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De Panne - Combat Operation Centre - Cold war bunker

Map number

 

Location

The strongpoint bunker is located in the Oosthoek dunes in De Panne. The main entrance is situated in the Sportlaan.

Tactical function

Combat operation Centre of the Belgian air force during the Cold War
Unit(s) Belgian air force

Troops

Belgian air force
Weapons -

Bunkers

Combat Operation Centre bunker
Remaining bunkers Combat Operation Centre bunker
Radar -
Comments The terrain and the finction are not freely accessible and cannot be visited without prior permission. Our thanks go to nature guard Guy for giving us official access and accompanying us.
There is not so much information on the bunker available. The Belgian website http://www.depannetheek.be/gebouwen/bunkers_in_de_Oosthoek.htm offers some detailed information. What follows is a summarizing translation of the contribution by Jacky Launoy on the webpage. The former military terrain is said to have housed 5 constructions, of which the most important one was/is the command bunker. Its dimensions are 36m x 13m. The bunker has two floors: 1 floor above ground and a central section below the ground level. Also present were a pumping station, a guard room, an administrative building and a barrier building. None of these constructions are still visible. In addition, the domain is said to have had a lot of smaller infrastructure items, such as guard houses (still visible, see below), concrete paths, a concrete platform, concrete and wooden poles, and the usual fencing and barbed wire.
The bunker served as the Combat Operation Centre for the nearby Koksijde military airfield. It was used during American/NATO REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany). This exercise was held regularly, usually annually, between 1969 and 1993, when American aircraft would first land at Koksijde, before moving on to Germany. In 1994 the Americans constructed a merlon made of concrete panels against which a protective berm was constructed of sand and clay. This berm is still visible today. It was constructed to protect the CTR-installation south of the main bunker. North of the main bunkere there were 3 dug-in fuel reservoirs and the ventilation system of the bunker.
The internal layout of the operations rooms was as can be seen in many war movies: a plotting board below and, further up, balconies from which the officers could follow the situation.
The bunker offer little or no protection against aerial bombardment with a roof only 30cm thick and used to be painted as a house for camouflage purposes. The terrain is also said to have contained an ILS (Instrument Landing System) to guide landing aircraft
Interestingly, it appears that similar bunkers were constructed at other Belgian airfields. The site http://www.luchtvaarterfgoed.be/content/wing-ops-bunker
contains info on such a bunker at the former Belgian air force base at Brustem. The pictures shown on this site show a remarkable resemblance with the bunker in De Panne.
In a further update we will present more information as to the exact function of each room. Help from former military personnel having served in the bunker would be greatly welcomed.

 

See this strongpoint on Google Earth



Yellow indicates existing constructions
 
Below are some impressions of this strongpoint
The numbers below refer to the above Google Earth map
This bunker was visited with the full permission of the Agentschap Natuur en Bos and accompanied by the nature guard
The overgrown path leading to the bunker
The entrance. Note the codes to the right and the ventilation opening.
We first find ourselves in a small entrance hall, with a room on either side. This is the entrance to the room on the right.
The inside of this room. Something was removed from the walls
Electric power box
The floor of this room. The lines on the floor would suggest the presence of a generator.
The room on the other side of the small entrance hall.
The small room is painted white throughout
The door of this room from the inside
Through this door we move into the actual bunker
The first room in this section. Again we see raised platforms on the floor that would suggest the presence of generators or other equipment to supply the bunker with power.
View of the corridor we are in. There are three more rooms on the right and one of the left before the corridor takes a 90° turn to the left.
The entrance to the first room on the right. Note the low window-like structure.
The inside of this room. Again we see provisions for power infrastructure
On the left we see a big ventilation exhaust opening. On the right some writing.
Close-up of the window-like structure
The second room on the right must have had a sanitary function.
Next we explore the room on the left.
The inside of this room
The above room actually gices access to another, much bigger room.
The interior of this room
This second, bigger, room, in turn, gives access to yet another room.
Inside
We finally visit the last room on the right
The interior of this room
Here we see the central corridor make a 90° left turn; followed by a 90° right turn
Entrance to the next room
Interior of this room
Writing on the wall, some of it technical.
The last of the rooms before we enter the big command room itself
We were told that this was the bar of the complex.
The entrance to the massive ops room
General view and detailed views of this massive room, which measures some 180mē
The other entrance/exit is located diagonally on the other side of the room. Through this passage, one can move one level down.
This the view one level down? We are in a smaller room of some 21mē and look towards a bigger room.
The bigger second room on the lower level measures some 40mē.
The rooms were all filled with some substance which has now hardened out. This was done of purpose by military intelligence to render the bunker unusable.
Proceeding on this downstairs level we see what we can only assumed to have been a flight of stairs, filled up with the same substance.
There is, however, also another flight of stairs which take us back up to the ground level, but now on the other side of the bunker.
Here we find the above room. Note the raised platform in the corner.
A blocked passage?
Finally, another small room. This concludes our visit of the interior.
Around the bunker 4, actually on the four corners of the position, small guard towers for close-combat defence can also be found. These are covered in the pictures below. All are of the same shape with a protected entrance and some stairs leading to a lower-level position.
The first of these towers
The second
The third guard tower
And we round off with the fourth tower.
What is also clearly visible is the earthen berm surrounding the bunker and giving it extra protection.