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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ten Facts About the Forts of the First World War:

Forts played key roles in many of the most important battles of the Great War. 

1. At Liège, Belgian forts initially set the Schlieffen Plan behind schedule but also showed their vulnerability to modern siege artillery.

The Ring of Forts Guarding Liège in 1914

2. At Antwerp, Belgian forts bought time for King Albert to evacuate his army down the coast and join the other Allies.

3. Fort Troyon on the Meuse River prevented the Crown Prince's army from crossing and compromising General Joffre's position at the critical moment of the Battle of the Marne. 

4. Turkish forts at the Dardanelles were the initial obstacle to the naval assault.

Mecidiye Tabyalari, the Strongest and Most Modern Fort Guarding the Dardanelles in 1915

5. The first shots fired on the Italian Front were by the Italian fortress line in the Altopiani.

6. Przemyśl's network of forts proved to be the key to the Galician campaign of 1915.

Fort Geschichte at the Przemyśl Fortress Zone, Galicia

7. The role of the Verdun forts in the battle of 1916 is well known. 

8. In  July 1918, Fort Pompelle played a vital role in the defense of Reims. 

9. The design of forts were closely guarded secrets before and during the war. 

10. The success of forts for defensive purposes during the First World War, especially at Verdun, helped inspire the Maginot Line.


  1. Unfortunately, the Maginot Line was not successful because the Belgians would not fortify their side of the border with France nor allow the French Army to move forward into Belgium before the war started. Thus,the Germans were able to get around in back of several of the major fortifications and took them from the rear.

  2. Fascinating. I hadn't thought about the powerful role of fortifications in WWI, but this is compelling, especially since examples are drawn from multiple fronts.
    It's not quite Vauban level, but still.