Fort du Fermont is one of the larger bunkerareas of the Maginot Line. Visited this Fort
in december 2011. As ususal it was cold.
The Maginot Line , named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defenses, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I, and in the run-up to World War II. Generally the term describes only the defenses facing Germany, while the term Alpine Line is used for the Franco-Italian defenses.
The French established the fortification to provide time for their army to mobilise in the event of attack, allowing French forces to move into Belgium for a decisive confrontation with German forces. The success of static, defensive combat in World War I was a key influence on French thinking. Military experts extolled the Maginot Line as a work of genius, believing it would prevent any further invasions from the east (notably, from Germany )
While the fortification system successfully prevented a direct attack, it was strategically ineffective, as the Germans invaded through Belgium, defeating the French army. Germany Flanked the Maginot Line, through the Ardennes forest and via the Low countries, completely sweeping by the line and conquering France in about 6 weeks. As such, reference to the Maginot Line is used to recall a strategy or object that people hope will prove effective but instead fails miserably. It is also the best known symbol of the adage that “generals always fight the last war, especially if they have won it”.
The Maginot Line was impervious to most forms of attack, and had state-of-the-art living conditions for garrisoned troops, including air conditioning, comfortable eating areas and underground railways. However, it proved costly to keep, consumed a vast amount of money and subsequently led to other parts of the French Armed Forces being underfunded.
First we visited a smaller bunker section, Its named Ouvrage Bois-du-Four its a lesser work (petit ouvrage) in the Fortified Sector of the Crusnes of the Maginot Line. The ouvrage consists of a single large combat block without an underground gallery system, and is located between petit ouvrage Mauvais-Bois and gros ouvrage Bréhain.
The field of view in front of this bunker is huge. And one can understand why they picked this position.
This large single block was arranged on two levels with a remarkably heavy armament. The proposed gros ouvrage would have been one of the most heavily armed artillery positions in the Line.
This Bunker had a combined infantry/artillery/entrance block with three automatic rifle cloches (GFM), one observation cloche (VDP) and one machine gun turret, as well as seven light machine guns, two heavy twin machine guns, three machine gun/47 mm anti-tank guns (JM/AC47), all in embrasures, and two 81mm mortars on the lower level. This block would have been the most northerly of the fully constructed ensemble.
Fort de Fermont is one of the larger underground fortresses on the Maginot Line. Around 30 m deep, it withstood three days of heavy bombardment in 1940. We had a guided tour in 2011. With an old elevator we went down the 30 m and the electric former ammotrolley transported us from one subterranean army block to another.
The complex is huge and we drove a while to other bunker areas. They where equipped with areas for the soldiers to eat,sleep and off course the actual bunker areas.
The bunkers had all kind of weapons like mortars, heavy artiller guns and pillboxes
which could move up and down. These bunkers had some sort of big ditch in front of
them. These mortars where fired rom the ditch. These ditches are covered by machineguns.
All these seperated bunker needed ammo. This was distributed by the mentioned ammotrain. The bunker had huge specially dsigned ammo storages. Which where designed that in case of an accident the the blast of the explosion would be pushed outside instead of further into the bunker complex.
At the opening of the Battle of France in May 1940 Fermont exchanged gunfire with the Wehrmacht. On 11 May Fermont’s 75mm turret opened fire on the German 17th Infantry Division. On the 13th, Fermont provided covering fire for French forces retreating from Longwy, which was between the Maginot Line and the German border and was therefore regarded as indefensible against a determined attack. In late May and early June the German attack was focused farther to the west, eventually breaking out behind the Line. From June 15 to June 20, 1940, Fermont helped to repel attacks on the neighboring ouvrage Ferme Chappy, as well as firing to the north. On June 17, German artillery of the 183rd Infantry Division opened fire on the rear of Block 4 with 88mm guns. By chance, the firing stopped after the last shot had weakened the concrete to the point that another shot would have pierced it. The breach was repaired that night. The 161st Infantry Division under General Wilck then attacked Fermont and Latiremont on June 21 with 210mm and 305mm siege mortars, 105mm guns and 88mm high-velocity guns, causing a single death when a round penetrated a mortar cloche at Block 5.[nb 2] A cease-fire negotiated later in the day permitted the Germans to recover their 80 wounded. Firing continued until the armistice =of 25 June, but no further assault was launched by the Germans. Fermont’s garrison surrendered to the Germans on 27 June after negotiations with German forces that were undertaken by Commandant Pophillat of Latiremont.
It was a great guided visit. But it showed that close to WorldWar 2 the French idea of
a huge defenseline and static warfare like WW1 was catched up by the Blitzkrieg.
The line became a military liability when the Germans attacked France in the spring of 1940 using blitzkrieg – a tactic that completely emasculated the Maginot Line’s purpose.