Fort de Guentrange - ThionvilleFort de Guentrange - Thionville
©Fort de Guentrange - Thionville|STEPHANE THEVENIN
Immersion in the daily life of soldiers

fort de Guentrange

It’s off for a family outing this Sunday afternoon, heading for Fort de Guentrange in the hills above Thionville. Time to climb the hill. The engine revs up. After a few minutes of strain on my car, I arrive at the entrance to a forest. I take this path and come across a gate. No doubt it must close the entrance to the fort. I continue on my way. I’m greeted by a blockhouse on my left. A vestige of the fort’s close defences.

Rémi - Equipe Pays Thionvillois Tourisme20200124 Equipe Pays Thionvillois Tourisme 012
©Rémi - Equipe Pays Thionvillois Tourisme

Former local expert and military heritage enthusiast, takes you to the heart of the galleries of Fort de Guentrange.

The little extras

Step back in time and into the shoes of a soldier

We love the guide’s anecdotes about soldiers’ lives

Discover local history

Enter the Feste

At the end of the tree-lined road, on our right, a behemoth appears: the central barracks of the Obergentringen Feste. 100 meters long, 7 meters wide and all on 3 levels. Its strategic location at an altitude of 200 metres means it can be used for artillery.

Once the car is parked, it’s time to go inside. The first change from earlier forts is the materials used. To counter the progress of artillery, the use of concrete and armour is becoming commonplace. Another detail for visitors is the temperature. It’s 13 degrees, so don’t forget to bring a sweater and good shoes.

It was built between 1899 and 1906 to protect the Moselle valley around Thionville. At the same time, it covered the rail network and the two other forts around Thionville: Illange and Koenigsmacker.


the central barracks

The second change was thedevelopment of the fort with its central barracks, two secondary barracks and two artillery batteries. For close defense, it was equipped with concrete trenches and shelters.

The tour begins with a visit to the central barracks. This is the heart of the fort. The lower section is equipped with ultra-modern features for the time. As I wander through the rooms, I’m intrigued by the smell of hydrocarbons. More like diesel, which powers 9 Deutz engines. Thanks to this, the building is self-sufficient in electricity. The comfort of the troops is essential, which is why there’s a kitchen with a bread oven. There are also showers for the soldiers.

The upper floor was used to house some of the fort’s 2,000 soldiers. After a free exploration of the museum’s various rooms, it’s on to the north battery for the rest of the guided tour. To protect the soldiers and avoid detection, I walk through a concrete gallery.

The North Battery

The North Battery is one of the essential links to the North Barracks. Everything is integrated for self-defense: command post, artillery observatory, ammunition store. Equipped with 4 105mm turrets, it has a range of 10 kilometers. It can hit any target thanks to its 360-degree rotation.

Our guide indicates that the guns face east. But that’s odd, it’s towards Germany! Yes, Thionville was German between 1871 and 1918. Just like the entrance, the turrets were placed in this direction to protect them. But from what? From enemy artillery fire striking the cannon directly. Enough blathering, a little elbow grease to raise the turret manually. This difference allows the turret to rotate 360 degrees and fully fulfill its protective mission. This makes the Guentrange fort the most powerful of the 3 Thionville-level forts.

Supporting the Maginot Line

Fort Guentrange was not put to the test of fire during the First World War. It was attached to the Maginot Line in the 1930s as a second line of artillery support. It wasn’t until 1944 that it received its baptism of fire. The American army captured the fort in September. Once the artillery had been used, it was sabotaged to prevent the German army from using it against them.

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A must for your stay in the Pays Thionvillois! The Guentrange fort must be earned, hidden deep in the woods, but the effort to reach it is well worth it! Guided tours are led by passionate volunteers, who are not short of anecdotes about the life of the soldiers.