Hel as a defensive fortress of Polish Seashore.

(last changes - 5 - VI - 2006)

1918 - 1939.

In 1918 Poland gained its independence after the fall of German Reich and the end of the First World War. Poland received only a patch of Baltic seashore without any ports of military and trade importance. Gdańsk together with its port gained a status of "Free City of Danzig".

Geographical location of Hel (Hela) had a huge military meaning so that Polish government immediately decided to build a strong military base there. In 1921 a railway line alongside the whole peninsula to the city of Hel was built. Furthermore a road connecting Jurata with City of Hel was constructed and for strategic reasons (protection form airplanes' bombardment) it has about 40 curves and leads in thick wood.

In 1931 the building of the war harbor in City of Hel beginned. In 1936 the President Republic of Poland, Józef Piłsudski signed the decree delivering a part of the Hel peninsula from Jurata to the end of the headland to the Polish army as "The Fortified Region Hel" (The Hel Fortified Area - Rejon Umocniony Hel).

The military narrow-gauged railway of 26 km length, numerous batteries of coastal artillery and other military objects were built there. The battery of Laskowski was the most powerful one - 4 guns with 152 mm caliber located at reinforced concrete stands on the seashore

On the 1st of September 1939, early in the morning, dreadnought Schleswig-Holstein discharged volley fire of her heavy artillery on Westerplatte - Polish military post and -
- so started the Second World War...

Plans of the coastal defense assumed that Hel was to fight against the enemy for 14 days - in fact it hold for 32 days. Hel defenders, being under heavy fire of Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein German dreadnoughts, permanent attacks of air forces and protecting from the attacks from the land, were completely separated from the rest of the army from the 1st of September till the 2nd of October. Polish navy suffered great losses just in the first days of war - German air forces scuttled practically all the Polish warships except that which had left Poland before the war, going to Great Britain. Reality was that Polish air forces didn't exist in the region of coast. Hel was defeated by 3 690 soldiers including crews from destroyed ships and air-plains.

In the 32 days of fight, defenders of Hel shot down about 20 German airplanes, Polish guns injured two destroyers and get effective gun-hit at German dreadnought, what forced German ships repeatedly to make smoke curtain and escape. To obstruct for German artillery shots, defenders blow-up the Hel lighthouse, the only characteristic target in the thick Hel woods. Defending the peninsula from the land-side, 30-th of September defenders blow-up the underground barrier made of sea torpedoes in the Chalupy locality (Hel started to be an island!) making a big losses in German troops and stopped attacks for a few hours. 2-th of October Hel surrendered…


In four years of German occupation, region of Gdansk Bay had a great meaning for a defensiveness of German III Reich. Because of geographical situation, that region up to 1944 had any air attacks at all. In Gdynia was build a great Kriegsmarine base, used by the biggest German battleships, e.g. dreadnought Bismarck. In the Gdynia shipyard, the part of Deutsche Werke Kiel Germans produced hulls of u-boats and made all needful reparation of German battleships. In this area were located military schools, as to the Kriegsmarine, as to coastal artillery. On the Gdansk Bay were special laboratories to examine and improve new type of torpedoes. In the Darlowo area the heaviest railway guns were assembled and tested, many armored trains stayed there. On the Hel peninsula were situated many batteries of guns, including repaired by Germans Laskowski battery, re-called as Schliessien battery.

North from the Hel city was built the biggest coastal battery of the world - three guns 406mm ("Adolfguns") of battery called Schleswig-Holstein. This battery with 56km range was short after first shots disassembled and transported to France, Sangate, where as Lindemann battery were shooting at Dover, and after landing of allied forces in France were conquered and damaged. The remains of this battery in Hel are six gigantic constructions - three Adolf-gun stands, two munitions shelters, and a 8-floor tower of rangefinder and fire command. Now in one of this stands and in the tower of rangefinder is located the Hel Museum of Coastal Defense (http://www.helmuzeum.pl)

In the last period of the War in 1944 in Hel, as the area heavy armed and easy to defend was the asylum for hundreds thousands military and civilian refugee. In opposite to Polish defend in 1939 Germans had very powerful artillery on the see and on the land, but not too many munitions, and a few fuel to tanks and so.

This time Russian troops ruled indivisible in the air and see, and this time 30 of January 1945 happened the biggest see tragedy of the world - sinking of torpedoed by Russian submarine German barrack-ship Wilhelm Gustloff with about 10,5 thousands refugees form Gdansk and surrounding on the board. It is consider, that there died from 5350 to 9343 persons (various sources give various amounts) - it means about for times as much as in the Titanic tragedy. About 1000 people were rescued. Were sink also Steuben (3 500 victims) and Goya (6 900 victims) and many, many more…

From the 5-th of April to the capitulation date 9 May 1945 Hel was surrounded by Russian troops and attacked only by planes and artillery.


After the liberation of Poland, the Hel peninsula In the section from Jurata to the end of headland was one of most protected and forced military bases in Poland. The military base in Hel was very fast rebuild and strengthened. The Hel military harbour was extended. On the Laskowski battery were located 4 new Russian guns of 130mm. Many new batteries were build on the Hel peninsula and in its surroundings.

At 1956 as one of the last was constructed new battery 4 Russian guns 152,4mm. It was the biggest and unique as big battery In Poland after the war.

At 1974 according to the newest conception of rocket fight and enlarging the meaning of air attack instruments, the value of coastal artillery was drastically reduced. Because of that all coastal batteries in Poland were decommissioned.

All what remained not scraped or devastated was in 1999 designated as military monuments.

translation: Valle (please help me to correct my english translation by mail....)

>> Foto-galleries and more information in Polish here <<

The Webmaster is waiting for remarks: valle@hela.com.pl