The World War One Battlefields site is undergoing a major update, with pages being converted to a new, user-friendly mobile format. The updated pages can be found at Updated World War One Battlefields. Some pages such as this one remain in the original format pending update.
This amazing site is actually located some ten miles or so north-east of Verdun, and is best visited on a tour taking in the northern area. However, it is such an incredible site that I have decided to devote an entire page to it on the website. If you get a chance to visit Verdun, then this site is a must see.
Camp Marguerre was an experimental site, where the use of concrete, which became increasingly important in terms of fortifications as the war went on, was studied and improved. The site can be reached from the D16, and is signposted well from near the village of Loisin. It is set deep in a forested area (Spincourt Forest). There is a car parking area in this lonely spot, and then it is a short walk to reach the site itself. There are several information boards around the site, with one showing an overall plan of the Camp, which is reproduced below.
Plan of Camp Marguerre
This site is literally a small village made up of concrete buildings - not all of which are conventional bunkers or blockhouses. A signboard shows the various areas: a blockhouse (shelter) zone, the village of the engineers, a concrete plant and living quarters are all marked, and can be visited by the footpaths which cross the site. The site remains densely forested (this acted as camouflage during the war), and as one moves through it one constantly is amazed by the buildings that appear. A few of these are described and shown below.
The camp was certainly established in 1915, as there are contemporary photographs on tone of the information boards taken in the summer of that year. The information board suggests that in 1915 there were probably only two buildings here: a large building for the troops and a smaller one for officers. The buildings were extended in 1916, partly by construction in wood.
Some of the structures are obviously living quarters, and some of the unofficial names given to this place by those who lived here included 'Camp Bismarck' and 'Village of the Kronprinz'.
Inside the commandant's house and living quarters the traces of wall decorations can still be seen, with decorative borders towards the tops of some walls. Every attempt was obviously made to make this place, miles from their homes, as comfortable and familiar as possible. And being behind the lines and well camoflagued, life was probably relatively peaceful and regular, compared to those involved in the fighting nearer to Verdun.
One particularly poignant touch are the words "Gruss Gott" marked on one wall - the lettering fading now, ninety years later, but still clearly visible.
Captain Marguerre, after whom the Camp is named, was an engineer who worked in Berlin before the War. Captain Marguerre and his men were sent to the Spincourt sector, to create a camp to test the use of concrete in war fortifications. The inscription above the door of the officer's quarters reads 'This camp was built by the Beton-Fabrik Section under the command of Captain Marguerre'. The ornamentation of this structure shows the pride in their work, and that they were here to stay for some time. Pebbles are inset around the windows in a decorative effect.
In 1918 the Germans abandoned the site, and in 1919 the local inhabitants removed much of the furniture and fittings that they left behind, including windows. During the Second World War, the French Resistance used the buildings here as hideouts to avoid discovery, ironically turning the tables on the sons of the Germans who had originally built it.
Sources & Acknowledgements
Christina Holstein: Fort Douaumont