List of World War I memorials and cemeteries in Verdun

This is a list of World War I cemeteries and memorials in Verdun.

List of World War I cemeteries and memorials at VerdunEdit

One French Lieutenant at Verdun who was later killed by an artillery shell wrote in his diary on 23 May 1916

"Humanity is mad. It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre! What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible. Men are mad"[1]

The Battle of VerdunEdit

Verdun was a fortified French garrison town on the River Meuse, 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Paris and in December 1915, General Erich von Falkenhayn, Chief of Staff of the German Army, decided to launch a major attack against it. The attack started on 21 February 1916, and a million German troops, led by Crown Prince Wilhelm, were to be faced by 200,000 French defenders. The following day the French were forced to retreat to their second line of trenches and by 24 February had moved back to their third line and were only 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Verdun.

By early 1916 one could divide the Western Front into the section from the North Sea to the Somme, which was defended by French, British and Belgian forces, and the section from south of the Somme to the Swiss border, which was defended solely by the French. This latter section was subdivided into the Northern, the Centre and the Eastern sectors and were under the command of generals Ferdinand Foch, Augustin Dubail and Fernand de Langle de Cary respectively.

The front line at Verdun was in fact around the edge of a salient, similar to those at Ypres and St Mihiel and this would have influenced Von Falkenhayn's decision to choose Verdun for this major attack; with a salient one can launch converging attacks from two sides. Another reason for the choice of Verdun was that it was cut in half by the River Meuse which would make it harder for the French to defend their position. He would also have been aware that the forts of the "Verdun Fortified Region", as the French called the area, were now badly organised, under-equipped and under-manned, this because the French High Command had lost faith in the virtues of permanent fortifications after the Germans had crushed and taken the forts of Liège, Namur and Manonvillers in 1914, and had stripped them of many of their artillery pieces and men. In 1915 many French troops and guns were moved from Verdun to the Champagne front.

Finally Von Falkenhayn would have been aware of the advantage that the Germans were given by the major communications network in the Verdun region which involved seven railways and also the proximity of the fortified camp in Metz whilst conversely the French had only three supply routes into Verdun. These were the railway from Sainte-Ménehould, the small, narrow-gauge "Meusien" railway and the road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun. The Sainte-Ménehould railway was to be cut off early in the battle.

Verdun was also important for psychological reasons. On the German side, 14 February 1916 had seen the Kaiser issue a proclamation to his troops glorifying the imminent attack

"I, William, see the German Fatherland forced to go on the offensive. The people want peace; but to establish peace a decisive battle must conclude the war. Verdun, the heart of France, is where you shall harvest the fruit of your efforts..."

The morale of the French army at the time was a factor and Marshal Pétain was to write

"Verdun's was not just a big fortress in the East intended to block an invasion, it was the moral boulevard of France"

Verdun was France's soul.

General von Falkenhayn's initial objective was to take the town in order to clear the way for an invasion of the area beyond Verdun and it is highly unlikely that he anticipated waging a battle of attrition as has sometimes been claimed, with talk of the intention being "to bleed France white" and it is much more likely that it was the failure of his first attempts to break through the French lines and the battle's overall conditions that were to lead to a strategy of "wearing down the enemy".

At the beginning of the battle the Germans concentrated a huge amount of artillery in front of Verdun. These included the 5th Army's twenty-five 305 and 420mm mortars plus three 380mm navy guns and 1,200 cannons. The Germans were poised to release an unprecedented bombardment on Verdun.

The first German attack lasted from 21 February to 5 March 1916, and took place on the right bank of the Meuse. At dawn on 21 February the Germans unleashed their guns and early that evening around 80,000 German soldiers stormed the French positions. The troops did not believe that the French troops could have survived such a fierce artillery bombardment but were to be surprised at the ferocity and strength of the French resistance.

