WW2 Aerial Reconnaissance Studies
On 16 September 1944, RAF reconnaissance imaged a chemical weapons (CW) complex around the small city of Munster in northern Germany. The most well known part of the complex, the Raubkammer Army Testing Area (Heeresversuchsstelle Raubkammer) --formerly known as 'Gasplatz Breloh'-- was only partially imaged; however, there was good coverage of CW munitions filling sites (Nebelfüllstelle) and storage depot administered by the Luftwaffe and Army Armaments Departments (Luftwaffehauptmunitionsanstalt or LHMa and Heeresmunitionsanstalt or HMa).
The Raukammer CW facility, located 3km northwest of Munster and 1.8 km west-northwest of Breloh, was only partially imaged on 16 September. Probably as the result of a sudden maneuver by the aircraft, the central areas were not covered; only an entrance gate, the east and west fencelines and an explosives storage area could be seen. A set of barns east of the explosive storage area probably held animals used in tests (Graphic 8). A number of probable CW test positions could be seen 2.5 km to the northeast in the southern part of the Raubkammer/Munster North Test Area (Graphic 9). A circular track made by animals indicated their use in experiments. Raubkammer's main support area, the Munsterlager (became the British Dennis Barracks) was not imaged; however, another probable barracks and a small explosives test area were in or near the town of Breloh.
Just west of Breloh, a group of abandoned buildings and several underground tanks may have been remnants of original 'Gasplatz' (Graphic 10). The buildings appeared to be partially revetted and were at one time probably rail-served.
According to Wikipedia, 'Gasplatz Breloh' was founded in 1916 as a CW testing and production area. The site was dismantled after WW 1, but was rebuilt in the 1930s. During WW 2, there were at least seven CW-related areas around Munster including a bararcks, the 'Munsterlager'. The Raubkammer facility itself had nine sub-areas that included three for field testing, experimental CW production and a munitions filling. The Luftwaffe areas included a bomb filling facility, a storage depot and a separate field test area at Raubkammer. In addition, the Army operated a larger CW munitions filling facility and storage area south of Munster. Some of the facilities were served by a rail network.
The probable HMa facilities were located south-southeast of Munster in the vicinity of Kohlenbissen. With about 40 structures In a secured, rail served compound, the probable HMa filling facility was larger and much more sophisticated than its Luftwaffe counterpart (Graphic 6). Features of the facility included at least one buildings interconnected by passageways, several bunkers and revetted areas and two possible transfer points (one rail-served). A very large bunker and several smaller bunkers were north of the facility. Chemical weapons were stored in an associated road-served depot to the northeast (Graphic 7).
Of the areas imaged on 16 September, only the LHMa and HMa facilities were fully covered and could be identified with some certainty; the Raubkammer facilities were partially covered. Both LHMa facilities were in the vicinity of Örrel, 5.5 km southeast of Munster and each was served by a separate rail line. Located southwest of the depot, the filling facility consisted of three areas (Graphics 1-4). Because of the extensive use camouflage and concealment, the exact locations of the filling process could not be determined (available information indicates there were two areas, including one for 'mobile' filling). The most likely filling point was located beneath a nearly 250-meter-long concealment structure covering a rail spur on the west side of the rail line; an area containing possible underground tanks was adjacent to the structure. A second covered spur --used for filling or tank car storage-- ran east to the edge of the depot. The third area, located at the point where the main rail enterted the depot, contained a possible partially underground structure that could also have been used for filling or processing filled munitions for storage. Sections of rail next to the possible structure were covered with camouflage netting. Smoke could be seen coming from the stack of a building outside the rail entrance. A small barracks was at the end of the rail south 1 km south of the main areas.
The LHMa depot held more than 150 storage bunkers or buildings. Four rows of bunkers may have been rail served by an internal rail system; one of these appeared to connect with the CW facility's rail (Graphics 3 - 5). An an adjacent Wehrmacht depot (HMa) at Kohlenbissen also reportedly stored chemical munitions (Graphic 6).