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Title: Verdun and the Battle for its Possession - Illustrated Michelin Guides to the Battle-Fields (1914 1918)
Author: Cie, Michelin &
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s Notes

A small number of obvious typos have been corrected by the addition
of a missing accent. For example, “Prefecture” and “Eglise” have been
changed to “Préfecture” and “Église”, respectively. Except for this,
the spelling and punctuation of the book have not been changed.

Underscores are used for italic markup; the three words that end this
sentence _are in italics_.

Equals signs are used for bold-face markup; the three words that end
this sentence =are in bold face=.

The symbols ^{} are used to represent a superscript; for example "3
squared" would be printed as "3^{2}".

The table of contents is at the end of the main text.

Near the beginning of the chapter entitled “THE WAR OF 1914–18” there
is a reference to

  “=The Battle of the Marne=,” part III., “_The Revigny Pass_”.

This is another Michelin guide but it is NOT the one that has been
interested, see this book on archive.org—Battlefields of the World War,
Vol I. Part III is on pages 215–289. See:





        MICHELIN TYRE C^O L^{TD}—81, Fulham Road, LONDON, S.W.

                       HOTELS AND MOTOR AGENTS.

                          _On June 1, 1919._

    Information extracted from the _Michelin Tourist Guide_ (1919).

            Hostellerie du Coq Hardi, 8 Rue du St. Esprit
                (between the Rue Mazel and the Meuse).

                 Hôtel du Lion d’Or, Place Saint Paul
                    (Opposite the Sub-Préfecture).

The “Comité du Ravitaillement des Réfugies,” whose headquarters are at
the “Collège,” Rue St. Paul (see _Guide_, p. 31 and 33), has installed
a refectory and dormitory in the “Collège.” The “Comité” supplies
tourists with the addresses of private persons who let rooms.

The resources of the region around Verdun, described in the itineraries
(p. 57 and 88), are absolutely nil. Tourists are therefore advised to
provide themselves with Luncheon Baskets.

                             MOTOR AGENTS.

Grand Garage Central Rochette, 22 rue de la Rivière, Agent for Peugeot.
          Inspection pit. Petrol (Gasolene). Telephone No 50.

The above information may no longer be exact when it meets the reader’s
eye. Tourists are therefore recommended to consult the Michelin Touring

Before setting out on a motoring tour, whether in the British Isles or
abroad, call or write to:


                      THE MICHELIN TOURING OFFICE
                       81, Fulham Rd., London,
                              ——S.W. 3.——


who will be pleased to furnish all desired information and a carefully
worked-out itinerary of the route to be followed, free of charge.



Invaluable to Motorists and Tourists.



  Published in 47 Sections.
  Beautifully printed in
  Five Colours.


 (_Scale 3·15 miles to the inch._)

  Published in 31 Sections. Beautifully
  engraved and printed in six colours.

  =Price of Maps (English or French) per Section=:

  On Paper — 1/- or post free 1/1-1/
  2 On Canvas — 2/-  ”     ”  2/2

MICHELIN TYRE CO., 81, Fulham Rd., S.W.3

                         THE BEST & CHEAPEST
                           DETACHABLE WHEEL


             _The Michelin Wheel is practical and strong_


               _The Michelin Wheel is simple and smart_

                               IN MEMORY
                       OF THE MICHELIN EMPLOYEES
                             THEIR COUNTRY

                             THE BATTLE OF

                             Published by
                            MICHELIN & Cie
                       Clermont-Ferrand, France

                   Copyright 1919 by Michelin & Cie

       _All rights of translation, adaptation, or reproduction
             (in part or whole) reserved in all countries_




=Verdun=, one of France’s most ancient cities, was first a Gallic,
then under the name of “Virodunum Castrum,” a Roman fortress. In 843
the celebrated treaty which divided the Carolingian Empire and annexed
Verdun to the Kingdom of Lorraine was signed there. From 870 to 879
Verdun became part of France, but in 923 it was incorporated in the
German Empire. As a county, it was governed under the feudal system by
the hereditary counts, the last of whom was Godefroy de Bouillon, and
later by the episcopal counts and bishops.

In the 10th century, Bishop Haimont, of Verdun, persuaded the Count of
Verdun to transfer his rights to him. The arrangement was confirmed by
Emperor Othon III., but the count’s heirs disputed the bishops’ title
to the town. Later, the burgesses revolted against the authority of
the bishops, and after a sanguinary struggle succeeded in throwing
off their yoke about the middle of the 13th century. After a long
occupation by the Germans, Henri II., King of France, retook Verdun
in 1552 and granted it privileges which were confirmed by François II.
in 1559. During the Religious Wars, the town was for the Leaguers,
and only agreed to receive Henry IV.’s envoy, after that prince’s
conversion to the Roman Faith. The burgesses did not take the oath of
allegiance to the King of France until 1601.

                         CHIEF MILITARY EVENTS

Both in respect of its geographical position and history, Verdun is a
typical fortified town. From time immemorial it has played an important
part in resisting invasion, as witness its fortified camp and citadel.
Since 1870 it has been the centre of an essential position formed by a
rough hemi-cycle of hills and slopes bristling with defensive works and

Since the year 450, when Attila left it “like a field ravaged by wild
beasts,” it has been besieged at least ten times.

Charles Quint besieged and took it in 1544, but after a seven years’
occupation it was retaken by Henry II. of France in 1552. The Huguenots
tried to take it by surprise in 1589, but were unable to overcome the
resistance of the burgesses.

=Siege of 1792.=—In 1792, the Prussians attacked and bombarded
the town, defended by Beaurepaire with only thirty-two guns and
forty-four artillerymen. The Council of Defence, urged thereto by the
Anti-Republican section of the population, decided to capitulate, in
spite of opposition on the part of Beaurepaire, who died suddenly soon
afterwards at the Town Hall by his own hand, according to some, others
holding that he was assassinated. The Prussians occupied the town for
six weeks, after the garrison had left. Although it is true that a few
women went to the Camp of Bras with an offering of sweetmeats for the
King of Prussia, it has not been established that the latter gave a
ball at Regret, at which the women of Verdun danced. The victory of
Valmy forced the Prussians to leave Verdun. On October 13th Kellermann
took possession of the Citadel, and on the 14th the troops of the
Republic entered the town. Several of the visitors to the Camp of Bras
expiated their regrettable act on the scaffold.

=Siege of 1870.=—In 1870, Verdun offered a more stubborn resistance.
When the Saxon troops, about 10,000 in number, appeared to the east
of the town, the garrison of the latter comprised only 1,500 regular
troops, including fifty artillerymen, 2,000 “mobiles” (newly levied
men) and 1,400 men of the National Sedentary Guard, while its armament
consisted of twenty mortars, two howitzers and ninety-six guns, of
which only forty-six were rifled. Under the command of General Guérin
de Waldersbach, seconded by General Marmier, this small garrison
repulsed an attack on August 24th, and refused to surrender. After
being reinforced by 2,600 men who had escaped from Sedan, several
sallies were made. By September 23rd the enemy had completely encircled
the town, and were forcing the inhabitants of the surrounding villages
to help with the siege-works. On the night of October 19th thirty
sappers, twenty-five artillerymen and 100 foot soldiers surprised the
two German batteries on Heyvaux Hill, between Thierville and Regret, on
the left bank, and after hand-to-hand fighting, spiked all the guns.

After the fall of Metz, Verdun, besieged by 15,000 men with 140 heavy
guns, in addition to field artillery, surrendered on November 8th with
the honours of war.

The town had been bombarded three times. On August 24th it received
about 2,000 shells; on September 26th the Citadel received 1,000 to
1,200 shells in five hours; on October 13th, 14th and 15th 20,000 to
25,000 shells fell in the town, severely damaging the upper part and
the Citadel.

The name of the German Prefect who governed Verdun and the Meuse
province was Von Bethmann Hollweg.

                         THE WAR OF 1914–1918

Abbreviations: Q.G., _General Headquarters_; P.C., _Post of

=German= army corps are indicated by Roman figures followed by the
letters “C” for the _active_ and “R.C.” for the _reserve_.

=French= army corps are indicated by arabic figures followed by the
letters “C.A.”

=German= infantry divisions are indicated by their number followed by
the letters “D” for the _active_, “R.D.” for the _reserve_, “D.L.” for
the “_Landwehr_,” and “E.D.” for the “_Ersatz_.”

=French= infantry divisions are indicated by their number followed by
the letters “D.I.”

Verdun played an essential part in the great war.

In 1914, during the battle of the Marne, the army under General
Sarrail, resting on Verdun, formed the pivot for Marshal Joffre’s
manœuvre (_see the Michelin Guide_: “=The Battle of the Marne=,” part
III., “_The Revigny Pass_”).


After the battle of the Marne, the Crown Prince established
his positions of resistance north of the fortress, on the line
Malancourt—Brabant—Haumont—Maucourt. On September 15th, General Sarrail
slipped in from this side the 6th C.A. and 72nd R.D., which were sent
beyond the advance forts. The enemy sought to isolate and approach
Verdun at the same time. The combats which occurred successively on the
initiative of each side were indecisive on the north, but not on the

On September 20th the IIIrd Bavarian Corps attacked the 75th R.D. at
Vigneuilles-les-Hatton châtel, and after forcing it to retreat, reached
the Meuse Heights. The 6th Corps was hastily transferred to this
region, where it checked the German advance. Further to the right, at
St. Mihiel, the enemy succeeded on the 25th in forcing the passage of
the Meuse and occupied Chauvoncourt.

During October, November and December, the adversaries harassed one
another without intermission. In the vicinity of St. Mihiel the enemy
maintained their positions on the left bank of the river.

So far from besieging Verdun, as the _Wolff News Agency_
falsely announced, or entering it, as a postcard circulated
throughout Germany, entitled “_Combats in the streets of
Verdun,_” tried to make believe, the Crown Prince was held in
check on the general line Vauquois—Malancourt—Brabant—Bois des
These positions were but slightly modified up to the time of the big
attack in February, 1916.


In February, 1915, the city was bombed by aeroplanes, while the forts
of Douaumont and Vaux were shelled by heavy artillery, including
17-inch guns. The Eparges crest, stubbornly held by the enemy since
September, 1914, was definitely taken on April 6th by the 12th D.I.
after more than a month of the fiercest fighting. This brilliant action
was followed by violent counter-attacks by the Vth German corps, the
combats being particularly furious on April 24th and May 5th, after
which the fighting was less desperate.

On November 25th–26th the enemy attacked to the N.W. of the city, but
despite the liberal use of poison gas, they failed to reach the French

Further attacks by the Germans against Forges on January 12th and at
Caures Wood on February 12th, 1916, were unsuccessful.


“_Concentrate an all-powerful artillery, cut with gun-fire the only
main railway connecting Verdun with France, crush the French defences,
isolating their occupants with heavy artillery barrages, then rush the
town with huge masses of men, irrespective of losses, crushing the last
vestiges of resistance,”—such was the “kolossal” plan which the Germans
set out to execute on February 21st, 1916._]

                         THE BATTLE OF VERDUN

A battle which was destined to last much longer than the entire
Franco-German war of 1870–1871, and which absorbed the efforts of
Germany throughout the year, began on February 21st, 1916.

The choice of this battlefield was perhaps less paradoxical than has
been said. For the German High Command to take Verdun was to crush the
French right, capture an important strategical position and secure an
immense moral effect. Moreover, the enemy feared an Allied offensive
and was disturbed by the continued increase of their strength in men
and material. To forestall this offensive was to make it fail and keep
the initiative of the operations. Moreover, the Germans desired to
impress the public opinion of the world, which had begun to doubt their
ultimate victory. Greece and Roumania seemed inclined to abandon their
neutrality, and the time appeared ripe to prove by a crushing blow that
German force had not diminished. Lastly, they were influenced by home
political considerations; the rationing of the population had depressed
the public _morale_ and provoked dissension between the political
parties and the states; the prestige of the Crown Prince, after his
failure in the Argonne, had considerably declined; a great victory was
necessary to strengthen German _morale_, appease dissension and, by
rehabilitating the Crown Prince, enhance the prestige of the Imperial


The Germans, who had fourteen railways at their disposal, and who,
during a long and careful preparation, had concentrated seven army
corps and extraordinarily powerful artillery, comprising at least
3,000 guns of all calibres, attacked the French, who had a river in
their rear and whose one solitary broad-gauge railway was under enemy
gun-fire. By sacrificing men and material on a lavish scale the enemy
counted on rapidly overcoming all obstacles, level the French trenches,
crush the centres of resistance under a deluge of 17-inch, 15-inch and
12-inch shells, isolate them with barrage fire from 8-inch guns and
poison-gas shells, and occupy the destroyed positions—such were to be
the German tactics. They were so sure, by repeated smashing blows,
of breaking through between Bras and Douaumont, and, by their attack
on Verdun, of forcing the French to withdraw their wings, that they
neglected first to attack the French positions on the left bank and in
the Woevre plain, with the result that their colossal effort broke down
before the tenacious resistance and heroism of the French.


_In February, 1916, only one broad-gauge railway connected Verdun, via
St. Menehould, with the rest of France. At the outset of the offensive
it was cut by enemy gun-fire between Parois and Dombasle. There
remained the narrow-gauge Meuse railway and the road. The carrying
capacity of the former was increased to 2,000 tons per day, while the
motor service along the “Sacred Way” was organised to such a pitch that
it was able to ensure the transport of the troops, the evacuation of
the wounded and the revictualling of 250,000 combatants._]

                         THE GERMAN OFFENSIVE

                        _February–August, 1916_

                         1.—The Central Attack

At the beginning of the battle, the first French lines were _on the
left bank_, from Avocourt Wood to Forges, _via_ the slopes in front of
Malancourt and Béthincourt; _on the right bank_, from Brabant-sur-Meuse
to Fromézey, _via_ Haumont, Haumont Wood, Caures Wood, La Ville Wood,
Herbébois, Ornes and Maucourt. On the morning of February 21st and
simultaneously with a bombardment of the entire French front, the enemy
began the systematic shelling of Verdun, whose last residents were
evacuated on the 25th at noon.

