Andhra Pradesh

Vizag’s concrete bulwarks bring back memories of threats from World War

Structures found on Daspalla hills may have been from anti-ship or anti-aircraft battery, built to counter Japanese air and sea raids

A few days ago, workers were frantically trying to clear the rubble on the eastern side of the Circuit House (Governor’s Bungalow) in Daspalla Hills when they stumbled upon some concrete structures. They were baffled by the unusually thick walls that did not give away easily to repeated blows from their hammers.

Edward Paul and Mayank Devi of INTACH were passing by, when they noticed what was going on. They took a closer look and concluded that the massive assembly was part of some sort of Second World War fortification.

The discovery brings back memories of Second World War and the sleepless nights that residents faced from 1941 to 1945. The structures on the Daspalla Hills are the latest to be discovered from the era of a global war. Earlier, pillboxes were found at RK Beach.

According to retired Lt. Col. Matthew Thomas, what was found on the Daspalla Hills appears to be fortifications of an anti-aircraft battery or an anti-ship battery.

It might have been a six-gun or four-gun battery, as five such structures, square in shape and measuring about 20x20 feet, were discovered.

“The sixth may still be eluding our eyes,” said Mr. Paul, a history enthusiast at INTACH.

“The walls are made of 15-inch thick reinforced steel concrete, and from the appearance and the strategic positioning, it appears to be a gun fortification, with the central structure being the command post,” said Lt. Col. Matthews, who retired from a regiment of artillery in the Army.

The military post was located on a hillock overlooking the vast expanse of the Bay of Bengal.

“Ideally it would have served as an anti-aircraft or anti-ship battery fortification to prevent an air raid or stop ships getting closer to the shores and down below in the beach there were pillboxes to prevent a Normandy-style amphibious attack,” the retired Army officer said.

Key location

Visakhapatnam may have been described as a sleepy fishing town, but strategically, it was important for the British military, as it served as the transit point for military supplies for the ongoing Burma campaign against the Japanese Army and Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA.

The area has also witnessed action. On April 6, 1942, five Japanese fighter planes in ‘two plus three’ formation took off from a Japanese aircraft carrier located somewhere deep in the Bay of Bengal and pounded the inner harbour.

In the course of the strafing, they dropped three bombs near the port area. One of them hit a concrete pipe of five foot diameter, in which five workers had taken shelter and all of them were killed. The second fell on a cement storage and the third hit the thermal power station that was maintained by the Government of Madras. This scared the citizens and the next day, there was a huge migration to the neighbouring districts of Vizianagaram and Srikakulam and many returned only after the war ended in 1945.

On February 12, 1944, a submarine of the Japanese Imperial Navy RO -110 of the RO-100 class was sunk about 25 miles south of Visakhapatnam Harbour. The sub was tasked to sink the British military supply vessels.

This explains why the town was fortified and seen as an important military establishment, said Mr. Edward Paul.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:53:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/vizags-concrete-bulwarks-bring-back-memories-of-threats-from-world-war/article30824589.ece

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