Fortification History in the Orlické Mountains
The area of the Orlické Mountains was of great importance for defence of the state border with Germany which bordered on Czechoslovakia as far as the area of Bohumín. An essential road and mainly railway connection with Moravia and Slovakia lead in closeness to the state border. The then army of Czechoslovakia was aware of the importance of that connection and therefore the Orlické Mountains were included in the first phase of fortifying works.
This fortification sector was subordinated to the area of the 2nd armycorps and belonged to the 35th border area. Therefore, it was to be fortified with “light objects” (pillboxes) of the model 36 and 37 with a line of isolated infantry blockhouses and the most endangered places were to be strengthened with artillery fortresses. Construction of fortifications within individual sectors was supervised by the Engineer Headquarters ( ŽSV ) in Králíky, Rokytnice v O.h. and Náchod. The sectors which were to be fortified were consequently divided into sub-sectors. Construction works in those sub-sectors were contracted with absolutely reliable companies.
Already on the 29th of May in 1936 three such sub-sectors were handed over to companies with a view to constructing light fortifications of the model 36: they were following sectors “I a Bartošovice v Orlických horách”, “I b Neratov” and “I c Velká Deštná”. In total 40 objects were built, they were constructed in the immediate vicinity of the state border. Also most of the objects in the sector “I d Náchod”, which were situated not far away from Olešnice v Orlických horách and continued towards Náchod, could be activated for defence purposes. They were, however, very vulnerable – their loopholes were oriented right towards the state border and the isolated objects could not support each other in combat. They were to be garrisoned chiefly by the units of the State Defence Guards consisting of policemen, finance guardians and the army members.
In 1937 The Direction of Fortifying Works came up with an improved object of the model 37 which eliminated previous drawbacks. This time, a line of such objects was built behind the major defence line of heavy infantry blockhouses. The reason was that weapons of those objects were not able to stop the more advanced armoured technique of the enemy and therefore they were intended for a combat with the infantry. Construction of those objects was consequently commissioned within individual sectors since spring 1937. Those sectors were: “A Mladkov”, “B Rokytnice v O.h”, “C Jelenka”, “X Sedloňov”, “D1a Olešnice”, “D1b Nový Hrádek” . In total 362 objects were concreted within those sectors. This number represented an overwhelming majority of objects planned for that area. Objects were much more immune to gunnery, their loopholes were oriented along the state border, not towards it, which enhanced their combat resistance and each object could defend its neighbours. More to that, the space among objects was organised as a system of anti-infantry obstacles comprising barbed-wires and steel beams, which were to slow down the enemy. In forested sectors so-called shooting clearings were cut among the objects and they were filled up with barbed wire entanglements fastened with special beams. The crew was guaranteed by regular units of the army and reservists who were called up in a mobilisation. On your bummels in the Orlické Mountains you can come across such objects most frequently.
The heavy fortifications were to be the backbone of the Orlické Mountains and their construction was commenced already in summer 1936. Each of the sectors had about 10 objects, as their construction was far more difficult than works on light objects. By autumn 1938 Czechoslovakia managed to complete merely a line from the Suchý Hill above Boříkovice as far as the Komáří Hill over Říčky which included following sectors: The Bouda Fortress, Mladkov, The Adam Fortress, Jedlina, Zaječiny, Kunvald, The Hanička fortress, Říčky. Construction of a sector from the Komáří Hill to Sedloňov was scheduled to be commenced as late as in 1939 and afterwards other sectors were to followe: Sedloňov, The Skutina Fortress, Borová. Just within the Rokytnice sector, which started at the Land´s Gate (Zemská brána) and ended at the Komáří Hill, 34 isolated infantry blockhouses and 6 objects of the Hanička artillery fortress were completed. Infantry blockhouses were fully self-sustaining and independent of their surroundings. Mostly, they were constructed as two-storeyed objects with a well for drinking water, a dieselaggregate for power generation and a filter for suction air. Their weaponry consisted of light and heavy machineguns and a very efficient anti-tank gun of the model 36, which could easily eliminate any of the then German panzers. Because of the broken topography, also 9-cm mine-throwers were used. Again, each of the objects could defend its neighbours and newly also its own glacis, which was possible thanks to armoured turrets. Crews of those objects were special units of the border regiments, soldiers special trained for combat in the fortifications. The eastern area of the Orlické Mountains was to be defended by the 19th border regiment with its headquarters in Žamberk, the western part by the 18th border regiment headquartered in Nové Město nad Metují.
Do not enter abandoned and unsecured objects of the heavy fortification – accident hazard!
Artillery fortresses were to be the major points of defence and should have enabled the crew to combat even in a several moths lasting siege. Survey of a terrain was carried out by the army in April 1936. Surface objects of artillery fortresses were to be interconnected through hundreds metres long underground passages and halls and there should have been stored a multitude of ammunition, commissary and other materials. At ours you can visit the Bouda Forstress at the Suchý Hill, which has come down in a state similar to 1938. Its construction was commenced on the 1st of October 1936 and the building site of the Hanička Fortress at Rokytnice v O.h. was opened on the 14th of September 1936. In later years the Hanička was rebuilt into a modern military workplace of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Construction of the Skutina Fortress at Olešnice v Orlických horách was started as late as on the18th of November 1937 and in 1938 was not completed yet. Each of the fortresses offers special experiences and the Hanička is even more intriguing due to the fact that it was built when plans for a fortress in Bartošovice had been abandoned. The Fortress of Bartošovice was planned at the spot height Nr 665 (nowadays “Zadní vrch” upon Bartošovice) and should have consisted of two infantry blockhouses, a revolving artillery turret, a mine-throwing turret and an entrance object. The structural design has never been drawn up. It was replaced with the Hanička artillery fortress comprising three infantry traditors, a revolving artillery turret, an artillery traditor and an entrance blockhouse. In the exposition inside the Hanička you may learn about the history of 1938 as well as about absurdity of the fortress conversion into a modern war workplace of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs. You can see there original armoured cupolas and loopholes, modern technological equipment of the war workplace, many exhibits of the combat technique from within the armament of the post-war Czechoslovak army as well as models of combat technique which was used by Czechoslovak and German army before WWII.
Come and see some of the artillery fortresses, infantry blockhouses or objects of light fortification which are adjusted for museums. Encounter also this dimension of the Orlické Mountains history!