By 25 February, the French front line appeared to break and the Germans were able to advance and take Fort Douaumont. The Germans were now just 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Verdun and Joffre gave General de Castelnau full powers and sent him to Verdun to prevent a complete breakdown of the French lines and a catastrophic retreat. On 24 February he had ordered the right bank of the Meuse, north of Verdun, to hold out-

"Any officer who under the present circumstances gives an order to retreat will be court-martialled"

Joffre also replaced the existing Verdun defensive organisation with his 2nd army, which he put under the command of General Pétain, who was given the task of organising the defence of Verdun. Pétain based his headquarters in Souilly, 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Verdun and quickly looked at the possibilities of reinforcing the forts, issuing an order which forbade surrender in case of an enemy attack. He also mobilised the artillery, which was to relieve the infantry by concentrating its fire on the German positions but also play a defensive role by crushing the enemy's attacks. Throughout the Battle of Verdun, Pétain never stopped saying

"the artillery must give the infantrymen the impression that it supports them and that it is not being dominated"

He also tried to address the problem of access to Verdun and the means of replenishing supplies. The road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun now became known as the "Sacred Way" and in order to keep 2,900 lorries moving on the road in both directions every day, Pétain had quarries opened up alongside it. Teams of territorial troops and Indochinese auxiliaries ceaselessly threw shovelfuls of stones under the wheels of the lorries, which passed by at the rate of one every five seconds. Some 70,000 tonnes of stones were used without interrupting traffic. Replenishing Verdun's supplies on the Sacred Way was a huge undertaking: every day the 300 officers, 8,000 men, 2,000 cars, 200 buses and 800 ambulances of the Commission Régulatrice Automobile carried an average of 13,000 men, 6,400 tonnes of equipment and 1,500 tonnes of munitions, consuming two tonnes of grease, 20,000 litres of oil and 200,000 litres of fuel. The little "Meusien" railway also supplied the 2nd Army. Every day the Saint-Dizier regulating station sent 21 trains of foodstuffs, 7 of munitions, 9 of equipment and 2 of troops to Verdun, as well as evacuating 5 to 7 trains of wounded. Altogether, 119,000 railroad cars travelled the route between 21 February and 1 June.

All of this foiled Falkenhayn's plans and on 5 March 1916, he halted his offensive on the right bank but the French were given little time to celebrate and now the Germans were to launch a massive attack on the left bank of the Meuse. Now the battle of attrition was under way.

From 5 March to 15 July, the Germans remained in strategic control of the battle by regularly alternating their offensives between either the right bank or the left bank of the Meuse. On the left bank, German troops took Goose Hill, Avocourt, Malancourt and Béthincourt in their 6 March attack. On 9 April, the German army dug in on the northern flanks of Hill 304 and Mort-Homme.

On 1 May, Joffre replaced Pétain as commander of the Second Army by General Nivelle and made Pétain head of the group of armies of the Centre and some have argued that he wanted to distance Pétain from making direct daily decisions.

The Germans were still in control of the terrain and thwarting the French army's deep counter-thrusts, such as the one on 22 May, when General Mangin's 5th Infantry Division stormed Douaumont Fort but did not have the resources they needed to take it and taking heart from that failure, the Germans pursued their offensives and began a five-day siege of Fort Vaux Fort which they totally encircled. The Germans were ruthless and after Major Raynal's men ran out of munitions, food and water, with some being so thirsty that they were said to have drunk their own urine, the Germans attacked them with gas and flame-throwers and the fort surrendered on 7 June.

For the rest of the summer the Germans launched various offensives and in June they took Thiaumont, the village of Fleury and the Froideterre defence works They were now just three kilometres from Verdun and the French had to send in a steady stream of reinforcements to hold the front but these encounters undoubtedly exhausted the 5th German army who had lost nearly as many men as the French.

On 11 July the Germans launched what was to be their last offensive but this failed in front of Souville Fort and now Falkenhayn had to move regiments and artillery to the Somme, Russia and Romania.

