During World War II, German Nazis built concrete bunkers up and down the west coasts of Norway and France. These fortifications were known collectively as the Atlantic Wall, and it was this barrier that the Allies breached during the invasion of Normandy.
Seventy years later, much of the Atlantic Wall and many other WWII bunkers still stand—mainly because they’re “just incredibly difficult to get rid of,” says photographer Jonathan Andrew, who took the photos in this gallery.
People “tried blowing them up, but a lot of them are just too expensive to actually dismantle and take down,” Andrew says. “So that’s why there’s still so many of them just left in fields so long after the war.”
Dark Tower. An observation bunker looks at once ancient and futuristic in Raversijde, Oostende, Belgium. [Photograph By Jonathan Andrew]
Today, the bunkers are a strange, yet standard part of the landscape. Farmers store hay and animal feed in them, and curse when they have to plow around them.
Blocking the Way. This submarine defense was built by the British Allies near Cramond Island, Edinburgh, Scotland. [Photograph By Jonathan Andrew]
Young people sneak away to smoke in the bunkers or decorate them with graffiti. The ones closest to the ocean are sometimes used as diving platforms—in fact, some seaside bunkers were destroyed after a fatal diving accident.
Andrew was drawn to these relics in part because of their otherworldly feel.
No More. This bunker in Wissant, Pas de Calais, France, is no longer standing. After someone died from diving off of a bunker, others in the area were destroyed. [Photograph By Jonathan Andrew]
“One of the things that I really try to focus on in the photography is the geometric shape of the structure,” he says. “So [I’m] not just saying, ‘Hey, this is an old bunker,’ but [I’m] looking at them architecturally and also just as weird objects, as strange objects. And maybe you can imagine them built by an alien species in the future and they’ve sort of gone to ruin—[that] kind of thing.
Post-War Damage. People tried to blow up this German ammunition bunker in Patentestraat, Lissewege, Belgium, after WWII. But it was too sturdy, and they were only able to destroy part of it. [Photograph By Jonathan Andrew]
Indeed, some of these bunkers look both of the past and of the future.
“If you take them out of context,” he says, “it’s like, ‘What are all these weird strange shapes? What are all these structures for?’”