The battle for Verdun lasted from 21 February to 15 December 1916 and originated in the mind of the German General Falkenhayn. He realised that because of the emotional significance of Verdun an attack on it would provoke a passionate response from the French.
He is reputed to have said that his intention was to bleed France to death as she sent more and more soldiers into the killing fields of the German artillery.
It has also been suggested that as he said this after the initial attack had failed to take the town and its system of fortresses it may have just been a bit of bravado to account for a seeming failure.
By the end of the battle he had not only managed to bleed the French army half to death, but his own as well.
There is an excellent Museum at Fleury-devant-Douaumont. On the occasions I have been there you were not supposed to take photographs inside, so buy the guide.
Everything is trilingual and visually informative. In fact there is almost too much information and to the museum justice you would probably need to be in there for hours.
Fleury-devant-Douaumont is one of nine villages that were not rebuilt after the war. The ground is still so full of ammunition, metal and other objects that it was not possible to consider coming back to them.
The village suffered most during the last of the major offensives by the Germans between 22 June and 11 July 1916.
The German High Command had the intention of pushing on past Thiaumont towards the fort of Souville and on into Verdun.
The village of Fleury formed a key strategic point and in the course of terrible fighting changed hands sixteen times. The distance between the two front lines was negligible and both sides suffered heavy casualties.
The final major attack by the Germans managed to take Fleury and pushed on towards the former Chapel of Sainte Fine (Where today you will see the wounded lion memorial).
That was as far as the German Army ever advanced towards Verdun. Their tenure of the village of Fleury was to last just over a month when French troops recaptured the village on 17/18 August.
The village sign records that This was Fleury. Fleury had been erased from the face of the earth.
As a village of 400 inhabitants it would have been a fair size. Today, footpaths have been placed to recreate the roads, and signs show the former locations of the various buildings.
The small chapel has been built on the site of the station.
Fleury differs to the other eight villages in that it still legally exists - even having a mayor.The other destroyed villages