(Saturday, 27 July) (Sunday, 28 July)  (Monday, 29 July)  (Tuesday, 30 July) 

(Wednesday, 31 July)  (Thursday, 1 August)  (Friday, 2 August)

Never Again!


"How to mean what you say, and say what you mean"

By Mike Barton


Saturday, 27 July

Dear Diary,


Today I met a group of nutty Englishmen and, thanks to them, had a full frontal of a German waitress's left breast. But first things first.

I do sincerely believe that my final words at the end of last year's East Germany tour were: Never again! However, due to old age creeping on with its attendant loss of memory, I gather that at some time this year I said "Yes, OK" to someone, and here we were again! This time there were only eleven of them, and the meeting place was the same – the Bundeswehr barracks at Magdeburg. The sergeant-major had prepared everything as always, and the group turned up in the early evening. Once again we had the whole barracks to ourselves and the front gate had been left open for us – very accommodating, the new Bundeswehr.

One of the conditions for this trip was that my admin was to be kept to a minimum, so there was no meal arranged for the evening, no pizzas to be delivered, menus to be translated beforehand, etc. Instead, we piled into the Mercedes bus and guided by Dan McKenzie's firm hand we drove in to Magdeburg to find the first decent looking nosh hole. We decided on an Italian with a terrace where we could enjoy the 35° that the weathermen had thoughtfully provided for us after weeks of rain and a cool 18°. A very pleasant waitress brought out the menus, and the ordered drinks were placed around the table. This necessitated that she bend forward to lean over the table, whereupon it became immediately obvious to several pairs or staring eyes that she had a very nice tattoo of some size over her left breast. A certain member of the group sitting opposite me, who shall remain nameless (Andrew Smith), opined that I would not be able to get her to show me the full tattoo, the lower part being hidden by her blouse. When she next came out, I told her (in German) that the immature juvenile opposite me would like to see her tattoo, whereupon she very coolly unbuttoned her blouse, pulled it open and revealed the secrets of the complete tattoo, together with the "canvas" beneath it. Two advantages: one - we saw the tattoo, two - Mr Smith was obliged to pay for my drinks the next evening!


Sunday, 28 July


An early start for a long journey to reach a small location called Gadow. Fortunately, we were able to use the Berlin ring autobahn to make good speed and, being the weekend, there were no trucks on the road. At Gadow we linked up with Peter Rentsch from my (German) bunker group, who accompanied us on several days last year. Also from last year there was Andre Rotter, who runs the former Stasi bunker at Machern, near Leipzig, where we had also called in and had been given an excellent tour. Andre had got in touch with me only days before this year's tour was due to start on another matter, discovered that there was a tour, that he knew none of the sites / sights, dropped everything, including his (well) pregnant wife, and drove up to join a good cause.

Gadow was ex-Soviet, but what made it really interesting was the fact that the huge complex had never been completed, was uncovered, so that we were able to look at a naked Soviet bunker complex from all angles, including walking along the roof of the domed chambers: two very high (15 m) long "hangars", and four lower hangers, all interconnected. We had to climb up rickety construction ladders, avoid rebars sticking out of the concrete walls, but were able to admire a bunker in a state that is not normally available for public view.

Back to the bus and on to Badingen, actually Osterne, picking up a former NVA [1] colonel on the way, who was to be our next guide. Osterne had been the (extensive) site of an NVA air-defence missile facility, in this case armed with VEGA missiles. Our guide had prepared a substantial amount of material, as had Peter Rentsch, and he took us through the various stages in the camp that the missiles would have passed, from the moment that they would have been checked in at the gate through to their installation on the launching platforms, including warhead inspection and storage, fuelling of the missiles, testing and finally the run-out on rails from the twin missile shelters at each of the twelve firing positions to the launch pit. An excellent site and an excellent guide.

At the end of a long, hot day we drove up further north to Fürstenberg to find our night's accommodation, where we relaxed over a good meal, well washed down with German liquids – a routine that we unfortunately had to follow at each of the subsequent stables that we slept in.


A slight, but interesting digression started us off the next morning in Fürstenberg on


Monday, 29 July


when we drove round to a rail ferry, which the Soviets had used to ship their munitions over the River Havel from / to their nearby barracks. The small rail section mounted in true Sov construction style on a powered barge caused the cameras to start clicking, as did the very picturesque part of the Havel and river bank. The crossing was only a matter of a few yards, but nevertheless a useful way to move the munitions by rail.

