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Bertan > Bertan 18 Fortificaciones en Gipuzkoa: siglos XVI-XIX > Ingeles bertsioa: The entrenched camp at Oiartzun

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The entrenched camp at Oiartzun

Noo sooner had the Third Carlist War had come to an end than the military authorities began to reorganise the defence of the French border, the city of San Sebastian and the port of Pasaia [Pasajes]. They knew the works would also ensure their military domination of the territory in the event of a fresh Carlist uprising.

145. Gorge double caponier in St. Mark's Fort. Above each machicolation there are three vertical embrasures.© Juan Antonio Sáez
145. Gorge double caponier in St. Mark's Fort. Above each machicolation there are three vertical embrasures.© Juan Antonio Sáez
146. Entrance to St. Mark's Fort. On the left, the gorge double caponier, at the top the tunnel affording access to the bridge (originally a drawbridge but now secured in place).© Juan Antonio Sáez
146. Entrance to St. Mark's Fort. On the left, the gorge double caponier, at the top the tunnel affording access to the bridge (originally a drawbridge but now secured in place).© Juan Antonio Sáez

Various military councils and committees were formed between 1876 and 1884 to study these and other questions. In 1876 the Engineering Corps formed a committee to study defence of the border, and in 1877 it decided to build forts on the hills of San Marcos, Txoritokieta and Arkale in Gipuzkoa. The preliminary design was entrusted to the Engineering Command of San Sebastian. The result of its work, however, did not please higher authorities. Juan Roca was commissioned to design a new project for San Marcos, which was finally approved in 1879.

In the meantime, after long debates among senior strategists, Colonel Antonio Rojí and Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Roldán were commissioned in 1884 and 1885 to verify the study of the defence of the Pyrenees in Gipuzkoa. The result of their work was the design of a complex set of fortifications formed by three lines of defence, which in practise was simplified to eight forts1. Five formed an arc around Irun (Guadalupe, St. Henry's, Arkale, Belitz, Erlaitz and St. Martial's) and another two (St. Mark's and Txoritokieta), further back, could be used to defend San Sebastian and the port of Pasaia. Of all of these, the only ones to be built were the forts of St. Mark (1888), Txoritokieta (1890) and Guadalupe (1900). Work began on the Erlaitz fort, but was halted during the initial phase in 1892.

147. Entrenched camp of Oiarztzun:1-Forts built; 2-Forts planned.© Juan Antonio Sáez
147. Entrenched camp of Oiarztzun:
1-Forts built;
2-Forts planned.© Juan Antonio Sáez

The structure of the forts of the entrenched camp of Oiartzun is very similar to that of the first period of the Séré de Rivières system. In simple terms, they could be described as polygonal fortifications, with a fosse flanked by double caponiers. Access to the fort was by means of a drawbridge; internal communications ran partially underground and the guns were located outdoors, protected by a parapet and traverses or by casemates projecting out from the rest of the fortification. Most of the installations (casemates, barracks and powder magazines) were built in masonry and unreinforced concrete around 1-2 m thick, covered in various metres of compacted earth, which theoretically provided protection from enemy shells.

148. Location of the defensive complex of St. Mark's and Txoritokieta forts:1-Military road of St. Mark's; 2-Auxiliary battery of Kutarro (St. Mark's Fort); 3-Branch road leading to the battery of Kutarro; 4-Town boundaries of San Sebastian and Errenteria; 5-Branch road leading to the Txoritokieta Fort; 6-St. Mark's Fort; 7-Auxiliary battery of Los Barracones (St. Mark's Fort); 8-'Machine Room'; 9-Municipal area of Errenteria; 10-Txoritokieta Fort; 11-Auxiliary battery of Txoritokieta; 12-Municipal area of Astigarraga; 13-Town boundaries of Errenteria and Astigarraga; 14-Municipal area of San Sebastian.© Juan Antonio Sáez
148. Location of the defensive complex of St. Mark's and Txoritokieta forts:
1-Military road of St. Mark's;
2-Auxiliary battery of Kutarro (St. Mark's Fort);
3-Branch road leading to the battery of Kutarro;
4-Town boundaries of San Sebastian and Errenteria;
5-Branch road leading to the Txoritokieta Fort;
6-St. Mark's Fort;
7-Auxiliary battery of Los Barracones (St. Mark's Fort);
8-'Machine Room';
9-Municipal area of Errenteria;
10-Txoritokieta Fort;
11-Auxiliary battery of Txoritokieta;
12-Municipal area of Astigarraga;
13-Town boundaries of Errenteria and Astigarraga;
14-Municipal area of San Sebastian.© Juan Antonio Sáez

The building process was similar for all the forts. First a preliminary project was drawn up, followed by projects for the accessory works, normally three in number: the access road to the position, water channels and a provisional camp. Finally the definitive project was drawn up.

Forts were generally built on sites of difficult access, at some distance from the nearest town, and the building of an access road was therefore of great importance. In the case of Erlaitz it was sufficient simply to adapt the existing local road network; in Guadalupe a short branch road, 200 m in length linked the fort to the nearby road to Hondarribia. St. Mark's, however, needed greater attention, since it required the building of a military road 6.6 kilometres in length to link the fort to the main road to France. In Txoritokieta a 1.3 kilometre branch road had to be built from the St. Mark's road.

149. Part of the gorge scarp of St. Mark's Fort, viewed from the fosse. On the right is the counterscarp. The two upper openings correspond to the gorge gun emplacements. Note that there are no earthwork defences, unlike the rest of the casemated battery.© Juan Antonio Sáez
149. Part of the gorge scarp of St. Mark's Fort, viewed from the fosse. On the right is the counterscarp. The two upper openings correspond to the gorge gun emplacements. Note that there are no earthwork defences, unlike the rest of the casemated battery.© Juan Antonio Sáez

Water was raised mechanically during the building work and stored in a tank. Once construction was complete, any rainwater that fell in the fort could be stored in the cisterns, with the earthen blindages acting as filters.