The German's exhaustion at Verdun and troop transfers to other fronts caused them to halt their offensive in mid-July and General Ludendorff was to describe Verdun in his memoirs as "a gaping wound that ate away at our forces". In early September, Nivelle and Pétain developed plans to break through the German positions on the right bank and focused on strengthening their artillery power, in particular by using French 370 and 400mm howitzers for the first time at Verdun. The French pounded the right bank area from 20 to 23 October and at dawn on the 24th, four divisions commanded by General Mangin stormed Douaumont and the colonial infantry regiment of Morocco and parts of the 321st Infantry overran the ruins and held onto them. A week later the Germans evacuated Fort Vaux, which was then reoccupied by the French and on 15 December a new thrust pushed the German front to 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north of the Côte du Poivre-Louvemont-Bois des Caurières-Bezonvaux line.

By late 1916 French troops had taken back the ground lost since 21 February on the right bank of the Meuse north of Verdun and the town was relieved.[2]

There are many French and German cemeteries throughout the battlefield and several memorials and some of these are described here.

Fort DouaumontEdit

Forts around Verdun. Douaumont is northeast of Verdun at upper right. Limits of German advance as at 26 February and 6 September 1916 are black lines, River Meuse, flowing to the north, is blue line at left

Verdun was ringed by 19 defensive forts and Fort Douaumont was both the largest and highest of them. These forts had protected Verdun since the 1890s but having seen the Belgian forts fall to the power of the German 420 mm (16 in) Gamma guns the French High Command judged Fort Douaumont and the other Verdun forts to be less important that they were previously thought to be, and they were, as a consequence, often left seriously under-manned and many guns and munitions in them were moved elsewhere.

It was no surprise then that on 25 February 1916, Fort Douaumont was entered and occupied without a fight by a small German raiding party comprising only 19 officers and 79 men. This caused the French High Command great dismay and the Fort was only recaptured by three infantry divisions of the French Second Army, during the First Offensive Battle of Verdun on 24 October 1916 after which the Verdun battle slowly ground to a halt[3]

Fort SouvilleEdit

Fort Souville, located to the south of Fort Douaumont, played a most important role in Verdun's defences and was never taken by the Germans. As part of the Thiaumont-Fleury-Souville ridge it dominated the combat zone and for the Germans, possession of the Fort would have literally put Verdun in their sights.

It was Captain Gustave de la Taille who built this fort and gave it the name of the Loiret village, Souville, in which his ancestor, Bertrand de la Taille, groom to the Lord of Souville, had been laid to rest in 1319.

Fort Souville was 388 metres above sea level, the same altitude as Fort Douaumont, and built between 1875 and 1879 from limestone covered with 3-5m of earth. The ditches that surrounded it featured built-in scarps and counterscarps, flanked by caponniers armed with revolver cannons and 12 tonne breechblock cannons and in 1889, the whole thing was wrapped in barbed wire 30m thick. It was one of the Séré des Rivières belt's "first generation" forts, like those at Belleville, Saint Michel and Tavannes. In 1888, the gunpowder magazine was reinforced with 2.5m of concrete and a 1m thick layer of sand. Connecting passageways were built, as well as six 18m by 5m shelters, each protected by an 8m thick layer of blocks made from rock, marl, and loose stones. The fort housed the district's telephone exchange, consisting of two underground lead circuits that connected it to Fort Douaumont and the fortification at Thiaumont, plus two overhead cables linking other forts and the Verdun citadel exchange. Before conflict began, there were plans to establish a communication system for clear days, using lights, with the fortified town of Longwy, more than 35 kilometres (22 mi) away.

Criss-crossing alleys formed a communication network that can still be seen all over the fortification and this ensured that relief soldiers could reach the fort and the injured could be taken to safety. The network of alleys began both at the Marceau barracks (one of the entrances to the battlefield) towards Souville and at the village of Fleury, then headed for the river and the village of Vaux (the Carrières alley), the Vaux Régnier, Fumin woods and Fort Vaux. The fort was badly damaged in 1916 and it was restored in 1917.[4][5]

Fort VauxEdit

Fort Vaux became the second Fort to fall in the Battle of Verdun but unlike Fort Douaumont, it was fully garrisoned when it was attacked on 2 June 1916, by German assault troops and its defence was marked by the heroism and endurance of the garrison, including Major Sylvain-Eugene Raynal. Under his command, the besieged French garrison fended off repeated German assaults, including fighting underground from barricades inside the invaded corridors of the fort. The Fort finally surrendered on 7 June but was recaptured by French infantry on 2 November 1916. [6]

The Douaumont OssuaryEdit

The Douaumont ossuary[7]) is a memorial containing the remains of soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun in World War I. It is located in Douaumont, France, within the Verdun battlefield and has been designated a "nécropole nationale", or "national cemetery".[8]

Imagine the hilt of a medieval broad sword plunged into the earth and that is Douaumont!

