The First World War bunker trail at Burnhaupt-le-Bas

A Burnhaupt-le-Bas walk posted on 30/03/15 by jmfsr. Update : 04/12/18

Along this trail of bunkers, explore fortifications dating back to the First World War, built by the German army. After the fighting in the summer and autumn of 1914, the Haute-Alsace front stabilised on along the line of Cernay-Dannemarie. The commune of Burnhaupt-le-Bas remains on the German side. In December 1914 and January 1915, the French offensive in this sector regularly broke the German lines at the cost of many lives.

Technical sheet
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h35[?]
Distance Distance : 8.71km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 31m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 33m
Highest point Highest point : 301m
Lowest point Lowest point : 277m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Burnhaupt-le-Bas (68520)
Starting point Starting point : N 47.718999° / E 7.162079°
Map IGN Map (Click to buy) : Ref. 3620ET
Download : -

Description

Along this trail of bunkers, explore fortifications dating back to the First World War, built by the German army. After the fighting in the summer and autumn of 1914, the Haute-Alsace front stabilised on along the line of Cernay-Dannemarie. The commune of Burnhaupt-le-Bas remains on the German side. In December 1914 and January 1915, the French offensive in this sector regularly broke the German lines at the cost of many lives.

Start at the Church of Burnhaupt-le-Bas.

(S/F) With your back to the church, head west up Rue Principale. Follow the red ring markings along the "Sentier des bunkers” circuit.
Turn right onto Rue de la Mairie to leave the village in the direction of the motorway.
The path leads to the old Pfattermuehle mill (1).

Go left under the motorway via a small tunnel. Follow the motorway to the right to the interchange and the little wood. In the wood there is hidden: the artillery lookout point (2).

Continue to follow the farm road and the edge of woods. At the Y-junction, turn right and cross the motorway bridge. Continue straight through the forest path to the artillery position (3).

Cross the small canal over the metal bridge. Follow the river Doller along the left on its bank. Pass by a covered picnic area with barbecue.
Cross the small canal by a metal bridge to reach the first aid station (4).

Continue along the forest road to get to the artillery command post (5).
Shortly after the last fortification, leave the forest road to turn left onto a trail.
Always follow the Red ring markings. The path follows the small canal on the left until Lavoir du Dich laundry (6).

Cross the bridge at the Lavoir. Reach the opposite edge by crossing the fields by the farm road up to a firing position (7).

Continue along the farm road at the crossroads, turn right and cross the motorway over the bridge.
This brings you to the La Hard farm building (a set of greenhouses) or Harthackermuhle mill (8).

Cross departmental road D166 and follow the edges of the pond on the right to go around it. The circuit continues on the left, taking a path that goes into the forest and crosses a stream over a metal bridge until you reach a group of five fortifications.

Continue on the path to a shelter for troops.
Continue on the road until you reach an infantry shelter, inscribed with “Pionier Kompanie 251”.
Leave the forest by the forest path to the next wood and artillery lookout point.

(9) Leave the forest to the right, crossing cultivated land as far as the fishing pond, go around the pond to the left until the Hagendorn springs.
Reach the village of Burnhaupt-le-Bas by taking the path to the right; its bell tower is visible. The path leads to a crossroads with the village fire station. Cross the D466 to reach the centre of the village by the Rue de l’Étang, then left to Rue Principale to reach the church (S/F).

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. km 0
1 : km 0.69 - alt. km 0.69 - Pflattermüle mill
2 : km 1.46 - alt. km 1.46 - Artillery lookout point
3 : km 2.2 - alt. km 2.2 - Artillery position
4 : km 2.82 - alt. km 2.82 - First aid point
5 : km 2.95 - alt. km 2.95 - Command post and artillery
6 : km 3.63 - alt. km 3.63 - Lavoir du Dich
7 : km 3.95 - alt. km 3.95 - Firing position
8 : km 4.76 - alt. km 4.76 - Harthackermühle mill
9 : km 6.86 - alt. km 6.86 - Leave the forest to the right
D/A : km 8.71 - alt. km 8.71

Useful Information

The circuit can be followed by mountain bike or on foot (walking shoes).
Take a torch if you want to see the inside of structures.
The buildings located along the route are part of the second position of German defences, established in order to block a possible breakthrough by the French army. This position included various combat positions to direct fire and artillery positions. Work began on these fortifications in 1914, but most of the work was completed between 1916-1917 by sappers (Pionier Kompanie)
On the course, information panels describe the role of the best preserved structures.
Parts of the hike are uncovered, so is to be avoided on hot, sunny days.

We advise taking IGN maps with you on this walk. Click here to buy : 3620ET.

Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

You can download information on the fortifications by going to: http://www.hautes-vosges-alsace.fr/fr/vi...
(1) Pflattermüle
This name probably comes from the noise made by the paddle wheels of the mill during operation. This mill existed before the Thirty Years War. Several millers have succeeded each other and, since 1853, the mill has remained the property of the same family. To date, it consists of 2 motor-driven wheels with a horizontal axle and produces flour and livestock feed. Following a water supply problem in 1900, the miller installed a diesel engine. The mill was destroyed during the 1914/1918 war. Rebuilt and re-equipped, it was then damaged in a fire in 1925, but remained functional until 1930. Once powered by the waters of the Kleebach later called the Steinbach, the intake canal is now dry due to motorway construction.

