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Location 2 – Fort de la Pompelle (Champagne Sector)

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Fort de la Pompelle (images 1-8 below) was the key to the defence of Reims in the First World War. Constructed following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to a design by the French fortress engineer, Séré de Rivières, it sits commanding the eastern and south-eastern routes into the city from Verdun and Châlons-en-Champagne. The Germans briefly held the fort as they swept into France in the early months of the war but were dispossessed following the Battle of the Marne in late September 1914. The French Army held the fort for the next four years, during which time they were the subject of constant enemy attention. German bombardments shattered the walls and mines, gas shells and even a tank attack were launched – all of which failed to reduce the French defence. By the Armistice, the fort was little more than a ruin. After the Second World War it was handed to the regional government and turned into a military museum but, as one walks the ramparts, the innumerable bloody actions that were played out here can well be imagined.

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All photos © Mark Sluman. Click on image for full size.

Fort de la Pompelle was not the only fort or battery protecting Reims, however. Altogether there are a further ten surrounding the city (images 9-12 above show some of them as they look today).