Off the Beaten Path

A Journey Into the Woods

welches
Men's Entrance - Mont des Welches

I have recently found a great group of guys who share my fondness for the tunnels - Subterranea Brittanica. We've taken a couple of trips in the last couple of years to the Alps and to the Metz/Thionville area. We are created from the same piece of cloth, in that we are explorers and military archaeologists.

For those other amateur "bunker archeologists" who like to explore on their own, this page will guide you to the rest of the Maginot Line fortifications. Some people find this the most rewarding way to study military archeology. For one, there is no entrance fee. Second, you may take as much time as you like to explore (provided your flashlight doesn't run out of power). And finally, you may go wherever you wish. (How many of you, while on a guided tour, have tried to get a peek down the side corridor, or wonder what was down the dark passage or behind the closed door). But there are of course inherent risks.

Remember that these fortifications are approaching 70 years of age. While they will probably be here for centuries, many of their components have deteriorated. Stairway railings have rusted away, and concrete steps are crumbling. Many of the casemates sustained damage during the war and are unsafe. Many others are flooded, a particular danger when the light is poor. (My brother and I were exploring Mont des Welches. In one of the galleries the water was up over the soles of our shoes, so it looked safe, but there was a pit in the generator room filled with sharp metal, and underneath the elevator shafts. You could not see it, but if you had fallen in, the water would be over your head!). Make sure you take backup lighting and I would also recommend a helmet. Most of my sub-brit friends had one and it can come in handy. We recommend PETZL lighting.

Finally. I do not know the status of each fortification. I know that some of them still belong to the army. Others are on private property. Still others are abandoned altogether. (Many were bought up in the early 1970s and later to be used for the salvage of scrap metal). So there is a possibility that, if you don't know whose property you are on, you could be arrested. The best practice, if you don't want to take the chance, is to inquire at the town hall of the nearest village or town. They should be able to tell you who the owner is - give them the courtesy of a call first.

Therefore, be cautious, and never explore alone.

Here is the Maginot Line in the north, from Northwest to Southeast I would like to thank Patrice Lang, Martin Rupp, Caspar Vermuelen, and especially Johan Gieske who has provided me up-to-the-minutes reports and photos, for their contributions. NOTE: I am working on a downloadable version of this page with much more information.

Dunkirk to Valenciennes - SD/F Flandres and SD/F Lille

You can find Maginot Line blockhouses within a few feet of the English Channel at Dunkirk. There are perhaps hundreds of blockhouses casemates all along the border of Belgium. One of the most interesting areas, and, had the French had the time and money, probably one of the most promising were the Mont des Cats (between Godewaersvelde and Boeschepe) and the Mont Noir (north of St. Jans Cappel). Both of these hills rise perhaps 150 to 160 meters in heighth. They would have been an excellent fortified position and, with the right artillery, could have severely affected Rommel's advance to Dunkirk. However, it was not to be.

Fortified Sector Escaut

The best place to start here is the Fort de Maulde, a Sere de Rivieres, polygonal fort containing 2 STG casemates for 75mm guns. Just to the south of the fort is a 155mm gun in casemate - unique to the Maginot Line. You should be able to visit Maulde since it is abandoned.

Running from St. Amand to Vieux-Conde is the position of the Foret de Raismes. These are CORF casemates, meaning they were funded with the initial funding and built along with the first ouvrages. Later casemates were built by the STG or CEZF and were weaker versions. Start on D169 south of St-Amand-les-Eaux at the Maison du Parc and you should find the Casemate Notre Dame d'Amour (may be open for visits - contact Jean Lorthioir - 03 27 48 18 67). Follow the road the Mont des Bruyeres then on D954 past Cubray heading East. If you skirt the edge of the forest you should find the other casemates (12 total).

Petit Ouvrage d'Eth - 2 blocs - Located 1km North of the village of Wargnies-le-Grand on N2, just north of la Grisoelle. In very poor condition. On PRIVATE PROPERTY. Contact the Mairie at Wargnies-le-Grand to inquire.

Fortified Sector of Maubeuge

The SF Maubeuge is a little-known sector but one that still merits a visit. You might say that it was "pounded into submission" by the Germans in May 1940. From the look of the blocs, you will see why.

Below the village of Bavay is the Foret de Mormal. The CORF constructed 13 casemates here, just like at Raismes. They are at the northern end of the forest between Gommegnies and Aymeries.

