The GHW (Gürtelhauptwerk) I Salis-Soglio main artillery fort, Siedliska
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The GHW (Gürtelhauptwerk) I Salis-Soglio main artillery fort

Siedliska

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The GHW I (Gürtelhauptwerk - main ring fort) is a well-preserved primary artillery fort; its substantial research value lies in its unusual structure, making it an example of a centered defensive fort built during the third stage of the construction of the fortress, during which permanent artillery forts were erected. In addition, it has a substantial historical value, having played a significant role during the defence of the Fortress of Przemyśl. Despite its typically military function, the fort also has an aesthetic value due to the presence of decorative architectural detailing. As a crucial part of the system of fortifications which formed the Fortress of Przemyśl, it remains a valuable historical monument of European importance.

History

In years 1883-1887, during the construction of the permanent fortifications forming part of the Fortress of Przemyśl, the so-called Siedliska Group was erected in the southernmost part of the ring. The main part of the said group was the main artillery fort known as GHW I „Salis-Soglio”. The tenets of its construction as well as the usage of a novel type of defence systems were defined in the “Handbook of Permanent Fortifications” by Moritz von Brunner. Daniel Salis Soglio, general (Feldmarschalleutnat) and Inspector-General for Engineering, was the man responsible for the design of the Siedliska Group. The main fort was to be the very first armoured fort in the entire fortress, equipped with two armoured Grüson turrets, each armed with two 120 mm cannons. However, the turrets were omitted in the final design for economic reasons. Initially, the name of the fort was Fort I “Siedliska”, later renamed “Salis-Soglio” in honour of its designer. The construction works were performed by the company owned by Ludwig Wattmann, with second class captain Johann Daniek from the engineering section acting as the project supervisor. The fort was designed to engage hostile forces attempting to storm the Siedliska group of fortifications, holding them at bay with long-distance artillery fire. The fort was armed with four 150 mm M.61 guns as well as six further 12 mm M.61 guns, all of them situated on the front rampart, four 90 mm M75 guns mounted on tall gun mounts positioned on both flanks, four 240 mm mortars concealed behind the rampart, between the gorge and the side courtyards as well as 12 Granatkannone 150 mm guns designed to defend the moat, positioned in three caponiers as well as on firing positions inside the walls of the gorge. During the first siege of the fortress (18.09-9.10.1914), the fort participated in the efforts to hold off the main Russian attacking forces which stormed the Siedliska Group. During the siege, the fort received more than 100 direct hits from the Russian artillery. The defensive wall closing off the gorge and the main gate of the fort positioned on its top have been partially destroyed. Before the fort surrendered during the second siege (9.11.1914-22.03.1915), the caponiers in the moat and the casemates defending the gorge courtyard were blown up and the artillery guns were destroyed. During the third siege (30.05-4.06.1915), the fort was overrun by German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Until World War II, the fort was used by the Polish Armed Forces as a munitions storage facility. After World War II, the fort fell into disuse. The local residents have taken apart the brick walls of the casemates as well as parts of the defensive wall in the gorge section of the fort. The left wing casemate block collapsed during the 1970s.

Description

The GHW I „Salis-Soglio” fort, designated as Lagerfort I (Salis-Soglio) on the fortress plans, is an artillery fort build according to a centred fort design. The fort is located on the top of the tallest hill (404.4 metres above sea level) east of Siedliska. The moat of the front rampart runs alongside the Polish-Ukrainian national border. The fort is the main defensive work of the Siedliska Group. The surface of the fort is approximately 4.5 hectares.

