Fort Souville



    49°11'17.58"N - 5°26'20.98"E


Click to view this location in Google Earth...

BUILT: 1875 - 1877.
MODIFIED: 1884, 1890 -98, 1908, 1910, 1914 and 1917.

Prohibited - access was barred once upon a time but the locals have "opened the fort"for our delight!


314 men.


1 x Cloche Pamart MG casemate, 1 x Tourelle Buissière 155mm armoured artillery turret.


Much of this fort is easily accessible although there are some roof falls in places. The Travaux 17 tunnels are extremely delicate and should NOT be entered under any circumstances.



Following the Franco-Prussian war immediate work began on a ring of fortresses to protect Verdun and the road to Paris from future attacks by the Germans. The annexation of large parts of Alsace and Lorraine following the war meant that the border was now only a few tens of miles away instead of in excess of a hundred.

One of the first forts to be built was Souville and it's design is markedly different to those built far closer to the turn of the 19th. and 20th. centuries. The initial artillery armament of the fort consisted of field guns placed there together with heavy mortars. The ditches were protected by "revolver canons", a kind of fast firing, small calibre artillery piece, and riflemen completed the defence.

Following the development of much higher explosive by the Germans together with shells fired from breech loading guns which could penetrate far deeper, the original concrete of all the existing Verdun forts was found to be severely lacking and a program of upgrading the concrete with special reinforced concrete was undertaken. On Souville however there does not appear to have been much of this reinforcement carried out other than to the magazine.

Finally it was decided that Souville should be strengthened further still by the building of a self contained, armoured 155mm artillery turret emplacement, and by the addition of four pre-cast reinforced steel Cloche Pamart machinegun emplacements. Most forts have their artillery turrets built inside the fort complex itself however Souville's 155 turret is some distance away in a complex of it's own not far from the Pamart emplacement. Unlike the double 75 mm turrets seen elsewhere around Verdun the 155 mm turret was of a somewhat different design being powered by steam.

In addition to the main fortress buildings and exterior emplacements, there is an Abri Caverne shelter for infantry built on to the south side of the fort, and the war time entrance comes in through this structure. A sketch plan of the fort as it appeared in 1917 can be seen -  above right  - courtesy of Cedric and Julie Vaubourg, and we would like to extend our thanks to them for letting us use these sketch plans. Their amazing site detailing this and many, many other forts in France can be accessed via the photo link at the bottom of this page.

During the terrible fighting of 1916 the Germans pushed so far forward that following the fall of Fort Vaux and Douamont to the north,  Souville came under direct threat, however they did not quite reach the fort itself, being held back at the nearby Froideterre. That said the fort still received a punishing bombardment throughout the battle and as a result it is in quite a bad state now. As with all the other Verdun forts a program of works to build deep connecting tunnels from all fighting compartments to the heart of the fort and to the exterior, was carried out in 1917 - the so called Travaux 17 tunnels. These tunnels have never been finished and are extremely unsafe, indeed, in the 155 mm emplacement the tunnel has partially collapsed because the old wooden pit props have long since rotted away.

The outlines of most of the Verdun fortifications are still very clear when seen from altitude - not so Fort Souville. It is extremely difficult to make out any of the fort and only close scrutiny at maximum magnification reveals the 155 mm turret! This can be clearly seen in the aerial photo taken from Google Earth at the top of this page.

 A poilu wanders through the mud outside the fort... A period postcard claims the Germans failed to take Souville during their furious attack of 12th. July, 1916...


Here are some photographs taken in and around Fort Souville on a trip over in the winter of 2004.



To view any of the photographs in a larger format click the small
photograph and a larger version will open in a secondary window.



The entrance to the 155 mm turret emplacement outside the fort proper.

Inside the emplacement a staircase rises to the turret platform.


The turret was steamed powered in this installation. These are the boiler flues.

The ammunition hoist.
Looking up into the turret mechanism.
The pit below the turret.

The barrel of the gun can just be seen in the fighting compartment of the turret.

The rather dodgy remains of a Travaux 17 tunnel in the 155 mm emplacement.

The turret is in the withdrawn position.


A small calibre German shell has hit the armour of the turret and glanced off leaving an impression of it's shape in the steel.

The Abri Caverne infantry shelter and war time entrance to the fort at the south of the complex.

The fort's main entrance, note the drawbridge platform.

Within the caponier at the front of the fort.


A firing port in the caponier wall.


Progress through the fort was hampered by several areas where the roof had collapsed but we managed to find our way from back to front eventually.

TJ in a tunnel!


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Verdun forts main page once more...

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excellent and informative site on the forts of France...