Poignant images show abandoned ruins from World War II

The lasting legacy of war: Poignant images show abandoned ruins from World War II that still scar the landscape

  • The fascinating images are from the book World War II Abandoned Places by author Michael Kerrigan 
  • It charts the abandoned structures from around the globe that are the lasting legacy of the huge conflict 
  • Images include pillboxes in the UK, Hitler’s military headquarters and the wreckage of a fighter plane 

The Second World War wreaked destruction across the globe, with almost 100 countries dragged into the maelstrom and nearly 70 million lives lost.

Today, 80 years after the war started, the evidence of it has faded – but there are still scars on the landscape.

From the jungle wreckage of a bomber in Papua New Guinea to a bombed-out mill in Volgograd in Russia and from a Thames Estuary fort to Hitler’s camouflaged ‘Wolf’s Lair’ bunkers in Poland, the book World War II Abandoned Places by Michael Kerrigan features more than 150 striking photographs of the conflict’s lasting legacy – abandoned structures that can be found all around the world, on coastlines, in forests and in the midst of rebuilt cities.  

Michael said: ‘Any ruin is atmospheric, representing as it does both the destructiveness of time and the endlessly reiterated presence of the past in the present moment. 

‘Where it is a past in whose shadow we still dwell, and whose violence is frequently recorded in the ruin itself, the deepest of emotions may be stirred.’

Scroll down to see MailOnline Travel’s pick of the fascinating images that appear in the book, with captions courtesy of the author…

Oradour-sur-Glane, Haute-Vienne, France 

In 1944, this village was the scene of a massacre by the Waffen-SS, in reprisal for the abduction of a German officer by Resistance fighters. More than 640 inhabitants were summoned to the village square. The men were machine-gunned in a nearby barn, the women and children were locked in the local church, before being burned to death inside. The sort of murderous spree that the Germans committed here may have been routine on the Eastern Front, but it broke with the comparatively civilized conventions so far followed in the West. The troops’ commander, SS Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann, was to have been disciplined, but was killed in action not long after. After the war, it was decided to leave the violated village as a monument to all those lost in France’s resistance against the occupation

Old Steam Mill, Volgograd (Stalingrad), Russia

Built in 1903, the Old Steam Mill was the only building in Stalingrad to survive the fighting. In the foreground, the statue is a recent replica, but this same group of children was dancing around this same crocodile in the centre of the city when the German assault began in September 1942. A scene from a fairytale fantasy by poet Korney Chukovsky, the sculpture came to emblematize the eternal endurance of innocence and hope

Gun emplacement, Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy, France 

The Germans built this battery on the Calvados coast as part of their ‘Atlantic Wall’ – and, when D-Day came, it did its job. Sited between the Allied landing beaches of Gold and Omaha, it withstood constant air and artillery bombardment while raining munitions down on the landing forces

Maunsell Fort, Thames Estuary 

Named after Guy Maunsell of the Royal Engineers, forts like this were to play a vital role in offering anti-aircraft cover for merchant vessels in those vulnerable hours as they approached port. Similar installations in the narrower mouth of the Mersey, outside Liverpool, proved a hazard to post-war shipping and were removed

Causeway to Cramond Island, Edinburgh

To the west of Edinburgh’s port of Leith, Cramond Island remained strategically important in commanding the approaches to the Forth Bridge and the Royal Dockyard at Rosyth. Gun emplacements on the island were reached at low tide by this causeway and submarines kept out by the boom of pylons to the right

Bunker, Huertgen Forest, Eifel, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany 

This bunker, hidden by thick forest, would have felt a lot less hospitable with the descent of winter. In the event, the advancing Americans reached this point in September 1944: not until that December did they succeed in pushing through

Japanese midget tank, Lelu Harbour, Kosrae Island, Micronesia 

Though the Japanese forces who occupied Kosrae threw up fortifications and dug a network of tunnels, the Allied enemy never actually landed here. That didn’t mean the island didn’t see action: air raids were frequent – and could be destructive, as this tank’s crew were to discover

