Fort Suchet, known as du Barbonnet
Fort Suchet and the le Barbonnet structure. Source: ECPAD
Fort Suchet, also known as du Barbonnet, is one of the group of fortifications built to prevent any potential invader coming from the col de Tende pass.
Situated in the eastern part of the Alpes-Maritimes département, the village of Sospel lies to the south of the green valley of la Bévera, on the edge of the Mercantour park and the valley of les Merveilles, 15 km from Menton and the Mediterranean. Fort Suchet, also known as du Barbonnet, is one of a group of fortifications in the region that constitutes the last bastion ahead of the road to Nice that prevents any potential invader coming from the col de Tende pass.
2 km south of Sospel, perched on the narrow rocky outcrop of Mount Barbonnet, Fort Suchet looks down on the village from an altitude of 847 m. Constructed between 1883 and 1886 with the objective of sealing the la Bévéra and le Merlanson valleys, this compact, Séré de Rivières type fort is pentagonal in shape, surrounded by a wide moat and flanked by three caponniers.
The building work was carried out by Captain Azibert, whose name is still engraved on the façade of the entrance to the fort. In 1891 a cavity was dug out of the rock in order to contain a powder store. Then, in 1914, two three-storey high turrets, armoured with lead were added to the structure. One of the two double 155 mm Mougin turrets has been perfectly preserved until the modern day, which is extremely rare.
This first construction was seconded by a Maginot fort built into the rock on the side of the mountain, constructed between 1931 and 1935. It was an artillery block, controlling the le Merlanson valley as far as the col de Castillon, with an entrance and barracks protected by more than twenty metres of rock.
In June 1940, the 95th artillery foot regiment, who resisted the Italian attacks with orders not to surrender until after the armistice, occupied the place. Tours organised in the holiday season allow comparisons to be made between the defensive systems of the 19th century Séré de Rivières fort with the more recent structure, most of which is underground.
In addition to Fort Suchet and the Maginot structure built on Mont Barbonnet, there are several fortified structures close to Sospel, and the most notable ones played an active part in the fighting of June 1940.
Constructed between 1932 and 1936 on the crest of Mount Agaisen, this fort is one of the links in the Maginot line, in the heart of the fortified sector of the Alpes-Maritimes. Equipped since its completion with powerful artillery, the structure is composed of three concrete blocks set upon an infrastructure of underground galleries. Owned by the town of Sospel since 1964, it is currently undergoing restoration and its annex has been converted into a water tower. Public tours are organised in season, with groups welcome all year round by appointment. Site: perso.wanadoo.fr/agaisen/contacts.htm
The impressive Fort Saint-Roch was constructed between 1931 and 1933 and flanks the Maginot structure at l'Agaisen. The four blocks in reinforced concrete were built above a network of galleries dug out of the rock, which were used for logistical purposes. . Reaching depths of up to thirty metres, this fort was designed to hold more than two hundred soldiers for three months. Fort Saint-Roch is open to the public and holds a permanent exhibition tracing the history of its building and the battles fought there, highlighting its technological prowess at the time if its construction.
Getting to Sospel 40 km from Nice via the A 8 (exit no. 59 "Menton and Sospel ") and then the D 2566. Sospel Tourist information and activity centre Le Pont-Vieux 06380 Sospel Tel. + 33 (0) 4 93 04 15 80 Fax + 33 (0) 4 93 04 19 96 e-mail: email@example.com
04 93 04 15 80
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