Petit Ouvrage Les Sarts - 2 blocs - Located in the old Fort des Sarts, built in 1878. North of Maubeuge on N2, just north of la Grisoelle. In very poor condition. All metal removed by salvagers. Totally abandoned - contact the mairie of Mairieux.

Petit Ouvrage de Bersillies - 2 blocs - Located east of N2, on D228, just north of the town of Bersillies. Sits atop the superstructure of a small postion of the same name built in 1891-1893. Owned by the community of Bersillies. Contact the mairie.

Petit Ouvrage de La Salmagne - 2 blocs - Exact location unknown. Probably on D28 between Elesmes and Vieux Reng. Modernized version of a fort built before 1914. Owned by the association AMIFORT and can be visited with their permission. Great group of gentlemen - contact the mairie of Vieux-Reng for their information or try the following: Amifort Maubeuge Téléphone - 03.27.67.18.97 - marcel.caty@free.fr

Petit Ouvrage du Boussois - 3 blocs - Located northeast of the town of Boussois (just off N49, about 5km east of Maubeuge - road not marked). Built on top of Fort Boussois (1880). All metal removed, staircases have been blocked. Very overgrown. Abandoned.

Fortified Sector of Montmedy

Petit Ouvrage de La Ferte - Go to Finding the Line.

Gros Ouvrage du Chesnois - 6 blocs - Located on the hill north of N43 between Montlibert and Thonne-le-Thil (about 7km north of Montmedy). The entrance block (Bloc 7) is located in the Bois de Sourcillon Fontaine, SE of Montlibert. The mixed entry has been walled up with cinder block and the combat blocs are covered with thick brush. The 75mm turret of bloc 5 has been removed. Quoted by a Thionville local as "the most dangerous abandoned ouvrage. Very poor condition - abandoned.

Petit Ouvrage de Thonnelle - 4 blocs - Located North of the Bois le Sart due East of Thonelle, 1km SE of the D110.Bloc 4 contains the only remaining turret weapon in this sector. The rest is covered with brush. Flooded, bad condition inside, stair rails gone, blocs lost in the vegetation, abandoned.

Gros Ouvrage de Velosnes - 5 blocs - Blocs are located on Hill 307 above Velosnes. Go E on D118 - 700m outside Velosnes, turn right on the small road toward the cemetery. The blocs are on the right, the entry is behind the hill. Turn right at the junction. The entry is on a curve in the road before descending to the village of Othe. The mixed entrance bloc has been bricked up. The ouvrage is abandoned and part of the gallery is blocked to prevent access to some leftover munitions (may be a myth). The ouvrage contains some frescoes.

The Second Line - There is a second defensive line located several kilometers back from the main line, the Barrage de Meuse, and the Bretelle Pierrepont-Mangiennes, and the Meuse Front 2nd Line. The Barrage de la Meuse contains 14 CEZF (Committe d'Etudes des Zones Fortifiees) Casemates and runs between Dun S/Meuse and Stenay. The CEZF casemates are latecomers, built after October 1939. They are STG-type casemates built on a second defensive line that never received their metal components. The line on the left wing of the Meuse consists of 7 casemates. They are located around Beauclair off of D947 and D30 and NE of Halles-sous-les-Cotes on the ridge. I didn't see any in the area but it's a beautiful landscape. The right flank casemates are located along D102 above Lion-devant-Dun, and continue on the D195. The only casemate I found was just past the junction of D195 and D102 above Brandeville, in a field. The Bretelle de Pierrepont-Mangiennes consists of 12 CEZF casemates stretched between the two villages of that name. The Front de la Meuse consists of 11 CEZF casemates E and W of the Canal des Ardennes from Signy L'Abbaye to Stonne.

Fortified Sector of Crusnes

Petit Ouvrage du Chappy - 2 blocs - Located about 1 km east of Longuyon, first right off of D17a towards "Chappy." Today it is privately owned, not much inside. Contact the property owner to visit - do not wander on your own here.

Gros Ouvrage du Fermont - See Finding the Line

Gros Ouvrage de Latiremont - 8 blocs - Located in the Bois de Latiremont. Easiest access would appear to be off D18a just out of Beuville (south of Fermont) towards Doncourt-les-Longuyon. Turn on road which runs north and west of Doncourt Cites, along the woods, then road turns back east - look for the entrances to the left, probably the only ouvrage where you can see both entrances at the same time. The combat blocs are in the Bois de Latiremont to the Northwest. Currently abandoned.

