German Field Fortifications

Well, time to take a look at German Field
Fortifications in World War 2. Originally, I had this video planned for 2017 or even
2016, but it just didn’t feel right. Yet, now, it clearly does. So, grab your shovel,
your Stahlhelm and of course your toilet paper and let’s start digging.
Since we want to do this the proper way, we need to make sure to have some basics down,
before we look at all the different fortifications. This means some general thoughts from German
Army Regulations on Field Fortifications. And they note:
“Field fortifications increase one’s own [weapon effect], reduce the enemy weapon effect
and maintains one’s own fighting power. The longer they remain undetected, the greater
the benefit.” Another crucial aspect was the German Army’s
focus on combat effectiveness, as such: “For all emplacements apply the principle
of effect before cover [effect takes precedence over cover].” The pioneer regulation for all arms explains
that the effect of firepower could be increased by the proper selection of firing positions,
clearing the line of fire, the establishment of observation and communication posts. Additionally,
by using existing obstacles or constructing new ones. Furthermore,
“Hedges, trees, bushes are to be removed only where necessary. Felled trees often block
the field of fire. Trees are therefore generally only thinned out of branches, the crowns are
left as protection against enemy observation from the air.” Of course, it was also crucial to have proper
camouflage, which seems obvious, but you also need to consider the timing here:
“All field fortifications that are constructed according to schedule must therefore be camouflaged
before and during execution.” Note that camouflage should start before the
work. As you can imagine doing hard manual labor
with pickaxes, shovels and other equipment while also maintaining proper concealment
can be a bit of an issue, it is both difficult and time intensive. As such, the regulation
notes that the construction process is often easier during the night or fog. As mentioned before combat effectiveness was
crucial. The Germans usually called it “Kampfkraft” usually translated with “Fighting Power”.
This is also related on how the German Army saw dugouts, to quote a heading for sub-chapter:
“2. Facilities for maintaining fighting power. Dugouts.“ It was of course also crucial to preserve
the fighting power of troops and weapons, one paragraph addresses this:
“Means of maintaining fighting power are: digging in, building concealed dugouts or
shelters, and preferably camouflaged connections backwards and sideways.” This could be done in various ways, first
spreading out the entire fortification system in both depth and width. Second, to have rather
small individual fortifications as well, since those would diminish the effect of enemy fire.
It is explicitly stated that such an arrangement is more effective than a single large well-developed
strongpoint. Another way to reduce the enemy firepower
was the construction of decoy positions: “Decoy positions are designed to deceive enemy
observers and fragment enemy fire. They are to be camouflaged in such a way that they
are still recognizable on photographs or with sharp binoculars and cannot be distinguished
from real positions.” Yet, decoy positions had to be planned out
and maintained as well: “Decoy positions must appear occupied. Therefore,
they must not lie dead. Trails, connecting ditches, wagon tracks must also be led to
or beyond them.” Since we have the basics set, it is time now
to look at some field fortifications in more detail. So, let us start with some trenches. And instruction
pamphlet from 1944, basically notes that there are three types of trenches:
The fire trenches , which the Germans called “Verbindungsgräben” or “Kampfgräben”,
meaning literally “connection trenches” and “combat trenches”, but be careful
here, the literal translation of the first one is misleading, since that is very similar
to the English name of the second type. Fire trenches ran parallel to the frontline and
connected the various positions and outpost with each other.
These should be constructed narrow, meaning about 0.4 m on the bottom and about 0.6 to
0.8 m at the top. The depth should be around 1.8 to 2.0 m. Furthermore, every 10 to 15
m they should be a bend. The second type were the communication trenches.
These were called “Annäherungsgräben” in German, literally meaning “approach trenches”.
They usually were laid out perpendicular to the frontline and were meant to enter and
leave the fire trenches. Communication trenches in their dimensions
were similar to fire trenches, namely about 0.4 m on the bottom, but at the top about
0.8 to 1.0 m, hence 0.2 m wider. The depth should be up to 2.0 m. Additionally, it is
noted that regularly they should contain small trenches that protect against tanks, which
brings us to the final type. Namely, “Panzerdeckungsgräben”, which
literally means “tank cover trenches”. Note, these trenches should not be confused
with anti-tank ditches. These trenches were built that tanks could roll over them and
still protect the personnel inside. The design was like those of the fire trenches and they
were built near installations that didn’t provide cover against tanks.
Here you see an example position, there were would barb wire in front of the trenches.
Here is a machine gun position. These small elements were dugouts to take cover. And these
parts are foxholes for 2 riflemen. A bit further behind is the shelter. Be aware that there were several ways to classify
trenches, e.g., the US Field Manual from 1940, had two systems one by direction, the other
by employment. Whereas the 1944 Field Manual, went by layout differentiating between Special
and Standard trench, whereas the latter was used for fire and communication trenches.
Anyway, let us move on. Ideally, such a trench position is protected
by an alarm system as well. And this is how it looked like. Now these elements here are
the sound generators, which were usually tin cans, which were connected with wires. Note
that they should emit a buzzing sound and not a loud noise. To quote:
“When the wire is touched, it is set in vibration, which is transmitted to the sound generator
(tin can) acting as a soundboard. The guard is alerted by a clearly audible buzzing sound.
The same effect is achieved when pieces of wire fall onto the tension wire when cutting
through the wire obstacle. If the tension wire is cut through, the sound generator falls
down.” The construction details are quite interesting,
the also particularly include, which tin can is the loudest or how to increase its volume:
“The sound generator consists of a long narrow tin can (asparagus can – loudest buzzer)