Our next port of call also involved munitions, but of a larger denomination: the site of a Soviet nuclear missile and warhead store at Neuthymen. This was one of the original sites that the Sovs had used before it clicked with them that having missile, warhead and firing position in one location was not necessarily advisable if one-ski wanted to remain operational. Subsequently, the three elements were to be found at dispersed locations. Here, though, the launcher bunker, an impressively reinforced long shelter (access from both ends, i.e. for two TELs [2] ), and the warhead store just round the corner were both opened up for us. Once again, Colonel Heuschkel lead us through the sequence of missile handling at the site so that we were able to appreciate yet again the extent of his military research (he himself is an ex-tankie, so this was all new to him many years ago). While we had been waiting previously at the main entrance he had unrolled two very large maps of the Fürstenberg area with details of Soviet units locations marked in. Since this had been the home of the Soviet 2nd Guards Tank Army, there was little space left for the locals! Fürstenberg also housed the Ravensbrück concentration camp on its outskirts, an area that the Soviets had also subsequently taken over for their purposes.

As mentioned above, warheads and missiles were later stored separately, something that we were able to appreciate at our next stop, Lychen, aka Himmelpfort, which had been a Soviet nuclear warheads store. Since we had visited the sister-site at Stolzenhain last year, most of this year's participants were able to compare the two locations: and Lychen won. The site was in an even better condition, both inside and out, as we also made an extensive tour of the grounds before visiting both of the warhead bunkers, including the vehicle park and technical area. Immediately in front of the "business" area we were able to take a look at the terminal station for the incoming underground cable to the site. The active part of the site is divided into several zones of protection, some of them being surrounded by as many as three rows of barbed wire and movement sensors, plus an optional HV system (reaching 10,000 volts at full power). The KGB [3] were responsible for guarding the first zone inside the barracks. The entrance here was a sliding gate, which was only opened when warheads were actually moved in or out of the site. Security was so tight that opening of the gate automatically sent a signal to Moscow that a change of state had occurred. The guardroom behind the gate has a concealed tunnel, with the entrance inside one of its rooms, leading out to the rear of the security zone so that troops could deploy immediately around the area of the bunkers and armouries without being seen.

A Y-shaped tunnel was the normal method of access for military personnel who had to work in the security area. The entrances in this case were in the cellar of the HQ building located just in front of the sliding gate. One of the arms of the "Y" provided a normal entrance, while the other had a series of decontamination rooms on each side. The exit came out some 100 yards into the security zone.

The inner zones housed technical workshops for missile head inspections, armouries and numerous pillboxes around the actual bunker sites. Once again, Mr Heuschkel provided a detailed description of the facility, as well as providing additional documentation. Incidentally, a major thanks is also due to Peter Rentsch, who had provided us with a thick booklet of descriptions of numerous facilities and background information that he had compiled, based on my tour programme, which he had earlier received from me.

We only had a short drive to our hotel in Templin, where I discovered that my reservation for the group had not been passed on by the previous owner, a young lady, who had also run off with all the contents of the safe. Fortunately, the hotel was empty so the new landlord was extremely grateful for our sudden appearance. The two feet of water from the previous week's floods had also disappeared, for which we were also very grateful. Dinner that evening was enjoyed at a lakeside terrace with the evening entertainment being provided by a member of the group, who managed to prove experimentally that the legs of a plastic chair can only bend so far when a substantial weight is exerted on it vertically before they are required to break off.


