Bunkers in Albania

A military bunker is a hardened shelter, often buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants from falling bombs or other attacks. They were used extensively in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War for weapons facilities, command and control centers, and storage facilities (for example, in the event of nuclear war).




This type of bunker is a small concrete structure, partly dug into the ground, which is usually a part of a trench system. Such bunkers give the defending soldiers better protection than the open trench and also include top protection against aerial attack (grenades, mortar shells). They also provide shelter against the weather.[1]

The front bunker of a trench system usually includes machine guns or mortars and forms a dominant shooting post. The rear bunkers are usually used as command posts or Tactical Operations Centers (TOCs), for storage and as field hospitals to attend to wounded soldiers.


Dug-in guard posts, normally equipped with loopholes through which to fire weapons, made from concrete are also known as "pillboxes". The originally jocular name arose from their perceived similarity to the cylindrical boxes in which medical pills were once sold.[2] They are in effect a trench firing step hardened to protect against small-arms fire and grenades and raised to improve the field of fire.

Their use seems to have developed during the period of the First World War when defence in depth using the Machine Gun Corps was being perfected. However, most of those seen in Britain, having been left over from the 1940 invasion scare, are designed for use by riflemen rather than for machine gunners. The concrete nature of pillboxes means that they are a feature of prepared positions. They were probably first used in the Hindenburg Line. This is likely to have been the time when they acquired their incongruous English name. The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest record of the use of the word pillbox in connection with a defensive post is from 13 September 1917, after the German withdrawal onto the Hindenburg Line.

Pillboxes are often camouflaged in order to conceal their location and to maximize the element of surprise. They may be part of a trench system, form an interlocking line of defence with other pillboxes by providing covering fire to each other (defence in depth), or they may be placed to guard strategic structures such as bridges and jetties.

Pillboxes for the Czechoslovak border fortifications were built before WWII in Czechoslovakia in defence against the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. None of these were actually used against its intended enemy, since the German military met no resistance when invading the country because it was effectively forced to capitulate as a result of Allies annexing the country's border areas and handing them to Germany, but some were used against the liberating Russian armies. The Japanese also made use of pillboxes in their fortifications of Iwo Jima.


Many artillery installations, especially for coastal artillery have historically been protected by extensive bunker systems. These usually housed the crews serving the weapons, protected the ammunition against counter-battery fire, and in numerous examples also protected the guns themselves, though this was usually a trade-off reducing their fields of fire. Artillery bunkers are some of the largest individual pre-Cold War bunkers. The walls of the 'Batterie Todt' gun installation in northern France were up to 3.5 m thick,[3] and an underground bunker was constructed for the V-3 cannon.

Converted Mines/Caves for WWII Industrial Bunkers


Typical industrial bunkers include mining sites, food storage areas, dumps for materials, data storage, and sometimes living quarters. They were built mainly by nations like Germany during World War II to protect important industries from aerial bombardment. Industrial bunkers are also built for control rooms of dangerous activities, e.g. tests of rocket engines or explosive experiments. They are also built in order to perform dangerous experiments in them or to store radioactive or explosive goods. Such bunkers also exist on non-military facilities.


When a house is purpose-built with a bunker, the normal location is a reinforced below-ground bathroom with large cabinets[citation needed]. One common design approach uses fibre-reinforced plastic shells. Compressive protection may be provided by inexpensive earth arching[citation needed]. The overburden is designed to shield from radiation.[citation needed] To prevent the shelter from floating to the surface in high groundwater, some designs have a skirt held-down with the overburden.[4] It may also serve the purpose of a safe room[citation needed].


Blast protection

Bunkers deflect the blast wave from nearby explosions to prevent ear and internal injuries to people sheltering in the bunker. While frame buildings collapse from as little as 3 psi (0.2 bar) of overpressure, bunkers are regularly constructed to survive several hundred psi (over 10 bar). This substantially decreases the likelihood that a bomb (other than a bunker buster) can harm the structure.

