Groupe Fortifie Francoise-de-Guise, Feste Leipzig, France
After the Franco-Prussion war of 1870, the Alsace-Lorraine region was annexed into the newly formed German Empire, with the city of Metz forming an important German Garrison Town within the newly created German Empire. Metz played an important strategic military role within the German Empire due to its proximity to France, lead the Germans to build a fortified lines around Metz to supplement the original line of forts that had been constructed by the French before the Franco-Prussian war. The fortifications of Metz formed part of a wider program of fortifications called “Moselstellung”, encompassing fortresses scattered between Thionville and Metz in the valley Moselle. Germany’s aim was to protect against a French attack to take back Alsace-Lorraine and Moselle from the German Empire. The fortification system was designed to accommodate the growing advances in artillery since seen at the start of the 20th century. Based on new defensive concepts, such as dispersal and concealment, the fortified group was to form an impassable barrier for French forces. Throughout the annexation, the garrison around Metz consisted of between 15,000 and 20,000 soldiers, which exceeded 25,000 men at the start of the First World War, gradually becoming the first stronghold of German Reich. The Second fortified belt of Metz composed of Festen Wagner (1904-1912), Crown Prince (1899 – 1905), Leipzig (1907–1912), Empress (1899-1905), Lorraine (1899-1905), Freiherr von der Goltz (1907–1916), Haeseler (1899-1905), Prince Regent Luitpold (1907-1914) and Infantry-Werk Belle-Croix (1908-1914).
Originally built between 1907-1912 by the German Army during the Annexation of the Alsace-Lorraine Region, the entire fortification covered 80 hectares and was equipped with rotating 100mm howitzers. There was also three fortified barracks, and 2 infantry positions for housing approximately 360men to provide local defence. The fort has 12 observation posts and 6 observation turrets and was equipped with three 20hp diesel engines for power. The works are scattered over a very wide area, hidden amongst the natural topography and connected by long underground galleries.
From 1914 to 1918 the fort was not engaged in any fighting and merely served as a German Army outpost. In 1919 after the defeat of the German Army and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles the Germans surrendered the Alsace-Lorraine area, and the fort was occupied by the French Army, who renamed it Groupe Fortifie Francois-de-Guise. The fort once again changed hands, returning to the German Army in 1940 after the occupation of Alsace-Lorraine and its incorporation into the Greater German Reich. During the Battle of Metz in 1944 the fort saw fierce fighting, and the fortification (along with many other Metz Forts) finally surrendered to the advancing Americans in November 1944, with the region falling back under French control. Interestingly the fort continued on in active military use after the Second World War. between 1953 to 1958 it was used as an air defence radar site, after that it it appears to have been used as some sort of radar or communications site before becoming a Cold War Command Post for the Tactical Air Force Region 1. It appears to have been abandoned sometime in the 1980’s going on paperwork and artifacts found inside, however we weren’t able to access all areas as most of the connecting tunnels are flooded to ceiling height. There were lots of paperwork relating to an exercise in 1963. The history of this site is somewhat elusive so if anyone knows more details please get in touch!