The fortified sector of Faulquemont
The Fortified Sector of Faulquemont is at an important location for several reasons: it blocks National Road 3 which links the German city of Saarbrucken to Metz and protects, to a lesser extent, the Faulquemont coal mine.
The framework of this sector consists of 5 infantry structures. Unlike artillery works, infantry works are armed only with machine guns, mortars and anti-tank guns. The fire power of the area is therefore lower, despite the 4 81mm mortars of the Laudrefang Petit Ouvrage which shelter the Petit Ouvrage de l’Einseling in the north and the Petit Ouvrage de Téting in the south. This artillery, even light, makes Laudrefang the keystone of the sector.
As in the other fortified sectors, these structures were also supported on their backs by artillery positions and mobile troops which, since the declaration of war in September 1939, had been building positions and observatories, trenches and blockhouses. This gives the defence system a high degree of consistency and depth. 3 artillery casemates were also built in the fortified sector of Faulquemont to flank the structures and cover them in the event of an attack.
Surrounding and waiting
When the German troops arrived on the rear of the sector on 16 June 1940, the Maginot line was considerably weakened: only the structures were still occupied by French troops. The crews of the interval casemates evacuated on 15 June and all the mobile troops stationed at the rear were ordered to withdraw on 13 June to the Vosges. The German Army was already in Paris and the rest of the French Army was routed, so the 5 structures of the Faulquemont Fortified Sector were surrounded and would have to face an enemy determined to bring them down, despite the limited strategic interest they now represented.
On June 18, 1940, a German officer accompanied by two soldiers arrived at the Petit Ouvrage de Laudrefang where Commander Denoix, in charge of the Faulquemont Fortified Sector, was stationed. Eyes bandaged, they are brought to the bottom of the structure. The German officer required the Commander to hand over the 5 works in the Sector. The Commander categorically refused to receive any order from an enemy officer and informed him that the crews would defend themselves against any attack. The German officer informed him that the works would be bombed the same day from 18:00.
From 6pm onwards, the structures were attacked. Taking advantage of the abandoned French positions on the rear and blind spots on which the structures could not fire, German troops bombarded with increasing intensity. On June 20, the Petit Ouvrage du Bambesch surrendered. On June 21, it is the turn of the Petit Ouvrage du Kerfent located just across the street.
The situation is different in the south of the area. The Einseling and Teting Petit Ouvrage were bombed and attacked by German infantrymen. However, the assaults failed. The 2 structures are covered by the 81mm mortars of the Laudrefang Petit Ouvrage located in the centre of the device. The bombardment then doubled in intensity, as the German artillerymen methodically demolished the facades of the fighting blocks and targeted the bells and turrets of machine guns.
The latter, benefiting from better observation and shooting conditions than those of Kerfent and Bambesch, retaliated. Thus, the Einseling-Laudrefang-Teting mole resists. The Laudrefang alone fired more than 500,000 7.5mm cartridges and 5000 81mm shells in 8 days. German troops could not approach and were content to bombard the forts that stood up to them.
On June 25 at 12:35 am, the Armistice enters into force. France is defeated, Germany victorious. At the Fortified Sector of Faulquemont and elsewhere on the Maginot Line, however, the crews still hold. The tricolour flag flies over the structures.
Thus, these fighters are relieved. They’ll be able to go home. On the morning of June 25, the crews leave the structures. They haven’t seen daylight for more than eight days. The sound of enemy shells constantly hitting the concrete still resonates. They take advantage of the good weather, take out chairs and tables, and pick fruits and vegetables around the barbed wire networks. Life is back on track. They are now waiting to know when they can return home.
July 2, 1940, however, was a cold shower. The undefeated crews of the Faulquemont Fortified Sector and the some 22,000 men still holding the Maginot line were prisoners of war. This was one of the conditions required by the German General Staff when the Armistice was signed.
French soldiers were then taken to prison camps in Germany. They returned home upon liberation in 1945.