The provisional camps were composed of barrack huts which housed offices, stores, the kitchen, latrines, a guard post and a number of workshops (for forging, carpentry, quarrying), etc.

The preliminary projects were detailed enough to allow work to begin before the definitive projects were complete. Indeed, the final project for St. Mark's Fort (by Luis Nieva) was not completed until 1888, a few days after the fort was commissioned. The provisional and preliminary projects by Pedro Lorente (1878), Juan Roca (1879 and 1881) and José Brandis (1884) - rejected because of different deficiencies or changes in strategy plans - were therefore of great importance.

150. St. Mark's Fort. Lower floor:1-Head double caponier; 2-Fosse; 3-Communication with the head double caponier; 4-Covering wall of the scarp; 5-Ramp leading from the curved battery to the barbette battery; 6-Curved battery, with capacity for 3 mortars; 7-Ammunition dump of the curved battery; 8-Gunpowder lift; 9-Shell lift; 10-Powder magazine; 11-Shell dump; 12-Artillery store; 13-Provisions store; 14-Quarters for three officers; 15-Communicating passage (partly though an series of arches to the courtyard); 16-Quarters for three officers; 17-Gorge double caponier; 18-Governor's quarters; 19-Bridge originally fitted with one fixed and one lifting section; 20-Officer's corps de garde; 21-Sergeant's corps de garde; 22-Troops' corps de garde; 23-Courtyard; 24-Section of ramp linking the courtyard and the casemated battery; 25-Postern gate in the stairs-ramp between the courtyard and the curved battery; 26-Caponier; 27-Sally gate of the caponier serving the scarp stairs; 28-Diamond fosse; 29-Tunnel access to the bridge and door; 30-Access vestibule protected by eight embrasures; 31-Small courtyard in the double caponier; 32-Natural rock or filling.© Juan Antonio Sáez
150. St. Mark's Fort. Lower floor:
1-Head double caponier;
2-Fosse;
3-Communication with the head double caponier;
4-Covering wall of the scarp;
5-Ramp leading from the curved battery to the barbette battery;
6-Curved battery, with capacity for 3 mortars;
7-Ammunition dump of the curved battery;
8-Gunpowder lift;
9-Shell lift;
10-Powder magazine;
11-Shell dump;
12-Artillery store;
13-Provisions store;
14-Quarters for three officers;
15-Communicating passage (partly though an series of arches to the courtyard);
16-Quarters for three officers;
17-Gorge double caponier;
18-Governor's quarters;
19-Bridge originally fitted with one fixed and one lifting section;
20-Officer's corps de garde;
21-Sergeant's corps de garde;
22-Troops' corps de garde;
23-Courtyard;
24-Section of ramp linking the courtyard and the casemated battery;
25-Postern gate in the stairs-ramp between the courtyard and the curved battery;
26-Caponier;
27-Sally gate of the caponier serving the scarp stairs;
28-Diamond fosse;
29-Tunnel access to the bridge and door;
30-Access vestibule protected by eight embrasures;
31-Small courtyard in the double caponier;
32-Natural rock or filling.© Juan Antonio Sáez
151. St. Mark's Fort. Upper floor:1-Fosse; 2-Barbette battery (alt. 257 m) for five guns with four ammunition dumps; 3-Earthen blindage of the casemated battery; 4-Ramp leading from the curved battery to the barbette battery; 5-Caponier; 6-Diamond fosse; 7-Rifle parapet on the roof of the gorge barracks; 8-Casemated battery (alt. 266 m) formed by 15 vaults; 9-Gun emplacements in the earthen blindage of the casemated battery (7 in total); 10-Head double caponier; 11-Covered way; 12-Bridge originally fitted with one fixed and one moving section; 13-Curved battery (alt. 250 m) with capacity for three mortars; 14-Courtyard; 15-Ramp linking the courtyard and the casemated battery; 16-Gorge double caponier; 17-Courtyard of the head double caponier.© Juan Antonio Sáez
151. St. Mark's Fort. Upper floor:
1-Fosse;
2-Barbette battery (alt. 257 m) for five guns with four ammunition dumps;
3-Earthen blindage of the casemated battery;
4-Ramp leading from the curved battery to the barbette battery;
5-Caponier;
6-Diamond fosse;
7-Rifle parapet on the roof of the gorge barracks;
8-Casemated battery (alt. 266 m) formed by 15 vaults;
9-Gun emplacements in the earthen blindage of the casemated battery (7 in total);
10-Head double caponier;
11-Covered way;
12-Bridge originally fitted with one fixed and one moving section;
13-Curved battery (alt. 250 m) with capacity for three mortars;
14-Courtyard;
15-Ramp linking the courtyard and the casemated battery;
16-Gorge double caponier;
17-Courtyard of the head double caponier.© Juan Antonio Sáez

At the Erlaitz Fort too, the initial work was based on the preliminary project by Rojí and Roldán, but it was halted because the project presented by Luis Nieva proved very onerous and did not take into account the advances made in artillery since approval of the preliminary project.

