Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fort de Liouville: Defender of the Woëvre

Being on dozens of WWI mail lists has its benefits, although it  fills  up your email inbox. Here's a very rough translation of an interesting article from the Verdun-Meuse history/tourism group.

Fort de Liouville 

155mm turret Fort Liouville damaged in German bombing
155mm Turret Fort de Liouville Damaged in German Shelling

In early September 1914, the Army of the Crown Prince tried to take the fortress of Verdun by squeezing it from both the east and west. During this maneuver, the German troops managed a breakthrough of more than 20 kilometers into the French defensive system before being stopped by strong resistance on the plain of Woëvre.

Entrance of Fort Liouville

Entrance of Fort de Liouville

Built 380 meters above the village of Liouville between 1876 and 1878, the fort is situated on the right [east] bank of the Meuse. Its armament was reinforced by two artillery batteries and an annex battery, St. Agnant-sous-les-Cotes.

This fort is part of the defense line between Toul and Verdun, designed by General Sere de Rivieres. It dominates the plain of Woëvre and controls access to valleys [?], the villages of Marbotte and Boncourt, and the roads to St. Mihiel.

From 1878 to 1910 Fort de Liouville experienced numerous upgrades with the installation of external cannons and armored turrets of 75mm and 155mm. At the start of war, three armored observatories and stores under bedrock and against the escarpment were also constructed.

After mobilization it was the only fort of the Hauts-de-Meuse to receive reinforcements and improvements on its original features. In September 1914 the garrison of the fort, commanded by Governor Laugery, had a total of 703 men from the 166th Infantry Regiment and the 5th Regiment of Foot Artillery and some telegraph operators, foresters, and nurses.

Court No. 1 strong
Fort Courtyard
From September 1914, the task of the strengthened fort was to stop, as long as possible, the enemy invasion. On 22 September 1914 the garrison opened fire on German troops of the Fifth Army under corps commander General von Strantz in the sector Varnéville. The next day the same German positions were covered [fired upon?] The German rejoinder was swift. Shells come down on the fort. 

Supported by strong Fort Gironville, Fort de Liouville reopend fire on the enemy troops. Until 29 September, the garrison suffered a heavy bombardment and took on much damage. The turret Mangin was even knocked out on 27 September by the German shelling.

Recognizing this, the governor ordered Laugery on 30 September part of the garrison evacuated. Until 16 October 1914, the fort was bombarded. However, the firepower of the German troops and the extensive damage caused to the fort did not stop the French flag flying there throughout the Great War.

The Fort in October 1914

Until the end of the war the fort remained weakly occupied by the French Army. It served as an observatory facing German lines and resting place for the regiments out of the hell of combat. In September 1918, its 75mm turret opened fire and supported the Franco-American attack on the St. Mihiel salient.

Since 1988, the Association for the Preservation of Fort de Liouville undertook the rehabilitation of the site. The association organizes tours of the fort throughout the year.

Association for the Preservation of Fort Liouville (SVBL)
Mayor of Marbotte
Marbotte 55300
Tel. :



  1. S'ensevelir sous les ruines du fort plutot que de se rendre: Be buried under the ruins of the fort rather than surrender

  2. I wonder why this fort received so many upgrades prior to the war, and why it was not stripped of its troops and armaments like so many other of the French forts after the war had begun?

  3. I assume the second paragraph meant to say "...September 1914 ..." not 2014.

  4. Cell Phone +33 7 83 36 05 05 for contact association