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Feste Wagner/Fortifications of Aisne
Fort de l'Aisne à Verny.jpg
Fort of l’Aisne and Verny
Type fort of type von Biehler
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1912 (1912)
Garrison 1250 men

The Feste Wagner, renamed Group Fortifications of Aisne by the French in 1919, is a fort of the second fortified bell of forts from Metz, in Moselle. This group fortification, built in the municipalities of Pournoy-la-Grasse and of Verny, controlled the valley of the Seille. It had its baptism of fire in late 1944, when the Battle of Metz occurred.

Historical contextEdit

During The Annexation, Metz oscillates between a German garrison of 15,000 and 20,000 men at the beginning of the period[1] and exceeds 25,000 men just before the First World War,[2] gradually becoming the first stronghold of the German Reich.[3] The Feste Wagner completes the Second fortified belt of Metz composed of Festivals Wagner, Crown Prince (1899 - 1905), Leipzig (1907-1912), empress (1899-1905), Lorraine (1899-1905), Freiherr von der Goltz (1907-1916), Haeseler (1899-1905), Prince Regent Luitpold (1907-1914) and Infantry-Werk Belle-Croix (1908-1914). The fortress of Metz was part of a wider program of fortifications called " Moselstellung" and encompassed fortresses scattered throughout the valley Moselle between Thionville and Metz. To this end, the two cities were specially served by the Kanonenbahn Berlin - Metz, a strategic railway line. The aim of Germany was to protect against a French attack to take Alsace-Lorraine from the German Empire. From 1899, the Schlieffen plan of the German General Staff designed the fortifications of the Moselstellung as like a lock for blocking any advance of French troops in case of conflict.[4] This concept of a fortified line on the Moselle was a significant innovation compared to Système Séré de Rivières developed by the French. It later inspired the engineers of the Maginot line.[5]

Construction and facilitiesEdit

The Group Fortifications of Aisne had to protect the Seille valley, not far from Verny. This mission was to be facilitated by a defensive flood, thus locking the entire southern front of Metz. Built between 1904 and 1910 the fortified structure was renamed Feste Wagner, in tribute to Julius Wagner, the German general responsible for the A.K.O. belonging to the forts of Metz. The fort is part of the second generation works. It was able to benefit from the latest innovations, both in the field of armaments, and also that of living conditions. It offers great comfort for the time Central heating, toilets, bread oven, electric plant, telephone and running water. Its firepower is matched only by its rugged durability, thanks to the new and massive use of concrete and steel. A network of underground tunnels provided connections between the various points of the fortified group, covering an area of over 40 ha.[6] The artillery fort could take up to two tons of shells per minute, thanks to its artilitery pieces of 5.3 cm, 10 cm or 15 cm wide. The four fortified barracks could receive 4 Infanteriekompanien, 2 MG-Kompanien, 2 Artilleriebatterien, 3 Pioneer-sections for a total of 1,250 men. The fort had 15 cupolas of observation and 51 lookout posts, and not less than 1,950m of underground tunnels connecting the various stations of the fort. The Group Fortifications had 2,200 m3 of water. Finally, seven diesel engines, each one of 30cv,[6] provided the energy needed for its operation.

Successive assignmentsEdit

From 1890 the garrison relief is guaranteed by the fort troops Corps XVI stationed at Metz and Thionville. During the World War I, the fort only supports the front, and does not suffer any combat. Its artillery is effective. Its rear base position enables it to be decorated with superb frescoes, still visible today. In 1919, like all the forts of Metz, it comes without a fight into the French army. Its comfort and its technological prowess impress the French General Staff, which will draw valuable lessons for the construction of the future Maginot Line. Between the wars, the fort serves as a repository for heavy artillery on rails. Reinvested by the German army in 1940, it was abandoned in 1945. The fort is not remilitarised, but simply held as is before being plundered in the 1970s. Since 1982, the Association pour la découverte de la fortification messine (ADFM) manages the site.[7] Fort Verny is currently the only fort of the fortified belt to be open to public visit.[8]

Second World WarEdit

During the Second World War, the Group fortifications of Aisne is used by Nazi Germany. Its underground galleries provide an ideal refuge in case of air attack. From June 1942, a thousand skilled workers take turns in the fort, which quickly becomes a true underground factory. These Eastern workers or Eastern country workers, machine and mount aerial and marine torpedoes. These torpedoes are then routed to a depot of the German Navy located in the woods of Cattenom.[9] When the Battle of Metz happens, the former stronghold is declared fortress Reich by Hitler, and must be defended to the last by German troops.[10] The defense is thus organized around the Group Fortifications of Aisne and the other forts of Metz.

