The Rimplas fortification
Vue générale du gros-ouvrage de Rimplas. Secteur fortifié des Alpes-Maritimes de la ligne Maginot. Source : GNU Free Documentation License
Originally called the Madeleine fortification, this was the Maginot Line's earliest ouvrage, or defensive work; construction began in 1928.
Originally called the Madeleine fortification, this was the Maginot Line's earliest ouvrage, or defensive work; construction began in 1928. The French government decided to build it after Mussolini's many sabre-rattling statements on the Nice region's Italian origin.
The Alpes-Maritimes General Council later bought the site to turn it into a "place of remembrance". "Les Amis de l'Ouvrage Maginot de la Madeleine", an association formed in early 2008, has begun rehabilitating the inside and outside and opened the site to the public during the 2009 Open Heritage Weekend.
Rimplas does not illustrate the concepts implemented in the later fortifications: it is in a single block surrounded by escarp walls whose blocks all face one way. They are veritable armoured casemates with 20cm-thick steel reinforcing the concrete walls, which extend inside and wrap around the cannon; two armoured shutters close the embrasure. The construction ran into many problems. First, the soil's crumbly nature required the excavated areas to be covered in concrete in several places. Second, there was severe water infiltration; in July 1936 cracks were still observed in the concrete. The fort was officially handed over to the 74th Alpine Fortress Battalion (BAF) in August 1937, before the work was totally completed.
Mission The Rimplas ouvrage has views stretching from the Upper Tinée in the north to Saint-Dalmas and La Colmiane in the west; its searchlights could scan the Upper Tinée road and the road to Saint-Martin-Vésubie. The fort could fire frontally towards the border, which was less than 5km away and ran along the present-day D2565 before the 1947 rectification. The frontier, which ran along the road between Isola, where a casemate stood, and Valabres, at the mouth of Mollières Glen, encircled nearly three-fourths of the town of Saint-Martin-Vésubie.
Composition The Rimplas ouvrage consists of five blocks connected to underground tunnels and indoor and outdoor facilities: Mixed entrance: three machine gun embrasures, mixed door, aerial tram entrance; B1: two 81mm mortar embrasures, two embrasures for twin Reibel machine guns and one grenade-launcher cloche. The mortars could fire frontally northward, but not as far as the border; B2: one machine gun embrasure; B3: one machine gun cloche and one cloche for twin Reibel machine guns; B4: two 1933 model 75mm howitzer embrasures, one 1931 model 75mm howitzer embrasure, one machine gun cloche, one observation cloche; however, the howitzers could not reach Isola, where an SFAM outpost was located. The underground rooms contained all the usual logistical facilities for a fortification of this size, and even an operating room. The tunnels and rooms are on three levels. B5: two 1933 model 75mm howitzer embrasures, one 1931 model 75mm howitzer embrasure, one machine gun cloche and one observation cloche (this block is the same as the previous one, except for the machine gun cloche). The row of howitzers covered the border to Saint-Martin-Vésubie and beyond. An observation post, located outside on the west façade, consists of an underground casemate closed by a concrete mask. The row of howitzers covered the entire border to the northeast. An emergency way out is atop the west cliff near the present telephone tower. A masonry casemate covered with a reinforced concrete slab stands before the curve in the road leading to the esplanade. The security barracks in the village of Rimplas.
The single-cable aerial tram built by Brien-Anzun, whose lower shaft can still be seen beside the Upper Tinée road, was 878m long, rose a total of 602m and could transport 52 tonnes of munitions or supplies every day in 21 cars. It was powered by two internal combustion motors. In 1939 the Rimplas fortification had a big garrison of 334 soldiers and eight officers from the 84th Alpine Fortress Battalion (BAF) and 167th Position Artillery Regiment (RAP).
The fighting In June 1940 the border zone between Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée and Valdeblore was held by four Ski Scout Sections (SES) belonging to the 84th BAF and 55th RIA: I/55 at Mont Raja, II/55 at Collet de la Sagne, III/55 at Bifarquet and that of the 84th BAF at Cabanes de Lenton. They faced off against the Val Elero battalion of the 1st Alpini. Italy declared war on France on 10 June but the actual offensive did not start until the 20th, when units of the Livorno division crossed the border near Isola and came up the Tinée halfway to Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée, trying to reach the road from Roya to Péone by way of Tolondet, certainly knowing the guns of Rimplas could not cover the area. Nevertheless, they were stopped at Pont-Rouge, before Douans. No source reports fighting in the sector in the following days and up to the armistice. Fort Rimplas nevertheless shelled the border to try and keep the Italian troops from coming across. The enemy did not breach the frontier in this sector and never threatened the work.
Present condition After the 24 June 1940 armistice the Italians disarmed and dismantled the fortification, taking away the 75mm guns. Fort de Rimplas was partially rearmed in 1947 and maintained by the army's corps of engineers until being decommissioned in 1972, when it was sold to the town of Rimplas. The municipality rented it to a company that grew mushrooms; the resulting humidity caused further damage. Much of the fort's interior was sold as scrap. Very little is left inside, but the camouflage painting and false embrasures are still quite visible on the escarp walls.
Rimplas ouvrage Les Amis de l'Ouvrage Maginot de la Madeleine 3 Promenade Saint Roch - Hôtel de ville 06420 Rimplas Tel: 06 80 59 09 94 Fax: 04 93 02 89 19 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact the association for tours Contact Milano Nicolas, Président: email@example.com Icardo Laurent, guide: firstname.lastname@example.org
06 80 59 09 94
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