Dobrošov Artillery Fort near Náchod is a 1930s fort, where construction started in 1937 but was never finished. When the Munich Agreement was signed, this fort (unlike most) was not part of the German-speaking Sudetenland but construction work by the 490 builders still stopped as to defend the border the full network of forts would have been needed. The fort came under German control after the invasion of 15 March 1939. Post-war, it lay unused until 1968 when the site was first opened to the public. After some restoration and reinstatement, a through trip is now possible.
Arriving just before the scheduled closing time, we persuaded the ticket office to allow us access. Their first proposal was that we join a large coachload of Czechs who had just arrived and were making just a short visit but the custodian eventually allowed us access without a guide which was welcomed. One major difference with the Maginot line forts is that the Czech version only had a single entrance for both personnel and ammunition whereas the grand ouvrages of the French version had separate entrances. When work on the fort stopped, this entrance block and connecting tunnels had not been completed. Because of this our entrance was through the artillery casemate where a reconstructed gun had been built in wood to illustrate the planned armament.
Although unfinished, around two kilometres of underground passageway were completed (in various states of finish) and we descended 171 steps to reach them. Alongside was the shaft for a massive lift which made awesome viewing. At the foot of the stairs were a couple of forward ammunition stores, now laid out with some recovered artefacts. These included a disassembled heavy machine gun ball and socket fitting and a German ‘bunker busting’ Röchling shell. The latter was a very narrow artillery shell with a high mass (increasing sectional density) with rear vanes that deployed after firing. Trials, many against the captured Czech defensive line, showed that these weapons could penetrate up to 4 metres of reinforced concrete but despite the vanes, accuracy remained a problem. Their developer August Cönders was also responsible for the V3 pump gun at Mimoyeques visited on previous Sub Brit trips.
From these side galleries we briefly headed towards where the original entrance corridor would have been. Although substantially excavated, this remains unlined and gives an interesting perspective of work-in-progress. A spotlight was cleverly set up to reflect off a distant mirror, showing the extent of the excavation of perhaps 250 metres. From here we reversed our steps and proceeded to what would have been the underground barracks. Most of the passage is lined with shuttered concrete but in places had been repaired with arched mine linings, after collapses in 1969. The passages appear over-high but the invert is missing both a drainage pipe and narrow gauge rails and the crown would have been destined to hold ventilation and a set of electrical and other cables. The barrack side passages are also largely unfinished but notices indicate their planned function including dormitories, kitchens and toilet facilities. Another unfinished and blocked passage led off to Blockhouse Jeřáb (‘Crane’).
A couple of hundred metres from the barracks we arrived at the base of Casemate N-S.72, codenamed Mustek (‘Bridge’). Here 226 steps (a lot of counting on this trip!) led up to the surface casemate, much modified by test firing of the bunker busting weapons described above. Also waiting for us was the irate custodian. It had not been made clear what time she was expecting us to exit but it was obviously before now and she wasn’t keen on working overtime! The outside face of Mustek also showed the scars of test firing. En route back to the coach we passed the flattened remains of a small pill box and an impressive array of anti tank obstacles – colloquially known as hedgehogs or ježeks with barbed wire entanglements.