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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Photogenic Pillbox: The Pamart Casement

Historian Christina Holstein (right) at Fort Souville Explains the Casement's Design

Fort Souville atop Hill 388 on the road between Fleury Village and Fort Vaux played a key role in the Battle of Verdun. In July 1916 German troops reached its top but never advanced farther. Afterward it was evident that improvements needed to be made for in-close defense of the Verdun forts. The capture of Forts Douamont and Fort Vaux had proved very costly. These additions had to be made quickly, because it was not known if the Germans intended to renew the assault on Verdun, and made with materials available immediately.  

Schematic Top-Down View of Machine Gun Position

The solution was the Pamart armor plated pillboxes that could be built on the hill's slopes as shown above. These were named after their designer, Commandant Pamart at Fort Genicourt. The distinctive design, reminiscent of an elephant's snout, provides a memorable photo-op for visitors to the Verdun battlefield.

Same Installation as Above, Different Angle

Three of these were installed at Fort Souville. They each had 14 cm of armor and each of them had two carriage-mounted machine guns. They had a firing arc of 160 degrees but were more reliable than the disappearing turrets with a wider field of fire since they could not be jammed by debris from exploding shells from the enemy.

Schematic Side View, Note Stacked Machine Guns

The Pamart pillboxes had two opening which could be close of with metal plugs. Inside were two Hotchkiss machine guns, one above the other, fired alternatively. One of them was set in one of the two opening when firing while the other waited underneath. The gunner simply rotated them, firing one after the other.

Source:  Steve Miller Collection

1 comment:

  1. My immediate impression, on first sight,'s an early
    "Kilroy was here" three dimensions