152. Cross-section of St. Mark's Fort:1-Blindage of the gorge double caponier; 2-Vaults of the gorge barracks; 3-Parapet for riflemen in the blindage of the gorge barracks; 4-Stairs linking the rifle parapets of the gorge barracks and the casemated battery; 5-Access from the casemated battery to the rifle parapet of the gorge barracks; 6-Rifle parapet in the blindage of the casemated battery; 7-Casemate; 8-Vault in unreinforced concrete; 9-Plates of ordinary masonry; 10-Ventilation ducts of the casemates; 11-Dry stone; 12-Gun emplacement in the masking wall of the vault; 13-Gun emplacement in the blindage of earth outside the masking wall; 14-Earthen blindage of a large ammunition dump in the barbette battery; 15-Ditto; 16-Earthen blindage of a small ammunition dump in the barbette battery; 17-Ordóñez', 15 cm. tubed iron cannon on a high carriage; 18-Parapet, leading down an outer incline to the scarp; 19-Covered way; 20-Covering of the counterscarp; 21-Gun emplacement of the head double caponier; 22-Head double caponier; 23-Covering of the scarp; 24-Covering of the parapet of the barbette battery; 25-Ramp leading from the curved battery to the barbette battery; 26-Incline between curved battery and barbette battery; 27-Communication between the stairs-ramp leading to the barbette battery; 28-Communication with the casemates of the curved battery; 29-Stairs-ramp between the courtyard and the curved battery; 30-Ordóñez', 15 cm. tubed iron cannon on low carriage; 31-Communication between the casemates; 32-Ramp between the courtyard and the access to the casemated battery; 33-Main entrance; 34-Courtyard; 35-Vault of the gorge barracks; 36-Masonry buttress of the concrete vault of the gorge barracks; 37-Scarp; 38-Crenel of the gorge double caponier; 39-Machicolation of the gorge double caponier; 40-Coating of the counterscarp.© Juan Antonio Sáez
152. Cross-section of St. Mark's Fort:
1-Blindage of the gorge double caponier;
2-Vaults of the gorge barracks;
3-Parapet for riflemen in the blindage of the gorge barracks;
4-Stairs linking the rifle parapets of the gorge barracks and the casemated battery;
5-Access from the casemated battery to the rifle parapet of the gorge barracks;
6-Rifle parapet in the blindage of the casemated battery;
7-Casemate;
8-Vault in unreinforced concrete;
9-Plates of ordinary masonry;
10-Ventilation ducts of the casemates;
11-Dry stone;
12-Gun emplacement in the masking wall of the vault;
13-Gun emplacement in the blindage of earth outside the masking wall;
14-Earthen blindage of a large ammunition dump in the barbette battery;
15-Ditto;
16-Earthen blindage of a small ammunition dump in the barbette battery;
17-Ordóñez', 15 cm. tubed iron cannon on a high carriage;
18-Parapet, leading down an outer incline to the scarp;
19-Covered way;
20-Covering of the counterscarp;
21-Gun emplacement of the head double caponier;
22-Head double caponier;
23-Covering of the scarp;
24-Covering of the parapet of the barbette battery;
25-Ramp leading from the curved battery to the barbette battery;
26-Incline between curved battery and barbette battery;
27-Communication between the stairs-ramp leading to the barbette battery;
28-Communication with the casemates of the curved battery;
29-Stairs-ramp between the courtyard and the curved battery;
30-Ordóñez', 15 cm. tubed iron cannon on low carriage;
31-Communication between the casemates;
32-Ramp between the courtyard and the access to the casemated battery;
33-Main entrance;
34-Courtyard;
35-Vault of the gorge barracks;
36-Masonry buttress of the concrete vault of the gorge barracks;
37-Scarp;
38-Crenel of the gorge double caponier;
39-Machicolation of the gorge double caponier;
40-Coating of the counterscarp.© Juan Antonio Sáez

The work carried out at this fort - which was limited to preliminary excavation- offers a fine illustration of the building technique employed. Many of the facilities (barracks, stores, etc.) had to be built underground. It was therefore necessary to dig pits (for the rooms) and trenches (for communication purposes). The buttresses were made of masonry and the vaults of unreinforced concrete, covered with various layers of masonry, dry stone, earth, etc.

153. St. Mark's Fort. East view.© Juan Antonio Sáez
153. St. Mark's Fort. East view.© Juan Antonio Sáez

The batteries could be protected by casemates or left open to the elements. Casemates consisted of vaulted buildings projecting from half-way up the fortification. The gun embrasures were situated in the masking walls (or sidewalls of the vaults). To limit the impact of shells, the building was covered in earth (between 6 and 14 metres thick) into which gun emplacements were also set.

The casemated battery at St. Mark's Fort consisted of a roughly U-shaped building in unreinforced concrete, around a central courtyard closed off by the barracks at the gorge (the least exposed part of the fortification). It is two storeys high. The upper storey is formed by fifteen vaulted casemates (14 x 5 m) linked by arches between the buttresses, 4 metres in span. There are nineteen gun emplacements In the masking walls, although eight of them are blocked off by the external blindage of earth, originally allowing a total of seven 15 cm cannons mounted on a low carriage. Another four cannon were installed in gun emplacements in the two gorge casemates. The lower floor has eight rooms2.

154. St. Mark's Fort. Aerial view.© Paisajes Españoles S.A.
154. St. Mark's Fort. Aerial view.© Paisajes Españoles S.A.

In the Guadalupe Fort, the casemated battery has a rectangular floor-plan. It consists of three storeys. The lowest (protruding out from the rest) forms a continuation of the scarp gallery. The intermediary floor, with nine vaults, was used as a barracks and could house 276 men. At the eastern end an additional vault housed the ammunition distribution store. The upper floor incorporates the casemated battery itself, formed by ten vaults with gun emplacements at either end3. A masque of earth, separated from the casemates by a narrow courtyard, stood before the barracks and batteries to the South East, into which tunnel-embrasures could be built so that the cannon could be fired from the casemated battery.

The open-air batteries are barbettes (parapets without gun emplacements) arranged according to a general pattern consisting of a parapet 8-10 m thick ending in a bank leading down to the fosse. For its interior fortification the parapet has a covering wall whose height varies (1.4 - 1.8 m) depending on the type of artillery installed. Where necessary there are concave semi-cylinders in the parapet, to aid gun movements.

