During a winter visit to Estonia, I and a fellow military enthusiast spent the day chasing the Estonian army on maneuvers. While we never caught up to them, we did come across this shore battery dating to the Tsarist era. It’s located near the village of Suurupi, overlooking the Gulf of Finland.
Built in 1916 when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire, it was one of a string of batteries protecting the approach to St. Petersburg. The bunker on top appears to be from a later period.
The emplacement we see here was for a 9.5-inch gun, part of a perimeter protecting the main battery of 14-inch guns. Further along the shore about 300 meters away was a searchlight for scanning the sea. It was located away from the batteries so that if it was targeted the guns would not be damaged.
Entering from the rear we found a chilly passage leading into the concrete base. It had filled with several inches of frozen water.
Or at least we thought it had frozen. Just as I took this photo we heard an ominous cracking sound. We hightailed it out of there before the ice shattered and plunged us into a cold bath.
Sadly we couldn’t find any historical photos of the Suurupi battery. This image 1917 shows a large 12-inch coastal gun positioned on Saaremaa Island at the entrance to the Gulf of Riga.
Here’s a smaller 6-inch Canet gun on the Russian side of the Russian/Estonian border. While this was not the type of gun they would have had at the Suurupi battery, it was a common gun along the Estonian shore. The bunker emplacement setup looks similar too.
While the Estonian army remained only a distant crackle of gunfire for me, my colleague was lucky enough to snap this photo of them on a different excursion. He says, “We were following the troops in the van. I like to think it was the sight of our tinted windows that forced them into a tactical retreat.”
The first four photos by Sean McLachlan. The rest are by or from the collection of Mart Virkus.
Sean McLachlan has written numerous books for Osprey and is the author of the novel A Fine Likeness, set in the American Civil War. You can read more about his travels in Estonia in the online series Exploring Estonia: The Northern Baltics in Wintertime.