The basic plan is to provide a structure that is very strong in physical compression. The most common purpose-built structure is a buried, steel reinforced concrete vault or arch. Most expedient (makeshift) blast shelters are civil engineering structures that contain large buried tubes or pipes such as sewage or rapid transit tunnels. Improvised purpose-built blast shelters normally use earthen arches or vaults. To form these, a narrow (1-2 metre) flexible tent of thin wood is placed in a deep trench (usually the apex is below grade), and then covered with cloth or plastic, and then covered with 1–2 metres of tamped earth.

A large ground shock can move the walls of a bunker several centimetres in a few milliseconds. Bunkers designed for large ground shocks must have sprung internal buildings to protect inhabitants from the walls and floors.[citation needed]

Nuclear protection

Nuclear bunkers must also cope with the underpressure that lasts for several seconds after the shock wave passes, and block radiation. Usually these features are easy to provide. The overburden (soil) and structure provide substantial radiation shielding, and the negative pressure is usually only 1/3 of the overpressure.

General features

A bunker on the island of Texel, in the Netherlands.

The doors must be at least as strong as the walls. The usual design is a trap-door, to minimize the size and expense. To reduce the weight, the door is normally constructed of steel, with a fitted steel lintel and frame. Very thick wood also serves, and is more resistant to heat because it chars rather than melts.[citation needed] If the door is on the surface and will be exposed to the blast wave, the edge of the door is normally counter-sunk in the frame so that the blast wave or a reflection cannot lift the edge. A bunker should have two doors. Door shafts may double as ventilation shafts to reduce digging.

In bunkers inhabited for prolonged periods, large amounts of ventilation or air conditioning must be provided in order to prevent ill effects of heat. In bunkers designed for war-time use, manually-operated ventilators must be provided because supplies of electricity or gas are unreliable. One of the most efficient manual ventilator designs is the Kearny Air Pump. Ventilation openings in a bunker must be protected by blast valves. A blast valve is closed by a shock wave, but otherwise remains open. One form of expedient blast valve is tyre-treads nailed or bolted to frames strong enough to resist the maximum overpressure.[5]

If a bunker is in a built-up area, it may have to include water-cooling or an immersion tub and breathing tubes to protect inhabitants from fire storms.

Bunkers must also protect the inhabitants from normal weather, including rain, summer heat and winter cold. A normal form of rainproofing is to place plastic film on the bunker's main structure before burying it. Thick (5-mil or 0.13 mm), inexpensive polyethylene film serves quite well, because the overburden protects it from degradation by wind and sunlight.


Bunkers can be destroyed with powerful explosives and bunkerbusting warheads. The crew of a pillbox can be killed with flamethrowers.[6] Complex, well-built and well-protected fortifications are often vulnerable to attacks on access points. If the exits to the surface can be closed off, those manning the facility can be trapped. The fortification can then be bypassed.

Famous installations

Famous bunkers include the post-World War I Maginot Line on the French eastern border and Czechoslovak border fortifications mainly on the northern Czech border facing Germany (but to lesser extent all around), Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium, World War II Führerbunker, the V-weapon installations in Germany (Mittelwerk) & France (e.g. La Coupole, and the Blockhaus d'Éperlecques) and the Cold War installations in the United States (Cheyenne Mountain, Site R, and The Greenbrier), United Kingdom (Burlington), Sweden (Boden Fortress) and Canada (Diefenbunker).

The Soviet Union maintained huge bunkers (one of the secondary uses of the very deeply dug Moscow Subway system was as nuclear shelters). A number of facilities were constructed in China, such as Beijing's Underground City and Underground Project 131 in Hubei; in Albania, Enver Hoxha dotted the country with hundreds of thousands of bunkers.