The infantry attacked at 4.45 p.m. from Haumont Wood to Ornes. The 51st
and 72nd divisions sustained the first shock of the IIIrd and XVIIIth
C.A. and the XIIIth division of the VIIth R.C. A heroic combat followed
the most formidable artillery preparation ever known till then. In
Caures Wood the Chasseurs, under _Colonel Driant_, resisted foot by
foot. When night fell, the enemy’s progress was insignificant, compared
with his sacrifices. However, they succeeded in taking Haumont Wood.

On the 22nd the bombardment was resumed with, if possible, greater
intensity. In Caures Wood _Colonel Driant_ resisted until death
overtook him, having first evacuated his Chasseurs to Beaumont.
Meanwhile, the sectors of Woevre and the left bank of the Meuse were
violently shelled.

[Illustration: THE CENTRAL ATTACK.

_This attack (February 21st–26th), on the right bank of the Meuse,
shortened the enemy’s front as progressed. It came to a stop on the
sixth day at Poivre Hill and Douaumont._]

The fighting on the 23rd was even more furious. Brabant fell into
the hands of the enemy after a fierce resistance by the 351st I.D.,
which clung desperately to the ruins of Samogneux until nightfall.
Further east the battle raged fiercely. The French counter-attacked
unsuccessfully at Caures Wood and were attacked at Herbebois. The 51st
I.D. fell back, making the enemy pay dearly for his progress towards
Fosses Wood.


In the evening the front extended along the Samogneux—Beaumont—Ornes
line. Samogneux was captured by the enemy during the night. The
situation was very critical.

Exasperated at the resistance of the French, and having received
reinforcements, the Germans made a supreme effort on the 24th. Although
harassed by French artillery on the left bank of the Meuse, they
succeeded in taking Hill 344 to the east of Samogneux, Fosses Wood,
Chaume Wood and the village of Ornes. French reinforcements arrived the
same day, and the command of the army of Verdun passed from General de
Castelnau to General Pétain.

[Illustration: _Starting-point of the German Attack of February 21st,
North of Haumont Wood._]

On the 25th, the 37th I.D., with orders to defend Talou Hill and
Louvemont village, resisted for a long time against incredibly furious
attacks, but on their right the enemy succeeded in capturing Vauche
Wood and, advancing towards Douaumont, carried the fort by surprise.
However, their efforts to take the village failed before the heroic
tenacity of the 31st Brigade, while the 94th D.I. covered itself with
glory. The enemy advance from this side, had the effect of compelling
the 31st I.D. to abandon Talou Hill. During this time the line in
Woevre was, unknown to the Germans, voluntarily withdrawn to the foot
of the Meuse hills, where the French only retained outposts at Fresnes
and Manheulles.

Taking over the command on the night of the 25th, General Pétain
at once divided the battle-line into four sectors, officered as
follows: _General Bazelaire_, on the left bank, from Avocourt to the
river; _General Guillaumat_, from the Meuse to Douaumont; _General
Balfourier_, from this point to the Woevre; _General Duchesne_, on the
Meuse Heights.

There were no trenches, but he ordered that the forts should at least
be connected by a continuous line of entrenchments to be made while the
battle was at its height and which the “poilus,” in their disdain for
the shovel and pick, called the “Panic Line.” The entire 59th division
was told off to organise the counter slopes on the second and third
lines. Thirteen battalions kept in repair the road from Bar-le-Duc to
Verdun, _via_ Souilly (the “=Sacred Way=”), which eventually became the
main artery for revictualling the place in men and munitions, and along
which 1,700 motor lorries passed each way daily. Lastly, General Pétain
managed to imbue all under his command with his energy, activity and
faith, and the enemy’s drive was stopped.

On the 26th, the 39th D.I., which had relieved the 37th, victoriously
repulsed all attacks on Poivre Hill, while the 31st Brigade continued
to hold Douaumont until relieved in the evening by the 2nd D.I.


_Regiment leaving Nixéville in lorries for the rear._]

On the following days the fighting continued about and in the streets
of Douaumont, which the enemy finally captured on March 4th. The
Germans now began to show signs of weakening. Their effort on the right
bank had failed. Checked at Douaumont, they were taken in the rear by
the French positions on the left bank, and were obliged to modify their
plans. From that time they operated simultaneously or successively on
both banks.

[Illustration: _Mort-Homme and Hill 287 in May, 1916._]

                         2.—The General Attack

                      (_See map, pp. 14 and 15_)

On March 6th two German divisions attacked from Béthincourt to Forges,
where the French front was held by the 67th D.I., and succeeded in
taking Forges and Regnéville, but were checked by the positions on Oie
Hill. Continuing their advance on the 7th, they succeeded in capturing
these positions, as well as Corbeaux Wood. The village of Cumières
was the scene of terrible fighting, but remained in the hands of the
French, while further to the west the enemy’s attacks broke down at

On March 8th, while on the left bank, French troops retook Corbeaux
Wood, the Germans brought into line units of five army corps and began
a general attack, which failed with very heavy losses, their only gain
being the capture of part of Vaux village.

On the 9th they succeeded in getting a footing on the slopes of
Mort-Homme, but at the other end of the battle-line their attack on
Vaux Fort failed. Their radiograms announcing the capture of the fort
were untrue.

On the 10th, Corbeaux Wood was taken by the Germans and the French
withdrew to the line Béthincourt, Mort-Homme, south of Corbeaux and
Cumières Wood and Cumières village. The battle continued in the village
and in front of Vaux Fort, strongly held by the French. The enemy
temporarily ceased his massed attacks. In reality their offensive had
failed, while their losses in men and munitions had been exceptionally
heavy. On March 10th Joffre was able to say to the soldiers of Verdun:
“_For three weeks you have withstood the most formidable attack which
the enemy has yet made. Germany counted on the success of this effort,
which she believed would prove irresistible, and for which she used
her best troops and most powerful artillery. She hoped by the capture
of Verdun to strengthen the courage of her Allies and convince neutrals
of German superiority. But she reckoned without you! The eyes of the
country are on you. You belong to those of whom it will be said: ‘They
barred the road to Verdun.’_”


_The Central Attack which was to capture Verdun and force back the
French wings failed. The Germans, caught on the flank by French
artillery posted on the left bank of the Meuse, attacked alternately
on both sides of the river. The struggle continued desperately at
Mort-Homme, Hill 304, Cumières, Fleury, and as far as the approaches of
Souville Fort—extreme limit of the German Advance in June, 1916._]

[Illustration: GENERAL PÉTAIN’S ORDER OF THE DAY (_see translation

From March 11th to April 9th the aspect of the battle changed. Wide
front attacks gave place to local actions, short, violent and limited
in scope. On March 14th the Germans captured Hill 265, forming the
western portion of the Mort-Homme position, from the 75th French
Brigade, whose commander Colonel Garçon, fell, rifle in hand, but they
failed to take the eastern part, Hill 295. On the 20th, Avocourt and
Malancourt Woods fell to the Bavarians, and after a fierce struggle the
village of Malancourt was lost on March 31st, Haucourt on April 5th,
and Béthincourt on April 8th.

On the right bank, after powerful attacks near Vaux, the enemy reached
Caillette Wood and the Vaux-Fleury railway, only to be driven back by
the 5th division (Mangin).

A furious attack was made along both banks by the Germans at noon on
April 9th; _on the left bank_, five divisions were engaged, failing
everywhere except at the Mort-Homme, where, despite the heroic
resistance of the 42nd division (Deville), they gained a footing on the
N.E. slopes; _on the right bank_, Poivre Hill was attacked but remained
in French hands.

“_April 9th was a glorious day for our armies_,” General Pétain
declared in his order of the day dated the 10th, “_the furious
attacks of the soldiers of the Crown Prince broke down everywhere. The
infantry, artillery, sappers and aviators of the 2nd Army vied with
one another in valour. Honour to all. No doubt the Germans will attack
again. Let all work and watch, that yesterday’s success be continued.
Courage! We shall beat them!_”

[Illustration: _General Nivelle, taking over the Command of Verdun Army
in May, 1916._]

On the 10th the enemy continued his efforts with small success.

[Illustration: _Entrance to Douaumont Fort._]

From that date operations were limited to local actions, either in
reply to French counter-offensives (attacks of April 11th between
Douaumont and Vaux and between the Meuse and Douaumont on the 17th), or
in endeavours to take key positions where the French offered vigorous
resistance. At the beginning of May General Pétain, having received the
command of the central group of armies, General Nivelle took over that
of the army of Verdun.

From May 4th to 24th the Germans attacked furiously around Mort-Homme.
On the 4th they captured the northern slopes of Hill 304, where
desperate combats took place on the 5th and 6th. By a powerful attack
on the 7th they forced the French to abandon the crest of Hill 304,
which, however, they were unable to occupy on account of the violence
of the bombardment. Cumières and Caurettes fell on the 24th.

In the meantime, the battle had started afresh on the Douaumont—Vaux
front. On May 22nd, at 11.50 a.m., the French 5th D.I. attacked and
recaptured the fort of Douaumont, the casemates of which were the scene
of desperate hand-to-hand fighting. The French were driven out on the
24th, but maintained their positions in the immediate vicinity.

The battle continued without respite or quarter. Not an hour passed
without a surprise of some sort being attempted. The Germans were
determined to advance, but at every step they were checked by the
unflinching will of the French not to let them pass.

From May 29th to 31st the enemy attacked Hill 304 and at Mort-Homme.
June 1st was marked by the loss of the Hardaumont salient and Thiaumont
Farm. On the 2nd the enemy progressed in Fumin Wood, but lost Thiaumont
Farm. On the 3rd they gained a footing in Vaux Fort, which was entirely
in their possession on the 8th. On the 9th they attacked Hill 304 and
Damloup Battery and retook Thiaumont Farm. On the 12th they advanced
along La Dame Ravine, but lost the N.E. slopes of Mort-Homme on the

[Illustration: _Aspect of the Battlefield in July, 1916._]

On the 23rd, after an uninterrupted bombardment, begun the day before,
the Germans launched their greatest attack. Seventeen regiments were
hurled simultaneously against the Thiaumont—Fleury—Souville front,
resulting in the capture of the Thiaumont redoubt and the gaining of
a footing in the village of Fleury, but failing to take the fort of
Souville. Froide-Terre Hill, momentarily invaded, was cleared of the
enemy by a grenade and bayonet attack.

On the following days, the fighting centred around the Thiaumont
redoubt, which changed hands many times, remaining finally with the
enemy on June 30th.

Combats, frequent and furious, continued on both banks until the middle
of August.


                 _October–December, 1916–August, 1917_

    The French Offensive of October 24th, 1916, on the Right Bank
                             of the Meuse

From August, 1916, the Germans, in consequence of the Franco-British
offensive in the Somme, gradually abandoned Verdun, in which venture
she had sacrificed the pick of her troops. The army of Verdun took
advantage of this to regain the initiative of the operations.

[Illustration: _General Mangin in front of his Post of Commandment._]

Under the command of General Mangin the French attacked from Thiaumont
to Laufée Wood on October 24th, 1916, the artillery preparation by
650 guns, including the new 15-inch and 16-inch mortars, beginning on
October 20th. On the 22nd a feint attack enabled French aeroplanes to
locate 158 enemy batteries, which were heavily shelled the next day.

That the Germans did not realise the position was evident from the
Crown Prince’s announcement that he had broken a strong French attack.
The real attack took place on the morning of the 24th (_see map,
p. 20_).

The German front was held on the first line by seven divisions. The
French attacked with three divisions: the 38th (Guyot de Salins),
supported on the left by the 11th line regiment; the 133rd (Passaga),
known as “La Gauloise”; the 74th (de Lardemelle).


The attack was a brilliant success and gave the French the Haudromont
quarries, Thiaumont redoubt and farm, Douaumont fort and village,
the northern edge of Caillette Wood, Vaux pond, the eastern edge of
Fumin Wood and Damloup battery. On the 24th and 25th more than 6,000
prisoners, fifteen guns, and considerable quantities of material,
were captured. On November 2nd, when the French re-entered Vaux Fort,
abandoned by the enemy, they practically reoccupied their positions of
February 24th.

[Illustration: _The Approaches of Tavannes Fort._]


    The French Offensive of December 15th, 1916, on the Right Bank
                             of the Meuse

To completely clear Verdun to the east of the Meuse and give greater
freedom to the reconquered forts of Vaux and Douaumont, General
Mangin organised a new attack. A great amount of preparatory work
was done by the army of Verdun, including about eighteen miles of
road (whereof one of logs laid transversely for the artillery), more
than six miles of narrow-gauge railway, and a network of trenches and
depots for munitions and material. As soon as these very considerable
preparations, often carried out under heavy enemy shell-fire, were
finished, the attacking troops took up their positions: the 126th D.I.
(Muteau), 38th D.I. (Guyot de Salins), 37th D.I. (Garnier-Duplessis)
and 133rd D.I. (Passaga), with the 123rd, 128th, 21st and 6th D.I. as
reserves. Two lines of artillery prepared and sustained the attack: one
from Vacherauville to Thiaumont, Fleury and Souville, the other passing
through Belleville, St. Michel Hill and Tavannes Fort. The six-mile
German front from Vacherauville to Bezonvaux was held by five divisions
in the first line, with four divisions in reserve.

On December 15th, while Germany was proposing that France should ask
for peace, the reply came in the form of attacking waves protected by
a moving curtain of artillery fire.

Several of the objectives, including Vacherauville, Poivre Hill, Hill
342 and the first and second lines before Louvemont, were reached in
a few minutes at a single bound. Albain and Chauffour Woods, those in
front of Douaumont and Helly Ravine, took longer to capture. To the
east La Vauche Wood was carried at the point of the bayonet, Caurières
Wood passed, and the edges of Chaume Wood reached. The farm of Les
Chambrettes and village of Bezonvaux were taken on the following days.
The success was considerable, more than 11,000 prisoners, including 300
officers, 115 guns, several hundred machine-guns and important depots
of munitions and material, being captured. The enemy who, in July, had
been within a few hundred yards of Souville Fort, was now more than
three miles away. In June, the _Frankfort Gazette_, celebrating the
German successes at Verdun, declared: “We have clinched our victory and
none can take it from us,” but on December 18th they had lost all the
ground it had taken five months and enormous sacrifices to conquer.

