If you have had the opportunity to play on the new airfield map, you will probably have wondered about the strange fortifications which look like above-ground tunnels or hollowed-out hills. What are they for? Did our level designer just make these up or did they really exist during WWII? Let’s find out!
In the years leading up to WWII, British generals were expecting strategic bombers (bombers designed to destroy factories, airfields or cities rather than troops) to play an increasingly large role in warfare. Already before the hostilities began, Britain and Germany were engaged in an arms race, building more and more planes and airfields. However by 1940 Germany had gained a clear advantage, having captured France’s airfields. German bombers began crossing the Channel and bombing the hell out of British factories and air bases, crippling Britain’s capacity to retaliate. This is when it became clear that fighter planes were the best defense.
Of course fighter planes were much easier to destroy when they were still on the ground. To make them less vulnerable, the idea was conceived to distribute the aircraft randomly around the air base, rather than parking them in neat rows or clustered together in hangars. Enemy bombers would come flying in straight lines, so it would be harder for them to hit targets that were dispersed in an irregular pattern.
To shield the vital aircraft from bomb blasts and flying debris, blast walls were erected around the fighter pens. These are the above-ground “tunnels” you encounter in the Airfield map. One of the mission objectives is even hidden inside one of them. Because of their complex shape, the dispersal pens are a great place to play cat-and-mouse and lure your enemy into narrow passageways where you can mow them down with enfilade fire.
You can read more about the history of British air bases here.