Atlantikwall Raversyde (& its Indian connection) - Middelkerke, Belgium

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

It all started with museumPASSmusées, adding Atlantikwall Raversyde to its list. As a holder of museumPASSmusées, I was looking at its website to see what they're all about to plan my visit there, and the more I learned about it, the more it shocked me!!!

To begin with, why that strange spelling? Well, Atlantikwall is the German spelling of Atlantic Wall. The Atlantikwall was an ambitious project of the Axis parties (led by Germany) during WWII. The idea was to build an extensive wall from the north of Norway to the south of France along the seashore. This wall would be guarded to observe the movement of ships & submarines in the sea! It was an ambitious project and was never fully completed. 

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion


India was colonized by the British. WWII happened between 1939-44 which was when the Indian Independence struggle was at its peak, just before India gained its independence in 1947. Indians were fighting against the British everywhere in India to overthrow the British Raj. The atrocities committed by the British in India were too much and people had had enough.
However, at the same time, about 83000 Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army were deployed in various places across North Africa and Europe to fight in WWII. (Keep in mind that the functioning government at this time, was the British Raj, so anyone employed by the government was technically employed by the British and had to do what they were told to, unless they quit and became a revolutionary which was not possible for everyone, especially with larger families to feed).

The situation in India was quite at its boiling point at this time, thanks to the British loot & atrocities, and suppression of India for 200 years. The behavior of the British during WWII was the last straw. The induced famine the Bengal cost the lives of 3 million people (that's half the number of jews who died in concentration camps at the same time in Germany). A full-on non-cooperation on the civil side, led by Gandhi, and a full-on non-cooperation on the military side, led by Subhas Chandra Bose, finally brought the British atrocities in India to an end in 1947. Subhas Chandra Bose motivated the Indian soldiers in the British Army to not cooperate, and that's what happened at the Atlantic Wall!
Subhas Chandra Bose was one of the Indian Revolutionaries, fighting for India's freedom from the British Raj. He was the founder of the Indian National Army (not to be confused with the British Indian Army or the current Indian Armed Forces)! This Indian National Army was the unified armed forces that were brought together by Subhas Chandra Bose to fight against the British (while on the other side, under the leadership of Gandhiji, the Non-Cooperation Movement was also happening). In some way or the other, Indians were working towards overthrowing the British Raj in several ways. 
INA movement was scary enough for the British that they arrested Subhas Chandra Bose in 1939 as soon as the war started. He escaped & traveled to Germany to meet Adolf Hilter (because the enemy's enemy is a friend - Indian revolutionaries were fighting against the British in India and Hilter was fighting against the British in Europe).

Back again to the Indian soldiers fighting on behalf of Britain - During the battles in North Africa, the Germans were victorious and took all the Allied soldiers as Prisoners of War (PoW) which included a few thousand Indians! These Indian Prisoners of war were met by Subhas Chandra Bose in the German cells. Inspired by Subhas Chandra Bose and his efforts to overthrow British-Raj, thousands volunteered to be enrolled in INA! This wing of INA was called the 'Azad Hind Fauj', which means, 'Free India Legion'. 

Soon the Indian Legion soldiers were brought to Belgium and were stationed in Beverlo Camp (close to Hasselt. The camp was in today's Leopoldsburg and today it is a museum). They were split into 3 battalions. The first battalion was moved to Zandvoort (NL) and then to Bordeaux (FR). The 2nd battalion was moved to Texel Islands, the northernmost point of NL. The 3rd Battalion was moved to Oldebroek (NL). I'm hoping to visit Beverlo soon; if I do, I'll update it here. One of the major tasks entrusted to Indians was to guard the Atlantikwall!

Indians stood guard at the Atlantikwall in Texel (NL) and Bordeaux (FR), but I'm not sure if they did in Belgium, even though they reported first at Beverlo (BE). 
I don't know if I'll manage to visit the other places where Atlantikwall was intact. When I was on Texel Island, I didn't know about this part of history. I went across the bunkers without knowing that Indian soldiers stood guard there! I wish I could visit again. Let's see. For now, I'm in Atlantikwall Raversyde, the Belgian portion of Atlantikwall with no clue if Indians stood guard here! 

Now, imagine the situation - Axis and Allies were fighting each other; British & Germans were fighting each other; Indians didn't have to come into the scene at all, but thanks to Colonization, they were made to and we lost about a million lives, just in the war (in addition to the many millions lost in India due to the British atrocities)

Without colonization, without the Indian (& other colonial) troops, both WWI & WWII would have just remained a European war & wouldn't have become a World War! It is painful to think about this past, so painful. 

Much later, when the Germans lost the war, these soldiers of the Azad Hind Fauj were arrested by the British and were charged with treason!!! More than 7000 soldiers of INA were charged. The soldiers of officer rank & above were tried in the infamous INA Trials (aka Red Fort Trials) in 1946. Quite as you can expect, this triggered a major outrage in India, because, well, they were 'Indian' soldiers whose loyalty remains with India, and treason against our colonizer Britain was, kind of, a given! The trials' end never saw the light of the day and soon in 1947, India was free from British colonization. The officers of INA were given prominent roles in public life or politics or defense in the new, independent India!

