A surprise in the Dutch dunes
Since one of my friends is living in Noordwijk we decided to combine a visit to the Noordwijk Atlantic Wall museum with a visit to the local bar. This report will be about the museum visit only, since I consider most of you know what a visit is like (and how these may end).
Honestly, I was familiar with the fact that the Atlantic wall ran from Norway to Spain but I figured only in France you would be able to find some remnants, but I apparently you are never to old to learn and I am no exception!
Getting to the museum is quite easy, since there is a parking lot nearby (If you go the Noordwijk in summer, the village is very busy since it is considered as one of The Netherlands’ major beach resorts). The museum is a couple of minutes walking and can be found in the dunes where a small path leads to the entrance of the complex.
Within short term our group was complete and the tour started. It was guided by one of the many volunteers. As often, these guys do this since they really love what they are doing and this guide was no exception. Nowadays he was keen to tell us everything worthwhile about the complex and he was proud his home town being part of history. Since he was a local he was able to tell us the complex was not always preserved well. For decades the complex was hidden in the dunes and it was not possible to visit it yet, unless you were part of the local tunnel rats, enjoying creeping through the tiny passages in the complex. And that was exactly what he had done as a teenager, leaving some souvenirs in the complex which he showed us proudly.
The tour led through some tiny corridors and the guide explaining us many details. One of them was that most bunker corridors are not in a straight line, and often you can find a corner, since in this way it is better defendable.
One of the areas once gave shelter to the main gun of the battery. The opening is closed with a huge number of sandbags. It’s a pity the gun isn’t there anymore, but it is easy to imagine how this must have looked since the area is huge and the sealed of front is able to host a gun of huge proportions.
Since the climate in the bunker is quite constant one of the areas is used to store the famous Dutch ‘bunker cheese’, which has a very special taste. If you are in The Netherlands I encourage you to combine this part of Dutch cuisine with a visit to this museum!
Also you will visit the living quarters of the gun crew, which gave a precious insight how the defence of Europe must have been from the German point of view.
The tour was great fun and afterwards we visited the other areas of the museum with the observation bunker and the radio bunker. The roof of the observation bunker was put in place by a Chinook helicopter!
History of the complex
The battery was built over some considerable time since it takes a huge logistical effort to build it. For the biggest bunker (S414), 1800 cubic metres were used, the equivalent of 300 concrete trucks! In the end the complex hosted 180 men. Most of the time was used to build additional defences. When the Germans left, the complex was still intact, as well as it’s guns. First the bolts were removed and later the ammunition was taken away so the complex was of no danger for the local youth. The guns were destroyed in 1946 and from that time on many kids used the complex as their playground. For Safety reasons it was closed of with sand in the 70’s and the complex closed permanently, apart from some local diehards, like our guide!
During the Cold war one of the bunkers (FI246) was rebuild to be able to store objects of art. Nowadays, it is home to the ‘Engelandvaarders museum).
In 2013 volunteers started one recovering the complex from the dunes where it was hidden for decades and in 2015 a part was opened for the public again. Also you can find many vitrines with helmets, weapons and other stuff the average military history traveller will love.
I love military museums and often I would claim ‘bigger is better’, but this friendly museum is an exception to this rule. The guide was great fun and I was surprised to see a complex so well restored. Don’t expect a huge museum with many halls with guns, tanks and the like, but if you like a small friendly museum, you’ll have a great time.
If you have planned a vacation to The Netherlands, especially one to Noordwijk, this museum is a nice break from the beachlife. Worse case, you leave your better half at the beach and make sure you visit the museum yourself and don’t forget to bring your kids along. They will love it!