The ossuary is a memorial containing the remains of both French and German soldiers who died on the Verdun battlefield. Through small outside windows, the skeletal remains of at least 130,000 unidentified soldiers of both nations can be seen filling up alcoves at the lower edge of the building. On the inside of the ossuary building, the ceiling and walls are partly covered by plaques bearing names of French soldiers who fell during the Battle of Verdun plus a few names of those who died fighting during World War II, as well as for veterans of the Indochina and Algerian Wars.

In front of the monument, and sloping downhill, lies the largest single French military cemetery of the First World War with 16,142 graves. It was initiated in 1923 by Verdun veteran André Maginot, who would later create the Maginot Line. The ossuary was officially inaugurated on 7 August 1932 by French President Albert Lebrun.

The architects of the ossuary were Léon Azéma, Max Edrei and Jacques Hardy and George Desvallières designed the stained glass windows. The tower is 46 metres (151 ft) high and has a panoramic view of the battlefields. The tower contains a bronze death-bell, weighing over 2 tonnes (2.0 long tons; 2.2 short tons), called Bourdon de la Victoire, which is sounded at official ceremonies. It was offered by an American benefactor Anne Thornburn Van Buren, in 1927. At the top of the tower a rotating red and white "lantern of the dead" shines on the battlefields at night. The cloister is 137 metres (449 ft) long and contains 42 interior alcoves.

Inside the cloister are 18 shelters each holding two granite tombs and each of these tombs represents an exact section of the battlefield and underneath, burial vaults hold the bones of the unidentified dead.

The setting up of the ossuary was organised by a committee led by the Bishop of Verdun who collected subscriptions not only throughout France but internationally and around the outside of the building you can see the coats of arms of all the cities which donated money towards it. In the gallery below are some further photographs of the ossuary and cemetery.[9]

The Soldat Du DroitEdit

This memorial comprises the sculpture of a reclining soldier, the work being entitled "Le Soldat du Droit" (The Soldier of Justice). It is dedicated to Andre Thomé, a French politician, who was killed at Verdun on 10 March 1916. His parliamentary occupation meant that he was not obliged to serve in the army but he volunteered nonetheless and was to make the ultimate sacrifice. [10]

The monument at Mort Homme and that to the 40th French InfantryEdit

This is the work of the sculptor Jacques Froment-Meurice and was erected by the veterans of the 69th French Infantry Division. The skeleton of a French soldier is draped in the flag for which he has sacrificed his life. He carries the flame of victory and the monument is inscribed

"Ils n'ont pas passé"

ring out the declaration of resistance.

The inauguration ceremony took place on 10 September 1922, in the presence of Generals Nivelle and Berthelot, Boichut, the Governor of Verdun and Mon.Taufflieb, the senator for the Bas-Rhin, who had commanded the 69th.

100 metres from this monument is the granite monument to the soldiers of the 40th French Infantry. A photograph is shown in the gallery at the end of the article.

Both monuments stand on Cote 304 which was yet another piece of high ground that had to be fought over and the memorials are dedicated to more than 10,000 French Soldiers who were to perish there. The hill was first attacked by the Germans on 20 March 1916 and again on 9 April 1916. Neither of these two attacks were successful but finally on 29 June the Germans took the hill and less than two months later the French were able to re-take it. On the right hand side of the memorial to the 40th are listed the divisions who fought here in 1916 and on the left those divisions who fought in 1917, when further fighting took place.

