While on holiday in Luxembourg I popped across the border with a friend of mine to visit of of the Maginot Line bunkers, namely the “Gros-Ouvrage Latiremont”. Access to the “Gros-Ouvrage” is relatively straightforward and we traipsed around the bunker for four or five hours. Like it’s cousin the “Gros-Ouvrage Brehain”, Latiremont is huge, stretching for more than 1.5 km from end to end and comprising 6 bunkers (with gun turrets), a munition entrance, a personnel entrance, living quarters, a amunition depot, a power station and a mini train-station . The gallery system inside the Gros-Ouvrage was served by a narrow-gauge railway that continued out of the ammunition entry and connected to a regional military railway system for the movement of goods along the front line. There is plenty to see, and after 5 hours we still had not covered all of it. Exploring Latiremont requires running up and down a lot of stairs as the main tunnel is more than 30 m underground – we counted about 250 going up to the gun turret in bunker 2. Progress was furthermore slowed down by the amount of water sloshing around that place, to say that Latiremont is water-logged would be an understatement. Some of the stairways going up to the gun-turrets had a definite resemblence to waterfalls – not to mention the lift shafts.
The Maginot Line, named after the French war minister Andre Maginot, is a line of heavily armed fortifications that was build by France in the 1930s to deter an invasion by Nazi Germany. The Maginot Line stretched along the French border with Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Luxembourg, where it stopped due to a military alliance between France and Belgium. Unfortunately for the French, when the Second World War began in 1940, Belgium had become a neutral state, leaving France’s northern flank unprotected. Before the construction of the Maginot Line could continue, the German army crossed the Ardennes and turned up on the French doorstep.
The “Gros-Ouvrage Latiremont” was active from September 1939 to June 1940 when its garrison of 21 officers and 580 men surrendered to the German army. After that Latiremont saw very little action, even at the end of the war in 1944. In 1951 the French army started to restore the bunker in order to stop a potential advance by the Warsaw Pact but with the advent of the French Nuclear Strike Force the ouvrage lost its importance and was decommissioned. Today it is totally abandoned.