Boden's secret places

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Boden Fortress, one of Sweden’s most significant military installations from the 20th century, reflects a fascinating part of the country’s defense history. Originally built to protect the country against potential threats from the east, the fortress has undergone many changes over the years and served as a vital part of Sweden’s defense strategy, especially during the First and Second World Wars.

Today, parts of Boden’s fortress have been transformed into historical attractions, open to the public. Visitors can explore some of the former secret sites and learn about the fortress’ unique architecture, its role in Sweden’s military history, and what life was like for the soldiers stationed there. There are guided tours that take visitors through the underground passages, bunkers and other fascinating parts of the Red Mountain Fort, providing a unique insight into a time when these sites were a top-secret part of the country’s defense. There are also gems you can visit on your own or with a guide.

Secret places to explore

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The history of Boden fortress

Boden Fortress is an important part of Sweden’s military history, especially for the period 1897-1945. After the Russian invasion of Sweden in 1809 and the loss of Finland, the threat to the northern parts of Sweden changed dramatically. Boden, located on the Lule River, became a strategic point for the defense of Norrland. In the 1880s, the importance of the region increased further with the discovery of iron ore in Gällivare and Kiruna, which led to the construction of railways and an increased military presence.

The defense of northern Sweden began to be planned in the 1880s, with a focus on delaying a potential Russian invasion long enough to organize a strong defense. Boden’s geographical location at the junction of the Lule River with the railroad from southern Sweden made it an ideal location for a fortress.

Construction of the Bodens Fortress began in 1901, with a focus on artillery defense. The fortress consisted of several forts and batteries, equipped with cannons and howitzers to stop the enemy at the Lule River. It also included infrastructure such as roads, railway tracks and accommodation for workers and military personnel.

Some key points:

  • Construction of the fortress began in 1901.

  • The workforce for the construction was about 1 200 men.

  • The perimeter of the fortress is about 25 km and consists of 1200 fortifications.

  • The function of the fortress was as a barrier, operational and supply fortress.

  • The fortress was manned by around 15,000 people during the Second World War.

  • Five large artillery forts and two intermediate works embedded in mountains around Boden.

  • Each fort had a crew of about 500.

  • Each fort has eight cannons.

  • In addition to the cannons, there were a number of mobile artillery divisions within the fortress.

  • The regiment’s barracks are still in use today.

  • In addition to the fortress itself, there were also a number of other features needed for war, which were also embedded in the mountains around Boden. For example, there was a battle management center and an air defense center.

  • Boden’s fortress also stored food for the soldiers and oats for horses for the needs of Upper Norrland.

First and second world wars

During the First World War, the units were mobilized and the fortress was further strengthened, focusing on protecting Norrbotten from possible attacks. Nevertheless, training time for the infantry decreased after the war, leading to reductions in the army and the defense budget.

In the 1920s, after the end of World War I, Sweden, like many other countries, went through a period of disarmament and military austerity. This affected Boden Fortress by reducing personnel and training times for conscripts. Despite this, the fortress continued to be maintained and modernized, albeit on a smaller scale.

The 1930s were characterized by an increase in international military build-up, which led to a renewed increase in defence preparedness in Sweden, particularly in view of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. During World War II, Boden Fortress played an important role in Sweden’s defense strategy, particularly as a potential rallying point in the event of a German attack from the north. It was a time of intensified military activity in and around Boden, with reinforcements of existing defense lines and the addition of new tank obstacles and other defense facilities.

Post-war period

After World War II, during the Cold War, the role of the fortress changed again. With the introduction of nuclear weapons and changing methods of warfare, the importance of traditional fortresses declined. During the 1950s and 1960s, maintenance and some modernization of the Boden Fortress continued, but its strategic value was no longer what it once was. This period also saw an increased emphasis on air defense and mobile warfare, which further reduced the importance of static defense facilities such as Boden Fortress.

By the 1970s, Boden Fortress had effectively lost its position as a central part of Sweden’s defense strategy. Although it was still part of military plans, it was no longer one of the main points of defense.

In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the focus shifted further towards more modern forms of defense, the fortress became increasingly obsolete and it lost its strategic importance. On January 1, 1998, the last fort was decommissioned from the war organization, and the area was decommissioned. Which means you can now visit Boden’s secret places.