Jacques Froment-Meurice was born in Paris in 1864 and died in 1947. He was a pupil of Chapu. In 1925 he worked on the war memorial at Saumur.[11]

Memorial to Moslem soldiersEdit

This striking memorial is completely white in colour and is dedicated to the 70,000 Muslim soldiers who died whilst fighting for France at Verdun. It was inaugurated on 25 June 2006, the ceremony being led by Jacques Chirac, Michèle Alliot-Marie, the Minister of Defence, Hamlaoui Mekachera, the Secretary of State for Veteran soldiers, Jean-Louis Debré, Christian Poncelet and Dalil Boubakeur. The design of the memorial is inspired by Arab-Muslim art. [12]

Memorial to 137th Regiment of Infantry/The Bayonet TrenchEdit

When the battlefield clearance parties began to search the Verdun area after the war, one party found what appeared to be a mass grave of men from one unit, the 137th Infantry Regiment. It was thought that they were killed in their "jumping off" trench when the intense German shelling literally buried them alive. The story was that Father Ratier, an army chaplain, who had been a stretcher bearer with the 137th in 1916, found a line of some thirty nine bayonets protruding from the ground: each one marking the location of a body and here the legend started and the spot is marked by a memorial known as the "Trench of Bayonets"

The monument carries at its front the words

" A la mémoire des soldats français QUI DORMENT DEBOUT LE FUSIL A LA MAIN dans cette tranchée"

The door to the monument in green bronze was the work of Edgar Brandt and leads through to an colonnaded alley. [13]

The Memorial remembering Fleury. The village that died for FranceEdit

Near the Douaumont ossuary is the memorial which remembers the lost village of Fleury-devant-Douaumont, one of the many villages totally destroyed in the fighting but never rebuilt. The village had become a key position in the battle and changed hands 16 times and by July 1916 had for all intents and purposes been razed to the ground. It was never rebuilt and the memorial stands as a reminder of the horrors which the village must have witnessed. Several other villages suffered the fate of Fleury-devant-Douaumont, namely Bezonvaux, Beaumont-en-Verdunois, Haumont-près-Samogneux, Louvemont-Côte-du-Poivre, and Cumières-le-Mort-Homme.

During the war, the town was completely destroyed and the land was made uninhabitable to such an extent that a decision was made not to rebuild it. The area around the municipality was contaminated by corpses, explosives and poisonous gas, so farming was impossible. The site of the commune is maintained as a testimony to war and is officially designated as a "village that died for France".[14]

Monument at Fleury

Mémorial de Verdun. The Verdun museumEdit

Just by the Fleury-devant-Douaumont memorial is the Verdun memorial, a museum, built on the site of Fleury-deviant-Doaumont's old railway station. It was set up in 1967 on the initiative of the CNSV (Comité National du Souvenir de Verdun). It contains many artefacts found in the Verdun trenches and endeavours to tell the story of the daily life of those who fought at Verdun.

Maurice Genevoix, the writer, who fought in the 1914-1918 war, was one of those who pushed for the museum to be built, wrote

"Ce Mémorial a été édifié par les survivants de Verdun , en souvenir de leurs camarades tombés dans la bataille pour que ceux qui viennent se recueillir et méditer aux lieux mêmes de leur sacrifice, comprennent l'idéal et la foi qui les ont inspirés et soutenus."[15]

The wall of the Israelites at Fleury-devant-DouaumontEdit

The wall of the Israelites at Fleury-devant-Douaumont

This monument stands between the Douaumont ossuary and the monument dedicated to the Jews who died at Verdun's and is dedicated to the memory of those Jews who laid down their lives in the 1914-1918 war. The wall is 25 metres long and 15 metres high and is inscribed with the text of Hebrew Laws, reminding one of Jerusalem's "Wailing wall". The inscription reads


The memorial says :


The chapel of Saint-Nicolas at Fleury-devant-DouaumontEdit

This chapel is in fact Notre-Dame-de-l'Europe and has stained glass windows by Jean-Jacques Gruber which depict two soldiers and a Pieta by M et Mme Lucien Lantier.[16]

Church at Fleury-devant-Douaumont

Memorial to the men who maintained the Voie Sacrée at Moulin-BrûléEdit

The memorial to the men who maintained the Voie Sacrée is located by the road in question and on the plateau of Moulin-Brûlé.