Tuesday, 30 July


As usual, an early start, but this time only a short trip to our next destination: Vogelsang. This was the former home to the WGF [4] 25th Armoured Division, a munitions depot and our point of scenic interest: a communications bunker that had been in the hands of a battalion from the 6th Signals Brigade stationed at Frankfurt / Oder. The brigade was not part of WGF, but had been directly subordinate to the Warsaw Pact, i.e. the Russians, and Moscow. We had visited another comms bunker of this merry band the previous year at Altengrabow, so it was a pleasant opportunity to meet up with old friends. However, ........ After our 25 minute approach run to the site, we came to a gentle halt just over the railway line on the hard-standing that had previously served as the loading ramps for 25 Armoured. We were in good time, so the gang started a brew-up (please bear in mind, dear Reader, we had just finished a huge buffet breakfast only some 30 minutes earlier). By this time, certain members of the group, who will remain nameless, were gradually reaching heights of sexual arousal at the site / sight of the railway track. Since the surface of the rails was already glittering in the rays of the morning sun, our experts informed us that the line was in use – information, for which we mere mortals were eternally grateful. The level crossing barriers were inspected, photographed, etc., but you know the story. The first local train that passed by heightened the state of arousal to practically uncontrollable levels, and I feared for the miserable offerings that I had up my sleeve for the day. Evidence of a moving train had been clearly documented on a camcorder that had been positioned by the side of the track. Strengthened by this experience, the duty camera man decided that the next train was to be filmed from the centre of the track. Within minutes our Noddy Town express came thundering along the line, stopped right in front of us, the driver got out of his cab, walked to the middle of the train, bent down and acquired a very sexy camcorder for his wife, climbed back into the train via a middle door, which he had previously opened to facilitate his escape, and continued his shift, totally ignoring the comments from his surrounding admirers. [5]

We subsequently had ample opportunity to discuss the SOPs [6] for this kind of operation as the duty bunker owner arrived some 35 minutes late – full of apologies and less all bunker keys. He remained very cool, we drove in to the area along familiar bumpety-bump concrete slabs to arrive at the bunker site. The surrounding buildings have all been razed, but Mr Satori intends to retain the bunker. At this point he produced the duplicate keys in the form of a portable generator that he happened to have lying around for such moments, and an angle grinder, and set to in a very enclosed space to carve off slices from the bunker door until he could access the padlock in its secure housing with a pair of bolt cutters. In response to this stirring attitude, the group had a quick whip-round to help him replace the discs that he had ground to a new shape. He graciously passed the money on to his assistant who had been holding the bolt cutters, left us the padlocks to the barriers on the approach road and cleared off.

The comms bunker was very similar to the other sites belonging to 6 Sig Bde: the main entrance corridor of the Y-fork being crossed by two further corridors, once in the middle, once at the end. Various staff rooms, equipment rooms, comms gear produced suitable motifs for the avid photographers. We also managed to liberate numerous cable tags in Russian, which give me an insight into the type of equipment in use, the next comms facilities along the line, and other such useful info that finds its way into my databases.

The delay brought about by the owner's late arrival had thrown my tight programme out (as well as giving one of our numbers the opportunity to donate his camcorder to a deserving cause), thus suggesting that Vogelsang should be avoided at all cost – last year the owner had smashed the wing of my Volvo during a bunker visit when he reversed into it at very high speed. He apologised profusely, saying that he didn't normally have strangers on his grounds so he had totally forgotten our cars that were parked behind him!

Initially, I had intended going on to an NVA site with at least 127 bunkers (yes! one hundred and twenty seven: that was when we stopped counting!). The site was intended for rear services, so each rear service, i.e. logistics and the like, had its own set of bunker complexes, plus some comms bunkers thrown in to add a bit of class. However, there were more important facilities to visit so we burnt rubber to do a sharp right turn and moved off towards the East German Border Guards bunker.

On the way (there is always something "on the way" - you just have to find it), we stopped off at a Sov cable repeater station which was opened up relatively recently and which is still fitted out with its original equipment (well, almost all of it!). It's in the form of a semi-submerged bunker. The entrance door (with the inevitable sensor) leads you into a large standing cylinder some two metres in diameter. A large manhole-type cover in the floor provides access to the business part below. Unfortunately, the ladder had been removed, but from a previous visit with the aid of a DIY rope ladder I was able to point out the various cubicles and racks located some 3 metres below us.

One of the advantages of having a sensible hobby such as bunker research is that you get lots of fresh air and exercise. After the repeater station and a short drive, including passing the surface HQ of the Border Guards and a Soviet helicopter, we convoyed into a forest south of Berlin, debussed, kitted up and marched off with flanking patrols to our next objective (please excuse the terminology, dear Reader, but they are military bunkers after all, even if most of the motley bunch from England (and they were very motley) had never seen the inside of a khaki uniform - for which, I hasten to add, the Army was very grateful). We had a long, hot haul to the Border Guards cubby hole, but fortunately Peter Rentsch had come down specially from Berlin to guide us to the hole in the ground. As is often the case, the local authorities had blocked up main entrances with earth, concrete slabs or by welding the doors - all of which can be rectified (and is), but it takes time. It must also be borne in mind that some 13 - 15 years have passed since a lot of the bunkers saw active service. Consequently, trees and shrubbery have grown accordingly.