[Illustration: _Hill 304 recaptured. (Photographed August 24th, 1917.
See p. 24)_]

In congratulating the troops General Mangin reminded them that Germany
had just invited France to sue for peace, adding that they had been
“the true ambassadors of the Republic.”

[Illustration: _Fontaines Ravine, West of Bezonvaux._]

               The French Offensive of August 20th, 1917

The Army of Verdun, under General Guillaumat, completed the clearing of
the city on both banks of the Meuse.



On August 20th, 1917, eight divisions attacked from Avocourt Wood on
the west to Bezonvaux on the east, along a fifteen-mile front. Avocourt
Wood, Mort-Homme, Corbeaux Wood and Oie Hill on the left bank; Talou
Hill, the villages of Champ, Neuville and Champneuville, Hill 344,
parts of Fosses Wood, Chaume Wood and Mormont Farm, on the right bank,
were captured by the French, who, the next day, also took Samogneux
and Regnéville. Hill 304, which had thus far resisted, was likewise
captured. On the 26th a further attack from Mormont Redoubt to Chaume
Wood brought the French to the southern outskirts of Beaumont. From the
20th to the 26th August the captures include 9,500 prisoners, thirty
guns, 100 trench mortars and 242 machine-guns.


            The American Offensive of September 26th, 1918

                   (_See Panorama, pp. 106 and 107_)

The clearing of Verdun was entirely and definitely effected in the
autumn of 1918.

While the 4th French Army, under General Gouraud, attacked between the
Moronvillers Hills and Argonne on September 26th, the American Army,
under General Pershing, took the offensive between the Argonne and the

Artillery preparation commenced at 2.30 a.m. and lasted three hours.
At 5.30 a.m. the Americans attacked with great dash the redoubtable
enemy positions on the left bank of the Meuse, capturing Malancourt,
Béthincourt and Forges. Keeping up with the infantry, the artillery
crossed the Forges stream during the morning. The woods, very strongly
defended, were cleared of the enemy, and by noon the Americans had
reached Gercourt, Cuisy, the southern part of Montfaucon and Cheppy.

In the afternoon a desperate battle was engaged on the positions
covering the redoubtable ridge of Montfaucon, the most important
enemy observation-post in the region of Verdun. The Americans wisely
turned the ridge on the right, advancing as far as Septsarges. By
evening Montfaucon was surrounded. The advance, now slower, continued
on the 27th and 28th, despite German counter-attacks. To the west of
Montfaucon, Ivoiry and Epinouville were captured, and thus the ridge
fell. The Americans took 8,000 prisoners and 100 guns.


            The Franco-American Offensive of October, 1918

On the right bank of the Meuse, a French army corps and American
troops, under General Pershing, joined in the struggle, capturing
Brabant, Haumont, Haumont Wood and Caures Wood, while the famous line
from which, in February, 1916, the Crown Prince’s army had attacked
Verdun, was soon reached and passed. By the end of October more than
20,000 prisoners, 150 guns, nearly 1,000 trench-mortars and several
thousand machine-guns, had been captured, while unconquered Verdun was
definitely lost to the Germans. Their retreat was now destined to
continue uninterruptedly until the Armistice.

[Illustration: _Renault Tanks and American Troops on the old French
Lines at Regnéville._]

[Illustration: _The German Advance and the ground reconquered
(Sectioned zones) by the French and American armies_]


The Battle of Verdun was not merely one of the hardest of the War’s
many battles, it was also one of the most serious checks received by
the Germans. The enemy High Command had foreseen neither its amplitude
nor its long duration. Whereas, “according to plan,” Verdun—“Heart of
France”—was speedily to be overpowered by a carefully prepared mass
attack, the Germans found themselves involved in a formidable struggle,
without being able either to obtain a decisive advantage or keep the
relatively small advantages obtained at the beginning of the battle.

The battle did not develop “according to plan,” its successive phases
being determined by circumstances.

The huge numbers of troops which the Germans were compelled to engage
brings out very clearly the immensity of their effort and the different
phases of the struggle.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The first and shortest phase (February 21st–March 1st) was that of the
=surprise attack= by a large concentration of specially trained troops.

To the six German divisions which had been holding the Verdun sector
since the Battle of the Marne, were added nine full divisions, rested
and trained for attack.

Of these fifteen divisions ten took part in the surprise attack, their
losses being immediately made good by reserves stationed in the rear of
each army corps. At the end of February, in consequence of the French
withdrawal in Woevre, two further divisions strengthened enemy action
in that region.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The second phase (March 2nd–April 15th) marked the =general attack=
on both banks of the Meuse, in place of the surprise attack which had

During this period nine and a half fresh German divisions were engaged,
of which four came from the Eastern front.

At the same time two and a half German divisions were withdrawn and
rested in quiet sectors, while four others were sent to the rear to
reform, two of them being, however, again engaged after twenty days’

                   *       *       *       *       *

The third phase (April 15th–July 1st) was that of =attrition=. After
the failure of their general attack and to avoid avowal of their
defeat, the Germans persisted in their attacks on Verdun.

Twelve fresh divisions were engaged, in addition to three others which
had been sent to the rear to reform. On the other hand, fourteen
divisions were withdrawn and sent to the rear, to Russia, or other
sectors on the French front.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The fourth phase (July 1st, 1916, to 1917) was that of the =retreat
and stabilisation=. The Germans were exhausted and compelled to use
their reserves for the Russian front and especially in the Somme.
Their activities on the Verdun front were limited to making good their
losses. However, they were finally obliged to weaken this front to a
point that they were unable to reply to the French attacks.

From August 21st to October 1st, the Germans brought up only one
division and withdrew four. From October 1st to 24th, three divisions
relieved nearly five. After October 24th the strength of the enemy
forces varied only slightly, the French offensives preventing any
further weakening of the front. The attrition caused by the French
attacks of October 24th and December 15th gave rise only to rapid
replacements of about equal importance.

In brief, from February 21st, 1916, to February 1st, 1917, the Germans
engaged fifty-six and a half divisions (or 567 battalions), of which
six divisions appeared successively on both banks of the Meuse, eight
others being also engaged twice and six three times. In reality, in
the course of eleven months, eighty-two and a half German divisions
took part in the attacks on Verdun, which they had expected to crush
in a few days with ten to twelve divisions. The contrast between this
formidable effort and the meagre results obtained is striking, and is
a splendid testimony to the courage and tenacity of the defenders. The
Battle of Verdun in 1916 was not merely a severe local setback for
the Germans; by using up their best troops it had also very important
strategical consequences. Their successes were few, temporary, and
dearly bought. Advancing painfully, each step forward was marked by a
mountain of corpses. Up to the end of the War, even after the Battles
of the Somme and Aisne in 1910 and 1917, and after the Battle of
Champagne in 1918, Verdun remained a hideous spectre for the German
people, while their soldiers surnamed it “=The Slaughter-House of

[Illustration: _Douaumont Fort and its Approaches._

(_Photographed from aeroplane in May, 1916._)]

As the French President, M. Poincaré, declared, on handing to the
Mayor of Verdun the decorations conferred on that city by the Allied
nations, it was before the walls of Verdun that “the supreme hope of
Imperial Germany was crushed.” It was at Verdun that Germany sought the
“kolossal” victory which was to enslave the world, and it was there
that France quietly but firmly replied “No road.” For centuries to come
the name of Verdun will continue to ring in the ears of humanity like a
shout of victory and a cry of deliverance.


                           Verdun Decorated

It was in a casemate of the Citadel, transformed into a _salle de
fêtes_, that, on September 13th, 1916, Président Poincaré handed the
undermentioned decorations, conferred on the city by the Chiefs of
State of the Allied countries, to the Municipal Authorities of Verdun:
St. George’s Cross of Russia (white enamel); the British Military Cross
(silver); the medal for military valour of Italy (gold); the Cross
of Leopold I. of Belgium (gold); the medal “Ohilitch” of Montenegro
(gold); the “Croix de la Légion d’Honneur” and the “Croix de Guerre”
of France. Since then the French Government has conferred a Sword of
Honour on the city. Generals Joffre, Pétain and Nivelle, the Military
Governor (General Dubois), the French War Minister and representatives
of the Allied Nations were present at this moving ceremony, which
consecrated the heroic resistance of the army of Verdun and the German

[Illustration: VERDUN

POPULATION: 21,701. ALTITUDE: 648ft.


0 100 500

P.O. Telegraph. Telephone.


                     A VISIT TO THE CITY OF VERDUN

[Illustration: _Motorists coming either from St. Menehould,
or Bar-le-Duc, via the_ “=Sacred Way=,” _enter Verdun by the
Porte-de-France, which has been chosen as the starting-point of
the following descriptive itinerary for visiting the town. Follow
the_ =streets shown on the outline map=, _in the direction of the_
=arrows=, _consulting at the same time the_ =text= _and_ =photographs=
_on pp. 32–56_.

_See also the_ =two-coloured plan= _opposite_.]

                           VISIT TO THE CITY

From the =Porte-de-France=, whose entrance arcade on the bridge dates
from Louis XIV., _take the Rue St. Maur, leading to the Place du

[Illustration: THE PLACE D’ARMES]

This square owes its name to the building called “Le Gouvernement,” or
“Ancien Logis du Roi.” Residence of the War Minister, M. Louvois, in
1687, and to-day a barracks for the gendarmes. It was damaged by the

_From the Place du Gouvernement go_ via _the Rue Chevert to the Place

The =Place d’Armes=, badly damaged by bombardment, occupies the site of
a tower (Tour le Princier) of the old rampart.

Go down the Rue St. Pierre.

[Illustration: RUE ST. PIERRE IN 1916.

_In background_ RUE CHAUSSÉE. _On the right_: RUE MAZEL.]

_Turning to the left into the Rue St. Paul, the tourist passes in front
of_ =the College=.


The present building was erected in 1890 on the site of the old
college, founded in 1570 by Bishop Nicolas Psaume in the grounds of the
ancient Hôpital de St. Nicolas-de-Gravière. Its church, a fine Ionic
structure, was built in 1730 by the Jesuits. The college was one of the
first buildings to be damaged by the bombardment, being struck in 1915,
prior to the great German offensive against Verdun.


_Photographed in May, 1919._]

_Continue along Rue St. Paul as far as the_ =Palais de Justice= _and
the_ =Sub-Préfecture= (_photo, p. 34_).

These two buildings are the remains of the second Abbey of the
Premonstrants of St. Paul, built inside the town after 1552. The first,
situated without the walls, was destroyed by order of the Military
Authorities, who feared a siege by Charles Quint.

In the SOUS-PRÉFECTURE vestiges of the ancient monastery are more
numerous and apparent. The _Salle des Archives_, with its slender
columns and great Renaissance bays, was the monks’ refectory. The
_Cabinet du Sous-Préfet_, with its austere vaulting, has retained its
archaic appearance. In the _Loge du Concierge_ (caretaker’s lodge)
there still exists one of the original mantelpieces, with carving
representing Abraham sacrificing Isaac. The marble-paved _vestibule_
and fine _staircase_ are also 16th century.

The interior arrangement of the Palais de Justice buildings, whose
façade is ornamented with a finely carved semicircular _pediment_, has
been changed. Of the old convent there now only remains the Salle des
Pas-Perdus, formerly the cloister.

The =Hôtel de la Cloche d’Or=, near by, has been installed in the
ancient “Procure” of the same monastery (St. Paul’s).


The books and woodwork of the monastery have been removed to the
Municipal Library.

_Return by the Rue St. Paul to the Rue Chaussée, into which turn to the
left; at the end is the_ =Chaussée Gate= (_hist. mon._), built about
1380 (_see pp. 35 and 58_).

Its architecture recalls that of the Bastille. Half of the left tower
on the river was rebuilt in 1690, exactly on the same lines and with
the stones of the old tower; the semicircular arcade and the pediment
facing the bridge are of the same date.

The pediment between the two towers was struck by shell splinters,
otherwise the bombardments did not damage the gate.


(_Compare with photos on pp. 35 and 37._)]

[Illustration: THE CHAUSSÉE GATE (before the War)]

_Cross the Chaussée Bridge over the Meuse, then take on the right
the Boulevard de la République, which passes in front of the Cercle
Militaire (Military Club)._


_Photographed from the Military Club in May, 1919._]

_Take on the left, the Rue du Puty and the Rue des Tanneries, then
the Minimes Bridge (also on the left), at the end of which is_ =St.
Saviour’s Church=.

[Illustration: ST. SAVIOUR’S CHURCH.]

The church is modern, having replaced the old Église des Minimes in
1830. It contains, however, some interesting stained-glass windows,
while at the entrance is the tomb of the founder of the old church,
Bishop Bousnard, deceased in 1584.


_Return by the Rue des Tanneries to the Rue du Puty, turn to the left,
reaching the_ =Place Chevert= _on the right bank of the Meuse (see
photo, p. 37)_.

There is a fine view of the upper town, bishop’s palace and cathedral
from this square. The latter was begun in 1552, after the Church of
St. Croix had been pulled down. A statue of _General Chevert_, by the
sculptor of the pediment of the Madeleine in Paris (Lemaire), has been
erected on the site of this church. In December, 1916, this statue was
removed to the underground vaults of the Citadelle.


(_Born at Verdun in 1695, General Chevert captured Prague in 1741.
After a heroic defence, he capitulated in 1743, with the honours of


_On the other side of Chevert Square is the Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville,
which ends on the right at St. Croix Bridge. Follow it on the left as
far as the_ =Hôtel-de-Ville= (_see Itinerary, p. 31_).

(May 1919)]


As one of the lofty windows bears the date 1623, the popular belief
that the building was erected by the famous Governor Marillac is
unfounded. It is possible, however, that tradition, according to which
Marillac sheltered Marie de Médicis there, after her flight from Paris,
is founded on fact.

It is a fine structure in the Medicis style. The façade which overlooks
the garden resembles that of the Luxembourg in Paris in some of its

_At the side of the Hôtel-de-Ville, at No. 19, is the house of M.


