The Battlefield

Fort Douaumont

The Fort was begun in 1885 and successively fortified until 1913.

It is the largest of the ring of fortifications around the town of Verdun and was considered to be the key position by the attacking Germans.

The fort was equipped with a 155mm turret, a 75 mm turret and two machine gun turrets.

The concrete shell was two and half metres thick and could withstand all but the very heaviest calibre weapons.

On top of one of the machine gun turrets

You can see from the flag pole and second turret in the background of the photo that Douaumont is enormous.

An Observation Lookout

The fact that some of these emplacements have been destroyed gives evidence to the hammering that the fort received, in particular from the French Artillery whilst they were trying to recapture it.

A MG Turret with an observation turret on its right

However what appeared to be an imposing concrete edifice standing in the path of the enemy was in fact a rundown and poorly manned outpost. In 1915 the fort had been downgraded as the military moved to favouring troops on the ground rather than fortifications.

The 75mm gun turret

By the time the Germans attacked the fort on 25 February 1916 the compliment of men came to a total of 57 territorial soldiers.

This enormous bunker was to be taken without a fight by a company of the 24th Brandenburg Regiment. A handful of them managed to climb inside through a grill and captured the turret operators.

Douaumont Fort remained in the hands of the Germans until 24 October 1916 when men from the Moroccan Colonial Infantry Regiment recaptured it. The structure withstood all of the French bombardments, which included calibres ranging from 155mm up to the heavy 400mm siege gun.

The German Cemetery

On 8 May the German garrison suffered a serious accident in one of their grenade storage areas. The resulting detonation killed 679 soldiers who are buried within a gallery which has been turned into a chapel.

I'll just get a shave then shall I ?

Conditions for the garrison were fairly hard, and sanitation did not seem to have been a high priority. I think that the only set of latrines you see on the visit were added by the Germans in 1917, which does rather make me wonder what the garrison had used before hand.

Today, stalactites hang from the ceilings

I am sure that conditions were very different at the time, but the stalactites hanging from the ceiling add to the impression that this was not the most comfortable of places to serve in.

Fort Vaux Fort Vaux