It was inaugurated on 14 May 1967 by General Boucaud, the president of the "Fédération du Train (FNT)" and has sculptural work by François Barrois of Commercy. It was designed by the architect Gaston Schmitt of Toul. The monument stands on the point where soldiers would arrive in trucks and then would walk the 8 kilometres to the front line. Barrois' relief depicts the various kinds of trucks used on the Voie Sacrée, the railway with a depiction of the Corpet-Louvet locomotive, and the men working on maintenance. In the centre of the relief the words inscribed read

"Le train à ses anciens, à tous ceux de la Voie Sacrée"

It was along this road that French men and supplies were fed to the fighting area. At one point it was calculated that vehicles were passing every fourteen seconds day and night to ensure that Verdun could withstand the massive onslaught that it was subjected to in 1916. It was indeed the "road to Hell". Thousands and thousands of men passed along the Voie Sacree each day and 2,000 tons of munitions. To ensure the road was kept clear all men on foot were obliged to march through the surrounding fields and to maintain the road surface a unit of soldiers, equal to a full division of men, threw down some 700,000 tonnes of stones during the 10 months of the battle. A narrow gauge railway ran alongside the road. The Voie Sacree is now marked along its length with posts capped with a model of a French soldier’s helmet. The posts tell the reader how far he is along the road from Bar-Le-Duc to Verdun. How many times must soldiers have wished they were travelling in the direction of Bar-Le-Duc.[17]

Road marker Verdun-Bar-le-Duc
Relief on monument

The Memorial to André MaginotEdit

Just near to the Douaumont Ossuary and Cemetery and in the forested part of Souville is the memorial to André Maginot. The bronze sculpture on the memorial shows the wounded Maginot being helped from the battlefield of Verdun by a fellow soldier François-Joseph Jolas. This memorial was inaugurated in 1935 by the French President Albert Lebrun. The sculptor was Gaston Bocquet. Maginot was the Deputy for Bar-Le-Duc and a Government Minister before the war and when war broke out he enlisted as an ordinary soldier and fought at Verdun, sustaining a bad knee injury. After the war Maginot returned to politics and as Minister of Pensions lit the flame of remembrance at the opening of the tomb of the unknown warrior under the Arc de Triomphe. Throughout his life he worked tirelessly for Great War veterans and his name will forever be associated with the "Maginot Line" the ring of fortresses on the eastern border with Germany built in the 1930s to defend France against future German attack. [18]

Verdun CathedralEdit

Verdun Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe dating back to the year 990.

It was damaged by a bomb in 1916 and after the war much restoration was needed and the restorers André Ventre and Marcel Delangle were commissioned to supervise this restoration. Jean-Jacques Grüber was commissioned to work on the stained glass.

The crypt was quite unique and the restorers tried to change it as little as possible but one innovation was the commissioning in 1935 of the sculptor Gaston Le Bourgeois to carve the corbels of the crypt's pillars. This involved 13 corbels each having 4 sides, giving Le Bourgeois the task of completing 52 corbels. He chose two subjects for these carvings; episodes from the Battle of Verdun and the religious life of the town.

We can observe therefore alongside the religious figures, a soldier smoking his pipe, a pigeon from Fort Vaux, the lorries of the "Voie Sacrée", artillery pieces, a padre, aviators, etc.etc. One carving shows a soldier blindfolded and on his knees awaiting execution. [19]

Memorial to the men of the 130th Division at Douaumont. "The wounded lion"Edit

In the Douaumont area is the memorial to the men of the 130th Division who fought as part of the Souville Garrison. Its position at the site of the former ruins of the Chapel of Sainte-Fine marks the furthest that the Germans managed to advance towards Verdun in their attack of 12 July 1916.[20]

Monument to the sons of VerdunEdit

This monument is dedicated to the 518 men of Verdun who gave their lives in the 1914-1918 war. 510 were soldiers and 8 civilians. The architect was Forest and the sculptor and the monument took as its theme the words

"on ne passe pas"

as the five soldiers form a solid wall against which the Germans must pit themselves.