(1). Increase the volume by means of sound generators from two cans according to (2).” Next, let us look at anti-tank ditches and
tank traps. The Anti-Tank Ditch from the side looked like
this. The angle of the ditch should be at least 55 degree.
This triangular shape should result in the tank either doing a nosedive into the ground,
ideally damaging its gun or to fall into the ditch after the front had crossed. Now, in
case you think that such a ditch can be easily spotted, you probably never sat in a tank.
As such, you might want to watch this video first, where I sit in a bow-gunner position
of a T-34 while it drives with an open driver’s hatch, which is not recommended in combat.
Also be aware, if the enemy firing at you, there is smoke, burning wreckages and explosions
going off all around you, you probably see far less in such a situation as well.
In terms of constructing the anti-tank ditch. There were two stages, in the first one, the
width was about 3,5 m, whereas for the second stage it would be 4,5 m. This stage was also
provided for two types soil conditions. For weaker ground, it was required to use wood
to stabilize the ditch properly. Yet, let us look at the tank trap. This one
comes with a preface: “Tank traps shall only be set up as an addition
to other barriers that are located before the front line in the own firing range (e.g.
setting up a trap on a forest road that cannot be bypassed by tanks, in front of a wire obstacle).” Hence, this was not about destroying the tank,
but to render it at least temporary immobile to increase the chance to hit.
Here you can see the cross section. Notice it had a box shape, the bottom width was about
5 meters, top width about 6.5 meters and the depth 3 meters. To cover the trap, wood was
used, and the previously removed topsoil should be put back into position again. The next one requires a bit more material,
but also provides more protection. Namely a “MG-Ringstand aus Stahlbeton” – literally
meaning “MG Ring Stand out of reinforced concrete”. This one you see right here,
was filmed at the Oder-Warthe-Bogen or often called Ostwall in Poland. If you never heard
of the Ostwall btw. you might want to check out this video from my second channel that
contains many videos at museums, historical sites and also interviews with various experts.
Now, let’s look at the blueprint. As you can see, it is a rather simple setup. The
opening had diameter of about 0.8 meter, where angle steel should be used as a guide rail.
Additionally, there were built-in platforms as well and a wooden one that could be moved.
It was designed in a way that: “With bipod mount, you can go from anti-air
combat to horizontal fire without having to reposition.” In terms of supported weapons, it is noted
that the MG 34, 42, 08/15 and MG 30 could be used in the ring stand, additionally 2
captured French and Czech machine guns are listed as well. Furthermore, anti-tank rifles,
the 5-cm mortar, flamethrowers, the scissor scope and tank turrets from captured tanks
were supported as well. Note that the construction of such a fortification
would take about 25 days for about 10 men working 8 hours a day. About 55 cubic meter
of earth would have to removed. The material required was as follows:
14 cubic meter of gravel sand, 90 square meters of wooden formwork
4.5 tons of cement, 4 kg nails,
750 kg round steel, about 230 m of wires
and 150 meters of wooden beams. With an estimated total weight of 25 tons.
Which is actually quite a lot, if you consider how small these positions actually were. The next position is for a Nebelwerfer, namely
the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41, which was of course covered in my video on Nebelwerfer,
if haven’t seen it, check it out. Anyway, here we have the basic outline from the top.
The enemy is towards the right side. The Nebelwerfer 28/32cm should be positioned here. The space
for the Nebelwerfer should be about 5 meters ins length. Now, the two larger areas on the
left and right are for the ammunition, they should have a depth of 1.3 m.
The areas further away from the enemy, namely here are the cover for the crews. These should
have a depth of 1.8 to 2.0 m, so regular trench depth. Note that the trenches at the front
are less deep, but the earth banks provide additional protection. Also, during construction keep in mind that:
“During the entrenchment work the Werfer are to be placed about 5.00 m in front of the
planned covers so that the battery is always ready to fire. […] The drawings should only
be taken as a guide. The details of the positions are to be developed irregularly and adapted
to the respective terrain.” Next, let us look at an artillery the position.
Namely, for the 10.5 cm leichte Feldhaubitze 18.
The area of the gun would be around 5 meters wide and 6 m in length. The position would
be about 0,4 meters deep, yet the trenches would deepen, with 1,25 m on the left and
1,1 m on the right side. Additionally, there would be locations for the ammunition at various
points located on the right side. Whereas dugouts for personnel would be located on
the left. The estimated man hours were around 110 hours, so 22 hours for 5 men. Finally, let us look at a “Panzerkampfwagenstand”
so a position for a tank. Here we have the view from the side and the
top as well. As you can see, the dug-out is placed directly into the fire trenches and
allow the infantry to pass by. The length of the area before the ramp is
given with 8 meters. Considering that even the Königstiger had a length of about 7.4
meters, 8 meters should be sufficient, especially for smaller tanks, like the Panzer IV. The
length of the ramp was given with 4.7 m. The depth was around 1.6 meters. The walls were
made with fascines, which are bundles of brush wood or other material, that were held in
place by stakes. The whole position required the removal of
about 80 cubic meters of earth. The required material was about 121 meters of round lumber
posts, 150 m of wires and 40 square meters of fascines.
Construction time was at about 5 days for about 9 men. Note that the vast majority of the fortifications
and other elements listed in the pamphlets and manuals are of the non-combat nature,
to give just a few examples. There are plans and instructions for various kinds of roads,
dams, log causeways, wells, water filters, latrines, 8 different types of floors, windows,
doors and much much more. Well, the next time you need to dig in, you
know some basics. A big thank you here to my patreon and subscribestar supporters that
make videos like these possible. Special thanks to Andrew for reviewing the
script! As always, sources are listed in the description.
Thank you for watching and see you next time!