A learned amateur, Monsieur Clément, who was killed during the
bombardments of 1916, had collected a considerable number of fragments
of the Abbey of St. Vanne and rebuilt the principal doorway of the
latter (_see p. 52_) in the courtyard of his house. The famous door
of the Capitulary Room, described and drawn by Viollet-le-Duc, was of
curious 13th-century design. The lintel of the tympanum was ornamented
with foliage, which is an interesting peculiarity, as the sculptural
decoration of the tympanums of doors was very rare at that time in
civil architecture.


_Return to the Place Chevert, cross the St. Croix Bridge, and go to
the Place d’Armes_ via _the Place and Rue Mazel_, whose houses are in

AND 18 (_see p.40_).]

Turn to the left into the Rue St. Pierre. In the Place d’Armes take the
Rue de la Belle-Vierge as far as the =Hôtel de la Princerie=, former
residence of the “primicerius,” first archdeacon of the Cathedral.

Rebuilt in 1525, it has been divided in recent times into two houses,
Nos. 16 and 18. While the façade of No. 18 was modern, that of No. 16,
with its window-gratings, retained its ancient aspect. The courtyard
was ornamented on two of its sides with two-storied Renaissance
galleries (_hist. mon._). Although of 16th-century construction,
the decoration of this cloister was inspired by the Middle Age or
Transition Period (_note the crocketted capitals of the pillars and the
bases of the latter_).

[Illustration: THE PRINCERIE CLOISTER (_hist. mon._) BEFORE THE WAR.]

The house was destroyed by the bombardments, and the cloister is almost
entirely in ruins.

[Illustration: THE PRINCERIE CLOISTER IN 1916.]

The street took its name from a statue of the Virgin on the monumental
entrance-gate of the deanery.


_Take the Rue de la Magdeleine on the left, beyond the deanery, as far
as the_ =Place de la Magdeleine=.

At No. 2 of this square is an early 16th-century house (sometimes
called the “Maison de Jules II.”), with a carved triangular pediment
supported by two pillars. Built after the decease of Pope Julius II.,
it was probably erected on the site of the house where he lived while
still Cardinal Julian de la Rovère.

_At No. 19 of the square, cross the house in ruins to a kind of
garden-terrace at the back_, built on the site of the old ramparts,
vestiges of which are still visible. Fine view of the ruins in the Rues
Mazel, Châtel and St. Esprit.

_Take the Rues Châtel and Belle-Vierge to the_ =Cathedral= (_see
Itinerary, p. 31_).


                     THE CATHEDRAL (_hist. mon._)

The Cathedral of Verdun, like that of Angers, was one of the first
French churches to be dedicated to the Virgin. In the 7th or 8th
centuries its patronal festival was The Nativity, but this was changed
to The Assumption at the beginning of the 19th century.

It is an ancient edifice, but has often been restored and altered. The
original 5th-century church, which it replaced, was built on the ruins
of a Roman _castrum_, like those of Rheims, Metz and Trèves.

The Cathedral was consecrated in 1147 by Pope Eugenius III., assisted
by eighteen cardinals and St. Bernard. The plans were made by the
Rhenish architect Garin, and, contrarily to French practice, included
two transepts and two apses. With its four similar spires, two on each
choir, it looked, according to a popular saying, like a “bahut” (chest
of drawers on legs), turned upside down.

The fire of 1755 caused important alterations to be made which, without
suppressing the main lines of the Cathedral, disfigured the interior.
These alterations explain the lack of harmony in the edifice.

The four Roman towers with spires disappeared after 1755. Only the two
western towers were replaced by the present large ones.

The Cathedral did not greatly suffer from the bombardment of 1916,
during the German offensive, but that of April–May, 1917, damaged it
very seriously. The vaults were either pierced or brought down, and
the roof destroyed. Near the apsis a big shell tore open the ground,
bringing to light an unknown subterranean passage or crypt.


In the foreground: Roof of nave, east transept, and great choir of

In the middle-ground: The Meuse; on the left, Chaussée Gate; in the
middle, Military Club.

In the background: Line of trees marking the ramparts; behind,
Belleville Village (on the left) and the Pavé Faubourg.

On the horizon: Belleville Hills.]

_The tourist, arriving at the Place de la Cathédrale_, via _the Rue de
la Belle-Vierge (see Itinerary, p. 31), finds himself in front of the
North Façade (photo opposite)_.

[Illustration: THE CATHEDRAL.

In the middle: The towers around the old choir.

On the left: The North Front and Main Doorway.

On the right: Entrance to Margueritte College, leading to the Bishop’s
Palace and the Cloister (_see pp. 49–51_).]

_In the middle_ is the entrance portal; _on the right_, the Western
Transept and the Towers enclosing the remarkable, square-shaped old
Choir; _on the left_, the Eastern Transept and polygonal apsis of the
Great Choir (_photo below_).

_In front of the Towers, on the right of this photograph, is the_
entrance to Margueritte College, _giving access to the_ Bishop’s Palace
_and the_ Cloister (_see pp. 49–51_).

                          The Entrance Portal

                            (_North Front_)

The Gable and Buttresses of the portal are 13th century. Its secular
ornamentation replaced, in the 18th century, Gothic statues, which were
destroyed as uncouth.

The portal is placed between two chapels; that on the right (16th
century) is called “The Chaplet,” on account of the chaplets carved on
the buttresses.

                              The Towers

The present bells weigh four and six tons respectively and date from
1756. They were so cast as to have the same proportions and tones as
those of the St. Germain-des-Prés Church in Paris.

                      The Apse of the Great Choir

The basement is the remains of a Roman apse. The upper portion dates
from the end of the 14th century.

MEUSE (_see p. 34_).]

The bas-reliefs are Roman carvings, re-utilised in the Gothic
buttresses. _From right to left_ they represent _Adam and Eve_; the
_Annunciation_ (the Virgin and Angel are separated by a tree, whose
shape recalls the Tree of Life on the Chaldean cylinders reproduced on
the cloth-stuffs exported from Byzantium); _Cain and Abel (through an
error in perspective, frequently to be found in Egyptian art, the bust
and trunk of the two patriarchs are shown in profile, whilst the feet
are facing frontwards)_; an unknown bishop.

[Illustration: THE GREAT NAVE

In the background: The old choir and organ-loft (the organs had been
removed). In the foreground: The marble balustrade of the Great Choir
protected by sandbags]

                     The Great Nave and two Choirs

The Great Nave was very seriously damaged by the bombardments. Several
bays of the vaulting fell in, leaving bare the timber-work of the roof
in ruins.

_On entering the Cathedral by the Central Portal in the North Front
(see p. 43)_ the old Choir _(photos, p. 44) is on the right, and the_
Great Choir with ciborium _(p. 45) on the left_.


In the background: The Old Choir and the Great Organ. In the
foreground: The balustrade of the Great Choir]


In the background: The Great Choir and the Ciborium. The ruined vaults
have bared the damaged framework of the roof]

The old square choir is intersected by the great organ, as at Albi.

The decoration of the Great Choir dates from 1760. The marble
balustrade (_see p. 44_) is a copy of that in the Jardin du Luxembourg,
Paris, and replaced the old lateral walls and rood-loft. The gilded
canopy, which is a transformation of the antique ciborium of the
Gallo-Roman churches, is supported by four twisted columns of grey
marble. It is a copy of that of St. Peter’s at Rome. Behind it are
eighty-six stalls in two superposed rows, and carved panelling (_see p.

[Illustration: THE CIBORIUM

(The Ciborium was the canopy supported by columns which covered the
altars in the early Christian basilicas.)]


=Stalls and Woodwork of the Great Choir.=—Classed as an historical
monument in 1905, this Rococo-style woodwork by Lacour of Toul is
remarkable for its somewhat secular elegance and fine finish. During
the bombardment of Verdun in 1916–1918 it was taken down and put in a
place of safety.


Photographed with the woodwork of the Great Choir at the Exhibition of
the Evacuated Art Treasures held in Paris]

=St. Saintin’s Shrine.=—This 14th-century shrine contains the relics of
the first bishop of Verdun, and is said to represent the ancient church
of the Premonstrants of St. Paul.


               The South Aisle and Holy Sacrament Chapel

The numerous collateral chapels are 14th, 15th and 16th century. The
most interesting is that of the Holy Sacrament. It was finished in
1402, and is Radial-Gothic in style.

In the neighbouring transept there was formerly a “puits” (well), which
offended Louis XIV. when he visited the Cathedral in 1687. The Chapter
had it filled up and covered with a stone, on which was carved the
letter “P.”

The Chapel of the Virgin contains an interesting mutilated monument to
Archdeacon Wassebourg, carved in the 16th century to perpetuate the
true image of Our Lady of Verdun seated and crowned.





_Enter the courtyard of the Bishop’s Palace by the door of the
Margueritte College (see p. 43). The Seminary seen in the background of
the photo has been completely destroyed since 1916. The door with steps
in front led formerly to a staircase descending to the Cloister. In
May, 1919, this staircase was easily accessible, in spite of the débris
all around._


                          The Bishop’s Palace

This fine spacious building was erected in 1725–1755 from the plans of
_Robert de Cotte_. It has two terraces and a garden, with a view over
the whole town. Under the First Empire it was a senatorial palace.

At the time of the separation of the Church from the State it was
turned into a =museum=. The latter contains a fine collection of medals
and coins, also numerous fragments of the ancient Abbey of St. Vanne,
which was inside the Citadel. These fragments include the remains of a
Pagan altar, a Corinthian capital with Barbarian ornamentation, and an
ivory comb with inscriptions, said to have been given by Emperor
St. Henri to the Abbot of St. Vanne in 1024.


[Illustration: THE CLOISTER

On the left: Aisle of the Cathedral (_see p. 47_) and the Transept with
ruined roof. In the background: The East Gallery of the Cloister]

          The Cloister (_Hist. Mon._ 13th and 14th centuries)

_The door of Margueritte College and the courtyard of the Bishop’s
Palace lead to the Cloister (see photos, pp. 43 and 49)._

Although Gothic in structure, parts of the carved decorative work
announced the coming Renaissance (helmeted warriors and antique
personages crowned with laurels).

Some of the keystones of the vaulting, representing bloated, bearded
faces, are said to be caricatures of the canons of the Cathedral, made
by the workmen who built the cloister, to revenge themselves for the
Church’s stinginess.


The arrangement of the blind windows against the walls is very rarely
met with]


In the background: the East Gallery. On the right the Seminary and
South Gallery in ruins. In the town is seen St. Saviour’s Church
against the green background of the fortifications]

The heavy Seminary buildings, erected on two of the galleries, are 19th
century. They were almost entirely destroyed by the bombardments.


Its present state is shown in the above photograph]

_On leaving the Cathedral, the tourist arrives almost immediately at
the small Place Châtel, the highest point of the town. Take, the Rue
Châtel to the_ =Châtel Gate=.


From the ancient “Fermeté” rampart, only this machicolated gate
(formerly called “Champenoise”) is visible near the small “Place

_On leaving the Châtel Gate, go down the Rue des Hauts Fins to the
corner of the_ Rue Montgaud: Blockhouse for four machine-guns to defend
the town.

Cross the Esplanade de la Roche to the =Citadelle=.

                             THE CITADELLE

From the Esplanade de la Roche, the arrangement of which dates from
1780–1783, there is a fine view of the Meuse valley and the prairies
known as =Pré-l’Evêque=.

The entrance to the =Citadelle= opens on the Esplanade de la Roche,
while the Citadelle proper occupies the site of the ancient =Abbey=
and =Church of St. Vanne=, erected in the Merovingian Period and 15th
century on the hill where, in the days of Clovis, the Dragon with
poisoned breath was said to live. According to the legend St. Vanne
first tamed the dragon, then led it to the River Meuse, where it was


(_Photographed in 1917_)]

The first Citadelle was begun in 1552, continued under Henri IV. by
Errard, and finished in 1630 under Governor Marillac. The second was
the work of Vauban (1670–1682). The church of St. Vanne was included
and preserved in both citadelles, but was later pulled down (1831–1835)
by order of the Military Authorities. The old Gothic cloister was
spared and turned into barracks in 1835. It was destroyed by the German
bombardment during the siege of 1870. Of the Abbey, only a square Roman
Tower of the 11th century remains (_see photo below_).



(_Entrance to the town by the G. C. 34, continued by the Rue de Rû. See
coloured plan between pp. 30 and 31._)]


                      The Citadel during the War

During the late War, the Citadelle was often a target for the German
heavy guns, but its deep underground vaults provided secure shelter for
the population before the general evacuation, as also for the public
services and reinforcements. Most of the regiments which took part in
the battles of 1916 passed through the Citadelle.

It was in one of the casemates that the President of France, M.
Poincaré, handed to the Municipal Authorities of Verdun, on September
13th, 1916, the decorations conferred on that City by the Chiefs of
State of the Allied countries (_see p. 30_).


_On leaving the Citadelle, turn to the right immediately after the
entrance and follow the glacis which passes underneath the terraces of
the Bishop’s Palace. After a sharp turning near the Manutention, the
tourist arrives at the_ =Rue de Rû=.

_Take the latter as far as the_ =Rue des Gros-Degrés=, one of the most
picturesque streets of Old Verdun, which also suffered greatly from the
German bombardment. It is composed of eighty steps, divided into seven
unequal flights, with a hand-rail erected in 1595. _The photograph
opposite was taken from the bottom of the stairs._

[Illustration: THE RUE DES GROS-DEGRÉS.]

_Take on the right the Rue du Pont des Augustins and cross the curious
canal_ of the same name (_photo below_) to visit the Lower Town, which
is crowded with picturesque old streets and narrow bridges over the
winding canals.


_Return to the_ =Place Mazel=.

_If the tourist has time, he may go from here to the_ =St. Victor
Gate=, _situated at the exit of Verdun, in the direction of Metz,
Nancy, Toul, and Commercy (see p. 56, and plan between pp. 30 and 31)_.

[Illustration: ST. VICTOR’S GATE]

               From the Place Mazel to St. Victor’s Gate

                  (_See plan between pp. 30 and 31_)

_Cross the St. Croix bridge, take the Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, then the
Rue St. Sauveur, in which is the_ =Hospice St. Catherine=.

