• Short Summary

    One of France's main defensive hopes before the second world war was the "Maginot Line" which stretched along the French eastern border with Germany.

  • Description

    One of France's main defensive hopes before the second world war was the "Maginot Line" which stretched along the French eastern border with Germany. It was named after the man who conceived the idea, Andre Maginot -- a former Minister of War. The line of fortifications proved to be unsuccessful in 1940 when Germany invaded France, and after the war it fell in to general disrepair. But now the Maginot is coming back to public attention.

    SYNOPSIS: In the quiet countryside of Picardie and Lorraine in 1977 the sight of a gun turret seems incongruous. The French Army have used some of the buildings since the war but now many are being sold by auction.

    The auctions have been going on for a while and originally the French government had high hopes for the sales. However, interest has not been exactly what was hoped for. In the latest auction, items were put up for sale at reserve prices ranging from 20 francs (2.40 pounds sterling) to 3,500 francs (400 pounds sterling). The government had a number of inquiries from the United States and Canada but not many people actually turned up when the auction got under way.

    The Maginot Line fortifications were completed in 1938 -- just before the beginning of the second world war. Maginot based the idea on the fact that certain modern fortresses had held out against German artillery in World War One, as well as being a great saving in military power.

    Maginot thought that a permanent line of defensive fortresses along France's border with Germany would prevent any future invasions by German forces. The line was constructed of reinforced concrete and incorporated many of the traditional designs for fortification.

    However, the Maginot Line was a major advancement over previous fortifications as far as the troops were concerned. The guns were heavier and the concrete thicker than anything seen before. There were special air conditioned areas for the troops, along with living quarters, supply stores and underground rail lines connecting various sections.

    The failure of the Line was not a fault of design but simply of mis-calculation of where an invading German force would come from. Hitler did not send his troops straight across the border. They came through Belgium, outflanking much of the French defences. The Maginot Line was then useless.

    In 1977, the few remaining sections have become a tourist attraction. Signs instruct people where they may still not go. But in general, there are few buildings that remain under military control. Many of the fortifications that were designed to repel the invading armies are now shops or even homes. Andre Maginot might not approve of its present day use but its military importance has long since passed.

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