The Petit Ouvrage of Téting
Le Petit Ouvrage (PO) de Téting is one of the 53 structures of the Maginot Line in northeastern France and one of the 5 in the Faulquemont Fortified Sector.
It consists of 3 battle blocks, armed in 1940 by a crew of 125 men commanded by Lieutenant Marchelli.
History of the Teting structure
On September 3, 1939, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany, which, two days earlier, had launched an offensive in Poland. This is the beginning of the Second World War. The Maginot line was immediately occupied by fortress troops to cover the mobilization and to counter any surprise attack from Germany.
However, despite some skirmishes, no fighting took place on the border until May 10, 1940, the date of the German offensive on Western Europe. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France were then attacked and gradually invaded.
The French and allied armies were quickly routed. The defence of the border with Germany finally became useless, on 13 June 1940, the troops of intervals located on the rear of the Maginot line were ordered to evacuate to the Vosges Mountains.
The crews of the structures must hold until 17 June to cover this withdrawal then that, on 15 June, of the troops occupying the casemates at intervals.
At the Teting casemate, patrols are sent between the fort and Block 3 of the Laudrefang casemat, 2 kilometres to the north. On several occasions, these patrols repelled enemy infiltration attempts.
On June 16, more and more German troops were spotted on the rear. At 6 a.m., they tried to infiltrate the village of Téting-sur-Nied and were pushed back without hesitation by the weapons of Block 3 of the Maginot Line. The turret of Block 2 stopped all enemy advance on the road linking Téting-sur-Nied to Faulquemont.
However, it must be noted that the sector is surrounded. It is no longer a question of evacuating the next day, June 17, but of holding on. On this date, a column of German motorcyclists was spotted towards the village and immediately targeted by the structure’s weapons. Enemy 105mm guns set up in the village’s orchards and retaliated.
From June 18, 1940, the bombardments intensified. The Téting structure was bombarded by shells of all calibers (37mm, 88mm, 105mm). At the Laudrefang PO, Commander Denoix, who had under his command the fortified sector of Faulquemont, informed the works that he had notified 3 German parliamentarians of his refusal to surrender, ordering the commanders of the works to do the same.
The next day, June 19, the bombardments intensified further over the entire Faulquemont Fortified Sector. At the Téting, the slots in the firing chamber of Block 3 are beginning to be seriously damaged. At 8 a.m., a German patrol approaching the structure was pushed back. At 2:30 p.m., the episcope of the southern GFM bell was broken by a shell and Private Cattiaux, then in position, was immediately evacuated to the infirmary of the structure.
On June 20, the bombardments continued at a steady pace. In Block 2, Lieutenant Marchelli ordered the machine gun turret to fire on hill 400 towards Tritteling, where two 88mm pieces fired on Block 1 in Laudrefang. Unfortunately, the firing was ineffective because of the range too far for machine guns, nearly 3800m. In this operation, the turret was hit by a shell burst; the 25mm anti-tank gun was taken out of service.
On June 21, a German patrol approached Block 1 (thinking that it had been evacuated like all the other casemates in the area). Private Marcel Batt, serving with the Bloc’s rear defence machine-gun, saw them and fired: the officer in charge of this patrol was almost cut in half and his soldiers were in a panic. Lieutenant Font, fearing enemy revenge, fired all the weapons of his Block and asked Block 3 in Laudrefang to fire at him with his 81mm mortars to cover him.
On June 22, the enemy 105mm guns were spotted in the village’s orchards. The machine gun turret of Block 2 fired many shots which, combined with the 81mm mortars of the Laudrefang, dislodged the servants. German bombardments were more sporadic on 24 June but intensified in the afternoon. Block 3 was unsustainable: the 47mm anti-tank gun was unusable, as were the machine-gun matches, and shells entered the firing chamber.
The crew’s resistance was not affected, however, and the weapons of Block 1 still managed to destroy an anti-tank gun firing on the machine gun turret of Block 3 of the Laudrefang structure.
The Armistice and captivity
Finally, on June 25, 1940 at 12:35 am, the Armistice came 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 French flag flies over the structures.
Thus, these fighters are relieved. On the morning of June 25, they leave the works. In Téting, as in Laudrefang and Einseling, they have not seen daylight for more than 8 days. 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. Undefeated, they are now waiting to know when they can return home.
On July 2, 1940, however, it was a cold shower. The crews of the Fortified Sector of Faulquemont and the some 22,000 men still holding the Maginot line are indeed prisoners of war. This was one of the conditions required by the German General Staff when the Armistice was signed. The French soldiers were then taken to prison camps in Germany, they did not return home until the liberation in 1945.