The combat block of kerfent
The Kerfent combat block (PO) is one of 53 Maginot Line works in northeastern France. It comprises 4 combat blocks.
In June 1940, the Kerfent crew numbered around 125 men, commanded by Captain Georges Broché.
From September 1939 to May 1940, it’s the Drôle de Guerre (Phony War), during which no major events take place. The crew feverishly awaited a frontal assault when, on May 10, Germany launched its attack on Western Europe. But the enemy offensive finally took place further north, in the Ardennes forest.
Despite courageous resistance, the Allied armies were quickly routed by the German Blitzkrieg. The military situation became untenable, and the crews of the works prepared to sabotage their equipment with a view to withdrawing on June 17, 1940 at 10:00 pm. However, the German advance was too rapid and prevented any retreat. The commanders of the works in the sector decided to resist on the spot.
After several days of harassment, on the afternoon of June 20, a violent bombardment was unleashed on the Bambesch fortification, which surrendered to the enemy after a few hours. The breach was made: the crew of the Kerfent feverishly awaited their turn.
Indeed, on June 21st, at around 4.30am, the German attack began. Some thirty guns of all calibres harassed the 3 combat blocks in front of the wood, the block being spared.
Block 3, whose weapons were almost all destroyed, was evacuated. The enemy then concentrated most of its fire on block 2, the entrance to the wood.
As the bombardments intensified, the French crew responded with their limited resources (machine guns and mortars, as the ouvrage had no artillery), maintaining constant pressure on the attackers, who had the greatest difficulty in approaching the ouvrage. Several German soldiers were killed or wounded.
Believing that resistance was now futile, and that it was time to protect the lives of his men, Captain Broché, commander of the fortress, finally gave the order to surrender at around 10:00 am.
He and his crew were then sent into captivity in Germany. Most of them did not return until 1945, at the Liberation.
At the end of 1944, after the area had been liberated, the American army blew up one of the two GFM bells in block 4, for a reason still unknown to this day.
To find out more about the history of the PO du Kerfent, please visit www.kerfent.com.