Lockheed Ventura, Kimbe, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea 

The jungle steadily reclaims a Lockheed Ventura of the New Zealand Air Force. This aircraft crashed at Talasea Airfield when it suffered from engine failure in September 1944, following a bombing mission against Japanese shipping in Rabaul Harbour, New Britain

Observation Tower, Rehoboth Beach, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware

Standing on Rehoboth Beach, this is one of a number of observation towers built by the US military at the entrance to Delaware Bay. The nearby Fort Miles was completed in 1941 to protect the bay and was home to coastal batteries manned by more than 2,000 military personnel. The observation towers provided early warning for any potential Axis maritime activity

Lookout Tower, Malin Head, Republic of Ireland 

Irish neutrality during the war didn’t bring automatic peace and quiet. Here on Ireland’s northerly headland, Britain was secretly allowed to install surveillance equipment for its defence

Flak Tower G, Vienna, Austria (left) and Observation Post, Loch Ewe, Orkney Islands (right)

So enamoured were the Germans with the idea of the flak tower that they built three in Vienna; a further three in Berlin; a couple in Hamburg and others in Frankfurt and Stuttgart. The evidence suggests, however, that they’re more impressive as monuments than they ever were as protection against air raids. Pictured left is a tower in Vienna. Meanwhile, too remote for even an anxious War Office seriously to regard as a potential invasion site, Loch Ewe, pictured right, had to be carefully guarded nonetheless. From 1942, British, American and Canadian vessels assembled here before setting off in the Arctic convoys carrying vital supplies to Soviet Murmansk

Officers’ quarters, Wolf’s Lair, Poland 

Hitler’s military headquarters was staffed by a considerable pack of aides and officials. Anything up to 2,000 people worked in a complex of camouflaged bunkers and buildings that extended for several kilometres through the woods of Masuria, now northern Poland

Japanese anti-aircraft gun, Mission Hill, Wewak, Papua New Guinea (left) and tank traps, Lossiemouth II, Moray, Scotland (right)

The rainforest reclaims what was once a field of battle, left. On 10 May 1945, with hostilities in Europe already over, the Pacific War was raging on unchecked. Australia’s 2/4th Infantry Battalion fought hard to take this hill from its occupiers, troops of Japan’s 18th Army. There is a monument now, on the summit, high above. Meanwhile, mounting a defence against an unpredictable enemy involves endlessly elaborate calculation and second-guessing. An airfield opened on the Moray coast in northeast Scotland to protect the naval port of Lossiemouth had itself to be carefully protected against attack, as these concrete tank traps, pictured, right, testify

Lookout, Saaremaa Island, Estonia 

Believed to have been built by the Soviets as an observation post for a nearby battery (the surrounding trees have grown up since the war), this tower may have been deliberately designed to resemble one of the broken-down windmills with which this island still abounds. It was subsequently occupied by the Germans

Deserted village, Tyneham, Dorset

In 1943, this haunted hamlet was requisitioned for training troops. The D-Day Landings loomed, and Britain’s soldiers were going to have to find their way, under heavy fire, through similar villages across northern France

Pillbox at Cornelian Bay, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Being ready for anything meant preparing for everything – hence this mini-fortress on England’s far-flung northeastern coast. So-called for their distinctive shape, pillboxes were placed across Britain in their thousands. Hundreds remain, looming up out of nowhere alongside country roads or – like this one – blending slowly into the coastal scene

Tank traps, Hollerath, Eifel, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany 

Spring comes to the Siegfried Line fortifications outside Eifel village, not far from Hellenthal, near the Belgian border. These defences did hold back the Allied advance in 1944–5, but only to the extent of prolonging the inevitable. The Nazi order was rapidly unravelling by then

Pillbox interior, RAF Biggin Hill, Kent

A key Royal Air Force base protecting London during the war, fighters from Biggin Hill were responsible for shooting down more than 1,400 enemy aircraft

All images taken from the book World War II Abandoned Places by Michael Kerrigan (ISBN 978-1-78274-549-5) published by Amber Books Ltd and available from bookshops and online booksellers (RRP £19.99)

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