For hundreds of years limestone has been mined in the Picardie region. In the First World War the quarries north of Soissons happened to be exactly in the area of the Western Front. The quarries became useful shelters for military units and artillery, but also good places to hide important facilities like hospitals and canteens from the battlefields. In World War Two some of these quarries in the Margival area were put to use again. They became part of one of Hitler’s headquarters: ‘Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschlucht 2’.Read more...
In 1914 the Western Front was created by the German forces by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, but the advance grinded to a halt by the first Allied victory: the Battle of the Marne. It resulted in the horrifying trench war on a front that essentially didn’t shift for four years. After the war, an area of more than 1,200 m³ was proclaimed inhabitable by the French government. It was called the ‘zone rouge’ (red zone). The area was too damaged, there were too many human remains and millions of unexploded explosives still in the fields. Housing, farming and forestry were strictly forbidden in this area. Over the years the prohibiton area became a lot smaller and most of the destroyed towns got permission to rebuild, but the scars of the battle are stil prominent.
In World War Two the Margival area was greatly fortified by the German forces to become one of Hitler’s headquarters, ‘Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschlucht 2’. A huge amount of bunkers and artillery had to provide a safe haven for Hitler and his staff. The original plan was to lead Operation Seelöwe (the invasion of the United Kingdom) from this complex, but in the end Hitler only visited the complex once for two days.
The limestone quarries that became part of the Führerhauptquartier usually got their entrances fortified with concrete as these were the weak spots. The limestone is known for it’s strength. Most of the old quarry tunnels are about four metres high and four metres wide, but there are sections that are up to eight metres wide that still remain stable up to this day. This made the quarries ideal places for storage and the accommodation of troops. The traces of both world wars left in the quarries is what makes them so special.
In the area two extensive quarries were used for the storage of ammunition. This one is situated under a small town. It has four entrances, three of which are situated in a cliff on the edge of the town. These were fortified and well camouflaged. The fourth is a climbing shaft that ends up somewhere in the town but the exact location isn’t known. The quarry also had an emergency exit which was never completely finished. A part of the quarry had a narrow-gauge railway for the transportation of the ammunition. The ammunition itself was stored on platforms to prevent damage by ground moisture. In the same cliff two smaller quarries are also fortified and used, but they are not accessible nowadays.
(not a full 360° panorama this time, only partial)