland make up Battery Lothringen, a German Naval artillery battery. It was built starting in 1941.
As an American living in Jersey, I was keen to learn about the fortifications. We don’t have anything like this is the US. The closest thing would be an underground ICBM silo or something like that. Many of these are open to the public and carefully restored by members of the Channel Islands Occupation Society.
I’ve been out there each Sunday for the last month, taking photos and learning the history. You go down the long flight of steps and around a corner to the gas lock, where admission is only £2.50 (children are free admission). At the bottom are some wooden crosses, former grave markers of Americans KIA off the point where their PT boat was sunk.
These men were with the US Navy’s Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Thirty Four, aboard PT-509. After bravely attacking several German naval and supply ships in heavy fog, their boat was fired upon, rammed, and sunk, killing all 16 crew.
It’s amazing how good the condition of the bunker is. Built about 70 years ago, it has held up very well. Not too surprising considering that it was meant to keep its occupants safe from bombs and chemical weapons. The crew of 20-25 lived sealed inside for weeks at a time, controlling the guns on the platforms outside and keeping watch. It was truly state of the art technology for the time. Jersey was like a permanently anchored gunship, with many German naval guns at the coast to defend against attacks in the English Channel.
When you first go in, it’s a surprise how large it is. People visit and wander around, and don’t even realise there is another level one floor down. I’ve seen Jersey born and raised families come in and express their amazement that this even exists. I guess it’s easy to overlook if you just sit in the car and look out over the water, but if you get out and hike around you will soon see the entrance.
I think most visitors want to have a look through the periscope and peer out the observation cupolas. I know I did, it’s the first thing I asked about. You climb up a set of metal rungs and up through a trap-door, and suddenly you are looking out windows. The periscope works, you can spin it around and look from Saint Helier to France to Corbière. You can see peoples legs walking by outside, unaware you are there. One of the windows can be opened, and I stuck my hand out and waved at a man standing there. He jumped in surprise, grabbing his chest. I had a laugh and waved again, thinking he would smile. He walked off slowly, muttering to himself with a very serious face. Poor guy, he probably thought he’d seen a ghost or something. This is what I mean about people not knowing that the bunkers are open to the public.
All in all it is an amazing bit of history right here in Jersey. I can understand the local people wanting to forget, and the need for raw materials postwar. Because of these and other considerations, much of the Occupation history is lost forever. I’m new here so I’m not about to second-guess what people did with all the German equipment after they surrendered and left. I am glad to see efforts now to restore and preserve this important bit of history.
So, if you are here in Jersey now or plan to visit soon, do come down and visit the bunker. Opening times for this and all the other bunkers are on the CIOS Jersey website. If you need help finding it, try this Google Map or just catch a taxi or bus out here. It’s minutes away from Saint Aubin so not too far from town. I’ll be visiting more in the coming weeks so I plan to do more posts like this soon.