Petit Ouvrage du Mauvais Bois - 3 blocs - Down the military road running N of D125a about 2km E of Laix and Villers-la-Montagne, in the Mauvais Bois. Privately owned; metal salvaged. In poor condition, stairways very dangerous. Owner frowns on visit without permission - call 03 82 44 01 97.

Petit Ouvrage du Bois du Four - See Finding the Line

Gros Ouvrage du Brehain - 10 blocs - Located in the Bois du Luxembourg. Entrances are located southwest of N52, about 1km from village of Crusnes. Combat blocs are located north of N52 between Brehain la Cour and N521 exit off of N52. Still owned by the Army See Dan McKenzie's visit description at Bunkertours.

Petit Ouvrage d'Aumetz - 3 blocs - 500m E of the railroad above where N52 crosses the RR. Appears that only small forest roads lead to the fort. Mostly scrapped, metal removed, covered up. Not much to see.

Fortified Sector of Thionville

Gros Ouvrage de Rochonvillers - 11 blocs - Located north of the town of Angevillers towards the military camp (abandoned), behind the camp is the entrance. The gate to the EM area is closed and locked. The combat blocs are close to D59b 1.5km N of Angevillers. Bloc 9 is 2.5km N of Angevillers on the left of the D58. Converted to a NATO installation in the 1950s. Used by the army until four years ago, now abandoned but access limited. For more information, visit www.bunkertours.com and view May 2003 Trip Report. Hitler's Anlage Brunhilde bunker is located above the Munitions Entrance.

Gros Ouvrage de Molvange - 9 blocs - Located on the same road as Rochonvillers. Continue along the ridge on the forest road, turn left at the fork (the right takes you on top). Molvange is still owned by the army and sometimes patrolled.

Petit Ouvrage du Immerhof - See Finding the Line

Gros Ouvrage de Soetrich - 8 blocs - The road to the entrance is off the N53 across from the Northern access to the village of Soetrich. Look for the water tower and the soccer field. The EM is about 800m from the football field. Abandoned - lost in the woods. The entrances have been covered over by the army to prevent accidents. Can still be accessed.

Gros Ouvrage du Kobenbusch - 9 blocs - Located in the Cattenom Forest. Take D56 towards Cattenom. Just before the nuclear plant on the right and the lake on the left, turn down the forest road. The ouvrage is about 1km down on the left. It is owned by the EDF and the local nuclear plant. The fort is flooded and the lower levels are blocked off. It is possible to see the EM, cleaned up in recent years by the Association of the Bois de Cattenom. You can also visit the combat blocs in the woods to the North.

Petit Ouvrage d'Oberheide - Single bloc monolith - Continue along the forest road, take first left, then first right. Oberheide is at the end of the forest road. Privately owned. I have heard that this may be in the process of restoration. Contact Ouvrage Galgenberg for information

Gros Ouvrage du Galgenberg - See Finding the Line.

Petit Ouvrage du Sentzich - See Finding the Line.

Gros Ouvrage du Metrich - 12 blocs - Southeast of Koenigsmaker. Take D2 south toward Buding to the Cite des Officiers, 2.5km, and make the first left behind the homes and up the hill to the North. See the U.S. Army's "The Lorraine Campaign" in their World War II series for a good description of the American fighting on this ridge towards Hackenberg. Metrich's entrances are covered over but accessible. See www.bunkertours.com for more information and photos.

Gros Ouvrage du Billig - 8 blocs - Continue down D 2, turn left onto D255b. Turn left into the forest road just past the village of Briestroff la Petite. This will take you to the entrance bloc. Billig is sometimes open and accessible. If you continue on D255b you will see some of the combat blocs in the woods at the crest of the hill.

Fortified Sector of Boulay

Gros Ouvrage du Hackenberg - See Finding the Line.

Petit Ouvrage de Coucou - 2 blocs (plus the shelter of Coucou, which is located in the same area). Located where D60a (which comes from Monneren) curves into the village of Kemplich. There is a hill right by the curve. The ouvrage and shelter are on the hill. The entry is on the back of the hill. Coucou is privately owned. Call 03 24 52 71 66 to arrange a visit.

