the success of our excursion to the Maginot Line
in June 2000 some of
us couldn’t wait to get back to Eastern France for further exploration and
discovery. Last year we took a mini-bus but with a smaller party this time
we headed for the channel tunnel in two cars, on 16th August. Those taking
part were Dan McKenzie, who again organised the excursion, Nick Catford,
Richard Challis, Tony Page, Robin Ware, Pete Walker, Mike Clarkson and Jason
Our destination was the ‘Gros Ouvrage de SOETRICH’
1.3 km north of the
village of Soetrich. As with many of the Maginot Line forts we were able to
drive virtually up to the front door along forest tracks and we quickly
found the munitions entrance. Earth had been mounded in front of the
entrance doorway by the French army to prevent access and although it was
still possible to get in by squeezing through a hole at the top of the mound
we decided to check the men’s entrance 250 meters to the north. This was
wide open and a quick look underground revealed an open lift shaft and the
stairway down alongside.
Our next fort was ‘Gros overage du MONT DES
WELCHES’ in woods between the
|It was now getting late in the day so we headed back to base via the Maginot
Line museum at Hackenburg. Although closed we were able took at the men’s
and munitions entrance and then drive up into the hills where we were able
to see some of the fighting blocks from the outside.
|Saturday started with a disappointment. The previous year we had visited MOLVANGE and found it locked and inaccessible but the condition of entrances to the Maginot Line forts are forever changing. We had heard that the men’s entrance was now open. This fort is over a mile drive along a dirt track and sure enough the entrance gate was open but beyond it an inner door that was well and truly locked. We moved on to ROCHONVILLIERS. This is a massive fortification, 2,500 metres in length with 9 fighting blocked. It was converted into a Nato bunker by sealing access to all the blocks and just using the tunnels below; it is still retained by the French army. We took a look at it last year and found security cameras and the French flag flying but nobody came out to greet us. On this occasion the flag had gone and although the cameras were still there the site looked derelict. Further investigation is needed here, if the bunker is now disused perhaps an official visit can be arranged.|
Our next fort was LATIREMONT 6km south of Longwy.
Both the men’s and
munitions entrance are alongside a farm road and are not, like the other
forts this weekend, hidden in woodland. This is another Gros Ouverage for 600
men, 1200 metres to the furthest point. Before we could go in another car turned up;
it was a Belgian explorer Raoul Goulard, a veteran of many forts along the
Maginot Line. He had not been able to gain access to Latiremont and was
delighted to join us.
By now it was late afternoon and we had planned to call it a day and finish
the weekend with a meal at a nearby restaurant (the previous nights we had
been to McDonalds). Raoul however had other ideas. He suggested we might
like to visit BREHAIN 12 km south east of Longwy in
the Bois du Luxembourg.
We followed him for three miles along a forestry road and eventually arrived at
the munitions entrance in a woodland clearing. we were able to gain
access through the munitions entrance.
We were glad to see the light of day or more accurately the stars of the night and
finally made it back to a kebab
take away at Thionville at 11 pm. after a very exhausting day.
Text by Nick Catford edited by Dan McKenzie