The Tirpitz Battery (part III)

It’s been half a year since I’ve presented an article dedicated to Tirpitz German artillery battery. If in previous articles we have relied on field work, on photographic evidence of the remains of the former coastal battery, this time we will focus on the analysis of documents. It should be noted that the attempt to obtain documents proved to be even more difficult than the identification and exploration of the Tirpitz bunker compound. Official documents are extremely rare, and access to Army archives is strictly regulated. No doubt that, back in WW2 years, there were piles of files that refers or analysed the coastal heavy battery, unfortunately, after the war, the “glorious Red Army” took all Romanian military archives and transferred them to Chisinau, where they could censured the files freely. We received back only “the convenient things”, most of the documents regarding the alliance of Romania and Germany were destroyed. It was the beginning of the falsification of history.

In these months I managed to assemble a mosaic of articles, excerpts from books dedicated to the WW2 Romanian navy, photographs, and even documents classified as “Top Secret”. I’ve worked for a month to designing the architectural BIM of the Tirpitz bunker. The fortification was measured in the smallest details, we’ve worked on millimetre, there are no errors there. The BIM is a scaled, perfect reproduction of to actual building; as such, it constitutes a useful tool for professionals, historians or hobbyists.

Also, I will present a unique artefact – an object that will proved without doubt that the bunker is, ideed, an German WW2 fortification: a Tirpitz battery bunker. It is the only “medal” still embedded in the thick walls. So, meine Damen und Herren, Tirpitz Constanta, Part III.

tirpitz_field_pano

A couple of panoramic images, aiming to integrate you into the Tirpitz bunker atmosphere. For a more detailed image gallery fortification please check the previous articles dedicated to the heavy coastal battery (Tirpitz Part I, Part II), right now we’ll only introduce you into the  “Lebensraum” – the vital space of the former German battery.

tirpitz_bunker_pano

70 years have passed over these walls without leaving any very striking. They survived the nazi, the communist, Germany, Russia, Romania …

Unfortunately, nowadays visitors have caused massive destruction. They used industrial means to rend off the metal frames of the watertight doors out of the reinforced concrete.

The Time Machine. 1941.

The loss of Bessarabia to Soviet Union, as a result of Stalin’s ultimatum, in June 1940, the rapture of Northern Transylvania to Horthy’s Hungary after the Vienna Dictate, the anexation of Quadrilateral (Southern Dobruja) on August 30, 1940 by Bulgaria, the advancing German armies, were factors that led to Romania’s entering the war. Situation made our traditional alliance (France, Great Britain) impossible, the choice was obvious. On November 23, 1940, Romania joined the Axis – that moment on, the Soviet Union became our enemy. In this context, Romania is preparing his army for the campaign in the East, while strengthening the country’s defense .

Coastal Artillery play a decisive role in rebutting attacks coming from the sea, strengthening of the Romanian seaside defence became a priority. To work to strengthen the Romanian coastal artillery with additional German units rely on ViceAdmiral Friedrich, a first-class specialist who achieved great results in the organization of the English Channel coast artillery. Between January 29 to February 2, 1941, Friedrich, along with a representative of the Romanian Navy, had documenting the condition of the existing Romanian coastal defence artillery, taking the decision to fill with two heavy coastal artillery batteries, one medium-caliber unit, six mobile coastal batteries and numerous air defence positions. I have to mentioned that those artillery systems were build ​​by German specialist units, with German technique; just after two months, the coastal artillery units were functional and ready to fight !

In the spring of 1941, the German artillery units on the Black Sea coast included:

  • Tirpitz battery – 3 x 280 mm guns, Southern Constanta City (“La Vii” area);
  • Lange Bruno – a mobile (railway) 3 x 280 guns, in the Northern Constanta City;
  • Breslau / M III battery – 3 x 170 mm guns, installed in “La Vii” area, just 1 km north of Tirpitz battery;
  • 6 batteries of 105 mm guns, located in places like Tuzla, La Vii (yes, another one), Cap Midia, Mamaia Sat, Carmen Sylva (nowadays Eforie Sud), Constanta City.