Inaugurated on 1 November 1928, the monument depicts a line of five soldiers representing the different arms of the armed forces. From left to right we have a cavalryman with his sabre, a territorial ready for any work thrown at him even helping maintain the "Voie sacrée". In the centre is a young infantryman, determined and with fists clenched he is the hero of the battlefields and the victor at Verdun. Then we have the old colonial soldier with his distinct moustache and finally an artilleryman.

A sign next to the monument gives the following information

"ce monument oeuvre de Forest, Architecte,et de Grange, Sculpteur, Symbolise la célèbre devise de Verdun 1916 on ne passe pas cinq soldats de différentes armes au coude à coude, forment un mur contre lequel est venu se briser l'assaut de l'ennemi. Ce monument a été erigé à la mémoire des Enfants de Verdun morts pour la France"

Now the monument bears not only the names of the 518 casualties of the Great War but both military and civilian victims of the Second World War, including deportees and resistance fighters and those who lost their lives in Algeria and overseas.

The sculptor was Claude Grange (1883-1971) whose work we have encountered on the Chemin des Dames and the Basque memorial there.[21]

Monument to the victory at VerdunEdit

This monument in Verdun was created by the French architect Léon Chesnay. The sculptor was Jean Boucher (1870-1939), who was himself a veteran of Verdun battle. The foundation stone of the monument was laid down in 1920 by War Minister André Lefèvre and the inauguration took place several years later on 23 June 1929, the ceremony being witnessed by Gaston Doumergue, the French President, Raymon Poincaré, the Prime Minister, several ministers and Pétain. Boucher's statue at the top of the monument depicts Charlemagne leaning on a large broadsword.

This monument is located at the summit of a stairway which links lower Verdun (rue Mazel) and upper Verdun (place de la Libération) and its pyramidal tower (30 m high) holds a crypt which was used to hold books with the names of those French and American soldiers who fought in this region (the books are now kept in the city hall). The crypt had been intended to hold the mortal remains of the 7 unknown soldiers who were not chosen during the 1920 ceremony to select the remains for the tomb of the unknown soldier in Paris but these remains are now in the Faubourg-Pavé military cemetery. [22]

Charlemagne at the summit of Verdun's Victory Monument

Le père Barnabé at SamogneuxEdit

Samogneux was a village some 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) to the north of Verdun which was totally destroyed in the war and the character was the creation of the writer Henry Frémont. "Le Père Barnabé" came to symbolise the people of the Meuse in 1914-1918.

It was the American Miss Horace Gray de Boston, who asked Henri Frémont for permission to translate and sell the book in the USA, and funds raised were used to rebuild the village. There is a monument entitled "Le père Barnabé" which was erected in 1930 in front of the ancient village church. This shows a Meuse peasant standing before the ruins of his village and this monument was funded by both Henri Frémont and Miss Gray.[23][24]

Documents at the National Archives in KewEdit

In file WO 32/5649 held at the National Archives we read of the presentation of a Union Jack to the City of Verdun. The file opens in October 1917 and we learn that a Union Jack had been presented to the City of Verdun by General Cowans. and the Mayor of Verdun had written to the Foreign Office as follows:-- "The town of Verdun is proud to possess this testimony of admiration to the immortal soldiers who preserved it from the pollution of the enemy, but it would like to keep in its archives a written certificate conferring on it the guardianship of this flag".

The Secretary of State for War duly wrote the following letter to the Mayor of Verdun on 5 March 1918. "In fulfilment of the promise made by my predecessor, Mr.Lloyd George, when he visited Verdun, it is my pleasant duty and high privilege to ask you, M.le Maire, to accept the custody of the British Flag which Lieutenant General Sir John Cowans, Quarter Master General to the Forces, in the name of His Majesty the King and on behalf of the Army Council, handed to you on 20 September last. Animated by the sincerest feelings of admiration for the brilliant valour of which the city of Verdun was at once the scene and the inspiration, the British Army desire that this tribute to their comrades in arms may, by the permission of yourself, M.le Maire, and your successors in office, remain in your citadel to commemorate the definite repulse of a common enemy in the anxious but victorious months of February and March, 1916".

