Guarding the ramparts

One of the prominent features of the Siarö fort is that it’s not actually located on Siarö, but Sjöbris knows how to get to the right place, so we jumped ashore on Kyrkogårdsön. It was one of the few sunny days this summer, so I insisted we start with a walk around the island. We soon found ourselves in a rock-and-concrete trench with two smallish guns on tracks at each end. Little concrete machine gun nests that somehow had been rendered in the same reddish tone as the granite were strewn all over the hillside.

A staircase led up to what turned out to be the huge concrete cap over the actual fort. It looked for all the world like a huge skateboard park, but with two 152 mm gun turrets. The entire thing was surrounded by more slit trenches, from which any landing of marines would be repelled.

The forest was filled with old and rusting barbed wire and I wondered how often deer or elk would get trapped in it—not even in its active period was the fort manned more than intermittently.

Beyond the fort lay the cholera churchyard for which the island was named, now just a lush meadow. We continued down to the café for lunch. (Note: both the cafeteria and the boat had only been able to offer pancakes in the way of vegetarian food. There is a limit to how many pancake meals one can have in a day.) Fortified, we were ready to tackle the insides of the fort. The entrance consisted of one of those one-person-at-a-time revolving doors, to make sure nobody would get in without a ticket.

Inside it was quite cold and damp and it turned out that the military had soon realised the premises were too unhealthy to keep even conscripts in, so in spite of the carefully marked sleeping quarters for officers, NCOs and privates, the garrison had actually spent most of their time in what eventually became the hostel we had just visited. However, one of the rooms had been furnished with an industrial-grade de-humidifier and heating to serve as a lecture hall. As soon as we entered, a projection screen rolled down from the ceiling and a showing of military archive films started. I noted with professional interest that sea waves apparently did not compress well in whatever digital format had been chosen and ended up as a mess of artefacts. On the other hand, the pedagogical trick of indicating cut-away drawings with an animated knife actually cutting away bits was absolutely brilliant.

The washing facilities for the conscripts. I presume the faucets have been removed to keep people from testing if they work, not that an overflowing sink would make any difference whatsoever here.

I climbed up into one of the lookout hoods and found I had a most excellent view of the fairway, but I still wonder what kind of damage the mounted guns would have been able to inflict on 1940s warships.

It was a relief to return out into the sunshine.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Cool stuff! Jrette and her mum are going there for a school outing a few weeks from now.