Battery Tirpitz was commissioned on March 22, 1941, and the first salvos fired in April, in the presence of the Minister of Defense, Iosif Iacobici. The battery is located in the south of Constanta City, in the area known back then as “La Vii” (The Vineyards). The battery had 3 x 280 mm caliber SK/L 45 Krupp guns. In addition, the unit was equipped with multiple anti-aircraft guns of 88 mm, 10 x 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, 75 mm anti-tank guns, one searchlight projector of 150 cm, another one of 60 cm, not mentioning the small caliber guns. The base was surrounded by two barbed wire fences and a minefield. The staff consisted of seven officers, 30 petty officers and 300 soldiers (some sources state a total of 600 troops, including support staff). The most powerful artillery battery (of any kind) of Romania.

To understand the general picture of artillery defense in Constanta Black Sea coast, the Romanians had a battery of 3 x 152 mm guns on Tataia, a battery of 4 x of 75 mm (on Gate 7 area), a unit of 32 mm anti-aircraft artillery battery and a couple of other units were build right at that time, per instance Elisabeta battery (4 x 120 mm) in Agigea.

The command of the Romanian and German coast artillery is worth exploring in detail, as it was a complex, but effective mechanism. All German units located on the Romanian coast subordinate the German Navy Mission, led by Vice-Admiral Fleischer and then by Vice-Admiral Helmuth Brinkmann. They were in permanent contact with the Romanian Navy by a German liaison officer. Now, things get really interesting: normally, in non-combative state, the operative German Navy Mission was under the Romanian Navy command, however, when any of these coastal artillery batteries (including their anti-aircraft subunits) engage in fight, all coastal artillery units, both Germany and Romanian, switched to German command! Basically, German Navy Mission was under the Romanian Navy command, except for the effective combat actions, when the Germans held the initiative and the control of the operations.

Tirpitz battery occupies a rectangular lot, length of 2 km and width of 1 km. The 280 mm guns were positioned at 600 m from the sea, and the distance between them was 250 m. I’ll mention that the identification of the guns exact location (in the absence of the foundations remains) proved the most difficult job. Even at this moment, I can’t pinpoint the spot of the 3 x 280 mm heavy guns, still, if we look on the location of the existing bunker and the FuMO 214 radar base, the distance from the shore, we can draw an imaginary line on the 280mm guns position. Basically, they were placed in line with the bunker and radar.

As I’ve mentioned, the guns were at 600 m distance from the sea, but at that time, the sea was much closer to the railway, nowadays harbour infrastructure was build in the ’60s. Each of the three big guns had its ammunition warehouse, located at 300 m behind (West of the location of the guns), and a shelter for storage a small number of shells in the immediate vicinity of the gun installation. Ammunition was transported from the underground warehouses to guns on Decanville railway, with a small Diesel locomotive.

On the left (North) of the battery it was the command center. Now, it’s difficult to say if the existing bunker was the command center itself or some other building of the battery. Extremely well shielded (the walls are 1 meter thick), with a shaft that could have been be part of the radar / radiolocation system, or maybe even an AA post, we had two assumptions: this bunker was indeed the command center or the main targeting center. Both seem valid at the time, the conceret bunker was built as one of the few superstructures, above ground level, on the highest location in the area, suggesting the use as a radar for the targeting system. In my analysis I took into account the possibility that the fortification could have been the command center itself (and that would have been great, because, from the documents, I knew its position in the battery lot, and I would have been able to pinpoint the exact location of the guns and all the main units), but extending my research that proved to be impossible. Here’s why …

Regarding the targeting centers, the documents say there were two such facilities and I guess their position will helps us identify the exact location of the guns. The main targeting center laid between the command centerand the first 280 mm gun, and the second targeting center was build under the command center itself (one Russian source mention level -15 m). Now, considering the nowadays existing bunker has no lower floor, no underground level, it had a periscope and ventilation systems, things lighten up a bit – the existing bunker, generically called “Tirpitz Bunker” was probably the main targeting center. This means that we can draw the approximative location of the units: the command center is somewhere on the left (there is a knoll there), and the first of 280 mm guns laid on the right side of the existing bunker. The other two guns – 250 m and 500 m to the right (South).

Most of the buildings of the Tirpitz battery were built below ground level and were built by excavating the ground and padded with wood. There were accommodations for soldiers and on-duty officers, a sickward and garages for vehicles. The connection between guns and various construction was done on roads lined with planks of fir.

