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The permanent fortresses of 1914 were a continuation of military fortification enigineering that stretched back several centuries. Artillery and shell technology dictated the form of fortress design.

Belgian Fortifications

Starting in 1859, Belgium built permanent fortifications at Antwerp, Liege, and Namur. Called "Brialmont" forts after military engineer General Henri Alexis Brialmont, the last of these forts was built in the late 1890s. The Belgian forts were able to slow, but not stop the German advance. For more information: Belgian Fortifications: 1880-1914

Liege: 8-16 August. The Liege fortification was a ring of 12 forts. Realizing the strategic importance of the Liege position, the German Army of the Meuse attacked the forts in the opening days of the war while the rest of the German Army mobilized. In a nine day battle, German Army attacked the forts with infantry assault and bombardment by 21cm howitzers which had little effect, and then with 28 and 42cm siege howitzers that demolished the forts one by one. The 28cm howitzers bombarded Fort Evegnée into surrender, while the 42cm howitzers bombarded Forts Fleron, Pontisse, and Loncin. The impact of the battle on the future course of the war remains an open question. For more information: The Battle of Liege

Liege Postcard
Artist's depiction of the fall of one of Liege's forts, perhaps Loncin

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter

Liege's Fort Loncin: The 42cm howitzers' handwork

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Fort Loncin: Another view of the destruction

Namur: 21-25 August 1914. Nine forts ringed Namur. Using lessons learned at Liege, both 30.5cm and 42cm howitzers were used to systematically destroy the forts. Six of the nine forts were bombarded.

Namur Postcard
The nemesis of the the Belgian fortifications were the 30.5 and 42cm howitzers. This postcard painting shows an Austrian team arriving with a 30.5cm Skoda howitzer, used effectively against the forts of Namur. For more information:

Austrian-Hungarian 30.5cm Howitzer

German 42cm Howitzer

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter Fort Malonne: Captured on 26 August 1914 by Leutnant v.d. Linde and four soldiers. Not all forts had to be bombrded into submission.
Antwerp: 28 September-10 October 1914. Antwerp with its two rings of forts was reputed to be the strongest fortressin Europe in 1914. As a side-show to the invasion, the German Army attacked its 38 forts. Defending Belgian and British troops held out until mid-October 1914. For more information: The Siege of Antwerp

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
An Austrian-Hungarian 30.5cm howitzer fires on Antwerp

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
The bombardment of Antwerp: 15cm howizters in action; 28 Sep 1914 and the following days.

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
The attack on Antwerp: A destroyed inner ring fort

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Fort Lierre: The results of German 30.5cm and 42cm artillery. The heavy artillery was accurate enough to consistently hit the armoured turrets

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Fort Wavre: Another fort destoryed by 42cm howitzers.

French Fortifications

After the Franco-Prussian War, France built an extensive frontier defensive system named after General Séré de Rivières, Chief of Engineers. Most of the forts were organized into defensive areas - Maubeuge, Rheims, Verdun, Toul, Epinal, Belfort, Paris - and "curtains" or barriers - Lille to Maubeuge, Verdun to Toul, and Epinal to Belfort, and La Fere to Rheims. A few isolated forts were built as "spoiling forts" - Hirson, Charlemont, Les Ayvelles, Montmedy, Longwy, and Manonviller - meant to break the momentum of a German offensive. From 1898 onwards some of the forts were upgraded by adding addtional concrete protection; however, at the outbrak of the war, many of the forts were in disrepair or obsolete.

Maubeuge: 25 August-8 September 1914. The first French fortress attacked by the Germans was Maubeuge along the French-Belgian border. The two week siege slowed the German advance into France. For more I\information: Siege of Maubeuge

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Bombardment of Maubeuge: Not all artillery bombardment was performed by siege artillery.

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Maubeuge: British and French soldiers taken prisoner

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
A Maubeuge Fort: Armored turret destroyed by a 42cm shell

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Destroyed armored turret of an unidentified fort; probably at Maubeuge

Fort Manonviller: 25-27 August 1914. Located east of Nancy, Fort Manonviller was captured by the German Army after two days of bombardment by 42cm and 30.5cm howitzers during the Battle of the Frontiers.

Fortifications - WFA East Coast ChapterFort Manonviller: A modern isolated fort reduced by German heavy artillery

Longwy. After a short siege, the fortress city of Longwy fell to the German Army on 28 August 1914.

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Longwy: The garrison's herioc two day stand delayed the German advance

Verdun: 21 February 1915 - 18 December 1916. The most famous WWI battle involving permanent fortifications was Verdun. Verdun was France's own battle; forever symbolizing their part of the war. Several forts were heavily bombarded and fought over, but arguably were not decisive to the outcome of the battle. For more information: The Battle of Verdun 1916

Fortifications - WFA East Coast ChapterVerdun: The quintessential artillery battle (depicted in a
questionable artist's rendition of German heavy artillery)

Fortifications - WFA East Coast ChapterAnother artist's rendering of the bombardment of Verdun

Fortifications - WFA East Coast Chapter
Fort Vaux: On the receiving end of German artillery

Other Fortifications
Not much is written in English about Russian, Italian, or Austrian WWI fortifications. I will add information as I come across it. In the meantime here are some links:
Fort Venini di Oga (Italian)
Military Fortifications of Northern Italy (Italian)

Latest page update: made by JeffreyLaMonica , Oct 8 2008, 1:15 PM EDT (about this update About This Update JeffreyLaMonica Edited by JeffreyLaMonica

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andre573 World War 1 Fortifications 10 Jul 6 2008, 5:42 PM EDT by JeffreyLaMonica
Thread started: Apr 11 2008, 12:22 PM EDT  Watch
I have started this page for anyone interested in discussing the role permanent fortifications played in the conflict or the influence they had on development of fortifications in the 1930s.

The major systems in place in the west were: the French line of Sere de Rivieres, that stretched from Switzerland to Belgium, including Belfort, Epinal, Toul, Nancy, Verdun, where major entrenched camps existed; the German "Moselstellung" forts at Metz and Thionville; and the Brialmont forts of Liege, Namur, and Antwerp. I am not as familiar with the systems on the eastern front, however, modern concrete forts existed there as well.

I look forward to the discussions.
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JeffreyLaMonica The death of forts? 19 May 17 2008, 1:36 AM EDT by Maginot
Thread started: Apr 7 2008, 3:37 PM EDT  Watch
Did the Great War prove forts obsolete, or did forts outlive their usefulness prior to the war? Do forts have a place in warfare today?
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