PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France


PA des Sagnes turret 606
Turret 607 of Block 3 of PA des Sagnes overlooking Lake des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

PA des Sagnes was constructed as a defensive position by the French Army during the mobilisation for World War Two in 1939 as part of the Alpine Line of the Maginot. PA is French for “Pointe d’Appui” meaning point of support or strongpoint.

PA des Sagnes has two separately positioned machine gun turrets, comprised by dismountable STG mle 35/37 turrets (designated T 606 and T 607), on square concrete structures connected by a trench, two concrete pillboxes and a dugout infantry shelter made of masonry and corrugated curved sheet metal with a double entrance. Further down at the lake there are multiple buildings that supposedly served as barracks for the troops. The position is manned by the first company of the 73rd Alpine Fortress Battalion (BAF).

Located in a meadow on the mountain side of Le Caïre along the valley of the Abriès torrent overlooking the Lake des Sagnes, PA des Sagnes had to prevent an enemy infiltration into this valley through the Petite Cavale and Quartiers d’Août passes. The position is only a few kilometers from the Italian border. To the South of des Sagnes lies Petit Ouvrage des Granges Communes.

Lac des Sagnes Jausiers
Looking over Lake des Sagnes from down in the valley towards the Ravin de Pelouse and Col du Quartier d’Aout – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Construction

Although on February 12, 1929, the French Border Defense Commission originally planned to build an Ouvrage to control the valley of the Abriès torrent, close to the border with Italy, the Maginot project is postponed until it is too late. So, with the fear of an invasion of neighbouring Italy under Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime through the Alps, the French Army rapidly constructs a support point at des Sagnes, during the mobilisation in 1939.

Dismountable STG turret model 35/37

STG mle 35/37 turret T 606 PA des Sagnes
Up close and personal with the STG mle 35/37 turret T 606 of Block 4 of PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Dismountable STG (Section Technique du Génie – Technical Engineering Section) turrets like the T 606 and T 607 at PA des Sagnes were quite commonly used in the Maginot Line to fill defensive gaps between the different works. The STG turrets of Des Sagnes are of a light version equipped with a Hotchkiss 8mm machine gun model 1914, but there were heavier versions. The turrets were designed to fit into prefabricated concrete bases that were already constructed on location.

Maginot STG 35/37 turret in 1939
Bitche sector – I / 158° RI Master Corporal Keller, group leader, in a removable turret in 1939 – courtesy Wikipedia

The guns were manned by a crew of three. The gunner and the loader worked inside the turret, while the outfitter had to shelter in the concrete structure.

French Dismountable STG Turret Maginot
West Front, France, Maginot Line, May 1940 – A French Dismountable STG Turret, mounting an 8mm, model 1914 Hotchkiss machine gun – courtesy Wikipedia

The turrets could be camouflaged by a circular grid covered with foliage that was placed over the turret and followed its movement like you can see in the picture above.

About 600 of these turrets were placed along the Maginot Line at the start of World War Two. Many of these were transferred to a new home on the Atlantic Wall during the German occupation of France.

First Battle of the Alps

From the 16th of June 1940 the Italians try to infiltrate the French sector at Restefond. These troops do not only have to face the difficult mountain terrain covered with a thick layer of snow even in June, but also have to deal with the Alpine Line Maginot defenses of which they have little intelligence. While they expect to find weak and abandoned defences, left in the chaos caused by the German Invasion in the North of France, instead they find a very effective Alpine Line or “Little Maginot Line” waiting for them.

June 23

In the afternoon of June 23, the Italian 7th Alpini attack in the direction of the Sagnes, under the cover of the fog and snow. Around 5 p.m., about two companies of the “Feltre” battalion are seen heading towards the PA des Sagnes via the Bosse du Lauzanier and the Pelouse valley, after passing through the Pas de la Petite Cavale. Immediately fixed by two combat groups of the 2nd company of the 73rd BAF and the mortars of the PA de Pelousette, they are harassed by Ouvrage Restefond‘s 75/31 mortar. During the night, the Italians have to break off the attack as the rain and snow increase in torment.

