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Report - Latiremont, longuyon, France - May 2010

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by Skydiver, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. Skydiver

    Skydiver Memento vivere
    28DL Full Member

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    Latiremont, part of the Maginot Line of defences, built by France in the 1930's to defend the borders with Germany and Italy.

    "The Maginot Line was a technological marvel, far and away the most sophisticated and complex set of fortifications built up to that time. Consisting of massively strong, mutually supporting works of reinforced concrete and steel sunk deep into the ground, proof against fire from the heaviest artillery, immune to poison gas attack and able to operate self-sufficiently for a month or more."

    Work on the fortifications began in 1928, in the French Alps, though it wasn't until August 1935 that they were officially named the La Ligne Maginot (The Maginot Line) in honour of the former Minister of War, Andrè Maginot.

    Latiremont was one of the first destinations on our European roadtrip, OT, Urban Junkie, Shadow and myself set off from Calais in a convoy of 2 cars, but after a break for food and fuel decided that if we stick the location into the sat-nav's then we could both make our own way at our own speeds. Good plan in theory...

    However after a while the sat nav in my car decided that we could just drive through fields for the rest of the trip, and stopped giving much in the way of useful navigation other than "please proceed to the nearest road!" I thought I was on the nearest road..

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    Despite this setback we managed to get back on track and found the others - we settled on a quiet woodland campsite - with plenty of free firewood, then early the next morning we set off for Latiremont!

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    I hadn't read up much on the maginot lines, so didn't really know what to expect, but stumbling across this in the middle of a field of cows was impressive!
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    We made our way inside and split up to explore the ground level, I got a little carried away with climbing through, round, up and into just about everything I could find! I found a few interesting bits and pieces, like this winding mechanism for the bridge so it could be retracted.
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    So many places to nose around
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    there was so much more I wanted to see at this level but I had stopped hearing the others and figured they had moved on, getting lost in this place was not something I was particularly keen on, and I didn't have either of the walkie talkies on me. I made my way back out to the main part and then saw where everyone had gone, there was a lift shaft and then there was a LOT of stairs...

    At the bottom of the stairs, after catching up with the others I saw this

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    The tunnel just went on, and on, and on...

    The first thing we found as we headed down the tunnel was the support area, which was where the 600 or so men would have lived. There was accommodation, kitchens, a hospital...

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    ...all the munitions magazines and, of course, the power plant and backup generators, these were some sexy bits of kit!

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    On the walls here and there were painted shields

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    and on the floor there was so much calcification around, in some parts it had formed pools that were inches deep.

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    So after spending a good couple of hours nosying around the support area, we headed back to the long walk...

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    Every now and again the tunnel would split off one way or another going to one of the combat blocks where a vertical shaft with one or two lifts and a staircase would lead up to the gun placements. Along each split, just before reaching the block we passed through two armoured doors, each with a smaller door inside so they could be fully opened for trains or partially opened for personnel. These doors served as an airlock as the air pressure inside the blocks was maintained at a slightly higher pressure than the outside air, to keep out poison gasses. The exact amount of overpressure depended on the type of weapons mounted and ensured optimum expulsion of the fumes when the weapons fired.

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    I have some video of the long climb up to the combat blocks, to give you some idea, it was 3 minutes of non stop stair climbing to get to the top, about 200 steps - and there were 6 blocks!

    Nearing the top of the first combat block (which was block 4, as both 6 and 5 were flooded) we saw the lower level of the 81mm mortar, where the turret elevation mechanism and counterweight were. Looking up you could see through the rotten floor up to the next level, which was big, and from there, there was a ladder to climb up into the turret.

    I don't have any pictures of the lower two levels of the gun, as soon as I saw that ladder leading up I knew where I was going. squeezing up through the ridiculously small opening - so small the ladder rungs were just inches apart as you couldn't bring your leg up any more than that - I arrived in the turret to find this...

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    These four massive cylinders sit on top of the mortar tubes and accumulate gas vented from the breech during firing. The gas is then released to the outside through a flexible tube.

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    There were few hand controls inside, with most of the control being from the lower level, where trajectory was adjusted remotely going on commands received through an order transmitter.

    All 3 levels of the mortar turret could be raised or lowered to prevent the gun barrels being exposed except when firing, we found the turret in the raised position.

    Now, this was the first block we had climbed, of 6 blocks, and we had already spent 3 hours in here! I packed my tripod away, and for the next 3 hours we spent exploring every block (yes, even the flooded ones) I didn't take it back out.

    The last block we came to had 3 casemate mounted guns (no longer in place) and also a heavily bolted emergency exit, which was handy for nipping out for some external shots!

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    It was an exhausting, but fantastic day, as soon as we were out of here, we headed off for a tour around Fermont which really brought to life some of the things we had seen in Latiremont.
     
    #1 Skydiver, Jun 18, 2010
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2010

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