Verdun

Fort Thiaumont

When visiting the Ossuaire at Douaumont it is quite easy to miss the shattered remains of the minor fort of Thiaumont to its left.

These Ouvrages were meant to fill the gaps between forts, more as part of the greater defensive network than as the last line of resistance.

In the case of Thiaumont it was more of a shelter than a fort being equipped with a MG post and room for fifty soldiers.

Its strategic position was important because, along with Froideterre it guarded the ridge leading south-east which formed the last line of defence before the River Meuse and Verdun Town. Its position also flanked the village of Fleury which was to be the scene of some of the most intense of the fighting.

Thiaumont was occupied for a moment at the beginning of June 1916 but the French almost immediately retook it.

The battle was to rage in this area throughout the summer and the ground held by each side in turn, changing hands some 14 times. The results of this terrible conflict are all too apparent today.

On 21 June 1916 whilst still in French hands, the fort came under heavy 420mm shell fire and was badly damaged. The weight and power of these shells can be judged by the shattered observation turret.

Little is left of the shattered remains of Thiaumont

The following day the Germans launched a major assault with the intentions of taking the final ring of defences and marching on victorious into Verdun by the 25th.

A key part to this assault was a massive bombardment using what they called Green Cross gas shells. These used a new form of phosgene gas and one which the French gas masks were ill equipped to deal with.

On 23 June 1916 the Germans launched their Infantry offensive and men from the Bavarian 10th Regiment managed to overwhelm the small French garrison.

For three months the battle raged backwards and forwards as one side pounded the fort with artillery fire and then the other.

Finally on 24 October 1916 French soldiers finally managed to re-occupy the position on a permananet basis.

By now the fort had been reduced to pieces of tangled metal rods and collapsed concrete.

A smashed lookout position

Consider the thickness of the armour plate -
then think of the weight of shells needed to do this to it !

 

PC 118

The battered remains of Command Post 118

A few minutes walk from the battered hulk of Thiaumont lies this Command Post - Number 118.

Never intended to be anything more than a shelter and control point, it nevertheless became a focal point for the defence of the area after the fall of Thiaumont.

In the background lies the Ossuary

In the background lies the Ossuary