155. Casemate in St. Mark's Fort. The upper opening is a gun emplacement; the lower one is the place where the bolts for rotating the low carriage of the 15-cm 'Ordónez' TUC were fitted with the base inlaid into the platform. The floor was lowered in 1890 to adapt the original platforms designed for the fort's old 15-centimetre hooped iron cannons) to the new artillery.© Juan Antonio Sáez
155. Casemate in St. Mark's Fort. The upper opening is a gun emplacement;
the lower one is the place where the bolts for rotating the low carriage of the 15-cm 'Ordónez' TUC were fitted with the base inlaid into the platform. The floor was lowered in 1890 to adapt the original platforms designed for the fort's old 15-centimetre hooped iron cannons) to the new artillery.© Juan Antonio Sáez
156. St. Mark's Fort. View of the gorge from Txoritokieta.© Juan Antonio Sáez
156. St. Mark's Fort. View of the gorge from Txoritokieta.© Juan Antonio Sáez

Platforms were built on the fighting rampart (or adarve) with firing positions, protected at the front by the parapet and at the sides by traverses. Inside the latter, there was sometimes a narrow passage, to allow troops to cross from one side to the other. From it, it was possible to access the ammunition stores for each gun.

157. St. Mark's Fort. Interior of the head double caponier. On the right, one of the two gun emplacements. On the left, machicolations, with a banquette to allow vertical firing.© Gorka Agirre
157. St. Mark's Fort. Interior of the head double caponier. On the right, one of the two gun emplacements. On the left, machicolations, with a banquette to allow vertical firing.© Gorka Agirre

At a lower level there was generally a communication rampart or service path which formed part of the fort's communications network. This was joined to the fighting rampart by ramps and there were vaults opening onto it which had traverses to shelter those serving the guns. In peacetime these could be used to house mobile guns. This feature is only found in some sections of the Guadalupe Fort.

158. St. Mark's Fort. Stairs-ramp between the main courtyard and the mortar battery.© Gorka Agirre
158. St. Mark's Fort. Stairs-ramp between the main courtyard and the mortar battery.© Gorka Agirre

Special care was taken over all aspects related to ammunition. Generally there were one or more powder magazines, which in some cases (Txoritokieta and the project for Erlaitz) had a narrow passageway running around the perimeter into which the air ducts and windows opened. The windows were sealed with glass on the magazine side, to prevent any sparks flying out of the lamp.

159. Gun emplacement of the casemated battery of St. Mark's Fort, from outside. The upper and front blindages of the casemate are covered in grass. One of the ventilation shafts of the casemate can be seen over the gun emplacement.© Gorka Agirre
159. Gun emplacement of the casemated battery of St. Mark's Fort, from outside. The upper and front blindages of the casemate are covered in grass. One of the ventilation shafts of the casemate can be seen over the gun emplacement.© Gorka Agirre

The powder magazines had a concrete floor with a false floor at a certain height above it. A chamber of air between the two helped prevent the powder from getting damp. The walls of the magazines were lined with wood from the floor to the bottom of the vaulting.

The forts contained various stores (for shells, artillery tackle, provisions, firewood, etc.) and filling rooms, where the shells were filled with gunpowder or other more powerful explosives. Near the ammunition dumps there were lifts to carry the gunpowder and filled shells to the magazine for each piece.

160. St. Mark's Fort. Casemated battery, courtyard and rifle parapet over the gorge barracks.© Gorka Agirre
160. St. Mark's Fort. Casemated battery, courtyard and rifle parapet over the gorge barracks.© Gorka Agirre

The Guadalupe fort was garrisoned4 by 500 infantry and 100 artillery men , while St. Mark's Fort had 200 infantry and 50 artillerymen and Txoritokieta had about 60 men (although the preliminary project mentioned up to 200). Nonetheless all the forts had special areas which could be used to add up to house up to 50% more men.

The main purpose of the artillery was long-distance action, while closer range defence (rebutting any attempt to take the fort by enemy infantry), was the work of the riflemen. The riflemen had a covered way consisting of a narrow esplanade bordered by a firing parapet, supported by the glacis. As in modern fortifications, this made it possible to fire on any point in the area around the fort5.

161. Txoritokieta Fort. Perspective included in one of the projects. Except for some minor details, it coincides with the initial structure of the fort. The nearest to the fort of the eight auxiliary trenches can be seen on the left. (colouring by the author).© Juan Antonio Sáez
161. Txoritokieta Fort. Perspective included in one of the projects. Except for some minor details, it coincides with the initial structure of the fort. The nearest to the fort of the eight auxiliary trenches can be seen on the left. (colouring by the author).© Juan Antonio Sáez

At St. Mark's there was a second rifle line, consisting of a parapet on the upper blindages of the gorge barracks and the casemated battery. At Txoritokieta, where the fort was located on a steep mountainside, it was considered sufficient to have eight rifle trenches about fifty metres in length at distances of between 12 and 200 metres from the counter-scarp.

162. Plan of the Txoritokieta Fort:1-Kitchen; 2-Commander's quarters; 3-Officers' pavilion; 4-Access to the outer fosse from the inner fosse by means of 8 rungs and a door; 5-Flanking battery with 3 embrasures for riflemen; 6-Fosse (alt 296 m 297 m); 7-Outer incline; 8-NE Battery (alt. 304 m); 9-Parapet; 10-Covering of the parapet; 11-Postern in the zig-zag ramp; 12-Fosse (alt 296 m 296); 13-Scarp in gentle incline covered with a wall, 0.5 m thick; 14-Intermediary battery (alt. 303 m); 15-Counterscarp in gentle incline covered with a wall, 0.5 m thick; 16-Postern between the SW and intermediary batteries; 17-Semi-cylindrical entrance; 18-Fosse; 19-SW Battery (alt. 303 m); 20-Natural rock or earthen embankment; 21-Access blocked by gate; 22-Drawbridge; 23-Inner fosse (alt. 298.5 m); 24-Barracks; 25-Crenel; 26-Courtyard, below which stands the cistern; 27-Latrines; 28-Corps de garde defending the entrance by means of 5 embrasures; 29-Shell loading bay; 30-Passage for ventilation and lighting of the powder magazine; 31-Powder magazine; 32-Ammunition dump; 33-Postern (alt. 302 m); 34-Ammunition dump; 35-Service road with final access ramp to the NE Battery; 36-Double staircase between the service road (alt. 302 m) and the inner fosse (alt. 298.5 m).© Juan Antonio Sáez
162. Plan of the Txoritokieta Fort:
1-Kitchen;
2-Commander's quarters;
3-Officers' pavilion;
4-Access to the outer fosse from the inner fosse by means of 8 rungs and a door;
5-Flanking battery with 3 embrasures for riflemen;
6-Fosse (alt 296 m 297 m);
7-Outer incline;
8-NE Battery (alt. 304 m);
9-Parapet;
10-Covering of the parapet;
11-Postern in the zig-zag ramp;
12-Fosse (alt 296 m 296);
13-Scarp in gentle incline covered with a wall, 0.5 m thick;
14-Intermediary battery (alt. 303 m);
15-Counterscarp in gentle incline covered with a wall, 0.5 m thick;
16-Postern between the SW and intermediary batteries;
17-Semi-cylindrical entrance;
18-Fosse;
19-SW Battery (alt. 303 m);
20-Natural rock or earthen embankment;
21-Access blocked by gate;
22-Drawbridge;
23-Inner fosse (alt. 298.5 m);
24-Barracks;
25-Crenel;
26-Courtyard, below which stands the cistern;
27-Latrines;
28-Corps de garde defending the entrance by means of 5 embrasures;
29-Shell loading bay;
30-Passage for ventilation and lighting of the powder magazine;
31-Powder magazine;
32-Ammunition dump;
33-Postern (alt. 302 m);
34-Ammunition dump;
35-Service road with final access ramp to the NE Battery;
36-Double staircase between the service road (alt. 302 m) and the inner fosse (alt. 298.5 m).© Juan Antonio Sáez