See also


  1. ^ An archival look at World War I from the Queen's University Archives, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Accessed 2008-02-10.
  2. ^ John Hellis. "Why Pillbox?". Pillbox Study Group. http://www.pillbox-study-group.org.uk/whypillbox.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  3. ^ "Accueil". Muse du Mur de l'Atlantique d'Audinghen website. http://www.batterietodt.com/. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  4. ^ Kearny, Cresson H (1987). Nuclear War Survival Skills. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ISBN 094248701X. http://www.oism.org/nwss/. Retrieved 2008-06-19.  NOTE: Kearny recommends stockpiling materials for a blast or fallout shelter and constructing it only if war appears very likely.
  5. ^ "App. D: Expedient Blast Shelters". Arnold Jagt. http://www.oism.org/nwss/s73p939.htm. Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  6. ^ Flame Thrower

External links

  • BunkerBlog: All about German fortifications 1933-1945
  • Bunkersite.com: About bunkers built by the Germans during 1933-1945 in the whole of Europe

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Búnker — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Búnkeres en Albania. Un búnker (plural búnkeres, del alemán Bunker) es una construcción hecha de hierro y hormigón, que se utiliza en las guerras para protegerse de los bombardeos tanto de la …   Wikipedia Español

  • Bünker — ist der Familienname von: Arnd Bünker (* 1969), deutscher katholischer Missionswissenschaftler Bernhard C. Bünker (1948–2010), österreichischer Dichter Michael Bünker (* 1954), österreichischer evangelischer Theologe Otto Bünker (1916 2001),… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bunker 84 — est un groupe de rock néo nazi français de la scène rock anti communiste (RAC) française, actif de 1984 à 1989. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Discographie 3 Voir aussi …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bunker — Sm großes Behältnis, Schutzraum std. (19. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus ne. (coal) bunker. Die weitere Herkunft ist nicht eindeutig geklärt. Zunächst Behälter für Kohlen auf Dampfern und in Fabriken ; in der Zeit vor dem 2. Weltkrieg dann auch… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Bunker — Bun ker, n. [Scot. bunker, bunkart, a bench, or low chest, serving for a seat. Cf. {Bunk}, {Bank}, {Bench}.] [1913 Webster] 1. A sort of chest or box, as in a window, the lid of which serves for a seat. [Scot.] Jamieson. [1913 Webster] 2. A large …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Bunker — Bunker, der Raum an Bord eines Schiffes zum Verstauen der Kohlen zum Heizen der Schiffskessel. Die Größe und Verteilung der Bunker richtet sich nach der Kesselanordnung. Um einer Selbstentzündung der Kohlen vorzubeugen, sind in jedem Bunker… …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • bunker — BÚNKER s. v. cazemată. Trimis de siveco, 13.09.2007. Sursa: Sinonime  BUNKER [pr.: búncăr] bunkere n. 1) Recipient (de oţel, beton, lemn etc.) de dimensiuni mari, montat pe un schelet de susţinere şi destinat depozitării temporare a unor… …   Dicționar Român

  • bunker — / bunker/ s.m. [dall ingl. bunker deposito ]. 1. (industr.) [deposito di combustibile solido a bordo di navi o sulle locomotive ferroviarie] ▶◀ ‖ [di treni] carboniera, [di treni] tender. 2. a. [rifugio blindato sotterraneo] ▶◀ casamatta …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • Bunker — Bunker, MO U.S. city in Missouri Population (2000): 427 Housing Units (2000): 196 Land area (2000): 0.645179 sq. miles (1.671007 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.645179 sq. miles (1.671007 sq.… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Bunker, MO — U.S. city in Missouri Population (2000): 427 Housing Units (2000): 196 Land area (2000): 0.645179 sq. miles (1.671007 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.645179 sq. miles (1.671007 sq. km) FIPS… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • búnker — ‘Pequeña construcción defensiva’ y, en especial, ‘refugio blindado, por lo general subterráneo, para protegerse de los bombardeos’: «Las autoridades nazis deciden concentrar gran parte de los trabajos en un búnker secreto en Berlín» (Volpi… …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.