88 thoughts on “German Field Fortifications”

  1. Would you consider a video on the Ordungspolizei in WW2? My Opa was dragged into the invasion of Poland in 1939 because he was a young police officer from Munich. Your channel is sehr geil!

  2. remember that scene in Band of Brothers when Easy Company relieve another company only to find they've shit in the trench 😀

  3. I often heard about low reliability of German tanks like breaking of tracks etc in ww2….is it due to re-using of old tanks parts or it was Germans manufacturing defect in tank production? ?

  4. Also, make sure that each artillery placement is reachable through interconnected trenches.
    If the attacker manages to infiltrate the communication trenches, they will be able to use it against the defenders.
    Don't know if that scene from "Band of Brothers" where they assault the "88's" (which were clearly 105's) was realistic.

  5. So just for one fortified tank position you would need 45 person-days of work. Assuming something like $15 an hour for simplicity, and 8 hour days (again for simplicity) that would be 45*8*15 = $5400. The materials were probably equivalent to at least another $1000. I know they weren't using modern dollars and that the values may be all wrong, but its a ballpark guess to give some context. Actually on the whole, that's pretty cheap compared to the cost of the tank, to say nothing of the survival of the crew and additional effectiveness.

    Of course you might have to build many of these for any given tank as you advance or retreat.

  6. Classic German ingenuity and research, finding out what tin can is most effective.

    German Command is pleased.

  7. Tank trenches,gun trenches,rocket trenches….Is there anything the germans didn't make a trench for?

  8. Did the fire trenches not have a fire step, like a WWI trench ? I find it difficult to imagine trying to fire out of a trench 1,8-2 m deep. Am I missing something ?

