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Todendorf Anti Aircraft Firing Range

For the benefit of those who have never heard of Todendorf, it must be briefly explained that the ranges lie on the Baltic coast, east of Kiel in Germany.
The Camp was established by NATO for the use of Allied Anti-Aircraft units, and Britain was entrusted by NATO with the task of running the ranges until 31 March 1958, when Germany took over.

Early History

At the New York Conference of Foreign Ministers in September 1950 it was decided to increase the number of troops in Western Germany. This inevitably led to an increase in demand for training areas and ranges, and in early 1951 an Anti-Aircraft range was established on the Island of Sylt on the North Sea.

But Sylt was primarily a range for the Royal Air Force and it soon became apparent that by the end of 1952 there would no longer be room for the Army as well. The first alternative site suggested was Hohwacht on the Baltic, because of its proximity to Putlos which was already in use as an Anti-Tank and Anti-Aircraft range. Fortunately there was much local opposition to the loss of this very popular little seaside resort, so Todendorf was selected instead as the final site.

The original project at Todendorf was entirely British- room for 60 officers and 1,500 soldiers in a summer camp. All accommodation was to be in tents, save the cookhouses, NAAFI, cinema and workshops, which were to be semi-permanent buildings. The technical requirements for the ranges were said to be “like a good grass filed – not so hard that the guns bounce nor so soft that they sink in”.

The first project was completed early in 1953and firing began in the spring of the same year. But the plan was expanding fast. The Americans had already put in a bid to build a range and a camp of their own, and they even began shooting in 1953, even though their camp was still under construction.

At the same time it was decided that further enlargement was necessary to meet NATO requirements and that a fourth range and camp be added. It was also decided that all tents should be replaced by hutted accommodation and that the ranges themselves should be better than “a good grass field”. Thus the final plan began to take shape – four ranges, each designed to take twenty or more of the largest guns in the line and consisting of hard standings and concrete connecting roads able to take guns, radars, predictors and generators. Each range was to have its own camp. “A” was to be exclusively American, while the remaining three (“B”, “C” and “D”) would all be NATO , suitable for Heavy or Light AA of any Allied nation.

The engineering problems involved were very considerable. First and foremost, vast materials had be transported to the site along roads that were inadequate to cope with the traffic. The were neither wide enough or robust enough with the result that the Royal Engineers had to implement their own traffic control and used vast quantities of materials and manpower in keeping the roads navigable. Patching up alone in these early stages used some 4,200 tonnes of gravel and 2,000 tonnes of concrete rubble, with it eventually being decided that the 12 mile approach road from Seekrug to Todendorf be widened, straightened and generally improved. This involved building whole new sections of road, with the project eventually completed in August 1954.

Similarly, there were headaches “seawards”. The required danger area of 22,000 yards was found to overlap the main shipping lane from Kiel Canal, which is used by some four to five thousand ships of all nations per month. The local air corridor was also involved.

However, little by little all inconveniences were overcome and both the shipping channel and the air corridor were moved in order to make way for Todendorf ranges. The moving of “Way I”, as the shipping lane was known, involved the lifting or blasting of ten major wrecks.

There was still the problem of patrolling the danger in order to keep out smaller vessels, not restricted to “Way I”. At first these duties were performed by the German Water Police, but in 1954 the Bundesgrenzschutz took over and continued until the newly-formed German Navy took over in July 1956.

By May 1955 all the tents had disappeared; the four ranges and camps were taking on their final form, but the whole area was a sea of mud with scores of contractors milling around trying to complete a hundred and one projects, without interfering with the shooting which was constantly in progress. Bad weather merely brought everything to a glutinous halt – both shooting and building.
BURNETT, Lt. Col. C M D (1958)  Todendorf Ranges, Johannes W. Janssen: Kiel
An aerial view of the camp showing the Permanent Staff accommodation and part of B and C Camps
An aerial view of the camp looking towards Todendorf Village
The Control Tower
Major Donnelly (CIG), Major Keleman (US Army),
Kapt. Lt. Statsmann (German Navy), SAC Wilson (RAF)