The fortifications were completely surrounded by a fosse, with a width of between 6 and 8 metres, and different gradients and depths in different sections. The fosse was bordered by dissymmetric scarps and counter-scarps (the counter-scarp was higher than the scarp) to prevent enfilade enemy fire. They were covered in polygonal ashlar stone or masonry.

164. Txoritokieta Fort. Pentagonal barracks. The small central courtyard and crenellated roof can be seen.© Gorka Agirre
164. Txoritokieta Fort. Pentagonal barracks. The small central courtyard and crenellated roof can be seen.© Gorka Agirre

At the Guadalupe Fort, the covering wall of the scarp is replaced by a simple slope resting on a low wall 1.4 metres in height on which there was a 3.5-metre metal railing. The purpose of this arrangement was to minimise the impact of torpedo grenades, since the railing fended off the new shells fairly well. The rest of the scarp was occupied by a scarp gallery or set of linking vaults at right angles to the fosse, in whose masking wall there were various embrasures allowing defenders to shoot transversally towards the fosse.

165. Fosse of the Txoritokieta Fort. On the right, two rows of embrasures. The lower one corresponds to the barracks itself and the upper one to the crenellated roof.© Juan Antonio Sáez
165. Fosse of the Txoritokieta Fort. On the right, two rows of embrasures. The lower one corresponds to the barracks itself and the upper one to the crenellated roof.© Juan Antonio Sáez

The fosse was mainly defended by the flanking batteries situated at the angles. The double caponiers defended two sections of fosse and the caponiers one. They had embrasures and machicolations for rifle fire and gun emplacements for machine guns or small-bore cannons (5.7 cm) capable of rapid fire (30 rounds per minute), which could fire canisters of shrapnel capable of annihilating any enemy contingent that had managed to reach the fosse.

The infantry occupying the covered way could go down into the fosse using the counter-scarp stairs situated close to some of the flanking batteries and reach the batteries through sally ports. These gates were fitted with drawbridges or retractable bridges on the refosete. The refosete was a small fosse standing before the caponiers and double caponiers. Its purpose was to prevent the enemy reaching gun emplacements and embrasures, while at the same time serving as a receptacle to prevent the emplacements and embrasures being buried under falling debris.

166. Txoritokieta Fort. Barracks. Access stairs to the crenellated terrace. The officer's quarters stood behind it.© Gorka Agirre
166. Txoritokieta Fort. Barracks. Access stairs to the crenellated terrace. The officer's quarters stood behind it.© Gorka Agirre

The Guadalupe fosse is flanked by two caponiers and three double caponiers: In the case of St. Mark's Fort there is one caponier and two double caponiers, while the Txoritokieta fort has no proper flanking battery; the fosse is smaller and its walls form a bank (3 metres across at the bottom and 4 at the top).

167. Cross-section of the Txoritokieta Fort:1-Crenellated roof (alt. 303 m); 2-Window of the corps de garde; 3-Crenel of the Corps de garde defending the entrance gate (5 embrasures in all); 4-Central transverse under which stand the ammunition dump and corps de garde; 5-Earth covering of the transverse (alt 315); 6-Postern on the service road to the SW Battery (alt. 302 m); 7-Vault in Portland concrete, covered with a masonry 'plate'; 8-Covering of the parapet; 9-Parapet; 10-Glacis; 11-Covering of the counterscarp (0.5 m thick); 12-Fosse (3 m wide at the bottom and 4 m at the top), alt. 297 m; 13-Covering of the scarp (0.5 m thick); 14-Postern between the SW Battery and the intermediary battery; 15-SW Battery (alt. 303 m); 16-Access to the powder magazine; 17-Access to the corps de garde; 18-Inner fosse (alt. 298.5 m); 19-Inner barracks; 20-Cistern; 21-Courtyard (alt 298.5); 22-Kitchen; 23-Fosse (alt 297 m); 24-Defence battery; 25-Covering of the counterscarp.© Juan Antonio Sáez
167. Cross-section of the Txoritokieta Fort:
1-Crenellated roof (alt. 303 m);
2-Window of the corps de garde;
3-Crenel of the Corps de garde defending the entrance gate (5 embrasures in all);
4-Central transverse under which stand the ammunition dump and corps de garde;
5-Earth covering of the transverse (alt 315);
6-Postern on the service road to the SW Battery (alt. 302 m);
7-Vault in Portland concrete, covered with a masonry 'plate';
8-Covering of the parapet;
9-Parapet;
10-Glacis;
11-Covering of the counterscarp (0.5 m thick);
12-Fosse (3 m wide at the bottom and 4 m at the top), alt. 297 m;
13-Covering of the scarp (0.5 m thick);
14-Postern between the SW Battery and the intermediary battery;
15-SW Battery (alt. 303 m);
16-Access to the powder magazine;
17-Access to the corps de garde;
18-Inner fosse (alt. 298.5 m);
19-Inner barracks;
20-Cistern;
21-Courtyard (alt 298.5);
22-Kitchen;
23-Fosse (alt 297 m);
24-Defence battery;
25-Covering of the counterscarp.© Juan Antonio Sáez