The =Hospice St. Catherine= was the birthplace of Bishop St. Airy.
According to tradition the Bishop, on receiving a visit from
Childebert II., caused his last barrel of wine to be brought in. Giving
thanks, he was miraculously able to satisfy the deep-drinking Franks
for several days. (_This legend is probably connected with the planting
of the vineyards in the region of Verdun._)

_Opposite the Church of St. Catherine is the_ colonaded front of the
former =Congrégation Notre-Dame Monastery=, now a school.

_Further on are the_ =Church of St. Victor=, Rustic-Gothic in style,
_and the_ =Gate= of the same name (_photo above_).

_Stairs on the right of St. Victor’s Gate lead to the_ Citadelle
Curtain 16, whence there is a fine view of the city.


                       VISIT TO THE BATTLEFIELD

The following Itinerary is divided into two parts:

1. The right bank of the Meuse, including the forts (Tavannes,
Souville, Vaux and Douaumont). _See pp. 57–87._

2. The left bank of the Meuse, including Cumières, Mort-Homme, Hill 304
and Avocourt. _See pp. 88–111._



[Illustration: LEAVING VERDUN BY THE CHAUSSÉE GATE (_see p. 34_).]

                    I.—From Verdun to Tavannes Fort

_Leave Verdun by the Chaussée Gate, cross the Meuse and the fortified
enclosure, and take the Rue d’Etain_ (R. N. 18) _on the left. Go up
the Faubourg Pavé._ This road, used by the relief troops in the
Vaux-Douaumont sector, was heavily and continually shelled until Verdun
was finally cleared in December, 1916.


[Illustration: Two-page map of the battlefield.]


_At the side of the Municipal Cemetery_ (_on the left_) is a Military
Cemetery containing more than 5,000 graves (_photo, p. 58_).

_Follow_ N. 18 _for about six kilometers, then turn to the left into
the road leading to_ =Tavannes Fort=, _situated about a kilometer from
the main road_.

=Tavannes Fort= dominates the ground behind the Vaux-Souville line and
the Etain-Verdun road. The Germans, in their effort to reach Souville,
sought by frequent bombardments to destroy the fort which resisted
stubbornly, but on May 7th a 17-inch shell destroyed one of the arches
and caused serious damage.

Near the fort, on the Verdun-Etain railway, is the long =Tavannes

Although the entrances were constantly shelled by enemy artillery, it
was used as a shelter for the reserves of the Vaux-Souville sector and
as a munitions depot. Bunks were fitted up in three superimposed rows,
300 to 450 feet in length, and separated by spaces, where numerous
other troops slept as they could on the ground. Despite the ventilating
shafts, the air remained foul, owing to the perspiration of the men and
the rudimentary sanitary arrangements. To complete the misery of the
men, a grenade depot blew up on the night of September 4th, causing
many victims.



                  II.—From Tavannes Fort to Vaux Fort

_Return to the road by which the fort was reached_ (I.C.2) _and turn
into it on the right. About 300 yards further on, at the fork (see
photo above), take the right-hand road (the other leads to Souville
Fort)._ On the left is the ravine which precedes the entrance to
Tavannes Tunnel. At first the road rises, then dips down to Bourvaux
Ravine. (_On the right the road to_ Bourvaux Battery _is visible_.)
The road zig-zags, then scales Hill 349, leading to Vaux Fort, after
crossing through the woods of La Laufée and Chenois, of which only a
few broken, branchless trunks remain.

=Chenois and Laufée Woods and the Damloup Battery.=—Before and after
the fall of Vaux Fort, these positions were often attacked by the
Germans, especially in June, July and September, 1916.

[Illustration: THE ROAD TO VAUX FORT (_the latter is in the

From June 2nd to 4th the Damloup battery and its approaches, defended
by units of the 142nd and 52nd Line Regiments, repulsed sharp German
attacks and prevented the enemy from debouching from Damloup. The
defence of the battery lasted till July 2nd, the defenders, in
constantly diminishing numbers, being attacked and bombarded without
intermission. On July 3rd a German attack, preceded by an intense
bombardment, resulted in the capture at about 1 p.m. of the greater
part of the battery, but the remnant of a French company held its
ground in the southern part of the work. At 3 p.m. only fifty men of
the company were left; at 8 p.m. twenty, but still they hung on until
an hour later they were reinforced by another company, which succeeded
in crossing the barrage. At two o’clock next morning the French
repulsed the enemy at the point of the bayonet and recaptured the
entire battery.

[Illustration: LAUFÉE WOOD IN 1917]

After losing it on July 12th, the French retook the battery in a
bayonet charge on October 24th, while General Lardemelle’s division
recaptured Chenois Wood (_see p. 19_).


[Illustration: VAUX FORT IN 1916 (_photographed from aeroplane_).]

=Vaux Fort.=—Built of masonry about the year 1880, afterwards of
concrete, and finally of reinforced concrete, the fort was only
completed in 1911. Smaller and less powerful than Douaumont Fort, it
dominates the plateau to the south of Vaux Ravine and the reverse side
of Douaumont Plateau. Therein lies its importance. On March 9th Germany
announced triumphantly to the world that the VIth and XIXth reserve
regiments of Posen had “taken by assault the armoured Fort of Vaux, as
well as numerous neighbouring fortifications.”

This communiqué was untrue. Two battalions of the XIXth regiment of
Posen had in reality gained a footing on Vaux Hill on March 9th, but
they were mown down at close range by French fire. As a matter of fact,
three months of uninterrupted costly effort were necessary before the
Germans were able to enter Vaux Fort.

[Illustration: GERMAN ADVANCE ON MARCH 8 AND 9, 1916.]

On March 10th and 11th, in four column formation, they attacked the
slopes leading to the fort. Literally mowed down, regiment after
regiment left heaps of dead and wounded in front of the French
wire entanglements; 60 per cent. of the enemy effectives engaged
melted away in these two sanguinary days. After a terrific artillery
preparation—five times on March 16th and six times on March 18th—they
again swarmed up the slopes of the fort only to be thrown back with
heavy loss. On April 2nd the enemy sustained another check, but during
the night of June 2nd they reached the northern moat. While, on June
4th and 5th, six of their divisions attempted unsuccessfully to
outflank the fort on the north by Fumin and on the south by Chenois
Wood, the battle continued to rage on the fort itself and in front of
the southern side.

[Illustration: VAUX FORT. THE MOATS IN JUNE, 1916]

From March to June 2nd, the fort and its surroundings received no less
than 8,000 large calibre shells daily. Only one entrance was left,
_i.e._ the north-west postern, which enemy artillery fire rendered
unserviceable. The commander of the fort (Raynal) and his men were
imprisoned in the underground chambers of the fort, being no longer
able to hold their ground outside. To economise food and water, the
surplus contingents were ordered to leave the fort. On the night of the
4th a first detachment made its escape under the direction of Aspirant
Buffet, who returned to the fort the next evening with orders. The
same night 100 more men managed to get away. Carrier pigeons and
optical signals now furnished the only means of communication with the
French lines. On the 4th, the last pigeon was released. On the morning
of the 5th, thanks to two signalmen who volunteered to change a signal
post which the Commandant had difficulty in observing, communications
were maintained. The same night the Commandant sent his last message
that could be read in its entirety, and which ended: “We have reached
the limit, officers and soldiers have done their duty. Long live
France!” Nevertheless, the fort continued to hold out and refused to
surrender. On the night of the 6th reinforcements tried to relieve it
and reached the moat of the counter-scarp, but after losing nearly all
their officers they were compelled to fall back. The Germans gained a
footing in the ruins of the superstructure, and eventually succeeded
in driving the French out of the casemates by lowering baskets of
grenades with retarded fuses and by using liquid fire and poison gas.
Driven back into the underground passages, the French continued the
fight with grenades and bayonets. The 2nd regiment of Zouaves and the
Colonial regiment of Morocco made a last effort on the morning of the
8th to relieve the garrison. They reached the approaches of the fort,
from which clouds of thick black smoke, caused by a violent explosion
in one of the casemates, were pouring. Exposed to the fire of the enemy
machine-guns installed in the superstructure of the fort and attacked
by constantly increasing reinforcements, they were unable to hold their


The Fort is on the left at the back]

When, on the night of June 8th, after seven days and nights of
continual fighting, the heroic defenders of the fort were at last
overpowered, the unwounded among them had not tasted a drop of water
for two days.

Five months later (November 2nd) the Germans were driven out of the
fort, which they hurriedly evacuated (_see pp. 63–64_).


                 III.—From Vaux Fort to Souville Fort

_On leaving Vaux Fort return along the same road to the fork (photo,
p. 60) and turn to the right. About one kilometer from the fork, on the
left, the escarpments of_ =Souville Fort= border the road. _Go to the
fort on foot (about 200 yards from the road)._

[Illustration: THE OLD ENTRANCE TO SOUVILLE FORT (Sept. 1916)]

=Souville Fort=, which stands as high as that of Douaumont, commands
the background of the Douaumont—Vaux line. After taking this line,
the enemy, from June 15th to 22nd, undertook the destruction of the
fort. On the 23rd the entire CIIIrd German Division attacked, but was
repulsed with very heavy losses in front of the French second line
trenches. The attack was renewed by two divisions on July 11th and
12th, but failed to reach the moats of the fort.

[Illustration: SOUVILLE FORT (_March 1917_).]

[Illustration: Heights on left bank

Froid-Terre Redoubt

Froide-Terre Hill

Road to Douaumont

Thiaumont Redoubt

Road to Douaumont

Douaumont Fort

Hardaumont Wood

Vaux Ravine

Hill 349

Chapitre Wood

Vaux Fort



The “+” on the sketch-map above shows the spot from where the panorama
should be viewed. The car in the photo came from Souville Fort, turning
to the right towards Vaux Village.

_After visiting the village return to the cross-roads and take the road
on the right to Douaumont, seen on the left half of the above panorama
(p. 66). The bombardments have left no trace of St. Fine Chapel._

            IV.—From Souville Fort to Vaux Village and Pond

_After visiting Souville Fort return to the cross-ways at St. Fine
Chapel, seen in the above photo._


It was the ruins of this chapel that the enemy reached on July 12th,
1916, and that the 2nd regiment of Zouaves, at the order of General
Mangin, recaptured in order to relieve Souville Fort.

_At the cross-roads, take the_ I. C. 12 _on the right to Vaux village.
The road dips down into a gorge between the woods of Le Chapitre and

=Chapitre and Fumin Woods.=—To the west and east of the road leading
to Vaux village, these two woods cover the flanks of the plateau which
dominates Vaux Ravine and supports Vaux Fort. It was there that the
Germans sought to outflank the fort on the west to reach Souville,
but they were held in check during May. From June, 1916, these woods
were subjected to bombardments of incredible intensity. A powerful
German attack on June 23rd failed, but another on July 12th enabled
the Germans to get a footing in Fumin Wood. In August and September
frequent enemy attacks gave them temporary local gains. On October 24th
and 25th, and again at the end of the month, French counter-attacks
captured the enemy strongholds and cleared the woods completely.

The defence of the “R” outworks by the 101st line regiment was
intimately connected with the attacks on Fumin Wood and Vaux Fort.
These outworks were at the foot of the slopes of Fumin Wood, about
half-way between the village and fort of Vaux. Bombarded by heavy
guns on June 1st and 2nd, it was unsuccessfully attacked by the enemy
at 8 p.m. on the evening of the 2nd. Twice on the 3rd and once on
the 4th the French, reinforced by a few units, although deprived of
water and subjected to machine-gun fire on the flank, repulsed new
German attacks. A company of the 298th which, on the night of the 5th,
relieved that of the 101st (reduced to 39 men), held out three days
more under increasingly difficult conditions, and was only overpowered
on the night of the 8th after the capture of the fort of Vaux. These
positions were recaptured during the French offensive of October
2nd. 1916. The works known as the “Petit Dépôt,” “Fulda Boyau,” and
“Sablière,” bristling with machine-guns and scarcely touched by the
French artillery preparation, offered a stubborn resistance, and were
only captured by the 74th Division in the evening after a whole day of
exceedingly hard fighting.

[Illustration: DEFENCE WORKS IN VAUX VILLAGE (_January, 1916_).]

[Illustration: WHERE VAUX VILLAGE (_entirely destroyed_) STOOD BEFORE
THE WAR. (_Photo, April 20th, 1917._)]

=Vaux-les-Damloup.=—From March 8th the Germans sought to enter this
village from the Woevre. The 1st battalion of their XIXth regiment of
Reserves, believing it to be empty, was well-nigh exterminated. On the
10th, after a nine-hour night bombardment with torpedoes, units of the
XVth and XVIIIth C.A. attacked the village. Although numbering more than
six to one, it was only after four successive attacks that they gained
a footing in the ruins of a block of houses behind the church. Soon
after they advanced as far as the ruins of the church. Five times they
sought to debouch, but were each time literally mowed down by the fire
of the French machine-guns and mountain batteries. After two costly
checks on March 16th and 18th the Germans again attacked on the evening
of the 30th, but it was only three days later and at the cost of very
heavy casualties that they were able to take and keep the village.

[Illustration: VAUX POND (_March 1917_).]

The road comes to an end at Vaux Pond. The village extended beyond the
wooden foot-bridge seen in the photo. No trace of it is left, and the
tourist will look in vain for any indication in the desolate waste
around him of this erstwhile picturesque and flourishing village. It
has literally been wiped out.

_Turn the car round 100 yards from the pond, at the place where a
narrow-gauge rail-track formerly ran (see photo below)._



                V.—From Vaux Village to Douaumont Fort

After turning the car round at Vaux Pond, return by the same road to
the cross-ways at St. Fine Chapel (_see pp. 66 and 67_), continue
another fifty yards, then take on the right the road to Douaumont.

About 500 yards farther on is the site of what was the village of

[Illustration: FLEURY. THE GRANDE RUE IN JULY, 1916.]

