The 16″ Batteries

The very first battery with 40.6cm guns, Batterie Schleswig-Holstein, was constructed on the Hel peninsular in Poland, located outside the important ports of Gdansk and Gdynia in Danzig Bay.  In Norway, Batterie Theo at Trondenes was built with four guns of the same calibre and Batterie Dietl on Engeløy in Steigen with three. The battery at Trondenes was the most powerful in Hitler’s 5000km long Atlantic Wall. Batterie Lindemann near Calais in France was built at the same time as those in Norway and also a part of the Atlantic Wall.

The Atlantic Wall.

This was the German fortification against invasion from the west. The wall followed the coast from the Spanish-French border in the south to the border between Norway and Russia in the north. It was an almost continuous 5000km line of defence, especially concentrated in Holland, Denmark and Norway. A total of three batteries with ten Adolf Guns, 40.6cm SK C-34, were built. It has been maintained several times that these were the largest land guns, but this is not correct. The largest land-based gun during WWII was Dora with a calibre of 80cm which fired shells of about four tons. The Adolf Guns fired one ton shells. Dora was used by the Germans in the summer of 1942 at Sevastopol in Russia as railway artillery.

During the war, battleship guns bigger than the Adolf Guns were used as coastal defence in Russia, Japan and South Korea. The Japanese 46cm calibre guns were intended for the battleships in the Yamato Class, but these ships were never completed. The hulls were rebuilt as aircraft carriers. (Naval Weapons of World War Two by John Campell) On Malta and in Gibraltar were some old 45cm calibre guns as coastal defence during the whole war. One gun of this type (The 100 Ton Gun) is still in Gibraltar as a museum piece and is the largest remaining one in Western Europe.

On the east and west coasts of the USA were many batteries with the same size guns as the Adolf Guns, i.e. 16” or 40.6cm. The Americans had over 100 guns of this size in their coastal artillery during WWII. Only one of these has been preserved as a museum piece and stands in a military area.

The battery at Trondenes near Harstad is the only remaining one in the world with 40.6cm guns. In addition, it is one of the best preserved fortifications in the Atlantic Wall. It has not been restored but it is intact and almost as the Germans left it after WWII. For this reason it is a unique attraction.

The German 40.6cm batteries in the Atlantic Wall
Bunker for Bty Schleswig-Holstein under construction at Hel.
Batterie Schleswig-Holstein. After the German decision to abandon the building of Class H and J battleships, it was decided to use the completed 40.6cm guns as coastal defence weapons. The first battery was Schleswig-Holstein on the Hel peninsular. The Germans could hold trials in 1940-41 without the Allied reconnaissance aircraft discovering what they were doing. The very first trials with the new guns as artillery pieces were carried out, along with modernisation and adaption of both the guns and the turrets. The battleship “Tirpitz” also had trials in the same area before it became operative, new torpedoes being tested in the bay within Hel. The battery was completed and trail test shot in June 1941. The battery lost its tactic and strategic importance after the German attack on Russia on 22 June 1941. The Germans believed, however, there was a great need for a strong coastal defence at the north end of the English Channel so the guns were moved.

Bty Lindemann, Gun “Bruno” ready for fire trials. Over head cover not build
Batterie Lindemann. This was started in June 1941 and the bunker was completed in 1942. The Germans chose bunker type S-262 for this battery because the British could bombard the area. The three bunkers had head cover and the gun in casements with only 120° sector of fire. The guns were mounted and test shot before the head cover was moulded. The battery was named after the captain of the battleship “Bismarck”, which was sunk by the British previous to the completion of the battery. Batterie Lindemann was the only Adolf Guns battery that was engaged in action during WWII. The guns were fired constantly at the Dover area and Britain responded with counter fire. The battery area had been subject to a massive bombardment by the Allies before the invasion of Normandy, as a diversionary manoeuvre to make the Germans believe it would take place there. The Germans had long believed this, so the whole area from Calais to Boulogne was heavily fortified with many strong coastal defence batteries. Batterie Lindemann had the largest guns. The battery was captured by Canadian forces, and destroyed in September 1944. The whole battery area is now covered with stone masses from the Euro Tunnel.

Gun # 1 at Bty Theo, photo taken in 1994.
Batterie Theo. This battery was called Trondenes I during building. The two batteries in Norway, Dietl and Theo, were commenced in 1942 and built simultaneously. The battery at Trondenes had four 40.6cm guns and Batterie Dietl three. The bunker type chosen for both was S- 384 with S-100 as the command bunker. Russian prisoners of war were used as slave labour for all the heavy work during the construction, unlike the other batteries, and many of them died. The number of deaths is uncertain, but there can be as many as 1300 Russians who died of starvation and neglect. The batteries fired the first test shots in May 1943, but did not participate in warlike actions. After the war, the battery became part of the peacetime complement for Coastal Defence from 1951. Personnel for the batteries were trained each year and the training was concluded with sharp shooting of the guns, the first in 1951 and the last 1957. The battery was withdrawn from Coastal Defence in 1964 as technological development had rendered the guns obsolete. The bunkers were painted and improved so that the original WWII environment was partly lost. The battery at Trondenes has the only remaining 40.6cm guns in the world and it is also one of the best preserved Atlantic Wall’s fortifications, not restored but intact and almost as the Germans built it. It is therefore a unique attraction and extremely good documentation of German technology from World War II.

Batteri Dietl

Batteri Dietl. Foto: Torleif Flosand

Bty Dietl test fire of one of the guns.
Batterie Dietl. The Germans built this battery on Engeløy in Steigen, with three 40.6cm guns. As already mentioned, work was carried out simultaneously in France and at Trondenes. There are no guns at Batterie Dietl today, but there are bunkers and an environment which are more authentic than at Trondenes. After the war much of the weapon technology was transferred to Trondenes to be used there. Enthusiasts will find an authentic bunker environment, as it was during the war. Few improvements have been made and it has not been repainted, though a small museum has been established in one of the gun bunkers. Bunker types S-100 and S-384 are found here and can be studied more closely than at Trondenes. There were only guards at the battery but they were removed in 1956. The bunkers have therefore retained the original environment and character because improvements and other modernisation have not taken place. Batterie Stranden can also be visited and in addition, the bunkers are situated in fantastic scenery which is an added bonus.