While the existence of the Maginot Line in France is well known, but the French were not the only ones to defend their border line with forts. In Belgium a series of forts dated back to the nineteenth century and had been fought over in WW1. In the 1930s the defences were updated and expanded, and at this time Fort d’Aubin-Château was built. Located north-east of Liege, it saw heavy fighting in May 1940 and the garrison only surrendered when they ran out of ammunition.
After 1940 forts like this were occupied by the German army but by 1944 d’Aubin-Neufchâteau was chosen as a site to test a new type of German weapon: the Röchling shell. Hitler and his high command became obsessed that as they developed bigger and better concrete structures the Allies were building the technology to penetrate them. As such a structure was built specially to protect Hitler in Berlin, and the Röchling was developed to test such a weapons ability to penetrate concrete. The shells were fired on a high trajectory and returned to earth at almost supersonic speed being able to penetrate concrete to a depth of at least fourteen feet. A version which could be dropped from an aircraft was also developed. The existence of the weapon was not known until examples were captured in 1945 (above).
Fort d’Aubin-Neufchâteau was selected as one of the locations to test the shells and it remains today one of the few places where fired examples can still be seen. The fort is now owned by an Association who open the fort by appointment or on set days, and lead visitors on a guided tour. As part of two Röchling shells are pointed out in the very depths of the fort – an amazing reminder of a Nazi super-weapon that was never properly put to the test.