From June 21st to September 30th, 1916, the village was often disputed.
After violently bombarding it from June 21st to 23rd, four German
Alpine regiments carried it, pushing forward to the south of the
Fleury-Vaux railway where the French 75’s checked them with very heavy
loss. On the 24th–25th the French reoccupied the eastern part of the
village. On the 27th two battalions of the French 241st line regiment
entered Fleury, but were soon driven out, after which they clung to
the southern and western parts. The enemy bombardment of July 9th–10th
levelled the village. On the 11th, picked German troops attacked and
outflanked it on the south. French counter-attacks succeeded on the
following days in driving the Germans back somewhat, 800 prisoners
being taken in ten days. On August 2nd–3rd the village was reoccupied
and 1,350 more prisoners taken. It was lost, then partly retaken on
August 5th at the point of the bayonet. Two weeks of constant grenade
fighting, from hole to hole, by battalions of Alpine Chasseurs from
Alsace, carried all that remained of the trenches adjoining the
positions “Trois Arbres” and “Montbrison.” On August 17th the Moroccan
Colonial Regiment finished the conquest of the village with their usual

_In the ruins of Fleury, on the right, there is a road which, after
passing through Caillette Wood, comes to an end about 400 yards from_
=Douaumont Fort=. _The latter can be reached from here on foot._

_One kilometer after the ruins of Fleury the road divides. Take the
right-hand one, the other leads to Bras by the northern slopes of
Froide-Terre Hill._

The uphill road follows the ridge, at the end of which is Douaumont
Fort, then passes south of =Thiaumont Redoubt=.

[Illustration: FLEURY IN RUINS, OCTOBER, 1916.]

=Thiaumont Redoubt=, S.W. of Douaumont Fort, dominating Froide-Terre
Hill and the Bras road to the W., and the Fleury road to the S.,
formed the left extremity of the last but one line of resistance which
passed in front of Verdun, _via_ the village of Fleury and the forts
of Souville and Tavannes. For five months (May–September, 1916), which
saw some of the hardest fighting in the battle of Verdun, the Germans
wore themselves down against this line. Neither the repeated furious
attacks, nor poison gas, nor the incredibly intense bombardments could
break the resistance of the French, who clung desperately to their

_A little further on the road passes the site of_ =Thiaumont Farm=,
_all traces of which were swept away by the battle_.

=Thiaumont Farm=, captured on June 1st, was reconquered on the 2nd.
The enemy occupied the ruins on the 9th, after their big attack of the
previous day. On the 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th they sustained four
serious checks in front of the defences. Exasperated at the French
resistance, they deluged the positions and those of Froide-Terre, on
the 21st, with poison gas and more than 100,000 shells. At 6 o’clock
on the morning of the 23rd five Bavarian regiments attacked, but
although they reached the defences of Froide-Terre, they were unable
to hold them. However, those of Thiaumont remained in their hands. In
a magnificent attack on June 30th, and despite enemy cross-fire, the
French 248th line regiment reoccupied Thiaumont at noon, lost it at
four o’clock, but recaptured it again the next day and kept it until
relieved, in spite of furious German counter-attacks. From July 4th
to 9th Thiaumont was retaken and lost four times by the Germans, but
a fifth attack enabled them to hold it. Fighting around the defences
was continual during the rest of the month. From August 1st to 4th
the French 96th line regiment, supported by the 122nd, reconquered
Thiaumont and its approaches. From the 4th to the 8th it was defended
by the 81st, but on the evening of the 8th, after losing and retaking
it, they were driven out by a powerful German attack. Since June 23rd
Thiaumont had changed hands sixteen times.


The Central Shelter having been pierced by a shell on May 6th, the
Redoubt was afterwards only used as an Artillery Observation-Post.
The Entrance Trench in the foreground was each day levelled by enemy
shells, only to be re-made during the night.]

From the middle of August the French command changed their tactics.
Abandoning the costly direct attacks, the redoubt was gradually
encircled. On October 24th Moroccan Colonial troops, Zouaves and
Tirailleurs, in a dashing grenade and bayonet attack, recaptured
Douaumont, the Farm and Redoubt of Thiaumont and the Dame and
neighbouring ravines.




 =a= [fan-shape sign] The upper photo on p. 78, =Dame Ravine=, was
 taken from here.

 =b= [fan-shape sign] The lower photo on p. 80, =Helly Ravine=, was
 taken from here.]

_Leave the car at Thiaumont Farm and go on foot to Douaumont Fort,
following the temporary narrow-gauge line for about 1,300 yards. These
rails follow the old road which was entirely destroyed._

                             DOUAUMONT FORT

                         (_See photo, p. 29._)

This modern stronghold, which the Crown Prince called “the N.E. angular
pillar of the permanent fortifications of Verdun,” occupies at Hill 388
the culminating point of the hard limestone plateau which forms the
region of Verdun. Lying between Bras Ravine (which descends towards the
W. and the Meuse) and Vaux or Bazil Ravine (extending towards the E.
and the Woevre), the fort dominates the entire region. As the key of
the battlefield it was fiercely disputed.

[Illustration: DOUAUMONT FORT IN JANUARY, 1916.]

Before the battle of 1916 it was only bombarded twice by the German
artillery. Of the 250 shells fired at it early in November, 1914, 170
reached the mark without, however, causing serious damage. The few
8-inch shells received on March 29th, 1915, did no damage whatever.


On February 25th, 1916, almost at the beginning of the battle, units
of the German XXIVth Infantry Regiment (IIIrd Brandenburgers), wearing
French Zouave uniforms, surprised and occupied the fort. On the morning
of the 26th the French 153rd D.I. (20th C.) counter-attacked fiercely
five times, advancing their line beyond the fort and surrounding
the enemy on three sides. Thanks, however, to a communicating
trench connecting up with their lines, the enemy were able to keep
their ground. From the 26th to the 29th they furiously attacked the
approaches of the fort without being able to surround it. A redoubt,
200 yards E. of the fort, was alternately lost and recaptured three
times on the 26th. From March 8th to May 19th the fighting continued
with varying fortune.


From the 19th to the 22nd French heavy guns bombarded the fort, the
explosion of a shell on the 20th causing hundreds of victims. To hamper
the enemy Intelligence Service six of their observation balloons were
destroyed by a French flying squadron on the morning of the 22nd. At
11.50 the 10th Brigade (5th D.I.) attacked the fort and its approaches.
At noon the 129th line regiment occupied the N. and N.W. corners of
the fort. The 74th regiment was unable to take the N.E. corner, but the
36th succeeded in capturing all the trenches west of the Fort. During
the night and all the next day the enemy intensified their bombardment
and increased the number of their counter-attacks, without breaking
through the defences of the 10th Brigade, which maintained all its
gains until relieved on the night of the 23rd. Exasperated at this
check, the Germans, on the 24th, engaged no less than an army corps of
reinforcements and retook the fort.


French Infantry and Sappers in a trench hurriedly made around an
outwork of masonry still held by the enemy with machine-guns.]

Five months later (October 24th) they lost it again after a heavy
bombardment and attack, during which a French 16-inch shell pierced
the superstructure of the fort and started a fire. A dense fog overhung
the fort when, at 11.40 a.m., the signal for the attack, directed by
General Mangin, was given. When, at about 2.30 p.m. the fog lifted,
French observers perceived the Moroccan Colonials of the Nicolaï
battalion scaling the ruins of the fort. On arriving there, the latter
found units of the 321st line regiment which, operating _in liaison_ on
their right, had preceded them and already hoisted the French flag on
the ruins of the fort. Two sappers of the 19-2 Co. of Engineers slipped
into the basement of the fort, and with the aid of four Colonials
captured twenty-four German soldiers, four officers, two guns and three
machine-guns in one of the counter-scarp shelters. Other enemy soldiers
in one of the casemates surrendered, with the German commander of the
fort, on the night of the 24th. The next morning the entire fort,
together with a great quantity of arms, munitions and foodstuffs, was
in the hands of the French. Four enemy counter-attacks on the 26th
failed to retake it.

MOATS OF THE RECONQUERED FORT (photographed on the morning of
Oct. 25th, 1916, the day after the victory)]

On the night of the 24th a sergeant of the 4th Zouaves captured,
unaided, a German company and six officers. Returning from
revictualling duty, he was taken prisoner by some Germans occupying a
shelter near the fort Coolly informing them that Douaumont and Damloup
Battery had fallen, he called on them to surrender. The attitude of the
sergeant was so convincing that after some hesitation they laid down
their arms and were brought into the French lines.

Douaumont was entirely cleared on December 15th by the 37th D.I., which
fought a hard battle in the woods before the village. Having learned
the time of the attack, the Germans were on their guard, but after
a furious combat the 2nd Tirailleurs drove back the VIth Prussian
Grenadiers and crossed Helly Ravine (_photo, p. 80_).

=Hardaumont= and =Caillette Woods= and =Douaumont Village= _may be
visited, on foot from the fort of Douaumont_.

The plateau E. and S.E. of Douaumont Fort ends in wooded slopes,
which overhang Vaux (Basil) Ravine. That furthest to the E. contains
Hardaumont Wood, while on the most western slope is Caillette Wood.
The Germans who, on March 8th and 9th, had taken Hardaumont Redoubt,
only entered Caillette Wood on April 2nd, after four days’ attacks
with asphyxiating gas and liquid fire. Despite a night march of
eleven miles, the 74th line regiment (5th D.I.) attacked the enemy
vigorously on the morning of April 3rd. On April 3rd, 4th and 5th the
French retook the wood, bit by bit. On the 15th three battalions of
the 36th line regiment and units of the 120th threw back the enemy
between Caillette and Fausse-Côte ravines, while on the 19th the 81st
Brigade enlarged these gains. From the 24th to the 26th the Germans
tried in vain to advance. On June 1st they engaged two and a half
divisions before they were able to occupy the greater part of Caillette
Wood. Moreover, their success was only temporary, for on October 24th
the French Division of General Passaga (“La Gauloise”) drove them
definitely out of Caillette Wood and partly from that of Hardaumont.
Nearly two enemy divisions were put out of action and seventeen
field guns, twenty-five heavy guns, including two of long range, and
numerous trench mortars were captured. The reconquest of Hardaumont
Wood was completed on December 15th by the same division which captured
“Lorient” and Hardaumont Redoubts.

                   *       *       *       *       *

=Douaumont Village=, situated below and 500 yards to the W. of the
fort, was almost encircled on the evening of February 25th, but
Zouaves and Tirailleurs extricated it. From the 25th to the 28th
the Vth German D.I. made five furious attacks, but were unable to
break down the resistance of the 95th line regiment and units of the
153rd D.I. which were defending the village. On March 2nd, after a
preliminary bombardment which destroyed the village and isolated the
battalion holding it, the CXIIIth German D.I., wearing French helmets,
attacked at 1.15 p.m. on the N. and E. The French machine-gunners soon
discovered the trick, however, and mowed them down. After a second
bombardment the enemy again attacked, overwhelming the defenders, one
company of whom resisted to the last man.


The remains of the French battalion took their stand fifty yards S.W.
of the village and prevented the enemy from debouching. On the 3rd two
battalions of the 172nd and 174th line regiments retook the village at
the point of the bayonet. During the night the Germans counter-attacked
twice unsuccessfully with heavy loss, 800 dead being counted in front
of one of the French trenches. On the 4th a third and more powerful
counter-attack succeeded in driving the French from the village, but
broke down against new positions 200 yards to the south. The French
were compelled to fall back in May and June, but returned victorious to
the ruined village on October 24th.

[Illustration: DAME RAVINE.

The road from Thiaumont to Bras follows it, ending at Haudromont
Quarries (_see Itinerary, p. 57_). The tree-stumps in the foreground
formed part of Chauffour Wood.]



             VI.—From Douaumont Fort to Bras and Samogneux

_A down-hill road leads direct from Douaumont Village to Thiaumont
Farm, where the tourist will take his car again._

_Follow the road, which turns to the left and passes through Dame
Ravine._ On all sides the chaotic waste testifies to the terrible
hammering which this region received from the guns (_see photo, p. 78,
and map, p. 73_).

_The tourist leaves_ =Chauffour Wood= _on his right_ (_photos, p. 78_).

This wood extends to the north of the road and approaches to within a
few hundred yards of Douaumont on the west. The CVth German Infantry
was cut to pieces here on the morning of February 26th, 1916, and on
March 2nd the XXIst German Division suffered a similar fate there.
During a powerful attack around Douaumont on April 16th the Germans
occupied a small salient S. of the wood, but were soon after partially
driven out, while on December 17th the wood was entirely cleared of
them by the Zouaves and Tirailleurs of the 38th D.I. The enemy’s
efforts to retake it and Albain Wood to the S.W. were unsuccessful.

_Continue to descend_; =Haudromont Quarries= _will be reached shortly

Around these positions, which dominate the ravine debouching at
the stream near Bras, furious indecisive fighting took place, more
especially on March 18th, April 22nd and May 8th, 9th, 10th, 22nd, 26th
and 27th, 1916. They were finally taken on October 24th by the French
11th line regiment.

Fighting was very bitter around the quarries, which form a rough
oblong 200 to 300 yards long, fifty to sixty yards wide, visible from
afar on account of their white colour. The enemy had cut galleries,
casemates and shelters in the chalky soil, the whole forming a
redoubtable position. After encircling the quarries, the French
captured them with grenades.

[Illustration: HAUDROMONT WOOD IN MARCH, 1917]

_At the bottom of the hill, opposite and below_ =Haudromont Quarries=,
_tourists desirous of visiting_ =Helly Ravine= (_see photo below, and
map, p. 73_), which was the scene of terrible fighting during the
offensive of December, 1916 (_pp. 20–21_), _should turn to the right
for about 300 yards_.

_Return to the starting-point and continue straight along the_ =Bras

_On the right the tourist comes to the uphill road to_ =Louvemont=,
_which crosses the southern slopes of Poivre Hill. This road is
impracticable for carriages beyond Louvemont._

[Illustration: HELLY RAVINE (_photographed in May, 1919_).]


(Farthest point accessible to motor-cars in May, 1919)]

                       Louvemont and Poivre Hill

At 2.20 p.m. on February 24th, strong enemy forces debouched between
=Louvemont= and =Hill 347=. During the night the first French
reinforcements, belonging to the 20th C.A., repulsed them. On the
25th, the enemy, in dense formation, outflanked the village on the W.
and E. They were checked several times by units of the 37th D.I. and
artillery fire, but succeeded in entering the village at 3 p.m., after
having practically levelled it by shell fire.

[Illustration: LOUVEMONT VILLAGE IN APRIL, 1917.]