The three forts have external auxiliary batteries. This type of fortification was intended to be occupied in times of war by the army operating in the entrenched camp (about 40,000 soldiers). The main purpose of the auxiliary batteries was to complement the artillery of the forts and to defend the surrounding area, which might lie outside the range of the internal artillery. They consisted of a low parapet (suitable for field guns) and for that reason they often had covering trenches for the soldiers manning the guns. The project for the Guadalupe Fort envisaged the building of four auxiliary batteries, but only one (the Calvary battery) was eventually constructed. St. Mark's has two (the Barrack Hut Battery and the Kutarro Battery) and Txoritokieta has one. In general they had a small area for housing troops and ammunition.

163. Auxiliary trenches of the Txoritokieta Fort:1 to 8:-Auxiliary trenches; 9-Auxiliary battery.© Juan Antonio Sáez
163. Auxiliary trenches of the Txoritokieta Fort:
1 to 8:
-Auxiliary trenches;
9-Auxiliary battery.© Juan Antonio Sáez

The ordnance of these forts varied down the years. St. Mark's Fort initially had fifteen-centimetre hooped iron cannon and 21-centimetre iron mortars. These guns were replaced in 1890 by 154-centimetre Tubed Iron Cannon (TICs) and by 21-centimetre bronze mortars. The Txoritokieta Fort was initially gunned by six fifteen-centimetre TICs.

During the unrest in Cuba and the Spanish American War of 1898, some of the guns from the two forts were removed. They were subsequently fitted out with guns on wheeled carriages, except for the guns used for coastal defence, which kept their fixed bases.

The Txoritokieta Fort was the first to be decommissioned and the army attempted to sell it in 1953. The others two were taken out of active service6 in the 1970s, and eventually became municipal property.

