Metz 10.01.2009 Feste Freiherr von der Goltz

This time the ARN visited the former imperial fortress of Metz. The city of Metz is located in the Lorraine region in northeastern france. From 1871 to 1918 this region belonged to imperial germany and Metz as the southwestern corner was decided to be heavily fortified. Therefore first an inner fortress ring, consisting of former unfinished French fortresses was completed and strengthened with new german fortifications. After the design of new explosives those elder fortifications of stones and bricks were obsolete and new permanent fortifications made of steel and concrete were designed and realized. A second much larger fortress ring was build all around the city consisting of  a new type of fortification, the so-called “Festen”. Those fortifications were big structures consisting of decentralized concrete blocks that housed artillery, served as personnel quarters and flanking defence blocks for MG and guns, that secured the apron of those “Festen”. Beside this big structures some smaller infantry strongpoints and single artillery positions were placed in the landscape. All those fortresses were linked by a line of smaller concrete bunkers like troop shelters, observation posts and MG positions.

Feste Freiherr von der Goltz was one of the largest Festen around Metz. It was build relatively late from 1908 – 1916 and covered the southeastern front of Metz. Due to the development of the fortifications build from the late 1890ies to 1916, the first Festen were build of stone reinforced with concrete and the latest ones were realized in pure concrete. Feste Freiherr von der Goltz was such a late design type and no more ornametics are to be found in the pure concrete walls and roofs of the blocks. It was not finished as it was planned in the first stages. Some defence positions and one battery block are missing. The whole Feste consists of three individual parts, all linked by underground passages:

Artilleriekommandeur

The eastern part, the group “Gruppe” Ars – Laquenexy consisted of a infantry strongpoint, a so-called “Infanteriestützpunkt” with concrete barracks, a so-called “Kaserne” in one big block surrounded by infantry defence positions linked to smaller concrete shelters with infantry observations cupolas, so-called “Wachtürme” and one entry defence block, a so-called “Kehlgrabenstreiche”. More to the west there is an unfinished barrack block, where only the subterranian floor was build, one block for the trenchdefence that also housed the artillery commander, the so-called “Artilleriekommandostand” and two battery blocks, each with 3 x 10 cm guns under a steel cupola. Last but not least two artillery observation blocks with steel cupolas, the so-called “Panzerbeobachtungsstände” completed this eastern part.

10 cm gunturret inside

Battery corridor

10 cm turret outside view

Between “Gruppe” Ars – Laquenexy and Infanteriewerk Mercy is the fortress own powerplant, the so-called “Kraftstelle” located. This is a big one and a half level underground concrete block, housing two big coolingwatertanks in the lower level and 12 engines and three big gasoil tanks in the upper level.

Grabenstreiche Infanteriewerk Mercy

Infanteriewerk Mercy

The central part was the Infanteriewerk Mercy consisting of one big “Kaserne”, surrounded by infantry defences linked to the “Wachtürme” and defended by two large double “Grabenstreichen”.

The western part was the Infanteriewerk Jury consisting of one “Kaserne”, surrounded by infantry defences linked to the “Wachtürme” and again defended by two “Grabenstreichen”. The concrete barracks are of a special design, as it also houses two 7,7 cm guns covering the terrain to the west to close the gap to the next fortification, the Infanteriewerk Chesny Nord. This two 7,7 cm guns were placed in a big chamber behind a steelplate. Next to it another steelplate protects the searchlight, that served the 7,7 cm guns. This is a very nice, expensive and therefore rare ensemble that can be found not very often in the fortress ring of Metz.

Infanteriewerk Jury

Steelplate for searchlight

Inside view of the steeplate for two 7,7 guns

During the first worldwar the fortress of Metz was not involved into any fightings. During the second worldwar in 1944 Infanteriewerk Mercy was completely destroyed by a big internal exlosion of torpedoheads, that were stored inside and were enlightened by a chain reaction, when a german lorry convoy at the entry of the concrete block was hit by an American aircraft. Only the “Grabenstreichen” remain intact. At the place where once the “Kaserne” was placed a deep waterfilled hole is left. Concrete rubble is placed all around. The iron fences were damaged largely by this explosion.

Infanteriepositions

Infanteriewerk Jury was also damaged in the battle of Metz. The rear facade of the “Kaserne” was dislocated and partly blown up. Parts of the first floor fell down.

The guns of the two battery blocks are missing today, nevertheless the cupolas are still in place.

After the war the “Infanteriestützpunkt” of  “Gruppe” Ars – Laquenexy housed troops, belonging to NATO forces that were located around the Metz airfield. After france left the NATO those facilities were given up.

Wachturm Infanteriewerk Jury

According to the official signs along the road leading through the woods the whole “Feste” is still located inside a military area. Graffity, traces of copperthiefes and vandalism clearly show that this place is abandoned today.

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