Dragør Fort

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It is early 1900s Europe. The dark clouds of war are rapidly gathering in the horizon.

The Danish parliament decides to expand a ring of defense fortifications around the capital. The plan comprises an earthen, western wall supplemented by 13 fortresses controlling all other access points. Dragør fort shall defend the southeastern flank.

The fort was built 1910-15 on an artificial island some 3-400 meters from the coastline just south of Dragør fishing village. The fort was almost shaped like a boomerang and covered 32,000m². Buildings constitute only some 2,500m².

The strategic role of the fort was to protect minefields in the southern access waterways to Copenhagen , prevent landing of hostile troops in the area and generally prevent enemy naval operations.

Fortunately, the fort never saw actual battle. It was abandoned as a fort in 1957, used by the naval command until 2001 and, in 2002, sold to a private restaurant keeper, who converted it into a hotel.

The fort was shaped like a boomerang primarily facing south-southeast. It was surrounded by a 2-3m deep moat for near-defense purposes.

The center contained steel-reinforced concrete casemates for munitions, power and supplies. The barracks behind the armaments could house a crew of some 370-380 artillery gunners.

Originally, access was limited to a foot bridge, nicknamed "King's Bridge", but this was replaced with a filled-in dam in 1952. The dam was inaugurated by the then Danish Crown Prince Knud, who had been commandant of the fort. The dam bears his name to this day.

Primary armament was four 355mm canons, four 170mm canons, four 120mm canons, two 75mm canons and one 47mm canon, the latter for air defense.

Whereas the fort design itself was modern, the armament was completely inadequate; the canons were obsolete, having been moved to Dragør from another, older fort, and their range was way too short for the task at hand.

The artillery controlled the fort until Denmark was occupied by German forces on April 9, 1940.

The German troops moved most of the armament to other locations and mainly used the fort as a shooting range. After Germany's capitulation in 1945, the artillery reassumed control and replaced the armament.

In 1957, the Danish Navy took over the fort and established a naval station. The Navy modernized the armaments over time, but owed to newer technology, Dragør Fort eventually was converted into a coastal radar station.

The radar station proved a quite handy support in aiding shipping during the construction in the 1990s of the fixed bridge/tunnel connection between Denmark and Sweden.

The fort was sold in 2002 to a private restaurateur and converted into a hotel, restaurant and conference center. The owner freely allows private access to the premises as long as you do not bring your own food and beverage.

In the 1960s, the fort got the nickname of "Fort Knox" after its American namesake, in which USA's gold reserves are kept.

The background is that the Danish Royal Mint borrowed a few of the casemate rooms for storing "gold" coins, which were being taken out of circulation and replaced.

The coins were of course not pure gold, but -as are today's coins- made of copper, aluminum and nickel.

It was far from an ideal storage location. The casemates were so damp that the coin sacks occasionally rotted away and, in the end, the coins often had to be removed by shovels.

The Royal Mint used the casemates from 1959 through 1967, so your chances of finding any missed coins are probably slim by now.

So was it all a wasted construction? We know that the fort never took part in any battles, but did it play a role in preventing a battle?

As per Spangsberg, the German naval command in late 1916 was considering plans to invade Denmark including a bombardment of Copenhagen by naval forces. The existence of protective fortresses, hereunder Dragør fort, contributed to the Germans abandoning the invasion plans.

The radar installations have over time also rendered valuable assistance in sea rescue operations.


Dines Bogø, Din-bog
Spangsberg web pages
Own photos taken September 2009
Display program inspired by Matteo Bicocchi and BT

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Dragør Fort was constructed during 1910-1915 in anticipation of a large scale international conflict in Europe.

The conflict unfortunately materialized in the First World War 1914-1918, but fortunately the fort never saw any battle.

Pictured is the front entrance to the original casemates and commandant quarters.

The emblem of King Christian X (r. 1912-1947) is prominently displayed above the front entrance.

Note the cannons in the military symbols underneath the royal emblem. The fort was originally constructed for the artillery arm of the Danish Defense.

The fort was constructed 1910-14 but was first put into use in early 1915.

The front door is flanked by pillboxes, which could cover the courtyard as well as the only access road (behind the camera) with heavy infantry fire.

Part of the artillery gunners' quarters.

These buildings were more exposed than those, which were interconnected with the casemates.

The main armament at the time of inauguration in 1915 were four 355 mm cannons.

They were placed in pairs right and left of the center line of the fort.

Pictured are the westernmost platforms. The 170mm cannons were placed here and covered the southwestern area.

Looking north from the upper ramparts.

Looking northeast from the upper ramparts.

Note the many side doors for storage.

Munitions could be lifted up from the casemates below.

Air vents from the lower casemates.

The westernmost part of the bastion. The bridge between Denmark and Sweden in the horizon.

One of the entrances to the underground casemates.

The Royal Mint stored "gold" coins here in the casemates around 1959-67. If you are lucky you might just find a few that they left behind??

Northwestern artillery position. It is triangular in shape, contrary to the other defense positions.

The Humanic Group -specialized in team building consultancy- has rented one of the old buildings.

The front courtyard looking almost west.

the western part of the fort. The artillery position is clearly visible.

The surrounding moat now doubles up as anchoring place for smaller boats.

Looking northwest from the southernmost corner. The corner steel house offered some protection for infantry shooting at advancing enemy land troops.

The artillery positions had many exits. Here is a back door from where defenders only had a few steps to the defensive works around the moat.

A last look back at the access area.

Note the radar installations on top of the ramparts, right.

Despite now being on private hands, the navy still uses the fort for surveillance, which is helpful with sea rescue efforts.