ⓘ Sere de Rivieres system. The Sere de Rivieres system was named after Raymond Adolphe Sere de Rivieres, its originator. The system was an ensemble of fortificati ..

Sere de Rivieres system

ⓘ Sere de Rivieres system

The Sere de Rivieres system was named after Raymond Adolphe Sere de Rivieres, its originator. The system was an ensemble of fortifications built from 1874 along the frontiers and coasts of France. The fortresses were obsolescent by 1914 but were still used during the First World War.


1.1. Background Comite de Defense

Following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, France found itself seriously weakened and isolated from the rest of Europe, menaced by Germany and stung by the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. At the same time as the departure of the last German troops, France created the "Defense Committee" Comite de Defense, active between 1872 and 1888, whose mission was to reorganize the defence of the French frontiers and coastals. It was necessary to compensate for the lost territories of the north-east, to modernize old fortifications which had been shown to be wanting in the last war and to create new fortifications adapted to new combat techniques. The greatly improved effectiveness of artillery in the new age demanded new measures.

The committee was created by a Presidential decree on 28 July 1872, with nine members from the Ministry of War and representatives from artillery and military engineering. General Sere de Rivieres, commander of engineering for the Second Army Corps of Versailles, was named secretary of the committee in 1873 and on 1 February 1874 was promoted to Chief of Engineers. During the ensuing years, Sere de Rivieres was re-elected head of the committee with all powers necessary to realize his ideas without opposition. The first works of the new French fortification system were begun in 1874. In 1880, when the work was already quite advanced and after some internal rivalries and political machinations, General Sere de Rivieres was removed from the Defense Committee but the work continued.


1.2. Background 1874 fortifications

Since the fortifications executed by Vauban in the seventeenth century, defensive technology had not evolved during the course of the 19th century. During the Franco-Prussian War, their shortcomings became clear, the "impregnable citadel" could no longer resist assault. It was necessary to re-think strong points and adapt them to the progress of artillery. Gone were citadels surrounding towns, forts were to be moved outside cities some 12 km 7.5 mi to keep the enemy beyond artillery range of the city centre. Rings of forts were to be built at a spacing that would allow them to cover the intervals between them. The new forts abandoned the principle of the bastion, which had also been made obsolete by advances in arms. The outline was a simplified polygon, surrounded by a ditch that was covered by caponiers. These forts, built in masonry and shaped stone, were designed to shelter their garrison against bombardment and artillery was laid out on top of the fort in the open air. A feature of the new system involved the construction of two defensive curtains, an outer line of forts, backed by an inner ring or line of forts d’arrêt at critical points of terrain or junctions, along with a great number of coastal batteries. Examples of the first sort may be found at Verdun, Toul, Epinal, Belfort in the north-east, as well as Paris and Brest. Forts darrêts may be found at Manonviller, Meurthe-et-Moselle et de Bourlemont Vosges.


1.3. Background The explosive shell crisis

From 1883 to 1885 a revolution occurred in artillery, with the introduction of new materials and techniques, notably the introduction of rifled artillery and much more powerful explosives, such as picric acid. These developments multiplied the power of artillery against fortifications. Tests against the Malmaison fort south of Laon in 1886 indicated that masonry forts were insufficiently resistant and the artillery on their superstructures was extremely vulnerable. A new solution was required. The answer was found in the use of high-strength concrete, which was more resistant than masonry to explosives. The development of reinforced concrete would allow the new fortifications to deal with the new threat. Forts already constructed constituted a large portion of the system and a decision was made to downgrade some of the new forts and to improve others. Concrete was added to cover some forts, burying vulnerable portions such as magazines behind the new material.


2.1. New technology Armor

Advances in the iron and steel industries allowed the new forts to use armour in innovative ways. In 1875, the Mougin system of laminated armour using rolled iron was first used in casemates to provide protection against field guns. Rolled iron gave way to cast iron, providing protection against siege guns. Mougin also devised the Mougin turret, a revolving cast iron turret for 155 mm guns. Cast iron was not altogether suitable for protection against explosive shells and its use was discontinued in 1882. In 1885, steel was substituted for cast iron. Non-retractable or non-eclipsing turrets could avoid direct-fire damage to their gun embrasures, only by facing away from the direction of fire. Eclipsing turrets were developed that could retract in the face of such attack, leaving only their top surfaces exposed. Such turrets were expensive and complex, with serious problems of noise and ventilation but were shown to be effective. Casemated artillery was used as much as possible, due to the lower cost of such an emplacement. While heavy armament was being armoured, lighter armament and observers were also protected. A range of armoured machine gun and observation positions were developed and were widely installed.


