Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Pampus Fort, Netherlands

There is a very stimulating attraction for all those who want to explore the military history of the Netherlands. The Fort Pampus, situated outside Amsterdam in the municipality of Muiden. Pampus is an artificial Island, part of Defence Line of Amsterdam belongs to the municipality of Gooise Meren. A late 19th century sea fort is also located in the IJmeer near Amsterdam. In 1996 UNESCO designated the entire Defence Line with its 42 forts a World Heritage Site. The construction work started in 1887 and creating the island and fort prerequisite the sinking of 3,800 piles and the importation of 45,000 cubic meters of sand. It took the Dutch eight years and ƒ 800,000 to construct the fort. The oval shape fort built of bricks and concrete. There are three floors in the main building, while on the ground floor were the troops quarters, kitchen, laundry, coal fired steam engines, dynamos, telegraph, first aid station and magazines.

It is an island transformed in a fortress that served for various purposes before and after the First and Second World War. The fort is on a man-made island situated on what was the Pampus shallows or sandbank in the then Zuiderzee. There is a well-known Dutch expression "laying for Pampus" used to describe people that are lying down knocked out. It stems from the time ships had to wait for high tide at Pampus before they could enter the harbor of Amsterdam. Moreover, an 8 meter dry moat surround the building, and north and south tunnels connect the ground floor of the building to the concrete counterscarp. The fascinating fact about this network of defense is that the Dutch managed to use the traditional water controlling system, consisting of flooding, canals and locks, for fighting the enemy.

The fort was commissioned in 1895. It was armed with four Krupp 240 mm L35 guns deployed in two hydraulically operated cupolas of two guns each. Electric lifts brought shells and cartridges up from the magazines on the ground floor. These guns fired a shell of 280 kg for a range of up to 8KM. Each gun had a crew of an NCO and six gunners, who could get off one shot every six minutes. Pampus was one of only four forts in the Defence Line armed with large caliber guns. Pampus also had two positions for 57mm quick-firing guns for close-in defence. The counterscarp held four M90 Gardner machine guns on garrison mounts for the defence of the moat. Pampus had facilities for a permanent garrison of 200 men. In 1926 the fort received emplacements for three anti-aircraft guns. The fort never saw action and the completion in 1932 of the Afsluitdijk lost its strategic role and in 1933 the military abandoned it, after having removed the anti-aircraft guns.

There were some plans in 1950’s to site an anti-aircraft battery there, but the fort was declared surplus in 1952 and was transferred to the civilian authorities for disposal. Then in June 1985, the government scouted the fort with an eye to restoring the island and makes it accessible to the public.  Although, the Foundation bought the fort in 1990, and in 1992 the fort received a caretaker. Since then the fort has been occupied continuously. There is still one gun at Pampus, an 88 mm from a German minesweeper that was wrecked during storm in 1917. The gun was installed at the harbour of Pampus on 4 February 2003. Fort Pampus was restored in 2007 and opened to the public that was able to admire and discover all of the historical features of the building. It is open to the public from April to October, Tuesday to Sunday. The island is approximately three kilometers from the coast and the Muiden ferry takes around 20 minutes to get there. There are also direct ferries from Amsterdam, and one can reach the fort by private vessel.

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