Ogling the sky from 5C1


In peace time a country’s army is often zealously planning to not loose the previous war again in the same way it did last time.

So, in the 1950’s The Netherlands built a large network of sky towers, with the sole purpose of ogling the sky for Messerschmitts with the naked eye. The towers were to be manned by volunteers and were built near centers of population, so the volunteers could get there quickly on foot or bike. This convenience was dearly needed, as volunteers were hard to get by.

What started as looking like a good idea at the start of the fifties, increasingly became an embarrassment. A wonderful thing called radar which had been around since the 1940’s  had some huge advantages, like surveying the complete Dutch air space at once, without having to sit in the pouring rain all the time. Another development were supersonic fighter planes. When spotting one over the horizon with the naked eye, one would probably be dead already, spelling obsolescence like nothing else. The network was abandoned at the end of the fifties, and many of the towers got demolished.

In the mean time, in Scheveningen…
Most towers were just a concrete skeleton (‘raatbouw’ in Dutch), but the sky tower in Scheveningen, which was built in 1953, was an exception to this rule. The rationale was that a wonky looking anorexic concrete thing near the coast line might rouse the suspicion of any east bound Russian. In stead the army surrected a two story brick tower in the dunes, on the debris from the 1945 Bezuidenhout air raid which also happened to contain some German bunkers.

Scheveningen, Oostduinen, Zwarte pad: sky towerMaking out in the sunset
After it’s abandonment at the start of the sixties the tower was left to itself. Obviously someone thought it a neat place for an antenna (as you can see in the picture on the left), but the main function is currently that of make out spot. The closeness to the city helps, but the fact the setting sun looks great from the base of the tower might be a factor too. In the last years the tower got covered in graffiti from bottom to top. Some might lament this, but when I was there last summer, it looked so good from close by I could not resist taking several pictures, one of which is up here for you to enjoy.

Much of the information on sky towers in this post is from a paper on Dutch military heritage, which you can find [pdf alert, Dutch alert] on the governmental site on cultural heritage.

For those wondering about the title: 5C1 is the number this tower apparently got assigned when it got planned.


About Gooi Weg

Always travels with something on his head, and a camera in his pocket. Successful loser.
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