2.2. New technology Forts

Three types of fort were built: stop forts, screening forts and point defence forts; the forts may be further categorized by their state of modernization. Stop forts were intended to be autonomous, capable of functioning if isolated from the rest of the system and assure their own defence. Such forts could fire in all directions. Screening forts were intended to lend mutual support to others of their kind and generally defended on one front. Their artillery focused on specific areas of control.


2.3. New technology First generation forts

Prior to modernization, these forts were built entirely of masonry, using large quantities of shaped stone. The forts were provided with a ditch, six to twelve meters wide and bounded by the main wall of the fort on one side and a counterscarp on the opposing side. Moats were unusual features at Sere de Rivieres; most ditches were dry. Some walls were crenelated for defence and many had caponiers at angles to fire along the length of the ditch. Entries were typically by drawbridges. Inside the forts perimeter were multi-story barracks with facades facing interior courtyards. Barracks were typically semi-recessed into the walls and included mess halls, kitchens and cisterns. Powder magazines were buried for protection from artillery, located behind triple-locked double doors and illuminated indirectly from lamp rooms to prevent accidental explosion. The artillery was laid out in the open air on top of the ramparts. Shelters were provided for ready ammunition. In some cases, artillery was located in armoured casemates or Mougin turrets. Special infantry positions were provided for defence of the ditch.


2.4. New technology Modernized forts

After the rise of the explosive shell the most important forts were modernised. A supplementary shell of concrete was placed over the masonry to protect against the new artillery. In some cases, entirely new concrete casemates were built, leaving the stone casemates alone. The most vulnerable locations in the fort were the magazines, which in the modernised forts were dispersed and more deeply buried. Protected paths were created along the ramparts, along with protected sally ports giving on to the ditch and galleries within the counterscarps looking back at the fort. Artillery was removed from the ramparts and placed under shelter of concrete. While the number of artillery pieces declined, the new equipment was as effective as the former batteries. Eclipsing infantry positions and observation cloches were also provided. The newest forts of this time were given central electrical plants.


2.5. New technology Forts after 1885

These forts were built in concrete from the beginning but due to budget cuts were smaller in scale than previous forts.


2.6. New technology Wartime improvization

During the Battle of Verdun the troops, under a flood of fire and fearing for the concrete fort, excavated new galleries under the fort for shelter and living quarters. Some of these galleries connected neighbouring fortifications, foreshadowing the connected systems of the Maginot Line. The so-called travaux de 17 built in 1917 foreshadowed this advance as well.

  • the design of fortifications in France. He gave his name to the Sere de Rivieres system of fortifications constructed after the Franco - Prussian War of
  • battery of the Sere de Rivieres whose construction was completed in 1879. It is near Wimereux, in the Pas - de - Calais on the tip of Pointe de la Creche. It
  • the northwest of the city, overlooking the railroad to Mons. The Sere de Rivieres system fort was built 1882 1884, one of six forts built at the time. It
  • named after General François Joseph Lefebvre. It forms part of the Sere de Rivieres system fortifications in the fortified region of Belfort in northeastern
  • Dauphine region of southeastern France. It was built as part of the Sere de Rivieres system of fortifications in 1876 79 to defend France against invasion
  • northeastern France. This set of forts was built as part of the Sere de Rivieres system and incorporated improvements to deal with the improvement in efficacy
  • Sere de Rivieres system fortification. It escaped significant alteration in the years prior to World War I and is maintained as a museum. The Fort de
  • It was built between November 1874 and July 1877 as part of the Sere de Rivieres system of fortifications. The fort overlooks the valleys of the Doubs
  • their re - use of older sites. They were rebuilt as part of the Sere de Rivieres system and incorporated improvements to deal with the improvement in efficacy
  • the Sere de Rivieres system and incorporated improvements to deal with the improvement in efficacy of artillery in the late 19th century. The Fort de Roppe
  • The Fort de Bourlemont, or Fort Choiseul, was built between 1878 and 1881. The fort was built as part of the Sere de Rivieres system of fortifications
  • Fortified Sector of the Escaut, an extension of the Maginot Line. The Sere de Rivieres system fort was built 1881 1884. In 1936 1937 the old fort, commanding
  • project was placed under the supervision of Sere de Rivieres Compared with later Sere de Rivieres system forts, the fort s design is reminiscent of the