(2) Artillery lookout point
The first two buildings are surrounded by a protective and defensive wall, these locations are definitely in full view of the enemy (the French).
Location 1: outside the building remaining of concrete steps leading to the platform. To get there, a ladder or a wooden staircase was certainly used. Inside, there are three openings through the ceiling.
Location 2: this building was used for optical signals. Inside, a square chimney and two cylindrical chimneys pass vertically through the ceiling. There is no trace of soot, they only served to make the different optical signals (colours, shapes, mirrors, light or several at once). Two small diameter holes are visible. The building is in good condition.
Location 3: the demolished building was designed to house personnel. Notice the opening slots, for the personnel to secure themselves (as well as the orientation itself).

(3) Artillery position
On this site, seven different buildings are visible. Each had its own function. They are scattered, the quality of their construction differs.
Location 1: 2 ammunition shelters; the powder (charges) were separated from the shells.
Location 2: 3 vaulted shelters for personnel; each could house a dozen people.
Location 3: 2 field artillery firing positions on platforms. Their calibre is unknown.
It is interesting to note the direction of the openings. The destruction of these shelters remains a mystery, we do not know when or why or by whom. They seem to have been blown up, certainly after the First World War
.
(4) First aid point
The aid station is relatively isolated, certainly for security reasons.

(5) Command post and artillery

Location 1: ammunition cache, open.
Location 2: shelter for personnel with an ammunition stash.
Location 3: command and firing position built in 1916 by the 362nd Battery of field howitzers. The fortification is decorated with the Iron Cross, and a W, the initial of the German Emperor Wilhelm. The exterior finish of the fortification is more careful, certainly in honour of the commander.
Location 4: ammunition cache. Destroyed structures are visible and suggest that there was another firing position. Construction quality varies, the thickness of the upper portion of certain structures is impressive. Ammunition caches do not connect with the shelter for personnel. The ground was certainly clear to the west.

(6) Lavoir du Dich
This laundry facility built in 1800 on the Steinbaechlein canal fed the textile factories of Heimsbrunn, Morschwiller-le-Bas and the "Red Sea" of Mulhouse, and was quickly taken up by the Burnhauptoise in order to do large loads. In this meeting place, the big washing days became an excursion and an event for the youths, who took part in a giant open-air picnic. Small talk and gossip was rife as the crowds vied for the best spots, those furthest upstream. This laundry facility was operational until the 1960s

(7) Firing position
This partially buried bunker contains a firing position and shelter for ammunition. The materials used differ from those used for the other constructions.

(8) Harthackermühle mill a.k.a. Hardtmühle
This ancient property dating from before 1360 was sold to the Oelenberg convent by Masevaux Abbey. After many conflicts and a succession of millers, "Harthackermühle" mill was destroyed by a fire in 1634, during the Thirty Years War. The facility was quickly rebuilt. In 1750, there are references to a flour mill, an oil mill and a fuller belonging to the Jesuit monks of Oelenberg. After the French Revolution, there was a succession of owners, and in 1852 it returned to the Abbey of Oelenberg. Around 1853, a statistic mentioned 3 motorised wheels, with a canal flowing at 800 litres per second, a fall of 8 metres, and an average power of 38.40 hp. Around 1900, a steam engine with a power of 35 hp was installed fitted with a turbine. Destroyed during the First World War, the mill was rebuilt, then damaged by fire in 1925. Then a power generator was installed to provide power to the monastery and farm buildings. From 1928 to 1948, this generator provided power to both Burnhaupts (Upper and Lower).

Group of five fortifications
Five fortifications that are quite close to each other and are very similar. They are probably personal shelters, with outdoor ammunition caches. The entrances are chicanes. - The first fortification on the right has two non-connected internal chambers with vaulted ceilings. - The second has ladder rungs leading to a viewing platform. - The third was equipped with a defensive nest and a wall to protect the entrance and maybe a staircase on each side. The interior is vaulted. - The fourth is smaller and has no opening (perhaps it was deliberately walled up). We can agree that this is a cantonment for troops responsible for the supervision of a sector. - The fifth and farthest out, has two non-connecting vaulted chambers. The fortifications are well-preserved and are separated by a municipal boundary.

  • Shelter for the troops

This fortification was built in the first quarter of 1917 and consists of two arched chambers, each accommodating a dozen troops, likely infantry. Perhaps the fortification was equipped with a machine gun; it is well preserved.
.

  • Infantry shelter

This structure was built by Pionier Kompanie 251, which stayed in Upper Alsace from 15 February to 20 April 1917. Two linked vaulted internal chambers, can contain ten troops each. The fortification is well preserved.

  • Artillery lookout point

This lookout point was certainly equipped with a device for communicating remotely. The ladder rungs recessed into the wall can be used to climb up to the platform. Two square holes in the ceiling do not have a clear purpose. With no further specific information, we can assume these were used for a field telephone. This building is slightly hidden and has 3 steps down to access the inside with its flat ceiling. A low wall surrounds the platform. It is in good condition.

Hagendorn springs
Very old water source refitted in 1931, it retains some traces of the Great War fortification. The name Burnhaupt (formerly Brunnhaupten) probably comes from "Brunnen”, the spring, because of the many springs scattered throughout the region. The "Hagendorn" spring is one of the strongest. It is said that this spring is a water from the Jura.

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