Gros Ouvrage du Mont des Welches - 7 blocs - Located half way between Kemplich and Dahlstein, along D118n. You can't miss the hill sticking up on the east side of the road. A forest road, which becomes narrower and more overgrown, takes you right to the munitions entrance. This ouvrage was spectacular to visit. It was wide open when I last visited. Follow the main gallery from the munitions entrance and take the first branch to the left to bloc 4. It is very unique and you can climb outside to take a look at it. It is two story, with 1 75mm turret on the top floor, and two 81mm mortar embrasures in the lower floor. The rest of the fort is very interesting. There is a very unique staircase leading to bloc 5.

Gros Ouvrage du Michelsberg - See Finding the Line.

Petit Ouvrage du Hobling - 4 blocs - Turn right off D918, just before Chemery-les-Deux onto D118j towards Hobling. Go straight past the village, which will be to your left. The road leads into the woods. At the clearing, you will see some cupolas to your right. In the clearing across from the cupolas you will see what is left of Hobling. This is an example of a fort which was destroyed by the metal salvagers. The cupolas are chopped off and the machine gun turret of bloc 3 has been removed, leaving a gaping hole in the field. You can gain entrance in bloc 2, if you can get across the ditch, and through the escape door of bloc 1. Continue down the road and about 2km further down, just beyond the railroad overpass, is an interval shelter. You can explore the shelter.

Petit Ouvrage de Bousse - See Finding the Line.

Gros Ouvrage d'Anzeling - 9 blocs - A very unique structure, located south of D3 between Hestroff and Anzeling. The entrance blocs are located off of D53 southeast of Bockange. In the center of the ridge is bloc 9, which is situated far to the rear of the main combat blocs, which are in the woods further north, along the ridge. According to "legend," someone was asphyxiated in Anzeling by lighting a fire inside. The munitions M1 area is now used as a shooting range by the Gendarmes. Ask before you go near.

Petit Ouvrage de Behrenbach - 3 blocs, not connected. This is actually 3 separate blocs. The stairwells were cut, but the steps only go down about 2 flights, then they end. The stairwell is covered over with wood and was never finished and is extremely dangerous. It is in very bad condition. It is more of "coupled casemate" than an ouvrage, although it received that designation.

Petit Ouvrage de Bovenberg - 6 blocs (bloc 3 not connected). Located east of D154E, parallel to the village of Eblange. Take the first left along the woods and you can see some of the casemates on the ridge to the left. One of them has a chalet built on top of it.

Petit Ouvrage du Denting - 3 blocs - Exact location unknown, but I suspect it is off of the road between D954 and the village of Denting on the left, going toward Denting on Hill 295. Abandoned.

Coume - There are four ouvrages located around the village of Coume which is on D72; Village de Coume (3 blocs - on the left before entering Coume); Annexe Nord (Single bloc, south of Coume); Coume (Single bloc - south of Annexe Nord); Annexe Sud (4 blocs - also south of Coume). The last are located on the road which leads from Coume (first right past the village, before the cemetery) to Bisten-en-Lorraine. All are open.

Petit Ouvrage de Mottemberg - 3 blocs - Located behind a barbed wire fence on what appears to be a farm, along D25 just outside and northwest of Boucheporn. Mottemberg belongs to a scrap metal dealer who has destroyed it completely. Even the steel railings in the stairwells have been removed. Blocks 2 and 3 are in ruins.

Fortified Sector of Faulquemont

Petit Ouvrage du Kerfent - 4 blocs - Located at the end of the forest road in the center of the town of Zimming, which is between Autoroute A4 and N3, in the Bois de Kerfent (east of the village). There are some photographs of Kerfent taken in June 1940 after the German occupation, in the book "On A Livre La Ligne Maginot" by Roger Bruge. I ventured into Kerfent. The entrance is at the end of the forest road. This ouvrage is flooded. The depth at the foot of the staircase is to the top of the shoes - it gets deeper as you work your way to the principal gallery, and is very dangerous. You can get a good idea of the damage done by the German 88mm anti-aircraft guns on bloc 2 of this fort. I have learned that the entrance in block 2 is now closed up, but that access can be gained through the emergency exit of block 1.

Petit Ouvrage du Bambesch - See Finding the Line.

