The Maginot Line - A misunderstood history


Abri or abri d'intervalle
Shelter. A stand-alone block primarily providing accommodation for a troop unit whose mission it was to help defend the intervals between Maginot Line works.
Advance post
A small work constructed forward of the main line of fortifications. It’s function is to provide early warning of a (surprise) attack.
Armes mixtes (literally: mixed arms)
An infantry weapon consisting of a 25 mm anti-tank gun mounted between two machine guns (MAC Mle 1931) in a single mount.
Anti-tank weapon/gun.
Anti char = anti-tank.
The general term for the reinforced-concrete structures that make up the Maginot Line. The principal types are combat blocks, ouvrage entrance blocks and observation blocks.
Blockhouse (in French: blockhause)
A type of small, relativerly cheap to build, stand-alone concrete field fortification. It often received it’s armament when ground troops took up position. The armament consisted out of standard infantry weapons, so no specialised weapons.
Breech block
A breech block closes the breech end of a gun/mortar and is designed to withstand the huge rearward thrust of the propellant gas pressure when the gun/mortar fires.
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Breech loading weapon
A breech-loading weapon is a firearm (a rifle, a gun etc.) in which the cartridge or shell is inserted or loaded at the rear of the barrel, or the opposite of muzzle-loading.
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A combat block in which the principal armament fires through embrasures in the block’s walls. Casemates are classified as either artillery casemates or infantry casemates depending on their primary armament. Interval casemates are stand-alone, self-contained infantry casemates defending the line of anti-tank obstacles and barbed-wire entanglements between ouvrages.
Cloche (literally: a bell-shaped cover)
A cast steel, dome shaped structure built into the roof of a block to provide observation and/or close in defence.
Commission d’Organisation des Régions Fortifiés The French government organisation established in 1927 to provide the overall implementation of the Maginot Line programme.
Defiladed position
A unit or position is ‘in defilade’ if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to shield or conceal.
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Entrée des hommes The troop’s entrance or men’s entrance.
Entrée des munitions Munitions entrance.
Fusil mitrailleur A light machine gun or automatic rifle.
Fortifications de campagne
(literally: field fortifications)
Fortifications ranging from substantial works to flimsy, unreinforced-concrete pillboxes constructed from about 1935 through 1940 to support the Maginot Line and in areas where no Maginot Line fortifications had been constructed.
A ditch or moat.
Fossé diamant
A diamond moat is angular.
Gros ouvrage A large fort, armed with artillery pieces. See 'Ouvrage'.
Guet-fusil mitrailleur Station for observation and automatic rifle. GFM refers to a GFM cloche. These cloches are characteristic for the Maginot Line.
Indirect fire
Indirect fire means aiming and firing a gun without relying on a direct line of sight between the gun and its target, as in the case of direct fire.
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Interval casemate
Casemate d'intervalle or casemate de mitrailleuses isolées Stand-alone, self-contained infantry casemates defending the line of anti-tank obstacles and barbed-wire entanglements between ouvrages.
Lance-bombe (literally: bomb-thrower)
A short-barrelled 135mm howitzer. A weapon with qualities that ranged between a mortar and a howitzer.
Lance-grenade cloche
(literally: grenade thrower cloche)
A cloche whose roof is flush with the roof of the block in which it is installed and which was intended to mount a 50mm or 60mm breech-loading mortar. Intended to shower the immediate area with grenades.
Usually: a small lift or a conveyor which carried ammo to the guns from or close to a magazine.
New front
Nouveaux fronts The term used to distinguish the Maginot Line fortifications built in northern France beginning in 1934 from those of the original Maginot Line programme, the old fronts. Works of the new fronts were characterised by having a more fluid shape and a lesser complement of integral artillery.
Old front
Anciens fronts The term used to identify the fortifications of the original Maginot Line programme in north-eastern France starting in 1928.
Ouvrage (literally: work)
A collection of interconnected blocks and subterranean facilities functioning as a single unit. Sometimes referred to as a fort. While there are several ways of classifying ouvrages, the most common one is to classify them as either petits ouvrages (PO’s) (smaller ouvrages armed primarily with infantry weapons) or gros ouvrages (GO’s). These are larger ouvrages armed with a mixture of artillery and infantry weapons.
Petit ouvrage A small fort in the Maginot line, without artillery (as an exception, some forts had 81mm mortars) but with infantry weapons (i.e machine guns and anti-tank weapons).
Région fortifiée Fortified region.
Secteur fortifiée Fortified sector.
Any self-contained component of the Maginot Line fortifications, such as an ouvrage or interval casemate.