June 24

In the morning of the 24th of June the 7th Alpini, reinforced with elements of the border militia (GaF), advanced again on the Sagnes. A column of the “Belluno” battalion coming from Lauzanier via the Quartier d’Août pass is engaged by the machine guns of the PA des Sagnes, after which GO Restefonds artillery finishes the attack.

Italian attacks of June 1940 Restefond
Map of the Italian attacks in the Jausiers sector in June 1940. This map is displayed at Camp des Fourches.

June 25 – Armistice

The Italians were successfully denied passage time and again, until the Franco-Italian Armistice on June 25th becomes effective and forces the French BAF troops to surrender to the Italian Army.

Block 1 – Pillbox

PA des Sagnes Block 1
Block 1 of PA des Sagnes Block looking in a Southwest direction – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Block 1 of PA des Sagnes is a small pillbox that could be armed with a light machine gun like the FM 24/29. The block covers the Southwest side of the position.

PA des Sagnes Block 1 inside
Inside Block 1 of PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Block 2 – Pillbox

PA des Sagnes block 2 roof
Block2 of PA des Sagnes hidden at the edge of the meadow – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Block 2 is a small pillbox identical to Block 1, but positioned on the Northwest flank of PA des Sagnes.

PA des Sagnes block 2 front
Block 2 of PA des Sagnes seen from the front. The machine gun opening has been closed up – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Block 3 – STG 35/37 turret T 607

PA des Sagnes STG turret
Block 3 STG 35/37 turret nr. T607 of PA des Sagnes seen from the front – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

This block was composed of a concrete base fitted with a dismountable STG mle 35/37 turret (designated T 607) equipped with a Hotchkiss 8mm machine gun model 1914. The concrete access corridor is partly covered by a concrete roof. A trench, which is still visible, connects Block 3 to Block 4 further West.

PA des Sagnes block 3 STG turret
STG turret T 607 of Block 3 of PA des Sagnes looking Southwest into the valley – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes STG turret
The STG 35/37 turret and part of the concrete base at PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes STG turret T 607
Looking inside STG 35/37 turret T 607 of PA des Sagnes through the gun port – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes STG turret T 607 inside
Looking inside the STG 35/37 turret T 607 of block 3 from the top hatch at PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Block 4 – STG 35/37 turret T 606

PA des Sagnes block 4 STG 35/37 turret T606 front
STG 35/37 turret T606 of Block 4 of PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Block 4 is fairly identical to nearby Block 3. The dismountable STG mle 35/37 turret is designated T 606.

PA des Sagnes block 4 STG 35/37 turret T 606 back
STG 35/37 turret T 606 of Block 4 seen from the back at PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 4 STG 35/37 turret T 606 back
A closer view of the back of STG 35/37 turret T 606 of PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 4 STG 35/37 turret T 606 entrance
The entrance hatch of STG turret T 606 of Block 4 of PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 4 trench line
A trench line going towards the concrete access of Block 4 of PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 4 STG 35/37 turret T 606 inside
Even more water inside STG 35/37 turret T 606 of Block 4 of PA des Sagnes – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Block 5 – Infantry shelter

This infantry shelter is an earthed shelter built largely of masonry and corrugated metro sheet metal. Both entrances have been partly reinforced by concrete. It is located furthest to the Northwest of PA des Sagnes.

PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter
The left entrance of the infantry shelter of PA des Sagnes block 5 – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter left entrance
PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter left entrance – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter right entrance detail
PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter right entrance detail – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter right entrance
PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter right entrance – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
PA des Sagnes block 5 infantry shelter roof
View of the top of the earthed shelter and the chimneys of PA des Sagnes block 5 – Jausiers, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Visit

Coming from the town of Jausiers you can follow the Route de Nice up to the Col de Restefond. Quite early after leaving Jausiers you can follow a side road to the L’Hubac locality. This unpaved mountain road will take you to the Lac (Lake) des Sagnes and the Cascade du Pisson. Be advised that this is quite an adventurous ride and not suitable for every vehicle. From the lake you’ll have to proceed further on foot and hike up the mountain.



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