Bunker Archaeology: Exploring the Fleves island Naval Fortress of WW2, with Konstantinos Kirimis

Contact, Interviews, Then and Now, WW2, WW2 in Greece, WW2 Wrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos, research and information by Konstantinos Kirimis, used by permission

Fleves island Naval Fortress was a strategic point of access control in and out of the Saronic Gulf and the vital port of Piraeus
Fleves island Naval Fortress was a strategic point of access control in and out of the Saronic Gulf and the vital port of Piraeus

The vital seaways to the Port of Piraeus were protected by a network of Naval Fortresses, built in the years before WW2 by the Greek government, in the islands of the Saronic Gulf.

One such naval fortress was located on the island of Fleves, consisting of large caliber gun batteries, anti aircraft guns and other auxiliary facilities.

Fleves island, with Athens in the background
Fleves island, with Athens in the background

These structures withstood the test of Time and remind us of the turbulent past.

Respected researcher and author Konstantinos Kirimis shares with www.ww2wrecks.com his findings on the island of Fleves, shedding light  on yet another forgotten chapter of WW2 in Greece.

Aerial view of Fleves island
Aerial view of Fleves island

“Apart from its main defense infrastructures, such as the naval guns batteries, there were several secondary but equally interesting infrastructures at Fleves island Naval Fortress”, Konstantinos Kirimis  says.

Author and researcher Konstantinos Kirimis at the gun fire-control room
Author and researcher Konstantinos Kirimis at the entrance of the gun fire-control room

“The purpose of the Gun Fire-Control Room was to coordinate and direct the fire, of the naval batteries on the island. It consisted of both over and underground sections. 

An armoured steel door at the Gun Fire-Control Room
An armoured steel door at the Gun Fire-Control Room

In the upper part there were observation posts and range finders. In the basement there were auxiliary areas. Heavy steel doors both at the entrance and in the interior, were armoured, coming from a decommissioned battleship .The roof was also armoured with steel bars.”

The observation post area of the Gun Fire-Control Room
The observation post area of the Gun Fire-Control Room

There were two large search lights at the Fleves Naval Fortress, each one of them was approximately two meters wide. 

One of the hatches for the retractable search light, with a wide view of the sea
One of the hatches for the retractable search light, with a wide view of the sea

When not in use, they were placed in an underground facility,  about 8 meters deep,  to protect and significantly reduce their trace.

The search lights were located in areas with an unobstructed view to the sea, for obvious reasons.
The search lights were located in areas with an unobstructed view to the sea, for obvious reasons.

The search lights were lifted in their positions by specially developed hydraulic elevators, illuminating the target. The construction was done by the Greek company “Dimitrios and Ioannis K. Zannos “.

The original contruction plan, which shows the elevator mechanism of the search light
The original construction plan, which shows the vertical elevator mechanism of the search light

Completion of the excavation of the shaft and elevator mechanism, were at their peak during the month of September 1940.

The  official commissioning of the headlights was held on 10 December 1940, just a few weeks after the Italian failed attempt to invade Greece was initiated on October 28, 1940.

Position of an anti aircraft gun, protecting the area
Position of an anti aircraft gun, protecting the area

Despite the fact that the search lights were ready to be commissioned by November 1940, technical difficulties delayed their deployment by about a month.

Fleves, being an island with scarce drinking water supplies, meant that the Greeks had to construct large underground water tanks, with a capacity of 65 tonnes, in order to cater for the needs of the men serving at the naval Fortress.

A steel door at the entrance of the underground concrete water tank.
A steel door at the entrance of the underground concrete water tank.

 The water facilities consisted of two cylindrical tanks, with a diameter of five 5 meters each.

One of the two water tanks.
One of the two water tanks.

The entrance is controlled by an armored door, and there is also a lighting installation. At the first level are the windows that provide access to the two tanks. 

A view of the upper level of the tanks with the entrance and lighting installation.
A view of the upper level of the tanks with the entrance and lighting installation. The writing on the wall means “top water level”.

At the lower level is the pumping station with  the hydraulic mechanisms. 

The original drawings of the twin water tanks
The original drawings of the twin water tanks

The thickness of the water tank walls, made of reinforced concrete is 70 centimeters at the ceiling and 50 centimeters at the sides of the cylinders.

The water pumping hydraulic installation
The water pumping hydraulic installation

 

 

Konstantinos Kirimis would like to thank the Hellenic Navy History Service for granting access to the historical archives of the Supreme Defense Command, from 1936 to 1940.