168. Panoramic view of the area around the Guadalupe Fort. The fort is on the left; to its right is the sanctuary of Guadalupe and on the extreme right stand Hondarribia and Hendaia.© Gorka Agirre
168. Panoramic view of the area around the Guadalupe Fort. The fort is on the left;
to its right is the sanctuary of Guadalupe and on the extreme right stand Hondarribia and Hendaia.© Gorka Agirre
169. Aerial photograph of the Guadalupe Fort.© Paisajes Españoles S.A.
169. Aerial photograph of the Guadalupe Fort.© Paisajes Españoles S.A.
170. Fort of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Upper floor:1-Gun emplacement in the blindage of the casemated battery (5 in total); 2-Casemated battery; 3-Courtyard; 4-Earthen mask protecting the casemated battery; 5-Parapet; 6-Fighting embankment where the gun platforms were arranged; 7-Circulation terreplein; 8-Traverse; 9-Circular emplacements; 10-Double caponier (3 in all); 11-Caponier (2 in all); 12-Fosse; 13-Diamond fosse; 14-Counterscarp stairs; 15-Outer incline bordered by a parapet and a fence; 16-Upper blindage of the artillery barracks; 17-Scarp railings; 18-Covered way with its rifle parapet; 19-L-shaped access ramp; 20-First gate; 21-Shell-burst protection; V) El Calvario Battery; X) Left-hand Work; A) Central Work; Z) Right-hand Work.© Juan Antonio Sáez
170. Fort of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Upper floor:
1-Gun emplacement in the blindage of the casemated battery (5 in total);
2-Casemated battery;
3-Courtyard;
4-Earthen mask protecting the casemated battery;
5-Parapet;
6-Fighting embankment where the gun platforms were arranged;
7-Circulation terreplein;
8-Traverse;
9-Circular emplacements;
10-Double caponier (3 in all);
11-Caponier (2 in all);
12-Fosse;
13-Diamond fosse;
14-Counterscarp stairs;
15-Outer incline bordered by a parapet and a fence;
16-Upper blindage of the artillery barracks;
17-Scarp railings;
18-Covered way with its rifle parapet;
19-L-shaped access ramp;
20-First gate;
21-Shell-burst protection;
V) El Calvario Battery;
X) Left-hand Work;
A) Central Work;
Z) Right-hand Work.© Juan Antonio Sáez
171. Fort of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Lower floor:1-Fosse; 2-Courtyard; 3-Infantry barracks (ground floor) and casemated battery (upper floor); 4-Scarp gallery section, joined structurally to the barracks and casemated battery; 5-Ammunition distribution stores; 6-Powder magazine and shell dump for the curved battery; 7-Curved battery; 8-Double caponier (3 in all); 9-Caponier (2 in all); 10-Artillery barracks; 11-Pavilions of artillery officers; 12-Ramp leading to the barbette battery; 13-Stairs leading from the communication terreplein to the courtyard of the central work; 14-Scarp gallery, formed by vaults at right angles to the scarp; 15-Double stairs linking the scarp gallery to the infantry barracks; 16-Postern between the main courtyard and the central work; 17-Corps de garde on either side of the postern; 18-Postern in ramp leading to the main courtyard of the left-hand work; 19-Counterscarp stairs linking the covered way to the sally gates; 20-Diamond fosse; 21-Covered way to the glacis; 22-Latrines; 23-Stores; 24-Governor's quarters; 25-Infantry officers' quarters; 26-Kitchens, latrines and stores; 27-Drawbridge. V) Location of the works; X) Left-hand Work; A) Central Work; Z) Right-hand Work.© Juan Antonio Sáez
171. Fort of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Lower floor:
1-Fosse;
2-Courtyard;
3-Infantry barracks (ground floor) and casemated battery (upper floor);
4-Scarp gallery section, joined structurally to the barracks and casemated battery;
5-Ammunition distribution stores;
6-Powder magazine and shell dump for the curved battery;
7-Curved battery;
8-Double caponier (3 in all);
9-Caponier (2 in all);
10-Artillery barracks;
11-Pavilions of artillery officers;
12-Ramp leading to the barbette battery;
13-Stairs leading from the communication terreplein to the courtyard of the central work;
14-Scarp gallery, formed by vaults at right angles to the scarp;
15-Double stairs linking the scarp gallery to the infantry barracks;
16-Postern between the main courtyard and the central work;
17-Corps de garde on either side of the postern;
18-Postern in ramp leading to the main courtyard of the left-hand work;
19-Counterscarp stairs linking the covered way to the sally gates;
20-Diamond fosse;
21-Covered way to the glacis;
22-Latrines;
23-Stores;
24-Governor's quarters;
25-Infantry officers' quarters;
26-Kitchens, latrines and stores;
27-Drawbridge. V) Location of the works;
X) Left-hand Work;
A) Central Work;
Z) Right-hand Work.© Juan Antonio Sáez
172. Cross-section of the left-hand work of the Fort of Our Lady of Guadalupe:1-Glacis; 2-Rifle parapet of the covered way; 3-Covered way; 4-Counterscarp; 5-N Double caponier; 6-Crenel of the scarp gallery; 7-Scarp, formed by the masking wall of the vaults of the scarp gallery; 8-Scarp gallery; 9-Buttress arch; 10-Half ring-shaped vault joining the vaults of the barracks at one end; 11-Gun emplacement in the blindage of the casemated battery; 12-Vault of the infantry barracks; 13-Casemate; 14-Air duct for the casemates; 15-Courtyard; 16-Postern linking the courtyard to other works; 17-Drain; 18-Service vaults (kitchen, latrines, washrooms, stores); 19-Gun emplacement-tunnel (according to the project, to be filled with earth when not in use).© Juan Antonio Sáez
172. Cross-section of the left-hand work of the Fort of Our Lady of Guadalupe:
1-Glacis;
2-Rifle parapet of the covered way;
3-Covered way;
4-Counterscarp;
5-N Double caponier;
6-Crenel of the scarp gallery;
7-Scarp, formed by the masking wall of the vaults of the scarp gallery;
8-Scarp gallery;
9-Buttress arch;
10-Half ring-shaped vault joining the vaults of the barracks at one end;
11-Gun emplacement in the blindage of the casemated battery;
12-Vault of the infantry barracks;
13-Casemate;
14-Air duct for the casemates;
15-Courtyard;
16-Postern linking the courtyard to other works;
17-Drain;
18-Service vaults (kitchen, latrines, washrooms, stores);
19-Gun emplacement-tunnel (according to the project, to be filled with earth when not in use).© Juan Antonio Sáez
175. Fosse of the Guadalupe Fort. Caponier© Gorka Agirre
175. Fosse of the Guadalupe Fort. Caponier© Gorka Agirre
173. Right-hand Work of the Guadalupe Fort. Ramp leading to the barbette battery.© Juan Antonio Sáez
173. Right-hand Work of the Guadalupe Fort. Ramp leading to the barbette battery.© Juan Antonio Sáez
174. Right-hand Work of the Guadalupe Fort. From left to right: fosse, barbette battery with a traverse, curved battery (partially below ground). Opposite it, separated by a narrow curved courtyard, is the artillery barracks and in the background, the barbette battery.© Gorka Agirre
174. Right-hand Work of the Guadalupe Fort. From left to right:
fosse, barbette battery with a traverse, curved battery (partially below ground). Opposite it, separated by a narrow curved courtyard, is the artillery barracks and in the background, the barbette battery.© Gorka Agirre
176. Traverse of the right-hand work of the Guadalupe Fort. Vaults for storing and protecting certain guns in peacetime.© Gorka Agirre
176. Traverse of the right-hand work of the Guadalupe Fort. Vaults for storing and protecting certain guns in peacetime.© Gorka Agirre
177. Guadalupe Fort. Courtyard of the Left-hand Work. Between two curiously-designed windows, the mouth of the postern gate leading to the fort.© Juan Antonio Sáez
177. Guadalupe Fort. Courtyard of the Left-hand Work. Between two curiously-designed windows, the mouth of the postern gate leading to the fort.© Juan Antonio Sáez
178. Central Work of the Guadalupe Fort. Four emplacements separated by three traverses fitted with shelters, spare parts and vaults for storing guns.© Gorka Agirre
178. Central Work of the Guadalupe Fort. Four emplacements separated by three traverses fitted with shelters, spare parts and vaults for storing guns.© Gorka Agirre
179. Barbette battery of the lower work of St. Mark's Fort. The four traverses can be seen.© Gorka Agirre
179. Barbette battery of the lower work of St. Mark's Fort. The four traverses can be seen.© Gorka Agirre
180. St. Mark's Fort. Auxiliary battery of Kutarro:1-Covering of the parapet; 2-Shelter-trench (4 in all); 3-Lower platform (alt. 207 m); 4-Access by ramp and trench to the lower platform; 5-Ammunition dump; 6-Barracks; 7-Insulating passageway of the barracks (1.5 m wide); 8-Upper platform (alt. 210 m); 9-Parapet; 10-Outer incline; 11-Ramp; 12-Intermediary platform (alt. 208.5 m).© Juan Antonio Sáez
180. St. Mark's Fort. Auxiliary battery of Kutarro:
1-Covering of the parapet;
2-Shelter-trench (4 in all);
3-Lower platform (alt. 207 m);
4-Access by ramp and trench to the lower platform;
5-Ammunition dump;
6-Barracks;
7-Insulating passageway of the barracks (1.5 m wide);
8-Upper platform (alt. 210 m);
9-Parapet;
10-Outer incline;
11-Ramp;
12-Intermediary platform (alt. 208.5 m).© Juan Antonio Sáez
181. St. Mark's Fort. Auxiliary battery of Los Barracones:1-Town boundaries of San Sebastian and Errenteria; 2-Access to St. Mark's Fort; 3-Fosse of St. Mark's Fort; 4-Parapet; 5-Covering of the parapet; 6-Ammunition dump; 7-Military road to St. Mark's from Pasaia-Antxo; 8-Rampart and service road; 9-Outer incline; 10-Shelter-trench; 11-Ramp; 12-Inner incline (the battery is sunken).© Juan Antonio Sáez
181. St. Mark's Fort. Auxiliary battery of Los Barracones:
1-Town boundaries of San Sebastian and Errenteria;
2-Access to St. Mark's Fort;
3-Fosse of St. Mark's Fort;
4-Parapet;
5-Covering of the parapet;
6-Ammunition dump;
7-Military road to St. Mark's from Pasaia-Antxo;
8-Rampart and service road;
9-Outer incline;
10-Shelter-trench;
11-Ramp;
12-Inner incline (the battery is sunken).© Juan Antonio Sáez
182. Txoritokieta Fort. Auxiliary battery:1-Earthen blindage on the side of the corps de garde (alt. 293 m); 2-Corps de garde; 3-Inclines; 4-Shell dump; 5-Powder magazine; 6-Service vault; 7-Access to the interior of the transverse; 8-Internal covering of the parapet; 9-Parapet (alt. 290.8 m); 10-Shelter-trench; 11-Incline; 12-Rampart (alt. 290 m); 13-Safety window.© Juan Antonio Sáez
182. Txoritokieta Fort. Auxiliary battery:
1-Earthen blindage on the side of the corps de garde (alt. 293 m);
2-Corps de garde;
3-Inclines;
4-Shell dump;
5-Powder magazine;
6-Service vault;
7-Access to the interior of the transverse;
8-Internal covering of the parapet;
9-Parapet (alt. 290.8 m);
10-Shelter-trench;
11-Incline;
12-Rampart (alt. 290 m);
13-Safety window.© Juan Antonio Sáez
183. During the civil war (1936) obsolete artillery was re-used. Here a 21-cm bronze howitzer is loaded by a group of Republican troops at the auxiliary battery of Los Barracones in St. Mark's Fort.
183. During the civil war (1936) obsolete artillery was re-used. Here a 21-cm bronze howitzer is loaded by a group of Republican troops at the auxiliary battery of Los Barracones in St. Mark's Fort.
184. Guadalupe Fort. Access between the fosse and the main courtyard of the left-hand work. Above it there is a small statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.© Gorka Agirre
184. Guadalupe Fort. Access between the fosse and the main courtyard of the left-hand work. Above it there is a small statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.© Gorka Agirre
185. Interior of one of the two tunnel-type gun emplacements in the north double caponier of the Guadalupe Fort© Juan Antonio Sáez
185. Interior of one of the two tunnel-type gun emplacements in the north double caponier of the Guadalupe Fort© Juan Antonio Sáez
186. North double caponier of the. Guadalupe Fort. The gun emplacement shown is in fact a tunnel hiding a gun emplacement for a fast-loading gun and two embrasures (Illustration. No. 185).© Gorka Agirre
186. North double caponier of the. Guadalupe Fort. The gun emplacement shown is in fact a tunnel hiding a gun emplacement for a fast-loading gun and two embrasures (Illustration. No. 185).© Gorka Agirre
187. Interior of the artillery barracks of the Right-hand Work of the Guadalupe Fort. The metal brackets supported a shelf above the beds where the soldiers slept.© Gorka Agirre
187. Interior of the artillery barracks of the Right-hand Work of the Guadalupe Fort. The metal brackets supported a shelf above the beds where the soldiers slept.© Gorka Agirre

