Ouvrage Latiremont is a gros ouvrage (large work) of the Maginot Line – a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles and weapon installations built by France in the 1930s to deter invasion by Germany. The site of Ouvrage Latiremont was selected and approved by the Commission d’Organisation des Régions Fortifiées (CORF) in 1931. It cost eighty-eight million francs (approximately twelve million in pound sterling) to construct the fortification. The design of Ouvrage Latiremont is known as a casemate fortress – a fortified or armoured structure, also referred to as a vaulted chamber, from which guns are fired. Once completed, 75mm and 81mm guns were installed and a second phase was planned, to add additional 75mm and 135mm gun turret blocks. However, the second phase of the development never went ahead as the funding was allocated elsewhere.
Latiremont has two main entrances and six combat blocks (three infantry blocks and three artillery). It also comprises more than five kilometres of underground tunnels and galleries; these are at an average depth of thirty metres. A small narrow-gauge railway system, which was connected to a regional military railway system, once linked all six sections of the fortress and it was used to transport supplies, such as equipment, food and ammunition. There were said to be several stations inside Latiremont which were large enough to service and store large trains. Once fully operational, Latiremont was placed under the command of Commandant Pophillat. Pophillat had twenty-one officers and five-hundred and eighty men of the 149th Fortress Infantry Regiment at his disposal.
Following the 1939 invasion of Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Thereafter, between the September 1939 and June 1940, Latiremont fired over 14,452 75mm rounds and 4,234 81mm rounds at German forces. The fortress, though, was not directly attacked until June 1940. On the 21st June 1940, the German 161st Division led by Colonel Gerhard Wilck, which brought 210mm howitzers and 305mm siege mortars with them, launched their attack against Latiremont. While the attack was underway, a small number of German units moved to the rear of the Maginot Line where they were able to cut power and communications. Despite heavy resistant from Latiremont and nearby fortress Fermont, firing ceased on 25th June and both garrisons surrendered to the German forces on 27th June. For the remainder of the war, the area was used for a German propaganda film, to document the June 1940 attacks, but it did not see any further significant fighting.
In 1951 the French government attempted to restore many of the northeastern ouvrages, to defend against a potential advance by the Warsaw Pact. However, following the establishment of the French Nuclear Strike Force, the importance of the Maginot Line diminished. Latiremont was subsequently abandoned by the military in 1967. Today, the fortress remains abandoned and has suffered heavily from water ingress.
Our Version of Events
Aside from drinking beer, this explore was our reason for being on the other side of the English Channel. We weren’t certain at all if the place would be doable, but after reading about it we decided it was probably worth the risk. Nonetheless, towards the end of our trip there was a sudden drop in team morale. This resulted in us taking a vote in an Aldi car park, over French bread and Biscoff, on whether or not we should crack on and drive for three more hours to reach Latiremont, or turn tail and check out a few old manors as we headed back to the ferry terminus. With the votes all in and tucked nicely into a hat, we made a short ceremony out of revealing the results. In the end, the remainers won, four to two, so there would be no leaving Europe just yet.
We finished off our Biscoff and spent our remaining Euros on food in Aldi before we set off for Latiremont. Our combined wealth got us a couple of tins of beans, a box of mushrooms and some spices to sprinkle on top. Someone did offer to buy our car in the car park after we got the supplies in, but we had to insist we really needed it to get home to England. The potential buyer still didn’t seem to see that as a problem though. It was quite a mission to shake him.
The drive over to the border of Luxembourg was very pleasant. We played some banging tunes and arrived at the location with plenty of time to spare. At first, we had anticipated that finding the fortress in the forest would be quite a challenge, but as it turned out we stumbled across it within ten minutes of being there. Gaining access to the gros ouvrage was a little more tricky of course – it is a military fortress after all!
Once inside, we found ourselves in a standard-looking bunker. There were signs and evidence that guns had been positioned in here, and at first we thought that was that. Most bunkers we’ve entered have been fairly compact and bare, and you can usually get through all the rooms very quickly. Our minds were blown, then, when we discovered a lift shaft and, after peering down to see how high it was, realised we couldn’t see the bottom. Obviously extremely excited at the point, at the prospect the place was going to be absolutely huge, we began to make our way down a staircase next to the lift shaft.
We made our way down the steps, which went on for a long, long time, until we reached the bottom where we found ourselves in a cold tunnel surrounded by enormous blast doors. It was at this point we realised we’d underestimated how big this place really is. For the next few hours, then, we made our way through different snaking tunnels, and explored many side rooms and chambers leading off from them. One of the best parts of the explore that we came across was some sort of old gun turret. There were plenty of others things to see as well though. This place was certainly a bit of a time capsule. The only problem, however, was that we started to lose track of where we were inside the fortress. It’s very easy to get lost in the labyrinth-like corridors and rooms and we’d eaten all the bread earlier in the day, so making a breadcrumb trail had been out of the question. Eventually, we felt as though we were well and truly lost so decided it was time to find a way back to the surface. It took a little while, and a few false turns, before we found a tunnel that sort of looked familiar. We followed it and, thankfully, ended up back where we started.
All in all, then, this explore was absolutely fantastic – certainly one of the best military fortifications we’ve ever explored. It’s also steeped in interesting history about the war. Anyone who happens to find themselves near Luxembourg should definitely pay this place a visit. You never know your luck after all, you might find a way inside like we did.
Explored with Ford Mayhem, MKD, Rizla Rider, The Hurricane and Husky.