The entrance was indeed a hole in the ground, and small at that, but everyone, including we know who, got through (just). And what a sight! A main corridor, some 100 m long, with numerous side corridors crossing it at intervals, each of these having their own sets of mini-bunkers "clipped on" or sub-sub-corridors, leading to further bunkers. The telephone exchange still stands, but bears the traces of GBH inflicted by the mindless poltroons that claim an interest in bunkers. There were other items of equipment in the numerous rooms as well, but the interesting aspect here is that the main staff rooms all have the designations of the various commanders who worked there painted in red over the lintels of the white painted entrance areas, so the bunker is slightly less anonymous than many other complexes. And then the long walk back, but we split it up by going to a nearby site where the comms vehicles for a communications facility in the area were stored in high reinforced shelters. As we dripped gallons (or litres) at the vehicle point, Dan McK very kindly drove the bus through the trees around the barrier to do a minor casevac [7] for a tired bunker hunter who was slowing down, but who refused to give up.

Fortunately, Peter R's bunker nose was better than his short cuts to the autobahn, but we nevertheless did find it, and subsequently also the exit to the former Stasi [8] regimental HQ that was now a hotel, and a good'un at that.


Wednesday, 31 July


By this stage of the tour there were obvious signs of boredom creeping in (cries of "Not another bunker?!), so I went for something completely different in Baruth. We first drove off to a Soviet military cemetery which was guarded by two T-34 tanks, walked the grounds and went inside the chapel. A short distance away we then came across a metal tower some 6 or 8 metres high with a large "8" cut into a metal plate, originally on all four sides, at the top. These were used as guides for the Sov tankies as they belted through the forests along tank routes that ran E - W from the Polish border practically to the IGB [9] , and N - S as links between the horizontal routes and to the numerous training areas that bespattered East Germany. As a result, Ivan on tour was able to move major forces around without having access to the (ab)normal roads ("Thumping Sov tanks over cobbled roads at speed and over long distances is not something that should be recommended" - Extract from the Soviet Army's guide - 2nd Edition, Moscow, 1944 - to their tankies in East Germany).

Round the corner (no long driving today) and we found a Soviet barracks with yet another bunker tucked away in its grounds, this time at Lynow, one of the comms facility for HQ WGF, just up to the north at Zossen-Wünsdorf. Not large, but different and necessitating access via a ladder in an emergency exit. Several cables and other comms equipment were still in evidence, including some air cables with their filler points. Not too far away in the same barracks was a rather nice sauna with tiled images of Neptune and his girls on the walls to cheer up tired Sov officers after duty. Incidentally, this is always a good indicator that senior officers were present permanently, thus confirming the importance of the site.

Some 15 minutes later and we were moving off-road through the same forest, but this time from the south, heading north at Merzdorf. In addition to the teddy bears with their picnics, it was obvious that the Ivans were also up to things deep down in the woods. After a longish drive we arrived at a lot of trees and grass, but ...... all you have to do is to look around and you start to trip over entrances to bunkers that have been left lying around in the grass. On the way in we had passed numerous vehicle hides, some simply excavations, others with rows of concrete posts to support cam nets, so this again was an important location. We were spied on briefly by someone from some distance away, but when we moved over towards the wooden barracks where he had been standing, he decided to withdraw. We, in turn, went into the wooden barracks, which lacked a floor, but nevertheless, had a large bunker under it with the entrance hidden under the floorboards in the last room.

And in the same training area just a little way down the road two more bunkers. Both required some walking, but their individual design, i.e. camouflage, made them really different. The first was in the form of a sauna, a log cabin, but once we went down the stairs into the bunker itself a completely different picture presented itself - numerous smaller bunkers all linked by corridors and / or adjoining sections. After returning briefly to the vehicles we went along to the next camouflaged bunker, this time an air defence bunker hidden under a pile of logs, one end of which opened up and revealed the entrance to a facility that was some 80 m long and with two double-storey high map rooms in the middle, overlooked by the staff officers' rooms which were accessible via flights of stairs. The remaining rooms were for communications, AC and support.