The fighting there in 1916 would see large numbers of French and German dead. General Petain wrote of the young troops returning from the battlefield

" "In their unsteady look one sensed visions of horror, while their step and bearing revealed utter despondency. They were crushed by horrifying memories"

"They shall not pass"Edit

The Battle of Verdun was to popularise General Robert Nivelle's: "They shall not pass" this being a simplification of the actual French text: "Vous ne les laisserez pas passer, mes camarades" ("you shall not let them pass, my comrades") which was part of Nivelle's " Order of the day" on the 23rd June, 1916.[25] About two months earlier, in April 1916, General Philippe Pétain had also issued a stirring "Order of the day" which is also often quoted

"Courage! On les aura" ("Courage! We shall get them")

Nivelle's words perhaps betrayed his concern for the mounting morale problems on the Verdun battlefield. The French military archives document that Nivelle's promotion to lead the Second Army at Verdun, in June 1916, had been followed by manifestations of indiscipline in five of his front lire regiments[26] This unprecedented disquiet would eventually reappear with the French army mutinies that followed the unsuccessful Nivelle offensive of April 1917.

Gallery of ImagesEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Brown, Malcolm Verdun 1916, Tempus Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0-7524-1774-6
  • Clayton, Anthony, Paths of Glory – The French Army 1914–18, ISBN 0-304-36652-8
  • Illustrated Michelin Guide to the battlefields "Verdun and the Battles for its Possessions" ISBN 9781843420668.
  • "The Price of Glory" Verdun 1916 ISBN 9780140170412.
  • "Walking Verdun" ISBN 1844158675.
  • "Battlefield Guide VERDUN 1916" ISBN 9780752441481.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, Alistair Horne. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1964) Page 236
  2. ^ The Battle of Verdun Chemins de Memoire. Retrieved 11 February 2013
  3. ^
  4. ^ Fort Souville Chemins de Memoire. Retrieved 11 February 2013
  5. ^ Fort Souville Forts of Verdun. Retrieved 11 February 2013
  6. ^ Fort Vaux Archived 19 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine Verdun Tourism. Retrieved 12 February 2013
  7. ^ Jean-Paul Labourdette, Collectif, Dominique Auzias - Guide des lieux de mémoire 2011 Page 126 "L'ossuaire de Douaumont"
  8. ^ La nécropole nationale et l'ossuaire deDouaumont (55), Les chemins de mémoire, Ministry of Defence The Douaumont ossuary Chemin de Memoire. French Government site. Retrieved 9 February 2013
  9. ^ Douaumont Archived 7 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine Verdun-Douaumont. Retrieved 4 February 2013
  10. ^ Soldat Du Droit Verdun website. Retrieved 4 February 2013
  11. ^ Mort Homme Verdun-Meuse. Retrieved 12 February 2013
  12. ^ Mémorial des soldats Musulmans à Douaumont Petit Patrimoine. Retrieved 11 February 2013
  13. ^ The trench of bayonets Retrieved 12 February 2013
  14. ^ Fleury Retrieved 12 February 2013
  15. ^ Memorial de Verdun Archived 12 April 2013 at Memorial de Verdun Website. Retrieved 12 February 2013
  16. ^ The chapel of Saint-Nicolas at Fleury-devant-Douaumont Petit Patrimoine. Retrieved 12 February 2013
  17. ^ Site sur la voie sacrée
  18. ^ Memorial to André Maginot Petit Patrimoine. Retrieved 4 February 2013
  19. ^ Verdun Cathedral Verdun Meuse. Retrieved 12 February 2013
  20. ^ Memorial to the men of the 130th Division Retrieved 4 February 2013
  21. ^ The sons of Verdun Retrieved 12 February 2013
  22. ^ Monument to the victory at Verdun Retrieved 12 February 2013
  23. ^ Le père Barnabé at Samogneux Retrieved 12 February 2013
  24. ^ Samogneux Petit Patrimoine. Retrieved 12 February 2013
  25. ^ Alain Denizot, 1996, "Verdun 1914–1918", p. 136, ISBN 2-7233-0514-7
  26. ^ Alain Denizot, 1996, pp.146-149

External linksEdit