Petit Ouvrage D'Einseling - Single bloc - Located on the Einselingerberg to the east of the town of Bambiderstroff. Heading south on D74 through Bambiderstroff, take a left at the exit to the village, just past the church and cemetery (which is on the left), before D74 curves 90 degrees to the right. You may have to park along this road about half way down (1 km) and walk to the north throug the fields to the ridge. Further down the road you will cross over D910 where the road turns into D110d towards Teting. Just past the intersection are some interesting casemates off to the left - the Casemates des Quatre Vents. Just beyond the casemates and under the electrical pylons, take the first road to the left. Currently being restored by an association. I don't know who to contact.

Petit Ouvrage du Laudrefang - 5 blocs - This should be found at the end of the road. Laudrefang is now abandoned. My friend was told that there was a deadly accident at Laudrefang.

Petit Ouvrage du Teting - 3 blocs (bloc 1 not connected) - Located just past Teting Camp and before D20, off to the left. Also abandoned and open and disappearing into the vegetation. Teting is the last ouvrage before the Sarre gap, also called the Zone of Inondation. The next ouvrage is Haut Poirier, about 30 km away.

Defensive Sector of the Sarre

Petit Ouvrage d'Haut Poirier - 4 blocs - Void of artillery coverage by its neighbors. Located on the Rohrbach Plateau, on a hill overlooking the village of Achen. Drive on D84 to the town square of Achen with a small traffic circuit. turn right and follow the road north up the hill until you reach a church. Behind the church turn left and follow the road out of town. Turn left, then right and stay on this road. Drive straight through the next intersection. This will bring you directly in front of Haut Poirier after less than a mile. Haut Poirier is an excellent fort to visit because there is very little vegetation blocking its view (thanks to the sheep - but watch your step!). Unfortunately, the ditches have been filled up and every entrance has been blocked.

Fortified Sector of Rohrbach

Petit Ouvrage de Welschoff - 3 blocs - Take D84 from Rorhbach-les-Bitches in the direction of Singling. After entering Singling, look for a small intersection with a few roadsigns which can be easily missed. Follow this road until you reach Welschoff Ferme. Behind the farm are two houses. Between the entrance to these buildings is a small path leading away from the road between two hills. The entrance block is straight ahead in the woods. Welschoff also has some interesting camouflage which resembles trees and some false gun turrets made of concrete. Welschoff is very interesting to visit because much of the damage caused by the Germans was repaired. Block 1 is a must see. The emergency exit if block 3 is open.

Petit Ouvrage du Rohrbach - See Finding the Line.

Gros Ouvrage du Simserhof - See Finding the Line.

Gros Ouvrage du Schiesseck - 11 blocs - Located on either side of D35, between Simserhof and Bitche. The munitions entrance can be found on the first right past the Freudenberg Farm, which is at the junction of D35 and D35a. The men's entrance is across the road in the woods. The combat blocs are on army property, as are most of the fortifications around Bitche.

Petit Ouvrage d'Otterbiel - 5 blocs - Located east of D962, north of Bitche, on a prominent hill. On army property, used for munitions storage.

Gros Ouvrage de Grand Hohekirkel - 7 blocs - Located along the D35, just beyond the Camp de Bitche, on army property. I wouldn't even try to approach these.

Fortified Sector of the Vosges

Petit Ouvrage de Lembach - 6 blocs - Located southwest of the town of Lembach, across the Sauer River, on the road to Mattstal. Privately owned and in terrible condition.

Gros Ouvrage du Four a Chaux - See Finding the Line.

Fortified Sector of Haguenau

Gros Ouvrage du Hochwald - This is the largest fortification in the Maginot Line, with 14 blocs, 3 entrances, 9 counterscarp casemates protecting the anti-tank ditch (only Hackenberg has a tank ditch), and 8 km of underground galleries. It is the only ouvrage with two separate underground caserne areas, one on each side of the mountain. Unfortunately, it is still used by the French Air Force. It was modified in the 1950s and served as a radar installation and still does. It is possible to visit inside but the military still work inside and all of the security systems - cameras, alarms, etc., are working and monitored. You must be escorted. There is a museum in the M1 area.

Gros Ouvrage du Schoenenbourg - See Finding the Line.

This concludes my mini-tour of the Maginot Line in the north. I have been to many of these ouvrages and have been inside several. The thing that I find the most fascinating is that each one is absolutely unique. It would be impossible for any organizations to rescue every single fort, yet it is extremely sad to see the state in which many of them are today. Perhaps its not too late to keep some of those which are in better condition from disappearing into the vegetation.

The Alps - to come later


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