Gros ouvrage de Rochonvillers - 9 blocs - Located 8km N W of Thionville. Currently owned and patrolled by the Army.

Commandant: Guillemain Regiments: 169th RIF & 151th RAP Generators: Replaced in 1980's

Rochonvillers from the main gate

Munitions Entrance

Munitions Entrance with later blast wall

Munitions Entrance with Blast door

Mens Entrace Block

Mens Entrance with later blast wall

Mens Entrance and Me!

Looking into Mens Entrance

Mens Entrance Blast Door and Maginot Gate

Security Post just inside Mens Entrance

Inside Mens Entrance Block

Stairs - Lift to Mens Entrance

Bottom of Stairs - Lift to Mens Entrance

Top of Stairs - Lift to Mens Entrance

Corridor from Mens Entrance

HV Power room in Usine

Ventilation Plant in Usine

Plant in Usine

Generators in Usine

Generators in Usine

Control room in Usine

Plan of Fort

HV/LV Plant room in Usine

Modern Dormitary

Main Gallery Now closed off

Main Gallery and train

Junction of main Gallery

Canteen - Bar area in M1 Magazine

Breifing Room in M1 Magazine

Situation Board - Ops Room

Situation Board - Ops Room

Plan of the Fort showing the Extent of the Post war Use

For many of us the ‘star attraction’ for this year's Maginot Line excursion was the visit to the GROS OUVRAGE OF ROCHONVILLERS. This was retained by the army and converted during the 1980’s into a nuclear protected underground control centre, remaining operational until 1998. Visits to the bunker have always been declined in the past but one of Tony Kemp’s contacts, a Gendarme in Thionville was able to persuade the army at Metz that we should be allowed to visit and photograph the bunker. A lieutenant from the Metz Garrison arrived at the gate promptly at 2pm to let us in. The word had got out that the army had finally agreed to a visit and we were joined by a number of French enthusiasts from the local museums and associations who were also keen to see inside the fort.

When we first looked at the entrance block from outside the perimeter fence in 2000 the French flag was still flying and there were various cameras trained on us so we beat a hasty retreat. When we drove past two years later the flag had gone and the cameras looked as if they were no longer in use. Our army guide came into the bunker with us and stayed there throughout the two hour visit but we were able to wander round freely and photograph anything we saw. The French all stayed with our guide but the Brits soon split away from the main party; the Lieutenant later commented that he wished he had come with us!

We went in through the old mens’ entrance, which was rebuilt during the modernisation with a blast wall added in front of the entrance forming a covered entrance porch. Soil has been piled over the bare concrete of the block and the whole structure has been painted in camouflage colours. The munitions entrance has been modified in a similar way with a large blast door allowing vehicles to drive into the block. The mens’ entrance has a smaller blast door and just inside it there is a security post with a bank of TV monitors for the CCTV cameras and a large control panel. Beyond this a door on the right leads through an air lock into the decontamination area.

A new lift has been installed in the original shaft and the stairs around it have been renovated. The stairs are very damp and slippery, as are most of the floors throughout the bunker. Since the ventilation has been turned off the bunker has been deteriorating and will no doubt continue to do so unless a new owner can be found; the army is hoping to sell the bunker. At the bottom of the stairs the main corridor runs northwards into the bunker. The original narrow gauge tramway is still there but the overhead traction cables have been removed and tubular ventilation trunking now hangs from the ceiling. The first door on the left opens into the Usine. The original generators have been removed and replaced with four gleaming new Poyaud diesel generators with only 467 hours on the clock. Beyond these is the ventilation plant room, again the original plant has been stripped out and new fans and ventilation plant installed. Beyond this is the plant control room with its impressive operator’s panel. To the right is a long room with gleaming racks of electrical switchgear along both walls.

Back in the main corridor, the next turning on the left leads to the old magazines, these have been completely rebuilt as the hub of the bunker with numerous offices, a briefing room/lecture theatre with raked seats and a projector screen, numerous maps and situation boards on the walls. There is even a bar with two large murals on the walls, one of New York and the other of English phone box! Most of the rooms in this area are completely empty.

Back in the main corridor there is a door on the right which originally led to an emergency exit but plans on the wall show that a number of rooms have been excavated a short distance along the corridor. Unfortunately the door to this corridor was locked and we were unable to gain access. Beyond this corridor the tunnel swings sharply to the left into the caserne with the kitchen on the left and the dormitories to the right. The tiled kitchen areas consisting of four rooms have been stripped of all equipment although two rooms still have extractor hoods.

On the right are the dormitories and toilets. The original toilets and wash rooms have of course been modernised and all the original bunks have been removed and replaced with newer bunks of a similar design, many of these still remain in place. The tiled infirmary is also located in this area but this has also been completely stripped. Beyond the caserne there is a junction with the other main gallery back to the munitions entrance.

Turning right towards the fighting blocks one of the old stations ‘Gare D’ is soon reached. Here the tunnel widens to accommodate a passing loop on the railway and a number of trucks are still parked on the track at this point. As there is no locomotive it’s unclear if the tramway was actually used after the modernisation.

Beyond the station, just before the junction to Block 9, a wall has been built across the gallery. Although there is a door this has been welded shut and our guide explained that there was bad air beyond and the gallery and fighting blocks had been sealed off and in any case never formed part of the nuclear bunker. Returning to the mens entrance we noticed an original machine guns in one of the alcoves south of Gare D.