Friday, 24 August 2012

Verdun WWI

Once Daddy finished he work we headed back out on the road to see some more WWI sites.  This time we concentrated on the French and American battles of the WWI.  Our first stop of the day was to see the Museum of Verdun.

Verdun was one of the bloodiest battles of the conflict.  Ironically, up until early 1916, Verdun had been a quiet backwater barely touched by the war, but the German High Command knew that it was a location with such historical and emotional importance to the French that they would fight to the last man to protect it, or to retake it if lost.  The German battle plan was to quickly seize the city, and then use their heavy artillery to destroy the French forces as they tried to counter-attack, thus maximizing French casualties and minimizing German losses.  The battle did not go the way the Germans intended, and instead turned into a months-long slugfest where both sides suffered relatively equal losses.  The battle is considered a French "victory", but a very Pyrrhic one.

The sobering statics of the battle
We heard an interesting story that at the beginning of the the first war most of the helmets and buttons were shiny on the uniforms but then later in the war they were made to be more of a darker matte color so that were not so easily spotted  by the enemy.  This also happened with some of the uniforms with bright colors, for example the French army had red pants for their uniforms and quickly had to change them so the men wouldn't be easy targets.
gas mask with a helmet that has a matte finish

More trench art
We saw several leaves with art work on them.  Amazing!!

medicine  used by the medics
Next we stopped by the Douaumont Ossuary outside of Verdun.  After the battle, the surrounding territory was littered with so many French and German bodies that had been blasted into unidentifiable parts that the French gathered up the bones and placed them in the Ossuary.

The Ossuary contains the remains of 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers.  Some of the bones are as small as a finger nail.

Inside the Memorial are the names of soldiers who went missing

Kids peering thru a window to see the skeletal remains

Best shot I could get with my camera.

There are over 14,000 French graves sites on this location.  We also drove past a Muslim grave site.

Next we drove to Fort De Douaumont which was one of the forts on the outside of Verdun.  The fort was captured early in the battle by the Germans and later almost destroyed by French artillery as they tried to take it back from the Germans.

One can still see the trench lines on the outskirts

What is left of one of the entrances.  Note the French, German, and European Union flags flying over the remains of the Fort.

Barb wire

One section of this fort was still accessible

Sleeping quarters where 4 men sleep each bed.  While in the Fort, the German captors would have constantly been hearing the French artillery impacting on the roof and would have been caked with dust loosened from the walls.

Family listening to the history of the fort

One of the hallways, the wet ground and walls give you an impression of what it would have been like for the poor soldiers living here

Over a century of water percolating through the chalk soil on top of the Fort has led to a calcite coating of the walls and the old wiring throughout the tunnels

Many rooms and tunnels

Behind this cross are unrecoverable German soldiers entombed after a fire set off an ammunition explosion inside the fort, killing hundreds. 
A very moving portrait of of Jesus giving his heart to a French soldier

windows from the outside

On top of the fort is one of the turret guns

Destroyed wing of  the fort

Our next stop is the Meuse-Argonne Forest where the Americans fought.  We heard two amazing stories while there of American tenacity and bravery.


  1. Once again, these stories are just amazing! Tons of stuff that I never learned in any history class! Why was Verdun so important to the French? I love the leaf art! So I actually had to look up two words in your post - "Pyrrhic" and "ossuary". And that reminded me of something funny. One time I ran this blog rater thingy that would run some sort of program over my blog and give me suggestions on how to make my blog better. I was greatly miffed when it said my vocabulary and writing style were too advanced! It seems that one is supposed to aim for an 8th grade reading level if one wants to get more readers! I thought long and hard about it, but finally concluded that I could not lower my standards in such a manner. :-)

  2. What great history! I so wish we had more history around us- or that I had the freedom to pick up and go exploring the country for it!

  3. There you go again with a great history lessons. The pictures are fantastic and I enjoyed learning more about these wars. it is so sad to imagine so many were killed in the war and especially those who were not identifiable. My Uncle served in World War II; in Germany and France. He was part of General Patton's army. He came home on the day I was born. He was a favorite of mine.
    Blessings for another adventure with you!

  4. Wow. Your post has left me speechless! The history is wonderful, and the photos just add so much. It makes me wonder what my great-grandfather saw in battle during WWI. Thanks for sharing.

    Found you through the Hip Homeschool Moms blog hop. :)

    ~ Stephanie

  5. Awesome! When we get to WWI studies (2013-2014), I am going to have to talk to you. I realize, reading your posts, that I really know very little about it.