Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, February 21, 2014

21 February 1916: The Battle of Verdun Begins

I have been at a little bit of a loss as to how to commemorate the opening day of this horrendous battle. I thought giving two views of the current day battlefield might say more than I can express in words. MH

The Hot Zone

Three images of the most intense areas of fighting throughout the battle that are on the right bank. If you have a map of Verdun these would be in the rough triangle:  Fleury-Froideterre-Thiaumont. Fleury village changed hands 14 times in the fighting. Today it is classified a Village detruit.

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Villages Detruit (Destroyed)

The Battle of Verdun wiped nine villages off the map so completely that the French government ordered that none should be rebuilt. Their sites have been largely overtaken by forest and apart from hunters, animals, and the occasional visitor, most of them are silent and forgotten. However, the destroyed villages have been allowed to retain a legal identity. Each one has a mayor, a chapel in which mass is celebrated once a year, and a village cemetery in which the descendants of those who lived in the village before 1914 may be buried today.

Three of these villages are represented below. The top three-series of Bezonvaux: its main street prewar, the main street today, and the village memorial. Next are shown the chapels of Douaumont, namesake of the massive fort nearby, and Beaumont-en-Verdenois, which was just behind the opening action against Colonel Driant's outpost in Bois de Caures.

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1 comment:

  1. I imagine listening to that annual mass in one of the destroyed villages must be quite an experience.