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

P.S: Here's the trailer of the movie Raag Desh on YouTube that's based on the INA Trials (aka Red Fort Trials). However, I couldn't find the full movie anywhere. If you find it somewhere let me know, I'd love to watch it too. This movie is about Colonel Prem Sahgal, Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, and Major-General Shah Nawaz Khan who were arrested in the east (Burma, Malaya, etc) on whom the first trials happened.

I'm unsure of how many (or, if any) Indians died while fighting on behalf of the Germans in Azad Hind Fauj (though most were in non-combat duties). Here's the website of the German War Graves Commission: Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge. I tried to go through their website to find out if there's any Indian name, but I couldn't, so I emailed them and got no reply. 


Today, Atlantikwall Raversyde is a museum that encompasses the surviving parts of the wall and two surviving batteries. Quite amusingly, one of the 2 batteries was built during WWI. The Germans included it in their wall!
To begin with, as soon as you enter the museum, at the car-park itself, you'll see the map of the domain. Keep in mind that the domain and the museum itself are 2 different things. The domain is free of cost to visit and the museum (which has the remnants of the wall & batteries) is ticketed. First, we headed to the museum. 
The first room of the museum has some artefacts and that's where you get the audio guide. From there the route first leads to the 'House of Prince Charles, Count of Flanders'. He served as the regent of Belgium from 1944-50 soon after WWII (when his brother Leopold III was held up in controversies related to the war & more). His house is as it was including the furniture, fixtures, his uniform, books, paintings, etc. Next, we crossed 2 bunkers where some war-related short films were being projected on the wall. Soon, we were at the 'Checkered Green House' which had been a lighthouse and was later converted to their own beach-house by Prince Karel and Baron Goffinet. Today it houses the museum of the 2 batteries. Right here, the route splits into 2, each leading to the 2 different and we headed to the Aachen Battery of WWI first (blue route).
First of all, what is a battery in war? A battery means, a series of canons (or soldiers with guns or grenades or other artillery).

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

The first stop was the Eastern Observation Bunker which is submerged in the ground and there was a staircase that led into it. The first room inside the bunker has a display of radio, telescope, radar, etc. The next room gives a very good idea of the purpose of the Atlantikwall & Aachen Battery. The semi-submerged bunker room has a legend, visual signage depicting the outline of various submarines, on the wall. There are telescopes mounted here. There's a transparent, glass window on all sides with a panoramic view of the horizon. This would help the soldiers standing guard here to observe the sea, to look for enemy submarines (with the help of the visual guide), and alert authorities who would b0mb those! 
Back outside, along the walking path, along the sea, overseeing the beach, we spotted many of these canons still intact and some whose base and fixtures alone are present. There was also a telemeter here. Further ahead was the Western Observation Bunker and Air Raid Shelter. The last stop of the Blue Route was the Crew accommodation which is currently used to showcase movies/shows etc. Don't miss the historic water tap just opposite it! 
At this point, the circular Blue Route is back at the common point and we headed to the Saltzwedel-Neu Battery of WWII (Red Route).

A long underground tunnel connects to the Saltzwedel-Neu Battery. I took the above video in this tunnel. Soon, we were at the Saltzwedel-Neu Battery of WWII. Unlike the Aachen Battery, this was built during the construction of the Atlantikwall. 
The first stop here was a bunker as well, followed by a few more rooms that served as watch posts. Further ahead was the Commander's House, then were even more bunkers & even more canons. Towards the end of the Red Route were the soldiers' barracks and medical station. Luckily for us, we also got to see what the doctors & nurses would have looked like and worked like during WWII. 

Here's a thing to note: Normally, there's no one dressed up like in these photos. Such re-enactments happen during certain events. We went there during the Tasty Raversyde event when there were people dressed not only as soldiers, doctors, nurses, etc., but also, we got to taste what war-time food was like, and what the soldiers ate. 

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion
Pic Credit: Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

As you walk along either Blue Route or Red Route you'll spot many tunnels with a bat symbol on them. Just like the safeguarded bunkers & other places on Halle Batbike Route, here too, many of the tunnels that connect the bunkers are all, sealed off, to provide a safe, undisturbed home for the bats, as well as dormouse!

While the fortified part of the Atlantikwall & its bunkers & tunnels are preserved as a museum and has an entry ticket, the entire greenery around it, the woodlands, and the provincial domain part are free to enter. The map of the provincial domain is available at the car park. 
It is also possible to see portions of the Atlantikwall, some canons & some bunkers from the street along the sea (or tram). 

