Rendez-vous at Leveau Fort - Feignies
In 1914 Leveau Fort in Feignies was one of eleven fortified positions which constituted the main enclosure of the fortified town of Maubeuge. Designed by the military engineer General Séré de Rivières after the war of 1870-1871, the fortified town was built around the Vauban citadel and was a key defensive position on the Franco-Belgian border. In 1914 Maubeuge was also of strategic importance because it was at the intersection of the Brussels and Liège railways which ran to Paris.
In accordance with the Schlieffen Plan, the Germans entered neutral Belgium on 4th August 1914 with a considerable army of infantry, cavalry and artillery intent on advancing as quickly as possible to Paris to bring about a speedy victory over France. Although hindered by the French and Belgian Armies and the British Army around Liège and Namur, the Germans continued their advance to the French border, pushing the Allies before them.
On 27th August 1914, 60,000 German troops besieged Maubeuge. The following day their artillery began bombarding the various fortified outworks which one by one were flattened by the explosive shells fired from long-range German guns. Equipped with outdated weapons, the French defenders had no real hope of resistance and slowly but surely the German troops closed their grip on Maubeuge. On 7th September General Fournier, the governor of the fort, announced the surrender of the French troops which was complete by the following day.
The Siege of Maubeuge lasted two weeks, the longest of its kind in the First World War, and provided the Germans with 45,000 prisoners; however it did slow the invading troops in their advance towards the French capital. It also prevented them from taking part in the Battle of the Marne which began on 5th September.
Today the Museum of Leveau Fort in Feignies tells the story of the fortified town of Maubeuge and how the occupation affected its inhabitants. It also describes the lives of the soldiers who fought in the Great War.