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Lille: Before and During the War. Michelin Illustrated Guides to the Battlefields (1914-1918)

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[Technical Report, Monograph]

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Lying between the rivers Lys, Escaut and Scarpe, in the plain before the hills of Artois, Lille forms an isolated advance-post between Maubeuge which guards the Pass of the Oise, and Dunkirk which commands the region of the Dunes. Vauban had fortified the place, but the treaties of 1815 and 1871 deprived France of her essential points of support, and rendered these defences valueless. In 1873 General Sere de Rivieres, Director of the Engineering Section at the Ministry of War, commenced a comprehensive scheme which aimed at the reorganization of the entire northern frontier, where of Lille was one of the pivots. Situated in the centre of Frances richest coalfields and allied industries, Lille has justly been called the Key to Frances Treasure-House see Le secret de la frontiere, by M. Fernand Engerand, 1918. To enable it to withstand a surprise attack and hold out against a long siege, the citys intermediate defences were increased to such a degree that Lille became the point of support of the French frontier between the rivers Sambre and Lys. By thus protecting the Arsenal of Douai, it became possible to assemble a reserve army within the entrenched camp of Lille, 31 miles in length. The total cost of these works was 126,000,000 francs. But, as in Vaubans days, a reactionary movement set in against defensive works and it was demonstrated by their opponents that besieged towns must fall, and that in future, the destinies of nations would be decided in the open battlefield. In 1880 the works of Sere de Rivieres were abandoned.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]