Gros Ouvrage Billig

'Gros Ouvrage' means large fortification and Billig certainly is that. It's one of many Gros Ouvrages (GO) and Petit Ouvrages (PO) that form France's famous Maginot Line. Billing is roughly 1Km long and buried 30 metres underground. Ammunition and supplies were transported from stores and the magazine to the fighting blocks via a narrow gauge electric railway. Each Ouvrage was equipped with its own power station known as a Usine, in addition to catering, engineering, signals and medical facilities. Billig saw little action during World War Two except for when its 75mm guns fired 2030 shells in support of the defence of another GO at Hackenberg that was under German attack on the 24 June 1940. After the surrender of France, the Germans used Billig for explosive testing, blasting various parts with high explosives. After the Allied invasion of Europe, the American 90th Infantry Division re-took Billig after a two-day assault.


Post-war, the Americans gave Billig the same treatment that the Germans did and blew bits of it to pieces in tests. With the onset of the Cold War, the Maginot Line was upgraded and put back into service with the hopes of slowing a Warsaw Pact advance. Billig remained in this role until the 1950's when it was mothballed. At some point in the 1970's the ouvrage was abandoned.


At some point before my visit, a fire had occurred, the air was still smokey in places, and an acrid smell hung in the air.