Of course, I went to Atlantikwall Raversyde with Atyudarini. There are quite a few interesting activities, especially for kids at Atlantikwall Raversyde, segregated by age. We tried 2 of those which were suitable for Atyudarini: 'Treasures to Fly' and 'Time Travel Quest'. In both cases, at the end of the treasure hunt, there's a little gift for the little ones. 
'Treasures to Fly' is a 'senses' based treasure hunt where the kids have to find clues along with the way and smell/feel it to find the right sticker to put on the right spot. This route includes both the Red Route & Blue Route. 
'Time Travel Quest' on the other hand, is a free-for-all, because it is outside, in the Provincial Domain of Atlantikwall Raversyde. You can find the map (activity booklet) at the car-park. As you walk along the route, through the wooded areas of the provincial domain, the kids have to find art installations with hidden alphabets and jot them down. 
Check out the other events on the official website of Atlantikwall Raversyde to see which quest or treasure hunt is more suitable for the age of your kids.

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion | Tasty Raversyde

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde Museum Tickets: €10 (included in museumPASSmusées)
It is possible to buy Atlantikwall Raversyde tickets online on their official website.
Atlantikwall Raversyde Provincial Domain Tickets: Free
Atlantikwall Raversyde Opening Season: Open only from March to November. Closed in Winter.
Atlantikwall Raversyde Opening Hours / Timings: 10:30AM to 06:00PM (till 05:00PM on weekdays).

Where is Atlantikwall Raversyde (on Google Maps)? Atlantikwall Raversyde 
How to reach Atlantikwall Raversyde: It is very easy to reach Atlantikwall Raversyde by public transport. The nearest tram stop is Raversijde Provinciedomein served by KT (Kust Tram (Coastal Tram)) of DeLijn.

Downloads/opens as a pdf: via Atlantikwall Raversyde official website
Below is the map of the provincial domain of Atlantikwall Raversyde:
Atlantikwall Raversyde | Azad Hind Fauj | Legion Freies Indien  Legion

Atlantikwall Raversyde Belgium Atlantikwall Raversyde Belgium


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. What an interesting place and one I had never heard of before. The fact that the personnel were dressed up in military uniform and were all around the site must have added a new dimension to what otherwise would have been an empty site. The sound of the wall going up from France to Norway is unbelievable, imagine if it had been completed, how awful. It is great that your daughter seemed to be enjoying herself while learning about such an important time in history and the part that India played in WW2.

  2. Hi Bhushavali, I enjoyed reading your article about the Atlantikwall Raversyde in Belgium. I was fascinated by the history and the architecture of the bunkers and the trenches. You have captured the details and the atmosphere very well with your photos and descriptions. It must have been a surreal experience to visit such a place.

  3. Hi Bhushavali, I enjoyed reading your article about the Atlantikwall Raversyde in Belgium. I was fascinated by the history and the architecture of the bunkers and the trenches. You have captured the details and the atmosphere very well with your photos and descriptions.

  4. Wow, I had no idea about this place nor the deep history. It's so nice that you went there during the period that had re-enactment and even got to eat some of the food! I think that really makes it come alive especially for the kids. The bat cellar instantly reminded me of batman, haha!

  5. What a fascinating project to build a wall from Norway through France. I can certainly see why the Atlantikwall Raversyde was never completed. Interesting for you to learn more about the history of Indian soldiers as it relates to Atlantikwall Raversyde. But sad to hear about the soldiers tried in the INA Trials. A museum and the remaining sections of the wall are a good way to learn more. I might stay away from the tunnels - especially ones with a bat symbol. Good to know there were some things to keep your daughter engaged.

  6. I never heard of this wall before but the history behind it is fascinating. It's sad to hear and think about the Indian soldiers that died here and it wasn't even their war. The museum looks so interesting and it's great that you visited when people were dressed in costumes. I'm sure it made the visit more interesting! Your daughter clearly enjoyed it too.

  7. Whilst we are thought about the World Wars during the history lessons in school, we are never told the extent of the things that happened and all the nations involved. We were never told about the Indian troops fighting in the WWII or how they got to Europe. I think that places like Atlantikwall are very important to share a light of truth to history. I had no idea that there was this idea of constructing a defense wall to connect Norway with the South of France. If I ever find myself in this part of Belgium, I will definitely visit Atlantikwall .

  8. I really learned a lot from your blogpost about the Atlantikwall Raversyde. Years ago I saw an exhibition by Annet van der Voort. She captured the Atlantikwall in her photos and created a dark, strange atmosphere. Afterwards I researched a few places to see remains of the Atlantikwall, but forgot about it. So, your blogpost brought this idea back into the travel plans. Thanks!

  9. That is an amazing piece of history that you have narrated. I for one, did not know of Atlantik wall. To learn why it was being built itself was an epic tale. Then comes the connection with the Azad Hind fauj and how the revolution took place here. Boils my blood to know about how they were punished in the INA trials. All said and done, definitely a place that I would like to see for myself.

  10. The tour of the Atlantikwall Raversyde and the preserved World War II bunkers was not only intriguing but also deeply moving. Learning about the major contributions of Indian soldiers during WWII in Belgium was both humbling and inspiring. I appreciate you sharing this important and sometimes forgotten chapter of history. It was also great to see your daughter's interest and participation throughout the tour.

  11. I definitely learned something new after your article. I had no idea about this place nor the history of the Indian soldiers in Europe. I am sorry for all the soldiers lost in the INA Trials. :(

    I am glad they established the museum as this is a great way learn more about history. Not to mention the activities that they have for the kids.


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