A heavily fortified military structure is generally referred to as a bunker. Bunkers have been used throughout history as a means to protect occupants or contents against all manner of threats, like military force, natural disasters, chemicals and radiation.
Likewise, bunkers can also be used to contain dangerous contents, like an ammunition bunker, which is designed to withstand an internal detonation.
However, the term ‘bunker’ is a relatively new one, first being used by German forces in WWI to describe underground shelters. At this time, the same structures were referred to as ‘dug-outs’ by the British. These were rather primitive in their design, and often built sporadically to suit that site’s particular requirements.
By WW2, the Germans were building significantly more complex and affective shelters, becoming widely known as bunkers. The term was first used by Allied forces in reference to German made fortifications and shelters, but eventually became the ubiquitous term for these types of buildings around the world.
Today most well protected military buildings are referred to as bunkers, but there are actually a few main types. A bunker is usually an underground structure, while one above ground is generally known as a blockhouse.
Blockhouses have been used for centuries, and incorporate firing slits to repel attackers. Smaller blockhouses are called pillboxes, and usually contain just a few occupants.
As mentioned, bunkers can be used for any number of tasks, and therefore can come in a huge number of shapes and sizes, often unique to its environment, requirements, designers, contents and materials used in its construction.
Some serve as a gun emplacement, protecting the gun and its crew. Nearby to these are often ammunition bunkers that supply the guns. They are usually underground to offer the most protection possible to the explosive contents inside.
Others are living quarters for troops, and can be sealed to keep attackers out. Many more complex bunkers can be self sufficient for a while, with their own generators, food stores and ammunition. Plus elaborate ventilation networks are able to keep gas attacks out.
In WW2, the Germans planned and built a massive amount of bunkers. To make this process easier, they managed to standardize their bunker construction much more than had been seen before with the ‘Regelbau’, German for standard-design.
These standardized bunkers simplified their construction and raw materials required, as well as enabling mass production of furnishings and fittings that were known to fit in place. This allowed Germany to build many high quality bunkers at a great speed.
Below we have compiled a collection of bunkers varying wildly in size, purpose and locations.