The main targeting center used to calculate the trajectories and distances from data provided by two detection and measurement stations, positioned on the seashore, with a large distance between them. The method, in military terms, was called Lange Basiers and it was the precursor or nowadays triangulation system. The calculation board was able to determine at any time “gisimentul” (the angle formed by the axis of a plane/ship with the direction of a radar post). Corrections were determined automatically by the system on the main targeting center. All the data was calculated for the center cannon (gun no.2). The other two guns had to determine their parallax corrections by their own, using abacus type systems, which operated using 12 v batteries. The data was transmitted to the central gun by phone.

The secondary targeting center uaed to made calculations using the measurements of two telemeters, one working on coincidence system within a 10 m base, the other one stereoscopically, on 3 m base. Guidance was given by a artillery scoped located in the command center. The distance corrections were made by a platter and an artillery timer system.

The electrical wiring was buried at 1 m depth. For lighting, battery Tirpitz had 3 power generators (one for each gun), installed in a central enclosure, built below ground level. Each of the three power supplies consisted of a Diesel generator AC 220 V, 50 Hz, 40 KW. A rectifying system generated DC 120 v for the vertical movement guns barrels and the ammunition elevators.

The vehicles stationed at the base were two 4-tones trucks, two automobiles, one ambulance, an auto-tanker and two motorcycles.

 

The big guns…

The Romanian artillery guns range was limiting to max. 21 km, so Tirpitz cannons were more than a necessary addition, because their guns were able to hit as far as 34 km. With shells weighing 300 kg! Tirpitz guns (model SK L/45) were cast by Krupp and were coming from the reserve fund of the German Nassau class battleships of the First World War; one of the guns had been built in 1911, the other two in 1915. Prior to bringing in Constanta, the big guns had been installed on the coastal artillery of Kiel (Germany) and, in 1940, on the Voorne Island (Netherlands).

The gun carriages had liquid-type breaking system, with air recovery. Vertical movement in the gun’s barrel was possible both electrical and mechanical, horizontally – only mechanical. The maximum firing range was 35.7 km with normal explosive shells and 28.3 km with fragmentation projectiles.

 

 June 26, 1941

Some Romanians, especially the Constanta citizens may remember the significance of that day, but for worldwide friends of Aedificium I will present a brief chronology of hostilities:

  • 3:30 AM – the Romanian submarine “Delfinul” (Dolphin) spots a Russian cruiser and 4 destroyers approaching Romanian waters and notify the Romanian Navy headquarters;
  • 4:00 AM – Romanian destroyer NMS Regina Maria, moored on Agigea, observe two enemy destroyers approaching N-E of Constanta harbor;
  • immediately, the two Soviet destroyers (Moskva and Kharkov, Leningrad class destroyers, 2,500 tons, very fast-40 knots) opened fire towards the city, hitting some railway petrol tanks and the Palas railway station. They’ve fired over 350 shells in a few minutes (!), but without accuracy;
  • Shortly after, Elisabeta coastal battery opened fire against the enemy vessels;
  • 4:09 and 4:11 AM – NMS Regina Maria and NMS Marasesti destroyers maneuver to optimal positions and open fire, sheltered by high cliff;
  • 4:20 AM – Kharkov take a hit on the command and Moskva is loosing the mast to Romanian fire, but both continue their attack;
  • 4:22 AM – Tirpitz battery enters the scene, opening fire with all 3 guns from 31 km (!);
  • surrounded by shells, Kharkov withdraw hastily and Moskva launches a smokescreen and try to retreat;
  • 4:26 AM – Paniced, the Russian sailors turn full port and heads Moskva straight into the Romanian minefield that protect the Constanta harbour waters. It hits a mine, explodes, it breaks in two and sank in 4 minutes. Out of the 400 crew, only 69 survived and were rescued by the Romanians.

The event was a huge blow for the Russian navy (their pride was heavily wounded, Moskva = Moscow) and there were no other navy attacks on Romanians waters for the rest of the war.
Subject “who sank Moskva” was discussed for 60 years while still not reaching on a clear conclusion. Romanians consider their coastal batteries and strenuous fire forced the Soviet vessel to enter the minefield, the Germans argue that their Tirpitz shells brought the end of Moskva, and the Russians said… they’ve sank by themselves! A Soviet Navy submarine launched a rebel torpedo to their own destroyer – at least a ridiculous theory.

