Bunkers at Fort Hommet opened to public
A RESTORED M19 mortar was the star attraction at the bunker trail at Fort Hommet on Saturday.
Crowds of islanders travelled to the headland to explore its Second World War history.
The event was organised by Festung Guernsey and included the opening up of two bunkers on the northern side of the headland.
Project co-ordinator Paul Bourgaize said it was great to have people exploring the sites.
‘The numbers have been really steady,’ he said.
‘It is always busy.’
The Type U personnel bunker has been restored to how it would have been during the war, including bunks, pictures of the Fuhrer and re-creation rifles of the era. The last – K98s – were actually props from the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society film, which the group came across through their supplier by chance.
The nearby Type 633 bunker was also opened up. The volunteers from Festung had to dig the site out 10 years ago and have been working to restore it. The star attraction inside is the M19 automatic mortar. It would have had a range of about 600 metres and would have been used to attack invading forces.
The weapon was discovered in Fort Saumarez, where it had been completely buried and was in a very poor state. The volunteers managed to rescue it and spent seven years restoring it and replacing missing parts with new ones. They then had to crane the quarter-of-a-ton steel weapon into the Fort Hommet bunker.
‘That was a good day to see that going in,’ Mr Bourgaize said.
‘It is a very rare thing. It is the only restored one in all of the Atlantic Wall [the Nazi defences that stretched from southern France to northern Norway].’
Festung is a group of volunteers and 10 of them were on hand on Saturday to make sure the day went smoothly.
‘We are lucky we have a fantastic team that have a real passion for history and that’s what keeps us going,’ Mr Bourgaize said.
‘It’s a huge team effort.’
Mr Bougaize said people had come with a lot of questions about the sites, but as of 4.30pm, there had not been anything yet that he could not answer.
Among the crowds exploring the sites was Wayne Le Cocq and his 10-year-old granddaughter Amelia.
‘It is very good and very different from when I was young,’ said Mr Le Cocq, who used to explore fortifications nearby and around the Guet when they were not so securely locked.
‘We never got into this one, so it’s amazing to see this. They have done such a good job.’
His granddaughter agreed.
‘I think its amazing, especially for young people to see what it was like and the things they used,’ she said.
All money raised from donations on Saturday will go back into the group’s work. One of the projects is to get mains power to the Hommet headland bunkers. Currently they are powered by generators.
n Festung Guernsey is holding an open day between 2pm and 5pm on Saturday 15 August, when they will open up gun one of the Mirus Battery. Parking will be at La Houguette School and entry will be by donation.