The fort was designed as a pentagon with a recessed gorge. A fortified access gate is situated on the axis of the gorge section. The courtyard in front of the gate, defended from the embrasures in the walls of the now-defunct casemates located on the flanks, was surrounded by a brick wall forming a dovetail shape. The central section of the wall with rifle embrasures and a decorative gateway crowned with a profiled cornice, beneath which a plaque with the name of the fort - „LAGERFORT SALIS-SOGLIO” - was once attached, survives to this day. A weir leads towards the gate through a relatively small, semicircular moat. Originally, a wooden bridge located in this spot would facilitate access to the fort. In front of the moat, there are remnants of an earthen pentagonal bastion which formed an outer defence position for the gorge section of the fort. The fort is surrounded by a deep dry moat, with a low rampart running along its outer perimeter, protecting a covered road with infantry positions. The counterscarp of the front moat is reinforced with a brick wall. A Carnot wall also runs along the scarp of the moat, around the fortress, designed to shield the guard pathway. Three caponiers, which have subsequently been blown up, were used to defend the moat against incoming hostile forces. The gorge courtyard terminates with a casemate block in the east, originally designed to accommodate the guardhouse and the barracks. An entrance gateway with barrel-vaulted ceiling - which also served as an artillery shelter for the fort’s personnel - runs alongside the axis of the aforementioned section of the fort. The gateway leads into the main (central) courtyard of the fort, from which access can be gained to two symmetrical side courtyards. The side courtyards are surrounded by casemates which were originally used as barracks. All casemates inside the fort feature massive poured concrete vaults with traces of brick front walls which have once filled the now-open arches. The living quarters of the fort’s commander and officers were located inside the casemates on the western side of the main courtyard. The casemates on the eastern side contained the living quarters for the fort’s troops as well as storage facilities for artillery munitions (ammunition dumps). A corridor which also performed the role of a shelter runs along the axis of the casemate block and continues as a central postern which originally led to the double caponier positioned inside the dry moat. On the northern and southern sides of the central courtyard there are passages leading off to side courtyards as well as lavatories for troops and officers. The northern courtyard cannot currently be accessed from the central courtyard due to the collapse of the side casemates. There is evidence that the western casemates of side courtyards contained food storage facilities, a field hospital and telegraph rooms. Next to the lavatory there is a wide flight of stairs leading to the combat level. On the eastern side of the courtyards there are entrances into personnel corridors as well as residential casemates. The shorter sides of the courtyards terminate with small casemates which originally housed the kitchen facilities. Next to them, there are entrances to the posterns leading to the flank caponiers in the moat. Water wells are located near the entrances to the side posterns. Moving around inside the casemate block is facilitated by corridors which connect munitions storage facilities with six munitions lifts; these corridors also connect the living quarters with three staircases which lead to the upper (combat) level. The second storey of the barracks contains the former living quarters, an emergency shelter, two ammunition dumps and corridors which connect the said rooms to munitions lifts. The aforementioned facilities are all positioned on the axis of the fort. The shaft of the artillery gun lift is also situated on the axis of the fort. The fort is crowned with the combat level, protected by an earthen crest with gun emplacements in both the front sections and the flanks; mortar emplacements were located behind the ramparts, on the western side of the side courtyards. The individual emplacements are divided by traverses with concrete shelters which house the apertures of munitions lifts, the doorways leading to staircases as well as rooms designed to allow the gun crews to protect themselves against enemy fire. The shelter located on the axis of the fort contains the aperture of the gun lift, from which the guns would be rolled to their firing positions using external ramps.

The facades of the barracks feature large semi-circular casemate bays; these would have originally featured brick infills, which have since been torn down. Rusticated capstones framing the gate of the entryway, the entrance to the corridor running along the axis of the fort as well as to the side posterns provide a decorative flourish. The upper storey of the eastern casemate block features a large round window in a profiled surround positioned on the axis of the fort, originally used to provide additional illumination of the living quarters within. Below the window there is a damaged plaque which originally displayed the number of the fort. Two round, damaged plaques in profiled frames, showing the dates of construction of the fort, are visible to the left and to the right, above the casemate bay archways.

The fort can be visited all year round. It forms a part of the black tourist trial as well as the tourist cycling path which runs between the various forts that formed the Fortress of Przemyśl. Special care must be taken by visitors due to the risk of an accidental fall into one of the unsecured shafts of the munitions lifts and the artillery gun lift; one must also be careful not to fall down from the upper level to the courtyards below. The external defence line in the front section of the fort is off-limits for tourists due to its proximity to the national border.

Compiled by Adam Sapeta, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Rzeszów, 12.10.2014.

Bibliography

  • Bogdanowski J., Sztuka obronna, Kraków 1993.
  • Bogdanowski J., Architektura obronna w krajobrazie Polski od Biskupina do Westerplatte, Warszawa-Kraków 1996.
  • Brzoskwinia W., Idzikowski T., Środulska-Wielgus J., Wielgus K., Wartości zabytkowej Twierdzy Przemyśl, [w:] Informator regionalny Twierdza Przemyśl, Rzeszów 1999.
  • Forstner F., Twierdza Przemyśl, Warszawa 2000.
  • Idzikowski T., Architectura et Ars Militaris 5. Twierdza Przemyśl. Fort I „Salis-Soglio”, Przemyśl 2004.
  • Idzikowski T., Twierdza Przemyśl. Powstanie. Rozwój. Technologie, Przemyśl 2004.
  • Sapeta A. Dzisiejsze zagrożenia Twierdzy Przemyśl - raport, [in:] Informator regionalny Twierdza Przemyśl, Rzeszów 1999.
  • Sapeta A. Zestawienie obiektów Twierdzy Przemyśl, [in:] Informator regionalny Twierdza Przemyśl, Rzeszów 1999.
  • Website: 3 Historyczny Galicyjski Pułk Artylerii Fortecznej im. Księcia Kinsk’yego. Fort Borek - http://www.festung.vot.pl/borek.php; access 28-08-2014.
  • Website: Twierdza Przemyśl. Uzbrojenie Twierdzy - http://twierdza1914.republika.pl/his/historia.html; access 01-09-2014.

General information

  • Type: defensive architecture
  • Chronology: 1883-1887
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Siedliska
  • Location: Voivodeship podkarpackie, district przemyski, commune Medyka
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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