Fort du Portalet

Le fort du Portalet. ©Mariano64 – Source : http://www.topopyrenees.com

This fort in the département of Pyrénées-Atlantique was designed to defend the road from le Somport and is famous for having been used as a prison.

Fort du Portalet, in the Pyrénées-Atlantique, was designed to defend the road from le Somport (Aspe Valley) and is famous for having been used as a prison for Léon Blum, Edouard Daladier, Georges Mandel and Paul Reynaud in 1941 and 1942 and later for Marshal Pétain. It was built following an order given by Louis-Philippe on the 22nd July 1842 to protect the Pyrenees border from a possible Spanish invasion.

The structure was built at an altitude of 765 metres on a cliff on the right bank of the Gave d'Aspe, downriver from Urdos. It takes its name from the former medieval commercial toll bridge, le "Portalet", of La Porte d'Aspe, situated 100 metres further down. The accommodation comprises a barracks for the troops and officers' lodge, both built on two levels. A small upper fort of three bastions equipped with batteries, protects the lanes from the le Rouglan plateau and la Mâture. The road and the Urdos were covered by the creation of crenulated galleries carved into the rock. Equipped with around ten canons, the stronghold could accommodate more than 400 men and seal off access for a siege lasting at least a week.
The 18th Infantry Regiment of Pau was stationed there from 1871; it remained there until 1925. From there, it saw action from 1875 to 1876 against Spanish Carlist soldiers. On the eve of the First World War, the fort was left in civilian hands and remained so until 1940, when the Vichy regime interned those people deemed to be "responsible for the defeat" following the Riom trial. Amongst them were Léon Blum, Edouard Daladier, Georges Mandel, Paul Reynaud and Maurice Gamelin. When, in November 1942, the Free Zone was invaded, the sector was used as a position for German troops. The fort was liberated on the 24th August 1944 by Resistance fighters from Aspe and Spanish Guerillas. Following the liberation, between August and November 1945, le Portalet was used as a place of internment for Marshal Pétain before he was transferred to the island of Yeu.
Aspe Valley Tourist Information Office Place Sarraillé 64490 Bedous Tel.: + 33 (0) 5 59 34 57 57 Email: aspe.tourisme@wanadoo.fr

  • Fort du Portalet. Source: Aspe Valley Tourist Information Office

  • Bastion and moat. Source: Photograph A. Lecomte

  • Plans - 1787. Source: Herzog ERNST

  • Fort du Portalet. Source: Aspe Valley Tourist Information Office

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