But the US offensive, launched September 7, 1944 on the west line forts of Metz is cut short. American troops will eventually stop on the Moselle, despite taking two bridgeheads south of Metz. The forts are better defended than they had thought, so US troops are now out of breath. General McLain, in agreement with the General Walker, decided to suspend the attacks, pending new plans of the General Staff of 90 Infantry Division.[11] When hostilities resumed in October, after a rainy month, the soldiers of the 462th Volks-Grenadier-Division still firmly hold their positions even if the supplies are more difficult, because of the artillery and the frequent bombings.[12]

On November 9, 1944, the Air Force sends no less than 1,299 heavy bombers, B-17s and B-24s, and drops 3,753 tons of bombs, and 1,000 to 2,000 books on the fortifications and strategic points in the combat zone of IIIrd army.[13] Most bombers, having dropped bombs without visibility at over 20,000 feet, miss their military objectives. In Metz, the 689 loads of bombs destined to strike the fort Joan of Arc and six other forts, identified as priority targets, merely cause collateral damage, proving once again the inadequacy of the massive bombing of military targets.[14]

The fort Jeanne-d’Arc was the last of the forts of Metz to disarm. Determined German resistance, bad weather and floods, inopportunity, and a general tendency to underestimate the firepower of the fortifications of Metz, have helped slow the US offensive, giving the opportunity to the German Army to withdraw in good order to the Saar.[15] The objective of the German staff, which was to stall the US troops at Metz for the longest possible time before they could reach the front of the Siegfried Line, is largely achieved.

notes and referencesEdit

  1. René Bour, Histoire de Metz, 1950, p. 227.
  2. L’Express, no 2937, du 18 au 24 octobre 2007, dossier « Metz en 1900 », Philippe Martin.
  3. François Roth : Metz annexée à l’Empire allemand, in François-Yves Le Moigne, Histoire de Metz, Privat, Toulouse, 1986, (p.350).
  4. Donnell Clayton, The German Fortress of Metz: 1870-1944, Oxford, Osprey, 2008. p. 24.
  5. Donnell Clayton, The German Fortress of Metz: 1870-1944, Oxford, Osprey, 2008, pp. 10-13.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Donnell Clayton, The German Fortress of Metz: 1870-1944, Oxford, Osprey, 2008, p. 24.
  7. Fort de Verny sur
  8. Un circuit touristique à l’assaut de sept forts sur (article publié le 23/01/2014).
  9. René Caboz, La bataille de Metz, Éditions Pierron, Sarreguemines, 1984 (p. 151, note 14).
  10. René Caboz, La bataille de Metz, Éditions Pierron, Sarreguemines, 1984, p. 132.
  11. Hugh M. Cole : The Lorraine Campaign, Center of Military History, Washington, 1950 (p 176-183)
  12. Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, Center of Military History, Washington, 1950, p. 256.
  13. Général Jean Colin, Contribution à l’histoire de la libération de la ville de Metz ; Les combats du fort Driant (septembre-décembre 1944), Académie nationale de Metz, 1963, p. 13.
  14. Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, Center of Military History, Washington, 1950, p. 424.
  15. Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, Center of Military History, Washington, 1950, p. 448.


  • Inge und Dieter Wernet: Die Feste Wagner, A.D.F.M., 2002.
  • Inge und Dieter Wernet: Die Feste Wagner, A.D.F.M., Helios-Verlag, Aix-la-Chapelle, 2010.
  • Educational file on

See alsoEdit

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