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Lock, Stock, and History

The Big Guns of Hellfire Corner, Dover Straits, World War II

When the Germans captured France in 1940, their first order of business was to created a fortified coast called the Atlantic Wall to defend against possible future Allied attacks.  Among these fortifications were several large coastal defense guns, typically large bore naval guns that were surplus or salvage from battleships.  The big guns positioned at Calais, the narrowest point of the English Channel, found that they had enough range to bombard English soil, particularly the port and city of Dover.  Among the big German guns were three 40.6 cm guns, three 30.5 cm guns, four 28 cm guns, and a large assortment of smaller artillery.

In August of 1940 German coastal guns at Calais began shelling the port of Dover.  The British were unprepared for such an attack, but quickly reacted by bringing to bear a number of big guns of their own including two 15 inch guns,three 13.5 inch guns, four 9.2 inch guns, and a number of smaller artillery.  Between 1940 and 1944 both British and German coastal guns dueled across the straight of Dover, then nicknamed “Hellfire Corner”.  One battery of German guns alone fired 2,226 shells at Dover.  Due to each others guns being at the far end of each others maximum range, little damage was done to either sides batteries, with only one German turret sustaining a hit.  However the duel caused significant collateral damage and 216 civilians deaths.  The duel ended when Allied ground forces captured the German batteries in September of 1944.

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