  9. Nice video, I do like military field works…. they are not trenches suitable for a water pipe…. reenactors take note, each army has its own methods, preferred materials and doctrine.

  10. You da best fam! I hope you staying safe! Don’t be out there clapping cheeks without a mask! You da best!!!!

  11. Two years from now people are gong to be seeing all the videos being made now and not understand any of the toilet paper jokes.

  12. 2 questions.
    a] what arrangements existed to make organical materials ( eg leaves and bushes ) used in camouflage similar to the surrounding vegetation in freshness?
    b] what arrangements existed for the removal or utilization of dug out soil?

  13. When I was in the Regular US Army and, later, the National Guard, we always liked to put pebbles and other materials in the cans. That might've been too loud, though.

  14. Germany: "I'm taking over all germanic states and people"
    United States and England: "Hold my beer."
    Germany: "Oww!"
    Rinse and repeat.

  15. I'm sad you didn't show use how to make the cans ring louder.
    Also I'm legitimately curious as to what the 8 types of floor are.

  16. I believe you are only making these videos so you can pronounce cool German words like Panzerdeckungsgräben :)))))

  17. I watch the entire video for a single mention of "spider holes." Nichts" German version of Fox holes only one Soldat only about shoulder width.

  18. I´ve once found a weird field fortification. In a forest, I discovered that something like a climbing grid was nailed to trees, thus creating multiple walls. On one side, there was a dune-shaped hill with a tunnel going through it. The tunnel was made of big sewage concrete parts and could only be crawled through. The backside of the structure was lacking. All in all, it had enough space for about two jeeps and it had no cover from above. It was roughly square-shaped, or rather trapezoid. I didn´t find anything else. The inside was overgrown, but the wooden grid was still in good shape. The open back was overgrown with blackberries or some other thorny shrubs (I didn´t find them anywhere else in the forest, thus it might have been planted there). Has anyone an idea what I´ve found? It was in a regular forest (probably used for timber production, maybe some hunting).

  19. 7:53
    Not everyone was in a T-34. You're right, but also wrong. Some tanks had (at least) decent optics, if not entirely the best. So, it's possible to SEE it should you be in tanks such as an IS-2, a Sherman, or a Panther, etc (but seriously, I'm not entirely sure all Allied tank optics were that good, but it's debatable.).

  20. Only a German would specify in a manual the correct tin can for a trench. That tin can was a little over-designed and always broke after the warranty-I mean battle.

  21. I worked with Bradley tracked vehicles in the Army and you'd best believe that you won't see every trench of dip as you go, especially at night.

  22. Very informative. Interesting that there was no "step" in the tank positions. Modern "tank scrapes" tend to have a a lower position where the vehicle parks (while still giving the Commander observation) and then a higher forward position that it drives up onto, exposing the barrel so it can fire. A lot like a "firing step" in an Infantry trench.

  23. Why aren't the anti-tank ditches more large and more deep so that a tank can fall into them. I am talking about a more fortified position.

  24. I can't be the only person who finds it particularly amusing that they specified that an asparagus can would be the loudest. Now we need a video on German field expedient asparagus steamers.

  25. 0:02 "Who in their right mind would willingly tempt the enemy to shoot at their turret?

    A War Thunder player"

  26. LOL, grab your toilet paper, in many places that disappeared months ago! Enjoyed the program. Stay Safe.

  27. The rule just broke, there is literally no 'rule 34 Field Fortification' porn! Not sure how much it will effect the entire internet or the future of humanity?! But one thing we can be sure about is that it is only a matter of months before someone makes that type of filth!

  28. SHORT INFO about Aircraft Carrier
    (Würde ich mich freuen <3, wenn du antwortest)
    Unryū-class vs Essex-class,
    this carrier was built after the reaction, from attacking Pearl Harbor.
    -How quickly are they built
    -Which damage did they get and still floating
    -How many death from Torpedo, Bombs and near-misses Bombs
    -How strong are their armor
    -How fast they are and how far they can go
    -How many planes can they carry in operation
    Btw. Essex can carry 100 planes and Unryū 65 planes, but Ikoma can carry 75 planes.

  29. Stealth is armor. Cover your work as you go. Don't let the Google spyplane catch you on their "update" flights… which seem to be quite often…

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