Zouaves, who were still clinging to the outskirts, ran short of
ammunition, but on being reinforced by a battalion of Tirailleurs
with 50,000 cartridges, continued with the latter to defend the S.E.
approaches of the village until the morrow.

[Illustration: FROIDE-TERRE REDOUBT IN 1915]

Owing to their heavy losses, the French 37th D.I. was compelled to
fall back, but the fire from a hundred 75 mm. guns concentrated at
Froide-Terre held the Germans in check and prevented their debouching
from the village. The French 39th D.I. promptly took up positions in
front of the 37th, between Poivre Hill and the Meuse, and barred the
road to Bras. Louvemont and its approaches were brilliantly retaken
during the French offensive of December 15th, 1916. While a brigade of
the 126th D.I. captured Hill 342 in several rushes, the 4th Moroccan
Brigade of the 38th D.I., in a running attack, carried the first and
second enemy lines, Louvemont and Hill 347, as well as a fortified
cavern known as the camp du Henrias, before which one of the victors of
Douaumont, Major Nicolaï, was killed.

On August 20th, 1917, four successive lines of trenches were taken by
the French 165th D.I., in an attack to the north of Louvemont.

_On leaving Louvemont, return by the same way to the Bras Road and take
it on the right. Bras village is reached shortly afterwards, where the
Itinerary follows the Meuse Valley and_ N. 64.

=Bras.=—The Prussians camped here in 1792, during the occupation of


In 1916 the Germans could not capture it, although they took Poivre
Hill which dominates the village to the N.

After several checks (_e.g._ February 25th and March 9th) they occupied
Poivre Hill and Vacherauville, but were unable to dislodge the French
from the woods to the S.E.


From March, they organised a network of barbed-wire entanglements,
concrete galleries, redoubts, shelters, etc., on the hill, converting
it into a kind of fortress, but on December 15th the village and hill
were rushed by the 112th line regiment in three-column formation,
covered on the left by a fourth column and supported by auto-cannon.
Veritable bastion, overlooking the Beaumont road and flanking the
entire German line, the village could only be captured by surprise, and
the latter was complete. German officers were taken in their shelters
while dressing. The attack had not been expected before noon or later
than 2 p.m. The village was conquered in ten minutes, and Poivre Hill
in seven minutes, in a single rush.


(_Photographed in April, 1917_)]

_From Bras continue northwards to_ Vacherauville and Samogneux, where
the first German attacks at the beginning of the battle of Verdun took
place, (_see Itinerary p. 57._)

[Illustration: THE GERMAN ADVANCE ON FEB. 24TH, 1916]

=Vacherauville=, entirely destroyed, _is reached soon afterwards.
Leave on the right the road to Beaumont and take, a little further on,
that leading to Champneuville, which brings the tourist to the top
of_ =Talou Hill=, _from where the panoramic view on pp. 86 and 87 was

Situated in a long bend of the Meuse, =Talou Hill= gradually slopes
down to the water’s edge. On February 25th the enemy reached this
hill which, caught between the fire from both banks, became equally
untenable for the French and Germans, and from February 27th was
considered as a neutral zone. It was retaken by the French in their
offensive of August 20th, 1917, at the same time as the villages of
Neuville, Champneuville and Champ.

=Samogneux= _may be reached from Talou Hill, either by continuing, via
Champneuville (see outline map, p. 87), or by returning to the_ R. N.

20TH, 1916]

Subjected to an infernal shell-fire on February 22nd and 23rd
=Samogneux= had to be abandoned by the French on the evening of the
latter date. It was retaken by the 126th D. I. on August 21st, during
the French offensive of August, 1917, _i.e._ two days in advance of the
scheduled date (_see p. 23_).


The village was entirely levelled.]

E. of Samogneux and dominating the road from Vacherauville to Beaumont
rises =Hill 344=, which, together with Samogneux and Beaumont, fell
into the hands of the enemy in 1916. It was retaken during the French
offensive of August 20th, 1917, by regiments belonging to the 123rd and
126th D.I. These were almost immediately relieved by the 14th D.I.,
which for three weeks withstood violent enemy counter-attacks without
flinching. On September 9th, in particular, it repulsed an attack by
several German divisions which had orders to retake Hill 344 at all

[Illustration: SAMOGNEUX CHURCH IN AUG., 1915.]

_Return to Bras by the same road._

                       VII.—From Bras to Verdun

_From Bras take N 64 towards_ =Verdun=. _The road winds across the
western slopes of_ =Belleville Fort=. _At the top of the hill, take the
road on the left (leaving the down-hill road to Verdun)._

_The road (IC 2) passes by_ =Belleville Fort= _and along the top of the
hill, which formed the last permanent line of resistance, from, N.E. of
Verdun to_ =St. Michel Fort=.

_From_ =St. Michel Fort= _there is a fine run down_ =St. Michel Hill=
_to Verdun which enter by the_ =Rue d’Elain= _and_ =Chaussée Gate=.

[Illustration: Hill 275

Chattancourt-Esnes Road

Hill 304

Chattancourt Village


Champ Village

Oie Hill

Cumières Hill


[Illustration: Forges Wood

End of Oie Hill

River Meuse

Heights of Sivry-on-the-Meuse



Verdun—Consonvoye Road



(_Consider the four parts from left to right, across both pages; the
top half fits on to the left of the bottom half._)

[Illustration: From this spot on the road from Vacherauville to
Champneuville (see outline map, p. 87), there is a general view of the
lines from which the German Offensive started, and of the battlefield
on the left bank of the river.]



  including Cumières, Oie Hill, Mort-Homme, Montfaucon, Hill 304, and
               Avocourt (_see description, pp. 90–111_)



                       I.—From Verdun to Charny

_Leave Verdun by the Porte de France; after the railway bridge
go straight along_ G. C. 38 _(see plan between pp. 30–31.) Cross
the Faubourg de Jardin-Fontaine, then Thierville village. Facing
it is_ MARRE FORT. _At the foot of the hill on which the fort
stands, turn to the right. Leaving on the left the ruined_ farm of
Willers-les-Moines, _the road climbs up the small_ Hill 243, _below
which is the_ strongly fortified =Charny Redoubt=.

On the other side of the level-crossing is =Charny=. It was at Charny
that the Germans crossed the Meuse in 1870. Incidentally, they shot
the former notary, M. Violard, under the pretext that he had aided
an attack by the francs-tireurs of Verdun. In 1916, the village was
frequently bombarded by the enemy, particularly on March 31st.


On the horizon: Poivre Hill]


Beyond the Church take the road on the right to Cumières. That on the
left, leading to Bourrus Woods, is impracticable for cars.]

                      II.—From Charny to Cumières

_Return to the level crossing, then turn to the right on leaving
Charny. The road skirts the northern slopes of the hills on which
stands the_ modern forts of =Vacherauville=, =Marre= and =Bourrus

_Cross through Marre village, in ruins. Beyond the ruined church follow
the right-hand road (photo above) to_ =Cumières=. _Half-way between
Marre and Cumières are (on the right) the station of_ =Chattancourt=,
_(on the left) the road leading to that village_.

[Illustration: CUMIÈRES IN MAY, 1916]

Attacked on March 14th and destroyed by shell-fire on April 25th,
=Cumières= was only captured by the Germans on the night of
May 23rd. Three days later the French retook the eastern portion after
a desperate combat. On May 29th and 30th, after two days of continual
bombardment, they were momentarily driven back towards Chattancourt,
but a vigorous counter-attack brought them back to the southern
outskirts of the village. Caurettes Wood, to the S.W. of Cumières,
remained, however, in the enemy’s hands.

[Illustration: Haumont Wood

Oie Hill


River Meuse

National Road No. 64

Poivre Hill

Talou Hill


Road from Champneuville to Vacherauville

Froide-Terre Hill

Champ Village

Vacherauville Fort

Outline Map below).]

On August 20th, 1917, Cumières village and wood were retaken by a
regiment of the Légion Étrangère, who attacked singing the famous
popular song “La Madelon.”

[Illustration: CUMIÈRES IN AUGUST, 1917.]


_From_ =Cumières= _continue straight ahead to Oie Hill, from where the
above panoramic view was taken_.

[Illustration: CHATTANCOURT ON MAY 16TH, 1916.

On the horizon: The slopes of Mort-Homme.]

           III.—From Cumières to Chattancourt and Mort-Homme

_On leaving Cumières return to the Station of Chattancourt, and take on
the right the road to_ =Chattancourt=, which is about 800 yards further
on. This village was completely levelled (_photo below_).

[Illustration: CHATTANCOURT IN 1919.

Nothing remains of the houses and trees. The road seen in the above
photo leads to Mort-Homme.]


_From Chattancourt the positions of_ =Mort-Homme= _may be visited
by the road to Béthincourt (the lower photograph on p. 94 shows the
beginning of this road)_.

_Motor-cars can go as far as the top of_ =Hill 295= _or_ =Mort-Homme=,
_where it is necessary to turn the car round and return to
Chattancourt, as the road is cut near Béthincourt by the Forges stream,
which has entirely flooded the lower part of the village_.

=Mort-Homme.=—Like Hill 304, Mort-Homme was one of the most fiercely
disputed positions on the left bank. It consists of twin hills: No. 265
(of which the Béthincourt-Cumières road skirts the summit) and No. 295
(the Mort-Homme proper, round which the road winds on the N.E.), and
formed an excellent observation-post and artillery position in front of
the real line of resistance.

On March 5th, 1916, the German offensive, which, until then, had been
confined to the right bank of the river, developed with great violence
on the left flank, progressing in six days to the slopes of Mort-Homme.

On the 14th, after a five-hours bombardment with shells of every kind
and size, sometimes at the rate of 120 a minute, the enemy’s Infantry
attack on Mort-Homme began. The Germans took and kept Hill 265, but
the French Infantry and Zouaves, after a magnificent defence, held
their ground on Hill 295—the key to the entire position—and in night
counter-attacks drove back the assailants to the N.W. counter-slopes.

From March 15th to the end of December, 1916, the Germans launched
at least fifteen particularly violent attacks against Hill 295,
sacrificing countless men and huge quantities of munitions. On March
16th, 17th and 31st, and April 9th and 10th, French Chasseurs and
Infantry repulsed the enemy in terrible hand-to-hand fighting. On
April 22nd, 23rd and 24th the French 40th D.I., by its resistance and
brilliant counter-attacks, broke up as many as three enemy attacks in
one day, and re-established the French front as it was on April 5th.
Further German attacks on Hill 295 followed on May 7th, 20th and 22nd,
June 29th, July 12th and December 28th. Their furious offensive of May
20th alone brought them momentarily on the S.W. crest of Hill 295 and
as far as the French second-line trenches, which were retaken on June

At that time the sector of Mort-Homme and Hill 304 was commanded by
General de Maud’huy, whose courage and coolness are legendary in the
army. The exploits of the French troops at Mort-Homme during the
difficult period of 1916 were countless. One of the most brilliant was
accomplished on April 9th by the 11th Company of the 151st Regiment
of Infantry, which had received orders to reconquer the crest of the

Laughing and singing under a continual bombardment, this company
went into line, a section at a time, with measured step and rifle in
hand. On approaching the enemy trenches, the men rushed forward under
heavy machine-gun fire and captured a large and important network of
trenches. Promptly organising the conquered trenches, and despite
an extremely intense enemy bombardment of thirty-six hours, the men
succeeded in re-establishing the _liaison_ with the 8th Battalion of
Chasseurs on their right, making it possible to reform the line which
had been broken, and which the enemy afterwards tried in vain to
pierce, until May 20th.


In 1917 the sector was often the scene of violent combats, especially
on January 25th, and March 18th, 20th and 29th. After many efforts and
at heavy cost the Germans succeeded in occupying Hill 265 and the crest
of Hill 295, where they organised formidable defences, including deep
shell-proof tunnels.

On August 20th, 1917, during the French attack along the entire Verdun
front, the 31st D.I. carried all the German defences and recaptured
the Mort-Homme and its tunnels, including the one known as the
“=Crown-Prince=,” which was “cleaned out” by the Foreign Legion. In one
of the tunnels several cavalry-men, units of the XXXVIth and a whole
battalion of the XXth Regiment of the German Reserve, were captured,
while among the officers taken was Count Bernstorff, nephew of the
ex-German Ambassador to the United States. An entire staff was captured
in another of the tunnels.

[Illustration: MORT-HOMME AFTER THE ATTACK OF AUGUST, 1917 (see p. 23)]

=Corbeaux Wood.=—The plateaux dominated by the two Mort-Homme Hills are
cut into on the north of the high road by a ravine bordered by Corbeaux
Wood. This wood offers favourable cover for the massing of attacking
troops. It was by this fiercely disputed route that the enemy tried to
reach Hill 295. On March 6th the French line was brought back in front
of the wood. On the 7th the enemy, after bombarding it, succeeded in
getting a footing there, but on the following day the 92nd Infantry
Regiment, in a magnificent counter-attack, retook the wood in twenty
minutes. On the morning of the 10th, reinforced by another infantry
battalion, the same regiment further captured the N.E. outskirts
of Cumières Wood (to the E. of Corbeaux Wood), but in the evening,
deprived of its commanding officer (Colonel Macker, who had fallen
that morning), and lacking the support of the French artillery, which
the trees prevented from seeing the rocket-signals, the regiment was
compelled to fall back before an impetuous attack by a whole enemy
division. However, it was only at frightful cost that the Germans were
able to score these two successes, as the French gave ground only inch
by inch.

The wood was retaken by the Foreign Legion Regiment on August 20th,
1917 (_see p. 23_).

[Illustration: MORT-HOMME

Trenches captured in August, 1917]

[Illustration: Road to Montzéville

Hill 304

Road to Esnes


In the background the road forks, that on the left going to
Montzéville, the one on the light to Esnes. The tourist should take the

                     IV.—From Mort-Homme to Esnes.

_From Mort-Homme return to the starting-point at Chattancourt, and take
on the right the road to Esnes (see photo at the bottom of p. 94)._

[Illustration: ESNES VILLAGE IN 1919.

_On the left_, THE CASTLE; _on the right_, THE CHURCH.]

This fairly steep road scales the northern slopes of Hill 275. Driving
is rather difficult by reason of the numerous shell holes in the road.
A pass is soon reached, from which Hill 304 can be seen opposite
(_photo, p. 98_).

