Modane in France is home to an abandoned WWII bunker built by the French to defend against a potential Italian invasion during WWII. Modane is a small town on the French-Italian border, about five hours by train from Paris, surrounded by the Alps mountains.
I was on my way from Torino to Paris to catch the Eurostar when I decided to get off the train here to check out the scenery. I only had a couple of hours there to walk around until the next connection to Paris so I had to be quick.
The Abandoned WWII Bunker in Modane – Video
As it turned out, Modane is home to a bunker which formed part of a defensive system called the southern Maginot Line. As I mentioned, it was the defensive border between France and Italy during the first half of the 20th century. Watch this video to find out more and then scroll down for some nice pictures.
How to Get Here
If you come from the direction of Torino in Italy, there are various high speed services each day, taking under two hours to arrive. It is also here where you will find Fort Saint Gobain, a WWII fortification. The bunker I shot the video about is on top of the mountain in front of the train station. You need to cross the river using the bridge you saw earlier on the video and walk up the hill past the hospital to get up there.
As soon as I arrived I decided to take a few shots to show the place off to the world. Modane was and still is an important city of transit between Italy and France. Nowadays the mover of the economy is tourism. In the summer you have walkers while in the winter skiers come here.
A strategically important railway tunnel is just on the other side of the valley and the French wanted to make sure they could defend it during WWII, so they built this bunker.
The tunnel is the Freju Rail Tunnel and nowadays there is also the N6 road leading into northern Italy from here, making this location very significant.
No wonder than that the French built the fortification to defend the country’s southern border from Italy! They finished the construction in 1940 but by 1941 France had signed an armistice with Germany and Italy. That pretty much rendered this fortification useless and the Italians duly disarmed it after they invaded.
The WWII Bunker and its Role During the War
The entire defensive system consists of various tunnels, blast doors and look-outs over the valleys and mountains. There was a lot of fighting here between the French, British, German and Italian land and air forces. The German 19th Army occupied southern France in 1943 after Italy capitulated in September 1943. The Germans held this position for about a year, but by 1944 the Germans had to retreat and blew up the Modane end of the Freju Tunnel.
It was also here where a key air battle took place for the control of the rail tunnel and road into Italy. The Allied forces bombed Modane is 1943, killing 65 people and destroying 100 houses but the Germans still managed to maintain their position.
The French retook the area in 1944 and repaired the town and fortification. The French viewed this area as secondary importance after the war and when they acquired nuclear weapons in the 1960s they began to dismantle the Maginot Lines. By 1971 they dismantled nearly all the fortifications in the country and that’s when the slow decay of this building began.
Walking Around the Bunker
It looked pretty eerie around the bunker and the best was that there was absolutely nobody there except for me. Unfortunately I had to hurry up because I did not want to miss my train, which was the last connection to Paris and then on to London.
I climbed up various walls looking for an entrance but unfortunately everything seemed sealed off. Anyhow, even if you cannot go in it pays to come up here if for nothing else then for the views which are stunning.
The entire site is completely abandoned and there are no ticket inspectors or anything so I was just walking about as I pleased. If I had a bit more time I am sure I would have found an entrance as it seemed others managed to go inside.
Nowadays, the Association of Alps Museum operates the facility and you need to make prior appointment to book a visit.