A few weeks after my short trip to the US I was very happy to go on a short trip to France for a few days. I had no exact plan only a hotel booked towards Bitche. When I saw a war monument from the first world war I had the idea to look a bit round the old battlefields. Visit some fortifications and grave yards. And so we did. If you plan this well you can go and explore this area for weeks but we only had a few days and no plan – so we only stopped at a few places – Bitche, Barst and Douaumont.
But first we passed those cows. How can you not stop and pet them?? Somehow I like cows – not the fact that they contribute so much to global warming. (Livestock emissions make up anywhere between 14.5 and 18 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Comparably, the transportation sector is responsible for around 14 percent of emissions. And that was what we put out there in 2016 but now we learned that cow farts are even worse!! Researchers where off by as much as 10%!!!) So putting all that to the side we had to stop – good for you since you can look at them too – sorry – no touching for you!
Highland cow from Scotland
Highland cow baby from Scotland
The Bitche Citadel
Bitche was formed from the towns Rohr and Kaltenhausen in the 17th century. The name comes from an old stronghold (earliest mentions in 1172). The French constructed the citadel in 1624 – it was destroyed and rebuild and further fortified 1740. They did such a good job that the citadel was impregnable all the way into the 20th century.
Entrance to the fort
Entrance to the fort
Wall of the Bitche citadel – they used the same red stone so it looks as if the citadel is growing gout of the rock.
Bitche from the citadel
Lets move on!
Part of the Aquatic Maginot Line – Barst has a few bunkers and a anti-tank wagon. I did not know how important this one is – I did not even took a picture of it :-(
Anyhow the Aquatic Maginot Line has the word Aqua in it because it was rather different from the other parts of the Maginot Line. It is at the river Saar border and if the Germans come you can flood the whole line of defense. This make it impossible or very difficult to pass with tanks and heavy weapons. And it would slow down an attack so the French could bring more troops to defend it.
Small graveyard in Barst
Two bunkers in Barst at the Aquatic Maginot Line
View from a trench toward a bunker
Much of the trench war in the first world war in this region was around Verdun. Verdun was protected by a ring of 19 forts. Douaumont was the biggest and the highest one. The French generals judged Douaumont ineffective after Germany took a few forts in Belgium very easy – with the help of the new 420mm Gamma howitzers. (A crazy super-heavy siege gun – you need to poor a bed of concrete to operate this monster) So they left it almost undefended. In February 1916 less than 100 Germans took the fort without a fight (only 3 days after the battle of Verdun started). One German climbed inside and opened a door. He captured a few man inside with only a bolt-action rifle – like in a bad American movie. Later more Germans arrived and not a single shoot was fired in the capture of the fort. It became an invulnerable shelter and operational base for German forces just behind their front line. The french army had to get the fort back which took 9 months and would cost the French army 100,000 lives.
The original plans of 1914
155 mm Gun-Turret
75mm Gun-Turret – the gun was destroyed from a Gamma howitzer shell
Back of Fort Douaumont
The mechanic of the 155 mm Gun-Turret. Galopin Gun as the French call it. They build this one between 1907 and 1909. You can turn it 360 degrees and after you shoot you can lower it again to protect it. There are two counterweights to lift the 37.000 kilogram gun tower. You only need 3 men and 2 minutes to lift it 60 cm to its fire position. A grenade could cover up to 7,2 kilometers and weighted 43 kilogram.
The mechanic of the 155 mm Gun-Turret
One of the two counter weights
This place is huge
I see red wine!
This could be the underground entrance
There is something growing here
679 German soldiers are buried behind that wall. There was a fire that detonated grenades and flamethrower fuel. This killed hundreds instantly.
Enough of the war for today. Lets go to the hotel and have a glass of red wine as well.
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