1 Introduction


Immediately after the Germans had occupied the North Sea, Channel and Atlantic coats and the French campaign had been completed, they started preparations for the invasion of Britain. Thus, the Kriegsmarine started military infrastructure and defensive works in many ports. Since the Kriegsmarine did not have sufficient construction forces, however, the Heer was requested to help with its Bautruppen.
The first defensive works consisted mostly of field fortifications (feldmässig) (constructed in wood or brick) or light semi-permanent concete constructions (verstärkt feldmässig) with a wall and ceiling thickness of 30cm (Ausbaustarke D, splittersicher or schrapnel-proof) or 60cm (Ausbaustarke C, schusssicher or shell-proof.).

Thus, in July 1941, the following mostly schraprnel-proof semi-permanent constructions (30cm) had been built and were still planned along the Belgian coast:
Overview of first series of strongpoints in Vf-strength (Belgian coast, July 1941)
Sector No. of strongpoints No. of bunkers
Dutch border - Zeebrugge jetty 40 229
Zeebruge jetty - Oostende port 58 95
Oostende city - Nieuwpoort-Bad 46 577
Nieuwpoort-Bad - French border 12 195
  156 strongpoints 1096 bunkers built
407 bunkers planned

Things changed dramatically, however, in December 1941, when Hitler released his directive Küstenverteidigung (14 December 1941), in which he ordered a "neue Westwall" to be constructed along the coasts from Norway to the French-Spanish border. OBWest, Generalfeldmarschal von Rundstedt immediately began organising coast defence of his territory. Thus, in May 1942 he subdivided the coastline into coastal sectors or Küstenverteidigungsabschnitte, each with one or more divisions.  Local commanders then started thinking about which kind of defensive constructions they wanted. To assist them, the office of the Inspektor der Landesbefestigung West had designed several semi-permanent (verstärkt feldmässig) bunker types with walls between 1 and 2 metres thick. For the construction of bunkers use was made of a standard construction types. The big advantage of the bunkers was that their design was relatively simplistic, so that intervention by the Organisation Todt was not necessary and the troop engineer units were able to build the constructions themselves.


2 Typology

The designs were ranged in a series called Vf (short for verstärkt feldmässig) and numbered between 1 and 7. Subtypes, differing in construction strnegth and method were indicated with the suffixes a-d. In Februaty 1942 the following Vf-designs were thus released:

Type +
Specifications construction
walls ceiling construction strength code emergency exit concrete
Vf1a Unterstand bis 6 Mann (Hoyerbalken) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 yes 100m³
Vf1b Unterstand bis 6 Mann (Wellblech) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 yes 125m³
Vf2a Gruppenunterstand (Hoyerbalken) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 yes 135m³
Vf2b Gruppenunterstand (Hoyerbalken) schusssicher 2m 2m B yes 315m³
Vf2c Gruppenunterstand (Wellblech) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 175m³
Vf2d Gruppenunterstand (Wellblech) schusssicher 2m 2m B no 408m³
Vf3 MG-Rundumstand (Hoyerbalken) splittersicher 1m 40cm B1 no 33m³
Vf4a MG-Kasematte (Hoyerdecke) splittersicher 1m 40cm B1 no 120m³
Vf4b MG-Kasematte (Hoyerdecke) schusssicher 2m 2m B no 335m³
Vf5a Pak-Unterstellraum (Hoyerdecke) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 61m³
Vf5b Pak-Unterstellraum (Hoyerdecke) schusssicher 2m 2m B no 376m³
Vf6a Beobachtungsstand (Hoyerdecke) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 yes 95-100 m³
Vf6b Beobachtungsstand (Hoyerdecke) schusssicher 2m 2m B yes 273-284m³
Vf7a Munitionsstand (Hoyerbalken) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 200m3
Vf7b Munitionsstand (Hoyerbalken) schusssicher 2m 2m B no 480m³
Vf7c Munitionsstand (Wellblech) splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 180m³
Vf7d Munitionsstand (Wellblech) schusssicher 2m 2m B no 480m³
Vf25 Fundament f. Pz. Kampfwagentürme splittersicher 40cm 40cm D no  

The original German document for the above constructions can be found in the file below:

These 18 designs were distributed to the Festungspioniere in March 1942. All constructions were of very simple design, consisting of one or two rooms. In normal circumstances the 1m designs (splittersicher or shrapnel-proof) were to be constructed, with the 2m-designs (schusssicher or shell-proof) for exposed positions.What also set them apart was the constrution of the ceiling, either with Hoyerbalken (beams of pre-stressed concrete) or Wellblech (corrugated iron). The designs enabled four basis functions to be protected: personnel (6), ammunition (4), MG (3), AT-weapons (2) and observation (2).
Of these Vf bunkers thousands would be built between the spring an autumn of 1942. Missing from the avove list werecommand and hospital bunkers. For these functions the Westwall designs 117, 118 and 119 could be built.
In spite of the above 'catalogue' to choose from, local commanders still wanted to protect more specific functions which were not yet accounted for, more specifically water supplies and toilet facilities.
In June 1942 and in the absence of designs from Berlin, the Festungspionierkommandeur XVIII (responsible for the Netherlands and the AOK 15 area) himself designed a series of water supply and latrine bunkers.
June 1942 also saw the introduction of the Tobruk. This low-tech but highly-efficient type of fortification had been used for the first time by the Italian army during the siege of Tobruk in April 1941. The Italians had placed their machine guns in nearly invisible, open, circular, concrete cylinders, often connected to open trenches. In March 1942, the Inspekor der Landesbefestigung Nord introduced them in Norway. But it was the Inspekor der Landesbefestigung West who, in June 1942, proposed a circular position or Ringstand for one machine gun, which could also be used for observation purposes. He designated the type Vf8, consisting of an actogonal pit with an 80cm round opening on top and a small rectangualr sheltering room for 2 men.