1.- Forts of the Entrenched Camp of Oiartzun

No of guns*

Fort Alt. Maximum Safety contingent Garrison Observations
San Mark 271 27 19 250 Finished in 1888
Txoritokieta 310 7 6 60 Finished in 1890
Guadalupe 210 60 35 600 Finished in 1900
Erlaitz 508 20 16 311 Halted in 1892
Belitz 500 20 11 300 Preliminary project
Arkale 268 38 14 200 Preliminary project
St. Henry 547 6 6 60 Preliminary project (?)
San Martial 218 39 12 200 Preliminary project
Total   217 119 1.981  
Go to the link of note 1

*.- This figure does not take into account the artillery that could be housed in the auxiliary batteries or the small-bore artillery and machine guns for defending the fosses or the next defence post. Go to the asterisc

2.- The first two as one entered the fort were used as Corps de Garde: one for officials and the other for the regular troops. The third room housed the access to the mortar battery (up a ramp and stairs), followed by the stores where gunpowder, shells (both with their respective lifts), artillery tackle and victuals were kept. The eighth room was occupied by the officers' quarters. Go to the link of note 2

3.- It has five gun emplacements overlooking the sea (the rest are covered by the earthen blindage) and to the south there is a a curved battery for three mortars and three reserve gun emplacements. A 60-centimetre track was provided from the lift to facilitate transport of ammunition. Go to the link of note 3

4.- The barracks were only designed to house a third of the garrison, as it was estimated that at any given time during fighting, one third would be manning the artillery, another third would be involved with the ammunition and only one third would be resting. During peacetime the small detachment stationed to guard and upkeep the fortification fitted easily in the barracks. The officers and the governor of the fort had quarters of their own. Go to the link of note 4

5.- In order to keep the glacis clear and ensure that there were no elements behind which the enemy could take cover, up to three special areas were defined. For each one, there were a set of rules limiting building and even the planting of trees around the fort. Go to the link of note 5

6.- On occasions they were used as military prisons. They only saw action during the opening months of the Civil War in 1936. Go to the link of note 6

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