In the context of documentation for Tirpitz battery articles, I’ve analysed many testimonials and maps depicting this particular naval battle, and I’ve noticed how these facts were “modeled” as time gone by. The major problem is that no one attempted a fair, unbiased reconstruction of the events; the Romanian testimonials are echoes of exalted adrenaline of the battle and use to overstate our contribution to the battle, guess it’s a common thing for all Latin people; the Russians are extra-proud and narrow-minded – their ship sunk by its own, Stalin decided that way. Harasho! The Germans are straightforward, “Tirpitz sunk Moskva”. Ther are no proos for that, but they’ve gone so far as painting the destroyers silhouette on the 280 mm Tirpitz gun barrel.

Pursuing an objective approach, I’ve “filtered” in the testimonials the exaggerations generated by adrenaline fight and over-patriotism (you may call it nationalism). Now, I think we can try to sketch the involvement of Tirpitz battery in the naval battle of June 26, 1941, on Constanta. It is unlikely that one of the Tirpitz shells sunk Moskva, but it is very possible that the intimidating force of their huge guns have been a decisive factor. First, I must specify that we don’t know how many shots Tirpitz battery fired in that morning. Ten sources gave ten different numbers. What is clear is that Tirpitz coastal battery opened fire with all its 3 big cannons at 4:22, on a distance of 30.7 km, towards the Russian destroyers, at first performing an adjustment salvo. Then they fired somewhere between 15 and 39 cannon salvos. I tend to credit to the minimum number of 15 shots, since we know that Tirpitz opened fire near the maximum of its range and two Soviet destroyers withdrew immediately.

 

As I’ve said, it’s unlikely as Tirpitz shells to sunk the Russian destroyer, but it is very possible to acheive that indirectly, through its deterrent force. Initially, both destroyers headed directly towards the Romanian shore, ignorant to the Romanian destroyers and coastal artillery fire (quite accurately, both ships were hit, although not decisive). Things changed suddenly, when Tirpitz joined the fight. We must understand what it means a 280 mm gun. We’re not talking about a big cannon, we’re talking about extremely big guns! That kind of gun you’ll normally find on board of a battleship. A 300 kg shell, 90 cm long, which fully impacts a destroyers hull have pretty much the same effect as a torpedo – there is no need for another hit. Even a shot in the proximity of the vessel can cause serious damage. This might have been a decisive factor in the outcome of the June 26, 1941 naval battle. Both Russian destroyers attacked with such confidence and temerity not only due to vodka, they knew the Romanian coast artillery and the Romanian destroyers destroyers could not inflict fatal damage by a single shot, they’ve need multiple hits to sunk a vessel. This allowed the enemy to attack as much as possible till they’ll complete their mission or they would have been hit by a Romanian shell, in that event, The Russians probably planned to launch smokescreen and retreat with minimal loss if any. When Tirpitz joined the fight, the situation has changed radically, because it was obvious that they were dealing with very large guns (in the morning twilight it was easy to see the huge distance were the shots originated from and huge caliber of the shells) and a single blow, even a lucky one, could cause the ships to sank immediately. A Sword of Damocles that strike ones and for good. Considering the shells hit closer and closer to Moskva, therefore, it is not difficult to explain the panic that arose on the Soviet ships.

 

Kharkov withdraw immediately, close to the minefield, although they’ve lost their anti-mine protection nets. Romanian torpedo boats NMS Viforul si NMS Vijelia chased him and tried to torpedo the destroyer, but the Soviet ship it managed to flee. Moskva continued for a few minutes more just to round the minefield from the South, those minutes were enough for crew to lose lucidity in hell created by the barrage of the Romanian and German artillery. Under the terror of the moment, he crew had no time to calculate their exact position and considered they’ve passed the South of the minefield. Moskva launched a smokescreen, took full port rudder on maximum speed… and it woke up in the middle of the minefield. It hits a mine, it exploded somewhere amidships and broke in two. It sank in just four minutes, along with 331 out of the 400 sailors on board…

 

In February 1942 it was proposed as the Romanian Navy to buy Tirpitz battery. Sub-Ministry of State has appointed a team of experts who analyzed the acquisition opportunity. Commission’s recommendations were as following: “The Romanian state to purchase Tirpitz battery because this will increase the coastal artillery range and efficiency, but only if it will be offered at an affordable price, that includes all the material necessary for battery’s operation (equipment, transportation systems, ammunition etc). Regarding this, it was mentioned that the guns are old concepts, but in very good condition, it required high maintenance costs, including the replacement of the underground wooden constructions, especially the ammunition warehouse. Sub-Ministry of State approved the acquisition and forwarded that to the Commandment of the Navy, but unfavourable turn of the war on the Eastern Front made ​​the purchase to be suspended.

