History's Most Savage Siege - 10 Facts About the Battle of Verdun You May Not Have Known
History’s Most Savage Siege – 10 Facts About the Battle of Verdun You May Not Have Known

History’s Most Savage Siege – 10 Facts About the Battle of Verdun You May Not Have Known

Stephanie Schoppert - June 24, 2016

2. The Battle of the Somme helped turn the tables at Verdun.

History’s Most Savage Siege – 10 Facts About the Battle of Verdun You May Not Have Known
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On July 1, 1916, about four months after the battle of Verdun started, the French forces at Verdun were on the verge of falling. French General Joseph Joffre pleaded to the Allies saying that his army would soon “cease to exist.” Desperate to help the French and turn the tide of the war, the Allied forces decided to do whatever it took to relieve the pressure on Verdun. So the Allies launched a dangerous attack at the Somme River. Together with the Brusilov Offensive on the Eastern Front by Russia, the Allies hoped that the Germans would be forced to redirect troops at Verdun in order to defend the Somme River. The plan worked somewhat and the German generals did redirect divisions and heavy artillery to the Somme Riverfront. But sustained German attacks continued at Verdun.

The plans for the Battle of the Somme had been planned long before the Battle of Verdun but the French forces were supposed to take the initiative at the Battle with the British only acting as a supporting force. However, with the Battle of Verdun underway when the Battle of the Somme was supposed to take place, the French could no longer supply enough forces. The British, knowing that the French at Verdun needed help, decided to increase the size of their forces and make the attack on the Somme River anyway.

The Battle of the Somme ended up being one that was as devastating as the Battle of Verdun. The first day of the battle was the worse in British history with more than 57,000 casualties. The battle ended on November 18th due to poor weather, despite British advances. The Battle of the Somme exceeded the Battle of Verdun number of causalities, with more than 1 million between the Allied and German forces. However, the battle may have been successful because that same month the Germans did pull their forces from Verdun and allowed the French to recapture all of the forts at Verdun by December.

1. The battle ultimately destroyed nine French towns.

History’s Most Savage Siege – 10 Facts About the Battle of Verdun You May Not Have Known
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The long and constant bombardment around the city of Verdun left in complete shambles the nearby towns of Beaumont, Bezonvaux, Cumières, Douaumont, Fleury, Haumont, Louvemont, Ornes, and Vaux. The amount of bodies and live shells in the ground also ensured that these villages were never rebuilt. They still appear on French maps and are even administered by volunteer mayors. Those wishing to be mayor must submit in writing their interest and why they wish to be the mayor. Some of the mayors continue on for generations in the same family. Besides a few pillars, all that remains today are just signs that show where main roads and buildings were once located.

Some people have moved back to the outskirts of the towns and areas where construction is still allowed. But most of the locations of the old towns are filled with memorials and carefully constructed paths that allow visitors to walk just outside the red zone in order to remember the towns that once were and the lives that were lost during the devastating Battle of Verdun. One substantial memorial exists at Douaumont and is called the Douaumont Ossuary.

Inside the Douaumont Ossary rests the bones of more than 130,000 French and German soldiers whose bodies were unable to be identified after the war. Plaques line the walls inside and tell the names of those lost at Verdun both during World War I and previous battles at the location. In front of the massive building is a cemetery where more than 16,000 crosses mark the graves of those who were able to be identified.

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