'the Paris Fortifications';

Defending the Capital of France

French Territorials of the Paris entrenched camp
from a French magazine : 'le Pays de France'


The fortifications protecting the French capital were never besieged during the Great War. At the height of the initial German offensive in early September 1914, German forces were but several miles distant from the outermost forts. It seemed that a replay of the 1870-71 siege of Paris was about to take place, this time aided by German and Austrian heavy mobile siege artillery, the 30 and 42 cm canons which had already reduced the far more modern Belgian forts at Liege and Namur and the French fortress city of Maubeuge.

The Parisian fortifications were far from up to date. The innermost ring was essentially early 19th century in design, and before the war there were plans to demolish this more or less useless line of defence. Two more rings of forts and redoubts were built farther from the city limits, these being more recent in construction, though still a far cry from the modern steel and concrete defences which had been built to protect cities such as Verdun, Liege and Antwerp.

When German forces were thrown back across the river Marne and took positions along the Aisne, it appeared that the Parisian fortifications would serve little purpose. Many heavy artillery pieces were taken out for use elsewhere along the front lines and the garrison troops were replaced with older Territorials. After the war, the innermost ring of forts and moats was demilitarized and given to the municipal authorities. Demolition of the 'fortifs' was started soon after, with a ring road planned to take their place. By the late 1930s, almost all buildings were torn down and levelled, but construction on the 'boulevard péréférique', the ring road, was not started until after the Second World War.

In accounts and newsmagazines at the time of the Great War , little was made of the Parisian fortifications. There is however material to be found here and there. In the following links are several photographs and watercolors of the Paris fortified camp.


from a German magazine - French defences in the Bois de Boulogne


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Page 02


Post War

maps of the Paris fortified area in 1914


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