Underground Fortress „C-42 Fratelli Croce”

Bokanjac, Zadar, Zadar County, Croatia
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Year of build:
Original name:
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Past and Present Ownership of the Building/Site:

Past: Italian army; Present: City of Zadar

Typology and Style

Underground military fort.

Degree of preservation and status of protection

The fort is in very solid condition The original Italian inscriptions are preserved as well as the name of the fort and white color of the walls. Inside, there are still original doors between some rooms, and the space is not filled with garbage. During the socialist Yugoslavia, two steel cupolas (No. 1 and No. 4) were taken out and two entrances (A and D) were buried. The fort is not under any protection.

Architectural Description

The exact time of construction of the fort is not known, but construction probably began in the late 1930s under Circular no. 200. However, it was not completed by August 1940 because it is not on the Italian military map from that time. With its four cupolas, it covered the valley between the hill on which the village of Bokanjac is located and elevation 114 Čubrijan. The fort was constructed by the method of surface excavation in such a way that the interior of the fort is covered with metal beams and those watered with concrete and covered with 4-5 m of stone and earth. It had four combat positions, that is, steel cupolas Mod. 3 weighing 10 tons. The walls of the cupolas are 80 mm thick and are made of steel cast. The body of the cupolas was cast in one piece with the access shaft on the bottom (the cupolas were made in the Ilva steel mill in Genoa). The cupolas were fixed to the concrete foundation by steel screws and then poured to the level of the loopholes with concrete for greater protection. Every cupola had four protruding embrasures with protruding 320 kg ball-shaped steel shields, each providing a 100 ° field of fire. Two FIAT Mod 14/35 caliber 8 mm machine guns could be used in one cupola in opposed loopholes. Loopholes that were not occupied by a weapon could be closed by turning the sphere 90 °. The interior of the fort consisted of two large crew accommodation rooms (Dormitorio Truppa) to which four access corridors (Uscita A, B, C and D) led from the surface. One access corridor (Uscita D) at the same time was the corridor to combat positions (Postazioni N. 3 i 4). From accommodation rooms, long corridors led to the combat positions (Postazioni N. 1, 2, 3 and 4). For the crew, the fort had sanitary facility with two squats (Latrina), one tank with water (Serbatoio Aqua) and a food storage room. In another separate room was manually operated air purifier (Aereatore).

History and Historical Context

With the end of the First World War and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Zadar belonged to the Kingdom of Italy. However, encircled with the territory of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Zadar represented the enclave on the eastern Adriatic coast. Learned from the end of the war and growing mistrust, all European countries began defining borders and building bunkers. Italy starts off construction of the fortifications in 1931, shortly after the issuance of circular no. 200. Zadar gained particular importance as an enclave in addition to the defensive functions it also served as a springboard for new conquests.

The fort was used by the Italian Army during the short so-called April war (attack of the Axis powers on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 6th April 1941 to 17th April 1941) and probably by the German Army in the years 1943 - 1944. During the Homeland War in Croatia 1991-1995, it was intensively used by the Croatian Army.

Values of the Building

The fort is very valuable as a monument of military architecture and unique example of a fort embedded in a local cemetery. There is historical and architectural value as part of the Italian fortification ring that developed around Zadar in the period between the two world wars.

Description of the Urban Context and Development

Apart from the fact that the fort itself is interesting because of its long corridors deep underground, its geographical location gives it a special charm. The most fascinating fact is that the fort is located in the area of the old and new part of the civilian cemetery in the suburban settlement of Bokanjac and the cemetery of German prisoners of war who were buried there in the period 1944-1947. The two existing entrances are located between civilian tombs. German soldiers are buried above two underground rooms to accommodate the crew. Near the fort before and during the Second World War, there were military barracks in which Italian and German soldiers were housed, and later captured German soldiers. The special charm of this fort is given by the beautiful view of the Zadar hinterland, mountain Velebit and the suburban settlement of Bokanjac, which was once a village outside the city.

New Cultural Tourist Offer Focused on Selected Building/Site

Although the fort has currently no function, there is great potential for revitalization, mainly because it is in good condition and there is the possibility of easy access and accommodation of even larger passenger vehicles. The whole area is also interesting because of the old civilian cemetery and the cemetery of captured German soldiers. From the hill, on which the fortress is located, there is a beautiful view of the fertile fields and almost the entire Zadar hinterland, as well as the mountain Velebit and the Adriatic sea.