Bouda fort is one of the Czech border forts that was structurally complete by 1938 but lacked its heavy armament. The walk to the entrance from the car park through the forest took around 50 minutes; on arrival we could study the entrance which had a folding barred gate and the site of two armoured doors with associated machine gun defences. Although apparently original, the embrasures were most likely re-used on the Atlantic Wall and the area had in fact been patched up and rebuilt in 1950 when the site was being considered as an active military facility.
Our tour proper began at this entrance block (K-S.22a) with a 15 minute description in Czech of what we were about to see. Your scribe and others in the party felt that such a tour was unlikely to satisfy our expectations and after a little persuasion the museum provided a second guide who would act as our escort but not subject us to long descriptions in a foreign tongue. We also got a copy of an English handout which described the fort’s key features. Thus we moved into the bunker proper; shortly inside was a loading area for the narrow gauge railway, leading to a 17 metre long rail incline. Wedge shaped carriages kept the load horizontal but carried the narrow-gauge wagons themselves rather than loose loads to minimise loading and unloading.
At the bottom of the incline a drainage passage led off to the right, draining waste water into the valley below. Shortly beyond this tunnel were two chambers, one on each side of the passage. These would have held explosives so that security could have been maintained in the case of a breach of the main entrance. Beyond this were chambers for the usual vital services such as filter rooms, ammunition dumps and spaces for generators, fuel and water.
Sliding Doors The next section of passage had some unusual features – two solid concrete sliding doors mounted on tracks at right angles to the passage. These were experimental doors installed by the Germans in the 1940s in order to test different designs. Large scale executions of the chosen design can be seen at some of the V-weapon sites in northern France such as Eperlecques whose examples weigh 213 tonnes versus the c20 tonnes of these test versions. Sixty or so metres further on was a small loading or transhipment bay where the narrow gauge locomotives were also maintained. Although the heavy armaments were never installed, the ammunition store here held around one million rounds of 7.92mm machine gun ammunition by 1938.
Proceeding on, left and right were two half-finished chambers, part of the proposed 1950s renovation and valuable in showing the native rock. Today these form an important bat hibernation spot. Three cable lobbies also lead off and a cable shaft leading to the surface 50 metres above can be seen at the rear of each one. As expected, the barracks area here was soon reached but the use of each area could only be determined by the traces of wall footings on the ground. Apparently the local residents reclaimed the material here in the late 1950s onwards for use above ground. Nevertheless, toilets, hospital and dormitories could be made out with reasonable certainty.
Emergency Exit Going onwards we passed one of the original construction shafts – now backfilled but containing an emergency exit for use if, for example, the main entrance had been mined. This was again similar in design to the Maginot Line – two slightly offset concrete lined shafts with a ladder or step irons within. The upper of these was filled with gravel to make entry from the top extremely difficult. When exiting, this gravel could be released into a separate lower chamber from the top of the ladder at the top of the lower shaft.
Turning right we were now under the artillery block S 22 which would have held a 100mm gun in a retractable turret. At passage level were rooms for a fire control centre and commandant’s office. Next door were two magazines which would have held around half of the 100mm shells (say 2,600). The entire artillery gallery would have been isolated by gastight doors in combat. Ascending the stairs to the business end of the casemate we reached two surface/subsurface levels. On the lower level was a used-shell room, complete with intact chute and crew rooms including the site of a toilet. On the top level we were able to enter the circular shaft where the turret would have been installed which measured eight metres in diameter and about eleven metres in height. The turret would have weighed around 120 tonnes, with a counterweight of the same weight. Adjacent to the turret were other rooms – presumably forward ammunition stores and technical services. The range of around 12km would have overlapped with neighbouring forts to form a fearsome barrier.
Retracing our steps to the entrance block, we exited the fort. En route we passed the same Czech group being bored by the same Czech guide - showing that a passionate enthusiast is often not the best choice to lead guided tours. If we hadn’t made separate arrangements we might still have been there!