Here’s an excerpt from the report, the technical data of guns and their condition on February 1942.

 

On August 23, 1944, Romania suddenly turns against the old allies, the Axis powers and joined the Allies. Germany is surprised and the German troops in Romania were in a very difficult situation. In the midst of these tumultuous events, Tirpitz battery played an important role – they prepaired for fight and pointed their 280 mm guns towards Constanta City and the harbour. The danger was very serious, considering their firepower, the Germans were able to turn Constanta into a pile of ruins. Fortunately, Romanian Admiral Horia Macellariu friendship with German Vice Admiral Brinkman, the commander of all German naval forces in the area virtually saved Constanta. Brinkmann refused to execute Hitler’s directives (who ordered to open fire towards the city), and the of Tirpitz battery was limited to cover German troops retreat to Bulgaria, without firing a single shell.

On August 26 (what a coincidence, 69 years ago, today), at 2:30 AM, the Romanian troops of nearby Carol battery is moving towards Tirpitz to take over its command, but minutes before the whole battery is dynamited and blow up. The log of Romanian Naval Forces Operations register “at 02 and 30 minutes, explosions and fires occur on Tirpitz. Battery blows up. Until this time, the battery was in working order, covering the withdrawal of vessels in port and the German ground troops from Constanta to the Bulgarian border.”

At the end of the war, the Romanian soldiers dismounted the cannons wrecks and remains of the equipment, and it ships everything, including ammunition… to our new ally, the always victorious Red Army. Ironically, even on the very end, we couldn’t get into the Tirpitz guns possession …

 

BIM and 3D Renderings

Tirpitz bunker was measured to millimeter details in all its dimensions, based on that data we’ve collected I’ve build the BIM architectural model and the 3D rendering.

BIM was build relying exclusively on measurements, on exact data. There are no maybes, no assumptions, the BIM is the scaled perfect copy of the real bunker. The Tirpitz Bunker is, indeed, “Deutsche Werke” – most of the walls use a standardized, round number values are used for this building.

The outer walls have a thickness of exactly 1,500 mm. The ceiling is even thicker, 1860 mm – an impregnable fortress.


At the time when I had to create the BIM foundation of the building, I realized that I have no means to measure it, it’s easy to imagine why. I’ve proceed to research plans of dozens of models of German bunkers, looking for an analogy. Is was not an easy task, as Tirpitz bunker does not fit entirely in standard military architectural designes of the German army.


Finally I’ve picked a value I thought is fits the Tirpitz bunker design. Well, at that time I had a nice surprise, a revelation: the entire bunker overall height is 4000 mm! Exactly 4000, not a millimeter more or less, although I have worked with millimeters values ​​and I had to approximate the size of the foundation, the total result was a perfectly round number – in that moment I was sure I’ve choose dthe right foundation thickness.


For those interested in using the BIM model of the Tirpitz bunker in a professional project or hobby (such as creating a model), I offer free of charge all the specific files, in format RVT (Revit) or DWG (AutoCAD).

 

Dies ist die Tirpitz Batterie

Here are some of the documents and facsimiles that were the references for this article.

 

 

Four green leaflets have sprung up in the wall of the strongest weapons that actually fought in Romania. It might be a four-leaf clover, ain’t that good luck?

Well, what I do know so far is that after an year of research, exploration, rebuilding from scratch on architectural BIM, I’ve have come to understand and respect the history of loneliness and the singularity of the Tirpitz “Romanian” battery. Besides, if 69 years ago, in that August of betrayal, our buddy, Tirpitz would have been opened fire on Constanta, it is possible that the writer of these lines, and many of my fellows Romanian readers wouldn’t be here now.

Therefore, I guess we’ll have to follow the advice of the panorama below. That little mound on the left side of the panorama is knoll of the Tirpitz bunker, and on the right side … well, I guess we are there (it says “Sa nu uitam!” = We should not forget)…

tirpitz_100_pano

Later Edit (Juanuary 25, 2014):

I’m able to confirm – this picture is, indeed, from Tirpitz, Constanta, Romania, spring 1941.

Related articles you’d like to check:

The Tirpitz Battery (part II)

The Tirpitz Battery (part I)

 

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