[Illustration: ESNES IN JANUARY, 1916]

This road crosses all the organisations of the first line shelters,
posts of commandment, dressing-stations, etc. _Continue as far as a
crossing_ (visible in _photo, p. 98_), _where turn to the right into_

By reason of its position, S. of Hills 304 and 295, Esnes was an
important base of operations during the Battle of Verdun. It was
subjected to frequent enemy bombardments, of which the most violent
occurred on March 20th and 21st, April 5th, 6th, 12th, 25th and 26th,
and June 22nd, 1916.

The three photographs on pp. 98 and 99 show the aspects of the village
at three different stages of the battle.

[Illustration: ESNES ON SEPTEMBER 25TH, 1916.]

[Illustration: Mort-Homme

Heights on the left bank of the river

Hill 275

Road to Chattancourt

Marre Fort

Hill 272

Bourrus Woods

Hill 310

CROSS AT ESNES (_see_ Outline-Map below).]


               V.—From Esnes to Montfaucon, via Hill 304

_After passing in front of the ruins of Esnes Church, continue straight
ahead, taking the second road on the right (not the first, which leads
to Béthincourt—see photograph above)._

_The road on the left ends in a very steep rough track and is
impracticable for cars._

_The road to be followed zig-zags up to the_ =Wayside Cross of Esnes=,
_from which there is a magnificent view of the battlefields on the left
bank from Mort-Homme to Bourrus Woods (Panorama above)_.

_At the Wayside Cross take the road to the right._

_The left-hand one (seen in the foreground on photo, p. 101) leads to
Avocourt. The tourist will take it on his return from_ =Montfaucon=.

_The one on the right (in the foreground on photo, p. 100) passes
between_ =Hills 287 and 304= _(the latter of celebrated memory)
crosses the ruins of_ =Haucourt and Malancourt villages=, and ends at


                               HILL 304

=Hill 304=, with Hills 287, 310 and 275, forms from Malancourt to Marre
Fort a line of natural fortresses, which kept under their cross-fire
not only the roads of approach, but also the bare glacis and the abrupt
escarpments immediately bordering them.

The covered ground nearest Hill 304 is the S.E. corner of Avocourt
Wood. It was from this wood that the IInd Bavarian D.I. left to attack
the Hill on March 20th, 1916.

They were checked, however, on the long barren slope leading to the
ridge, by the French cross-fire. Their three regiments, on March
20th to 22nd, lost from fifty to sixty per cent. of their effective
strength, without gain. On April 9th, before Hill 287, the first German
attacking wave succeeded in crossing the French first-line trench,
practically destroyed by bombardment. They were running towards the
French supporting trench when the survivors of the front-line trench,
coming out of their shelters in the upheaved ground among the dead,
exterminated them to the last man.

On May 3rd, eighty German batteries concentrated their fire on Hill
304 and its approaches. Clouds of black, green and yellow smoke rose
from the hill-top as from a volcano, obscuring the sky to a height of
2,500 feet, according to the reports of aviators. As a British war
correspondent put it: “The sky was like a dome of invisible rails
on which fast trains ran madly.” On May 4th and 5th a fresh German
division attempted to occupy the position, believing it and its
defenders to have been annihilated. They gained a footing on the N.
slopes of the hill, but were driven back during the night by the French
68th R.I., which then withdrew. On the 5th the same German division
attacked on the left the Camard Wood and Hill 287. In this wood,
entirely levelled by an eleven-hour bombardment, the 66th Line R.I.
first held up, then charged the assailants at the point of the bayonet.
At Hill 287 a battalion of the 32nd Line R.I. likewise brilliantly
repulsed two attacks. On May 7th, after a tremendous shelling, the
enemy attacked Hill 304 simultaneously from three sides with troops
from five different divisions. It was their greatest effort against
this position. However, two French regiments of picked troops (125th
and 114th), one company of which charged, to the strains of _La
Marseillaise_, the Germans were thrown into disorder and driven back to
the N. slopes. During the rest of the month the enemy counter-attacked
continually, at times in force, as on May 18th, 20th and 22nd, but
without success.

[Illustration: TRENCH ON HILL 304.

Reconquered August 24th, 1917.]

On June 29th and 30th they sought to turn the Hill from the E. and W.
with the help of liquid fire. On the E. desperate fighting took place
around a work which was lost by the French on the 29th, then retaken,
lost again, and reconquered on the 30th.

The Germans made a powerful attack on December 6th, in which they took
several trenches on the E. slopes.

On the 28th of the same month another German attack, preceded by an
intense bombardment, failed.

In 1917 the enemy continued their efforts against Hill 304. They
succeeded on January 25th in occupying several of the French
advance-positions, which were partly recaptured the next day.

Further enemy attacks on March 18th, 20th and 29th were repulsed after
hand-to-hand fighting.

On June 28th and 29th another powerful enemy attack succeeded, with
heavy loss, in capturing Hill 304 and advancing between the Hill and
the S.E. corner of Avocourt Wood, to a slight hollow known as the
=Col-de-Pommerieux=. This hollow was, however, reconquered on July
17th by the French 51st and 87th R.I., supported by two battalions
of the 97th D.I. (335th and 346th Regiments), and one battalion of
the 73rd D.I. After a remarkable artillery preparation, the French
infantrymen, in half-an-hour, reached the fortified crest, and regained
a kilometer of ground, including the famous “Demi-Lune” Redoubt. The
87th R.I., composed of men from the north, Valenciennes, St. Quentin
and Lens, went 300 yards beyond the assigned objective and captured
an observation-post in front of the crest, which they christened “_Le
crèneau des Gretchen_.” The attack occurred at the time the enemy
troops were being relieved, 520 prisoners, belonging to at least
three different divisions, being taken. From a single sap the French
Grenadiers brought out four German officers, one of whom, on descending
the hill, turned back to admire the manœuvre of the French soldiers.

On August 24th Hill 304, the approaches to which had been reconquered
on the 20th, was carried by the 139th and 121st R.I. (26th D.I.). This
division, which attacked before Hill 304, on the Pommerieux Plateau and
at Camard Wood, captured prisoners belonging to five different German
divisions. After capturing Hill 304, Equerre Wood and Souvin Redoubt,
the division attacked again on the evening of the same day, this time
carrying the positions of Palavas, Alsace, Gateau-de-Miel and Lorraine,
and advancing the first French line to the Forges stream, _i.e._ more
than two kilometers from its starting-point between Haucourt and
Malancourt, the latter still being occupied by the enemy.

_On leaving Hill 304, descend to_ =Haucourt= _and_ =Malancourt=.

=Haucourt= hamlet, on the Fontaine-des-Aulnes stream, was attacked by
the Germans on April 4th, 1916, and taken after several sanguinary
setbacks on the night of the 5th after a fine defence by three
companies of the 79th R.I., which held their ground against a brigade.
It was recaptured on September 26th, 1918, by the First American Army.

[Illustration: MALANCOURT.

General view seen from the ruins of the Church in May, 1919.]

=Malancourt= village was reoccupied by the French on October 13th,
1914. Enemy attacks on the following 16th and 20th failed. From
February, 1915, the French lines were advanced to the slopes on the
N. of the village. In 1916 the Germans did not attack until the end
of March. They were unable to enter it on the 28th, but the next
day captured two houses. On the night of the 30th they occupied it

Malancourt and its wood were recaptured by the First American Army on
September 26th, 1918. The wood was hard to take, as the Germans had
installed numerous blockhouses and barbed-wire entanglements.



_From Malancourt tourists may go to Montfaucon, three miles away, by a
rather difficult road which has been summarily repaired._

From Montfaucon, where the Germans had established an observation-post
in the ruins of the church, there is a complete view of the whole of
the battlefield north-west of Verdun, from the hills on the right bank
of the Meuse, to Vauquois.

_See Panorama and Map on pp. 106 and 107._

The tower of the church, which made a fine observation-post for
the Germans, was destroyed by the French artillery. When, after
their brilliant offensive of September 26th, 1918 (_see p. 24_),
the Americans drove the enemy from Montfaucon, they found this
observation-post (_photo below_) built with materials taken from the
ruins of the church.


[Illustration: Hills on the right bank of the river

Road to Cuisy


Hill 275

Road to Malancourt

Hill 310

Montfaucon Wood

Vauquois Spur


_The above view was taken from the inside of the Observation-Post
seen in the photo below, the camera looking through the slit-like

In the foreground are vestiges of shell-torn trees and the ruins of
Montfaucon Village. Verdun is on the horizon between Mort-Homme and
Hill 275.

[Illustration: GERMAN OBSERVATION-POST, _through the embrasure of
which the above Panoramic View was taken_.]


[Illustration: AVOCOURT VILLAGE IN MARCH, 1916.]

                    VI.—From Montfaucon to Avocourt

_From Montfaucon return by the same road to Malancourt._

_The bad state of the Malancourt–Avocourt road (May, 1919) does not
allow it to be taken from the former to the latter locality._ (The road
passes through the woods of the same names, disputed with incredible
fierceness.) _The tourist should, therefore, return to the Wayside
Cross at Esnes, along the same road that he came by._

_From Esnes Cross (see p. 100), take on the right the road to Avocourt,
which marks approximately the extreme limit of the battlefield W. of

=Avocourt and Avocourt and Malancourt Woods.=—One of the finest feats
of arms in the Battle of Verdun was performed at Avocourt.



On March 20th, 1916, the Germans, who had never been able to take
the village, attacked with a fresh division of picked troops (IInd
Bavarians), which had taken part in the summer campaign in Galicia and
Poland with Mackensen’s forces. The attack succeeded, with the help of
liquid fire. A French counter-attack on the 29th by the 210th R.I., and
a battalion of the 157th, recaptured the wood and the redoubt known
as the “Réduit d’Avocourt,” situated on its S. edge. The attacking
troops, which had not been revictualled for four days, had finished
their reserve rations twelve hours previously. So fatigued were they
that they slept standing despite the bombardment. To rouse them, their
chiefs, at 3 a.m. next morning, ordered the buglers and drummers to
play. As the day was breaking the music suddenly stopped, a shell
having buried all save one drummer. Furious at this, the men, with the
drummer at their head, rushed forward, and by 8 a.m. the wood had been
entirely reconquered.


In 1917, hard fighting continued in this region with varying fortune.
Powerful German attacks gave the enemy a little ground between Avocourt
and Hill 304, and in Avocourt Wood. On August 20th, the French 25th
D.I. drove the enemy from the S. part of the wood, advancing 1,200
yards and capturing 750 prisoners, thirty machine guns and ten trench

[Illustration: MALANCOURT WOOD IN 1916, _seen from the French lines.
The sandbags mark the German lines._]

On September 26th, 1918, the wood was entirely cleared of the enemy by
the First American Army.

=Malancourt Wood.=—It was against a French trench, in this wood that on
February 26th, 1915, the Germans made use of =liquid fire for the first
time=, special pumps, operated by pioneers of the Guard, being employed.

                      VII.—Avocourt to Aubréville

_From Avocourt take the road which follows the small valley running
southwards (see Itinerary, pp. 88 and 89). It was on this road, hidden
from the view of the enemy, that the French concentrations were carried
out in the rear lines._

_Two kilometers from Avocourt, take on the left the road leading to
Hesse Wood, scene of all sorts of concentrations, posts of commandment,
dressing stations, batteries of artillery, depots, etc._

_This road is in good condition almost as far as Aubréville, with
the exception of two or three places on leaving Hesse Wood, beyond
Bertrame’s Farm._

                    VIII.—From Aubréville to Verdun

_On entering Aubréville, take on the left N. 46 which skirts the St.
Menehould-Verdun railway._

_The tourist passes through Parois and Récicourt, where numerous
cantonments and rest camps were installed for the relief of the troops._

_Dombasle, where a large munitions depot blew up, is next reached._

_From Dombasle one of two Itineraries may be chosen to return to

_The first, by continuing to follow the National Road, via Blercourt._

_The second, which follows the crests dominating N. 3 from Paris to

_For the second Itinerary, on leaving Dombasle, take the small road on
the left, which leads to Sivry-la-Perche, 4 kilometers distant._

N. of the latter village, at the N.E. extremity of Hill 357, there
still exists an observation-post, from which there is a general view of
the entire rear-ground of the battlefield W. of Verdun.

If it is desired to visit this observation-post before the descent
leading to Sivry-la-Perche, take the Béthelainville road on the left
for about 700 yards going thence on foot to the right in a N.E.
direction. The observation post is about half-a mile further on.

From Sivry-la-Perche continue along the road, which passes first on
the left of =Sartelles Fort= and then to the left of =Chaume Fort=.
These two forts only played a minor role in the battle of Verdun, and
suffered but slightly from the bombardments. In front of Chaume Fort
there was an observation post for heavy artillery, whence there is a
splendid view of the Meuse Valley.

_From Chaume Fort the road is rather steep and in bad condition. Going
down on the left and flanking a hill is_ Glorieux Cemetery, near the
evacuation hospital.

_Verdun is entered by the Porte-de-France._

[Illustration: IN THE RUINS OF VERDUN.]


  =Plan of Verdun= (2 colours)                            between 30–31

  =Map of Verdun= (black)                                    ”    56–57

  =Origin and Political History=                                      2

  =Chief Military Events=                                             3

  =The Great War (1914–1918)—General Considerations=             4 to 7

  =The Battle of Verdun=                                        8 to 30
          =The German Offensive, Feb.–Aug., 1916=           10 to 18
          = ”  French Counter-Offensive, Oct.–Dec., 1916,
                 to Aug., 1917=                             19 to 23
          = ”  American Offensive, Sept. 26th, 1918=              24
          = ”  Franco-American Offensive, Oct., 1918=       25 to 27
          =Conclusion=                                      28 to 30

  =A Visit to the City of Verdun=                              31 to 56
          =The Cathedral=                                   42 to 48
          = ”  Citadelle=                                   52 to 54

  =A Visit to the Battlefield=                                57 to 111
          =1st Itinerary: The Right Bank of the Meuse=      57 to 87
          =2nd    ”        ”  Left   ”     ”      ”  =     88 to 111




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Land of granite cliffs, rough seas and folk-lore, Brittany is one of
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