Fort Vaux

This fort formed the north eastern bastion and was built between 1881 and 1884. It was reinforced in 1888 and in 1904 work was started to equip it with a 75mm turret and two casements with 75mm guns.

Fort Vaux

As was the case with Douaumont the Fort's garrison was reduced and its weapons removed in August 1915. On 26 February 1916 a direct hit on the turret put it out of action

On 1 June 1916 the advancing Germans reached the fort and for the next six days the fighting took place inside.

On the roof of Fort Vaux

The 250 strong French garrison was commanded by Major Raynal and his small band of men fought with great heroism as they contested every corridor and room with the Germans. The Germans sealed up the ventilation shafts and attacked the defenders with gas and flame thrower attacks.

Completely cut off from the outside world the men were suffering from dreadful thirst brought about by the constant gas attacks and the lack of oxygen.

The size of shell it takes to smash metal this thick can be imagined

The strength of the metal casings can be seen here,
and the size of the shell which smashed it can well be imagined.


The heroic flight of the last pigeon

On the wall outside is a plaque in memory of all the military pigeons

On 4 June Major Raynal sent off his last pigeon with an urgent message explaining their impossible situation.

The pigeon is commemorated in a plaque which gives details of this last message and the citation that the pigeon received for its heroic flight through the toxic gas which caused its death.

Nous tenons toujours, mais nous subissons une attaque, par les gaz et les fumées, très dangereuse.
Il y a urgence à nous dégager. Faites-nous donner de suite communication optique par Souville qui ne répond pas à nos appels. C'est mon dernier pigeon.

Which I think reads something like:

We continue to hold, but we are suffering a very dangerous attack, by gas and fumes.
It is urgent that we are relieved. Make visual communication via Souville which does not answer our calls. This is my last pigeon.

The following night 5 June Raynal managed to evacuate a hundred of his men but there was to be no relief and eventually thirst became the deciding factor in the battle for the fort.

At 06:00 hours on 7 June Raynal surrendered Fort Vaux to the Germans who allowed full honours of war: the Crown Prince allowing Raynal keeping his sword.

The fort remained in German hands until 2 November 1916 when they abandoned it to approaching French forces.

Walls were raised in the corridors to act as machine gun points

Defensive points forced attackers to fight for every metre