As you drive out towards the battlefields from the centre of Verdun you will pass this large military cemetery. According to where you are heading afterwards, the junction at the cemetery offers two alternatives.
Via the D112 towards the Maginot Memorial, Wounded Lion and the Memorial Museum. Sign posted Champs de bataille.
Via the D 603 and then D 913 towards Fort Vaux. Sign posted Longwy and then at the junction with the D 913, Fort de Vaux, Champ de bataille.
There are 5,516 burials here, including 14 Russians, 1 Romanian, 1 Luxembourger, 1 Vietnamese and a Chinese worker.
From the Second World War there are over 600 French soldiers, seven British, one Belgian and one Polish soldier.
The main entrance groups ornamental bushes and six Skoda cannons captured from the Austrians on the Eastern Front.
The first military burials in Verdun dating from August 1914 were placed in the civil cemetery. A month later the military cemetery was opened and within a month contained 1,000 burials.
Following the ceremony at the Citadel to chose France’s Unknown Soldier, the remaining seven unchosen coffins were brought here and laid to rest under the central cross.
A plaque states :
Ici reposent les sept soldats français inconnus venus de tout le front de bataille.
Here lie seven unknown soldiers recovered from across the entire front.
It continues with an explanation of how the unknown soldier was chosen at the citadel.
On 9 November 1920 eight unknown, French soldiers exhumed from all sectors of the front and from locations kept secret were reunited in the citadel of Verdun for a glorious vigil.
On 10 November in the presence of M Maginot, Ministre des pensions, one of them was chosen to receive, in Paris, under the Arc de Triomphe, full military honours.
The seven others, handed into the custody of the town of Verdun mount their final guard here at the base of the flag forming a rampart before the untaken town and continuing the motto of those soldiers : They shall not pass.
Passer-by, bow before them.
The plaque finishes out by pointing out :
Ici repose peut-être ton père, ton fils, ton frère, ton ami mort quelque part en France au course de la Grande Guerre.
Here, perhaps, lies your father, your son, your brother, your friend killed somewhere in France during the course of the great War.
The flanking walls gives details of the units that fought at Verdun — almost all of the infantry regiments.
There are two other monuments within the cemetery. One is in honour of the aviators and the other, by Léon Cuvelle, is in honour of those executed and deported during both World Wars. It is a copy of the original which was destroyed by the Germans in 1940 — and therefore required updating to include further atrocities.
Soldat Eugène Genais 1545
Born 4 February 1881
Saint-Prouant (85 – Vendée)
Class of 1901
128e Régiment d’infanterie
Died on 8 April 1915 aged 34
Son of Ernest and Paradis Genais
Died of wounds at Verdun Hospital No 6
Soldat Augustin Deneuvillers 2190
Born 11 June 1873
Vred (59 – Nord)
Class of 1893
303e Régiment d’infanterie
Died on 16 April 1915 aged 41
Son of Pierre and Marie Deneuvillers
Husband of Catherine Dernoncourt
Died of wounds at Verdun Hospital No 1
Sergent Albert Barayre 585
Born 15 April 1890
Lahas (32 – Gers)
Class of 1910
11e Régiment d’infanterie
Died on 28 July 1916 aged 41
Son of Andre and Anastasia Barayre
Killed at Fleury