The Main de Massiges
The main de Massiges is located in the Marne département, to the East of Rheims and to the West of Châlons-en-Champagne. It really is a natural fortress in the middle of a chalky plateau, and it takes its name from its contour lines which depict, on the land as well as on the maps a left hand placed flat with each finger forming a stronghold.
Because of its pivotal position between the Champagne and Argonne fronts, the Main de Massiges was a major site of the 14-18 war. After the battle of the Marne in September 1914, the Germans took up positions on its heights. French troops would only take back this position on 25 September 1915 and after intensive fighting, with the exception of the Tête de Vipère zone or Kanonnnenberg, which would remain in German hands until the end of the war.
At this site the funnels of the fighting mines can still be seen. The principle consisted of digging underground galleries up to the enemy’s trenches, then of placing an explosive charge in the mine furnace before setting it off. This would create a crater or even a funnel, or varying size depending on the explosive charge, which would shake the enemy trench burying alive any men who happened to be in there.
This 3 hectare site has been restored by the “The Main de Massiges” association: its network of trenches and tunnels which had largely been filled in by farmers after the war, has been opened once again by the association. The site is constantly changing and is now open to the public without appointment.