Vf8 MG-Ringstand für 2 Mann oder B-Stand splittersicher 40cm 40cm D no 9,5m³ drawing

Also in June 1942 a further series of Vf-bunkers were issued. These had been designed not by the Inspektor der Landesbefestigung West, but rather by the office of the General der Festungen und Pioniere. These designs were numbered 51a - 57a and 59a. Interestingly, the prefix Vf was not used here.As could be expected this series was an improvement of the earlier series. Most importantly, the Hoyerbalken were replaced by iron I-beams. Changes were also made to the AT-gun garages and the observation posts. However, the series also constituted an extension, with a a dressing station being added. The details of this series are as follows:

Type Specifications construction
walls ceiling construction strength code emergency exit concrete
51a Halbgruppenunterstand splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 100m³ drawing
52a Gruppenunterstand splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 164m³ drawing
53a Pak-Unterstellraum splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 68m³ drawing
54a Pak-Unterstellraum mit Unterkunft splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 134m³ drawing
55 Beobachtungsstand splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 34m³ drawing
56a Art. Beobachtungsstand mit Planraum splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 113m³ drawing
57a Sanitätsunterstand splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 206m³ drawing
59a U.  mit angehängten Postenstand splittersicher 1m 1m B1 no 116m³ drawing

Remarkable in the above list is that all types were of the splittersicher type only. Also, in the types 56 and 59a a Tobruk was integrated for observation purposes.

A report of June 1942 mentions 833 Vf-bunkers having been constructed along the Belgian coast.

Further developments in the design of Vf constructions took place in autumn 1942. At this point the Vf25 Fundament für Panzerkampfwagentürme design was released.  This was a further development of the Vf8 Tobruk but now adapted to mount captured ex-French tank turrets. The success of this design lead to a flurry of Tobruk types in the following years on which captured French, Soviet, British, but also German tank turrets could be mounted. Also, the Ringstand concept was further adapted to house mortars, flamethrowers, guns, observatories and signalling posts. Suffice it here to say that the Ringstand was so popular that it was constructed in huge numbers. Most of these were of the type 58c (octagonal)(the type 58d bieng round). This type, released in autumn 1942, would be built in tens of thousands by the end of the war.

3 Vf bunkers constructed in the AOK15 area

 The following provides an overview of the minimum number of Vf-bunkers constructed in the AOK15 area of operations. The list is based on Rudi Rolf (2014). The actual numbers and the exact locations of these bunkers will be checked by in more detail at a later stage: A similar exercise for the permanent bunkers revealed a serious discrepancy between the two numbers.

Type Specifications AOK 15 Notes
Vf1a Unterstand bis 6 Mann (Hoyerbalken) 71  
Vf1b Unterstand bis 6 Mann (Wellblech) 1  
Vf2a Gruppenunterstand (Hoyerbalken) 759  
Vf2b Gruppenunterstand (Hoyerbalken) 50  
Vf2c Gruppenunterstand (Wellblech) -  
Vf2d Gruppenuterstand (Wellblech) -  
Vf3 MG-Rundumstand (Hoyerbalken) 48  
Vf4a MG-Kasematte (Hoyerdecke) -  
Vf4b MG-Kasematte (Hoyerdecke) -  
Vf5a Pak-Unterstellraum (Hoyerdecke) 1  
Vf5b Pak-Unterstellraum (Hoyerdecke) 10  
Vf6a Beobachtungsstand (Hoyerdecke) 6  
Vf6b Beobachtungsstand (Hoyerdecke) 12  
Vf7a Munitionsstand (Hoyerbalken) 106  
Vf7b Munitionsstand (Hoyerbalken) 75  
Vf7c Munitionsstand (Wellblech) 2  
Vf7d Munitionsstand (Wellblech) -  
Vf8 MG-Ringstand für 2 Mann oder B-Stand -  
51a Halbgruppenunterstand - Note: this number is impossible
52a Gruppenunterstand 17  
53a Pak-Unterstellraum -  
54a Pak-Unterstellraum mit Unterkunft 2  
55 Beobachtungsstand -  
56a Artilleriebeobachtungsstand mit Planraum 3  
57a Sanitätsunterstand 5  
58c Ringstand (8-eckig) 667
58d Ringstand (rund) 4  
59a Unterstand mit angehängten Postenstand 12  
  TOTAL (without 58c/d) 1180  
  TOTAL (with 58c/d) 1851  

The intoduction of the building programes for permanent (ständig) constructions did not mean the end of the semi-permanent constructions, however. The latter would continue being built until the end of the war, thus simultaneously with the permanenet constructions. Their construction, however, was subject to 3 conditions: they could only be built if 1) sufficient volumes of concrete were available (so not at the expense of the permanent constructions), 2) they were perfectly camouflaged (thus offsetting their vulnerability) and 3) they were not located where a permaenent bunker was planned later.

The continued building of Vf -bunkers meant, for example, that the following numbers had been built/were beig built along the Belgian coast an in the Antwerp sector in May 1944:
Bunkers in Vf-strength (Belgian coast and Antwerp (May 1944)
  Built Under construction
KVA A1 2968 345
KVA A2 3735 336
KVA A3 5518 383
Abschnitt Antwerpen 658 156
Total 12879 1220

It is important to note that the above overview includes ALL Vf-bunkers of ALL construction strength (thus ranging from 30cm to 2m), and not just the standard types mentioned in the tables above.