The Plan Senneville is a detailed work that deals with the scenario of an attack on the Grand Duchy of Van Luxemburg. The initial 1860 plan, as proposed by then-Premier Michel Senneville, has become synonymous with the 1880 Law for National Defence, which was amended many times over the years to provide extra solutions for new forms of warfare, such as aircraft and nuclear weaponry.
In 1860, as the One Hundred Years’ War had come to an end, prime minister Michel Senneville instated a state of neutrality for Van Luxemburg, in order to protect it from foreign influences and allow it to rebuild and strengthen the national unity. Along with his military strategists, Senneville recognized the problem that the newly founded military suffered from: a lack of manpower to protect the entire country. The successful defence of the country was supposedly very difficult without outside assistance, something which could not be counted on because of the newly introduced neutrality policies. Therefore, Senneville proposed his plan for national defence, in a letter to the parliament and the military’s high command. The plan comprised several points:
- The formation of a volunteer defence unit, consisting of civilians who had received military training and could be called up for the defence of their own town. For this, they would receive their own service rifle which they could keep at home.
- The creation of defensive lines, pre-arranged constructions and trenches making use of geographical properties such as mountains, rivers and other exploits. According to Senneville, camouflage of these positions was of the essence, to prevent the enemy from reconnoitring their position beforehand.
- The preparation of important infrastructural and industrial targets, meaning that these targets would be rigged with explosives in order to destroy them if an impending enemy is about to capture these targets.
- The protection of the civilian population not involved with the defence units, preferably through predetermined evacuation plans.
The letter was taken very seriously by both the parliament and the military, however it was not until after the assassination of Senneville in 1862 that the Plan was sufficiently developed, allowing parliament to solve any legal issues with the plan. These legal issues were resolved in the 1880 Law For National Defence, allowing the military to organize the GVT and obtain planning permission for the establishment of defensive lines. The first construction work on defensive lines started almost immediately, and the GVT was officially created in 1896, after the concept had been tested and sufficient men had signed up for duty.
Over the years, many different amendments were made to the 1880 Law for National Defence that effectively served as the centrepiece of the Plan Senneville. The most important of these amendments was the addition of the ‘bunker clause’ in 1954, which required every new building with more than 8 rooms to have its own air raid shelter, and every building with more than 38 rooms to have a bunker with an air filtration system which could protect against radioactive fallout in particular. Furthermore, every bunker structure was supposed to have food and water for a total of 7 weeks for the number of occupants the bunker was designed for. Every bunker was to be inspected by officials once in every 5 to 10 years, to make sure the air filtration systems would work correctly and the construction was suitable for its task.
As many buildings in Van Luxemburg are centuries old, this clause was implemented rather loosely, as many buildings in older cities simply were completely unsuitable for the construction of a bunker below the existing foundation. Sometimes, pre-existing cellars were modified using reinforced concrete, to turn them into suitable shelters. In most cases, however, municipalities constructed an underground bunker large enough to accommodate a sizeable amount of civilians. Some municipalities and larger cities also make use of road or railway tunnels that have been converted to serve as shelters in emergency situations; the same applies to the metro network in various large Van Luxemburger cities.
Nowadays, the bunker clause remains in effect. Oftentimes, the underground shelters are used as storage rooms, wine cellars or even underground garages, depending on the construction. The larger constructions, such as in office buildings, are often used as archives; the municipal shelters often serve as storage space for the GVT equipment, as this equipment is expected to be in use once civilians need to be accommodated in these bunkers. For newly constructed houses, the prices of bunker construction have dropped by quite a bit since various firms are now offering prefabricated units that can be placed on an excavated plot of land. This means that project developers and building contractors often simply construct a reinforced concrete shelter instead of a regular cellar, even in buildings that are not required to have a shelter, simply because the price increase is marginal.
Plan Senneville today
The 1880 Law for National Defence is still in effect as of today. This means that the GVT, the civilian defence unit, continues to exist as an active military unit, even though it has accumulated several tasks reminiscent of a civilian emergency service as well. As GVT units were equipped with fully automatic assault rifles starting from 1960, the Ministry of Defence has rescinded their policy of GVT members being allowed to keep the rifle at home, and has instead moved all assault rifles to a secure central location for every municipal unit. GVT soldiers instead receive a smaller personal defence weapon to defend themselves until they are able to report in at their base.
The various defensive lines are still maintained, even though additional bunkers are no longer constructed, and existing constructions are usually upgraded rather than built new. Nevertheless, defensive lines still protect important targets and are littered across possible lines of advance, meaning that enemy units are steered into specified areas which are favourable to defending forces, such as villages, forests, rivers, mountain valleys and marshes. The goal of these constructions is to inflict as much casualties on the enemy as possible, signalling that a full invasion of Van Luxemburg would come at a massive cost.
The second part of this plan to signal the unattractiveness of Van Luxemburg as an invasion target, are the preparations that have been made for important infrastructural and industrial targets to be blown up. Various objects have been designed with the possibility of destruction in mind, through specially designed points to place explosives, which are regarded as state secrets. In the event of war, these objects are to be rigged with explosives to effectively sabotage the infrastructure when enemy troops advance.
Having monitored foreign wars closely, Van Luxemburger military strategists soon understood that modern aircraft required paved runways, and that these could be sabotaged fairly easily. Therefore, the Ministry of Defence worked in close cooperation with the Ministry of Traffic and Infrastructure to prepare emergency runways out of motorways. Since the late 1960’s, these emergency runways were built on various motorways, which feature removable crash barriers and a paved centre divider, allowing a runway to be erected in 24 hours, given the right equipment.
Criticism and popular culture
Ever since the early beginnings of the programme, it has been ridiculed by those who think that a neutral country should not require such extensive defensive preparations, and that the entire plan is the result of extreme paranoia among government officials and military strategists. They argue that the risk of an invasion is minimal, with relatively few wars having taken place close to Van Luxemburg over the last few decades, and that the billions of Florins injected into the defence plans over the years could have been better spent in other fields. Nevertheless, government and military officials continue to point out that invasions have taken place all across Maredoratica and that there was always, and still is, a credible threat towards the security of the Grand Duchy.