Maginot Casemate 35-3 Marckolsheim Sud



Casemate 35-3 formed part of the third (main) line of the Maginot in the fortified sector of Colmar. The line of fortifications east and to the south of the Gros Ouvrage of Schoenenbourg was built in locations which, while vital for the defence of France, were not only wholly unsuited to the construction of deep level fortresses but also, due to the high water table, equally useless for anything other than surface works. The concept in this area called for defence in depth, rather than the strong fortifications found elsewhere, therefore the planners incorporated a three-line defensive approach. The first line was located directly on the banks of the river Rhine and was intended to stop any potential crossing of the river by a German assault, or at least severely hamper any such operation.




Casemate 35-3 was one of two casemates located just outside of the village of Marckolsheim towards the Rhine and was to the south of the village, thus also being known as Marckolsheim Sud (south). It was constructed with the entrance facing the village and had provision for the crew to be accommodated along with stores of munitions and provisions.





The main combat areas consisted of two firing chambers, each containing a set of Riebel machine guns mounted in a pair, along with a 47 mm anti-tank gun mounted on an overhead rail and shared the embrasure with the machine guns, which would be swapped over as battle required. The casemate had a fresh water supply from a well and a single toilet for the crew of over 30. Power was supplied by a small generator. Conditions in the casemates were, to say the least, spartan. 35-3 was under the command of Lt Marois of the 42eme RIF.





The Germans launched operation Kleiner Bär (Little Bear) on the 15th June, 1940. This was merely a vanity operation for Hitler, in order to claim a victory over the Maginot Line. The line at this point was devoid of most of its supporting surface troops and thus operating at below the tactical strength for which it had been designed and crucially, there was no means to defend adequately against attack from the air.






Both casemates at Marckolsheim came under sustained attack from the German 360th Infantry Regiment supported by Stukas, between the 15th and 17th June. The main GFM was put out of action by shelling from a German 88mm gun (which still has a round embedded in the cloche to this day!). The Stukas further added to the mayhem by throwing up large volumes of soil when their bombs detonated close to the casemate, thus burying the other cloches, rendering them ineffective. A combination of this and other holes blasted into the outer walls of the casemate forced the surrender of the crew on June 17th.




Casemate 35-3 was one of the very first works of the Maginot Line to be preserved and opened to the public. It is also unique as it is the only Maginot position ever to be visited by Hitler.




For a newsreel showing footage of Operation Kleiner Bar, click here.

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