Fort de la Pompelle

Reims, France

The Fort de la Pompelle was built between 1880 and 1883 to complete the fortification belt around Reims that was started by General Raymond Adolphe Séré de Rivières after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This secondary work was planned to support the principal forts of Witry-les-Reims, Nogent-l'Abbesse, Brimont, Saint-Thierry, Fresnes and Montbré. The relatively small rectangular fort was surrounded by a ditch defended by two-level caponiers. With a surface area of 2.31 hectares, it was provided with six 155mm de Bange 1881 guns, four 138mm guns and a variety of lesser pieces. An artillery company of 277 men garrisoned the fort. In 1917-18 a number of underground passages were cut from the chalk to provide access points a few hundred meters to the rear of the fort.

First World War

The fort was disarmed in 1913, immediately prior to the First World War. During the offensives of 1914, the fort was briefly taken by German forces on 4 September. Following the First Battle of the Marne it was reoccupied by French forces of the 138th Infantry Regiment on 24 September 1914. The fort then became a principal part in the defense of the Reims sector. In the remainder of the war, the fort was assaulted and bombarded many times by the Germans, but never changed hands again.

A total of 180 different regiments, including two special Russian brigades sent by Tsar Nicholas II in 1916 would defend the fort in turn. The garrison was supported by naval artillery stationed on the canal between Sept Saulx and Courmelois, which bombarded the German lines. The fort saw particularly strong assaults in the spring of 1918 in the Second Battle of the Marne, when it was assaulted three times, on 1 June with fifteen tanks. Each assault was repelled by the elements of the 1st Colonial Infantry Corps.

Abandonment and restoration

After the First World War, the Fort de la Pompelle was abandoned for nearly forty years and was finally listed for sale by the Administration des Domaines in November 1955. Supported by veterans' groups, the fort was purchased by the Fédération Nationale André Maginot which sold the site to the city of Reims for one symbolic franc.

Musée du Fort de la Pompelle

Classified as an historic monument on 23 March 1922, the fort is today a museum, inaugurated on 10 November 1972. The museum features an unusual collection of German army headgear, collected by Charles Freise.



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Reims, France
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Founded: 1880-1883
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Damon Zarifé (11 months ago)
A word war one bunker turned into a museum. It has multiple world war one artifacts, but certainly the most impressive for world war one enthusiasts, is the collection of Prussian helmets. The museum itself and bunker are not huge, so the visit can be limited to couple of hours, however the location is just off the highway which make it for convenient for a stop.
Otto von Leuchtturm (2 years ago)
This is one of the places I've enjoyed the most while visiting Champagne. The display in the main corridor outlines the history of the fort and the progress of World War I in general. The smaller rooms along it are filled with either collections of weapons, uniforms and other objects or dioramas, all of this well made. The outside portion of the fort has plaques describing what-is-what as well. There are a few interactive bits and some footage from the time period, and a lot of objects such as postcards, novelty items, posters, everyday items etc. So it gives you a lot of perspective both on WWI as a whole and in a more "close" or "human" sense. My one complaint is something that I've noticed in some other museums in France. The displays in the main corridor are in French, English, German and even Braille (French, I assume). Alas, everything else is in French only. This isn't much of a problem if a plaque just says "French cavalry helmet", but there were some items that had additional explanations given and I feel like I could have learned a lot more. Google won't let me take half a star away, though, and other than this I think this is a great place to visit, so I'm giving it a five. Some two-three hours seems like a good estimate for how long a visit takes. Well, maybe four if you are very thorough.
Sarah Copeland (4 years ago)
Been here twice now would definitely recommend. Very informative, displays amazing,very clean, staff very helpful and value for money xxxxx
Andrэ Kovalev (4 years ago)
We only visited outside exposition and not the museum itself because we came outside of museum opening hours. Very interesting for the kids because they see what the fort is, see the large cannons, see flags of the war participants. The part of the exhibition is the monument devoted to the Russian expedition corps sent to French allies to support the defence.
Manu Chan (Manuchan) (5 years ago)
Good museum, doable in about 2 to 3 hours time depending on whether you read all exhibits, which are, by the way, available in 3 languages, french, English and German. They also have audio guides in Spanish and Italian. What you'll learn by visiting this place is the daily life and routine of a soldier of WW1. Lots of equipment on display, some weapons, and the biggest collection of German WW1 helmets in the world. Definitely worth a visit.
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