The architecture of the fort

Construction work began in October 1882 with the excavation of the foundations of the shelters in the central traverse of the low rampart. Once the bad season had passed, work restarted in April 1883 and continued until October around the barracks and the double caponier. The work was completed around September 1884 with the entrance and the counterscarp of the ditch.
As part of the 1874 program, the Leveau fort was one of six forts (Les Sarts, Boussois, Cerfontaine, Le Bourdiau, Hautmont and Leveau) built on the periphery of Maubeuge to protect the town from bombardment. It is located at 3250 metres north-west of the stronghold and occupies a total area of 8ha and 25a.
In contrast to the other fortifications built earlier, the layout of Leveau Fort is different. It has a rectilinear front, two flanks, a pseudo-bastioned gorge and a cavalier. The ditch is masonry: the counterscarp has discharge arches and the escarpment is semi-detached. The entrance to the fort, closed by a bascule bridge, is framed by a small barracks facing the gorge ditch. This barracks houses the ambulance (infirmary), quarters for the officers, the telegraph room and the guardhouse.
The entrance corridor leads to the central barracks and its courtyard. The barracks, with a simple ground floor, comprises fourteen cells. It is surmounted by an earthen cavalier with artillery emplacements separated by five cross shelters.

On the left side of the barracks, a powder magazine was established. A smaller magazine for infantry ammunition is in the right-hand end.
Continuing through the central corridor and past the loading workshop, one comes to the street of the low rampart. This is organised for riflemen and light artillery. These emplacements are divided in two by a crosspiece rooted in the barracks.

The ditches are flanked by a double caponier on the left head salient and a single caponier on the other head salient. TThe entrance and the gorge are defended by two flanking casemates.

The armament is as follows:

  • single caponier: a “12-breech canon” and a “revolver canon”.
  • double caponier: two “12-breech canons” and two “revolver canons”.
  • Throat casemates: two “12-breech canons” and two “revolver canons”.

The ditch is also battered from the battlements of the semi-detached escarpment, which can be accessed from the caponiers and flanking casemates via exit corridors. The ditch can be accessed from a postern in the gorge barracks.
The fort’s safety armament is placed on the cavalier which overhangs the low rampart by about ten metres. The cavalier has six platforms separated by five traverse covers. The defensive armament is placed on the low ramparts at the head and gorge.

In 1893, the armament consisted of:
On the cavalier

  • 4 guns of 120mm covering the edge of the city of Feignies and the edge of the woods “de la lanière” and “des écoliers”, the railway of Mons and Gognies Chaussée.

On the front line

  • 2 Reffye 5-guns to beat the approaches to the fort.

On the flanks of the low rampart

  • 2 x 90mm guns on the right and left flanks, to flank the defence line.

As part of the reinforcement project of 1 June 1910, it was decided to build a armoured observatory and an eclipse turret for two shortened 75mm cannons in the fort. The concreting work started at the beginning of 1914. In the right wing of the turret’s concrete mass, a rampart gatehouse was added.

Two twenty-ton bridge cranes were brought in from the Epinal head office to install the 75mm turret, the components of which arrived at Feignies station in May, three months behind the schedule drawn up in January 1914. At the end of July 1914, the turret was completed.

These works were the only modernisations made to the building before the start of the First World War.
beginning of the First World War.

1914, the tragedy of fort de leveau
The fort is part of the resistance centre no. 10 and comprises three mobilisation batteries, the reduce of which consists of the fort itself and an infantry position, located on the railway from Mons.
The siege of Maubeuge began on 29 August. The German efforts were first concentrated on the sector between the Bersillies fort and the Boussois fort.
On the morning of 7 September, Fort Leveau and its surroundings received twenty-five 42cm shells and an unknown number of 30.5cm shells. The fort was partly destroyed. One shell hit the central part of the barracks with full force. One hundred and twenty men were buried under the ruins of the fort.
Leveau was evacuated around 2 p.m. on the orders of his commander. The stronghold of Maubeuge surrendered shortly afterwards.
In September 1914, the Germans, fearing to lose the stronghold of Maubeuge, destroyed all the defences of the fort by dismantling the 75mm turret and the caponiers. All the other fortifications of the place will suffer the same fate.
The fort after 1918
Between 1935 and 1940, the Engineers carried out restoration work to store equipment. This involved filling in certain parts with concrete, including the funnels caused by the bombardment of September 1914, and installing observatories at the site of the 75mm turret and on the cavalier.
The OD 85 field observatory was used to provide information to some of the 5th and 6th batteries of the II/161st position artillery regiment whose guns were located nearby.
A cut-off room was also set up at the entrance to the fort to link the H.Q. of the 87th fortress infantry regiment installed in the fort with the rest of the fortified sector. On the glacis of the fort, to the north-east, an F.C.R. (reinforced field fortification) block was built to ensure the continuity of fire in the sector. It was called the “Plantis block”.
On 18 May 1940, enemy elements were spotted in the sector of the fort and the alert was given by the telegraphic sappers of the cut-off room. The next day, at around 4.30 a.m., the trenches built in front of the fort were used by the attackers to approach it. The tops were crowned by the enemy from 8 am onwards.
The elements of the H.Q. were almost in hand-to-hand combat with the Germans. The cut-off room was taken and Sapper Ernest Delalain was killed there. The fort was definitively taken in the early afternoon and used as an observatory to guide artillery fire on the Héron-Fontaine and Sarts fortifications.

At the liberation, in September 1944, the fort was the scene of sporadic fighting between Resistance fighters and German soldiers who were entrenched there.