7. The landscape became nearly lunar in appearance as the battle raged on
Several small villages within the RFV were still occupied by civilians when the battle began, and both sides attempted to remove them from those in their control. Several forested areas marked with romantic French names of Bois – the Bois de Malancourt, Bois d’Avocort, and Bois de Corbeaux, for example – were blasted by the artillery of both sides when occupied by infantry. Several changed hands multiple times, and the troops within them endured shelling which reduced the trees to shattered sticks, devoid of color and shelter. Huge shell holes dotted the landscape, and soldiers attempted to shelter in them.
Many found them filled with water, and some drowned rather than escape to face the shelling. As the battle drew on, the use of gas shells was resorted to by both sides, adding clouds of poisonous gas to the already hideous landscape. By early April the German infantry was forced to either completely abandon the assault and retreat, or move deeper into the RFV in order to escape the continuous French shelling. After being informed by Falkenhayn that German men and materiel to support the continued attack were limited, commanders at the scene unanimously agreed to continue to attack, in order to find and establish defensive positions.