Thursday, 1 August


After spending the night in an extremely nice hotel in Jüterbog and dining in the courtyard until fairly late at a very warm temperature we had a quieter day (so we thought) with only a long drive down to some surprise bunkers in Lossa, a very important Soviet location. I already knew of two large bunkers there, but had discovered that there were four further bunkers only hours before leaving for the tour! Some rapid emailing provided a little bit more information and the chance that my informant would be able to meet us there. Fortunately, he was able to do so as the sites were extremely well hidden and the mass of trees prevented any accurate use of GPS [10] devices. There were bunkers buried under houses, hidden deep in the woods, high up on the side of a steep hill with a dead dog in it (fortunately, there was a second entrance). This site housed comms equipment that I had never seen before together with numerous references to two Soviet encryption systems. In between visits to the new bunker sites we had called in at the refuelling line for the tanks stationed opposite the main barracks. This was in the form of a "dual carriageway" over 100 m in length, the centre lane being the metal fuel pipes, hoses, hose rests. We also found an inscription in the road surface indicating the Soviet unit which had built it together with the date. In the centre at one side stood a control tower and, joy of joy (since we hadn't seen enough) yet another bunker! Our thanks are due here to "Beppo", who left work early to come to the site to help us even though one of his daughters was celebrating her birthday. As a reward, we gave him several packets of English biscuits that the gang had brought over at my request - they (Hobnobs, with and without) always go down well as "thank you presents".


Friday, 2 August


Relief, relief: two nights now in the same hotel near to Jena, and a very nice one at that. A fairly early start the next morning, but only a short trip down the road to the Bundeswehr and a trip into the mountains. After the boss man had got over the shock of seeing some 24 people - he'd been expecting 12, but by the end some German bunker friends of mine wanted to get into Rothenstein, plus six guys from the MDR media channel (press, radio and TV), the group seemed to have grown a bit - we were off on our last walkaround. The caves had been started early in the 1900's by the local population scrapping the surface away to get the sand from the sandstone. By the time the NVA came along after the war, the caves presented an ideal location for munitions. The site lies alongside the main road, and the caves go back on three main routes. The site is due to be closed in the near future and it is now used as a storage facility for weapons, tents, chains, etc. for service with the Bundeswehr abroad. We were given the run of the place and a guided tour through all of the various areas, together with a demonstration of one of the three 23-ton doors that was raised hydraulically for us out of the floor, rather like a ship's bow section, to close of the entrance and to keep people like us out. After a relaxing afternoon we returned to our hotel for a farewell dinner.

Although I say it myself, a great tour, we saw an awful lot packed into a very short period of time, but also lots of fun and hard work, sweating our way to the various sites. My thanks to everyone involved and their patience in putting up with my military attitude to time-keeping. It was good to see the RSG visitors, but it was even better to see them go!


Notice from the Management: There will be NO (spelt "definitely not") further tours.


[1]          NVA    Nationale Volksarmee (East German armed forces, i.e. not just the Land Forces)

[2]          TEL     Transporter, erector, launcher (for missiles)

[3]          KGB    Komitet Gosudarstvennoj Bezopasnosti (the Soviet para-military, state security police who were responsible for guarding nuclear warheads. They purely military side was organised just like any other armed forces, i.e. with tanks, aircraft, naval vessels, etc.)

[4]          WGF   West Group of Forces (the Soviet armed forces in East Germany), aka GSFG (Group of Soviet Forces in Germany) at an earlier stage of their existence

[5]         Although not always efficient by any means, the German police (here in the guise of the Bundesgrenzschutz - the Border Police, and also responsible for railway security) had discovered my identity by the time I returned home at the end of the tour and requested clarification of the incident. After a very pleasant chat with the officer concerned, who was fascinated by these strange people, and the submission of a statement, he promised that the kit would soon be on its way home to England. The reason why "they" were particularly concerned was the fact that this stretch of track is used to transport the Castor containers with the German nuclear waste!

[6]          SOP Standard operating procedure, i.e the drills, action, etc. to be taken at particular times

[7]          Casevac Casualty evacuation

[8]          Stasi Staatssicherheit (East German secret police)

[9]          IGB Inner-German Border

[10]        GPS  Global Positioning System (a satellite-based system for producing, amongst other things, extremely accurate coordinates for map reading purposes

Copyright - Dan McKenzie 2007