Battle of Verdun

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 6, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    During the First World War Verdun was a fortified French garrison town on the River Meuse 200km east of Paris. In December 1915, General Erich von Falkenhayn, Chief of Staff of the German Army, decided to attack Verdun. Although he admitted he would be unable to break through at these point on the Western Front, he argued that in defending Verdun, the Germans would "bleed the French army white".

    The German attack on Verdun started on 21st February 1916. A million troops, led by Crown Prince Wilhelm, faced only about 200,000 French defenders. The following day the French was forced to retreat to their second line of trenches. By 24th February the French had moved back to the third line and were only 8km from Verdun.

    On 24th February, General Henri-Philippe Petain was appointed commander of the Verdun sector. He gave orders that no more withdrawals would take place. He arranged for every spare French soldier to this part of the Western Front. Of the 330 infantry regiments of the French Army, 259 eventually fought at Verdun.

    The German advance was brought to a halt at the end of February. On the 6th March, the German Fifth Army launched a new attack at Verdun. The Germans advanced 3km before they were stopped in front of the area around Mort Homme Hill. The French held this strategic point until it was finally secured by the Germans on 29th May, and Fort Vaux fell on 7th June, after a long siege.

    Further attacks continued throughout the summer and early autumn. However, the scale of the German attacks were reduced by the need to transfer troops to defend their front-line at the Somme. The French now counter-attacked and General Charles Mangin became a national hero when the forts at Douaumont and Vaux were recaptured by 2nd November, 1916. Over the next six weeks the French infantry gained another 2km at Verdun.

    Verdun, the longest battle of the First World War, ended on the 18th December. The French Army lost about 550,000 men at Verdun. It is estimated that the German Army suffered 434,000 casualties. About half of all casualties at Verdun were killed.
  2. scrimnet

    scrimnet New Member

    It is often forgotten that the Battle of the Somme was of political expediency rather than military necessity. The idea was to draw German troops from Verdun and relieve the pressure there.The mutinies were already breaking out in the French Army, and the political pressure on London and thence Haig was immense. Haig did not want to go in July 16, he favoured a much later date.

    The reason why The Somme offensive went through to November was again political expediency, hence one can see the rationale for Annies post
  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

  4. gmiller

    gmiller New Member

  5. gmiller

    gmiller New Member

    Presumably you mean the French pressure on Haig. However, on July 11 Falkenhayen ceased all offensive offensive operations and there was no need for Haig to relieve the French. Haig believed in continuing an attritional battle but had to defend the continuation of the offensive to the British government. He thought that continued attrition would quickly use up the remaining German military reserves.

    Haig wrote "Principle on which we should act. Maintain our offensive. Our losses in July's fighting totaled about 120,000 more than they would have been had we not attacked. They cannot be regarded as sufficient to justify any anxiety as to our ability to continue the offensive. It is my intention:
    (a) To maintain a steady pressure on Somme Battle.
    (b) To push my attack strongly whenever and wherever the state of my preparations and the general situation make success sufficiently probable to justify me in doing so, but not other wise.
    (c) To secure against counter-attack each advantage gained and
    prepare thoroughly for each fresh advance.
    Proceeding this, I expect to be able to maintain the offensive well into the Autumn."
    Haig quoted from Gary Sheffield's "Somme", P. 162.

    Haig's intended to continue into November in the vain hope of defeating the Germans. He never seemed to know when to close down a battle, continuing unnecessarily was a feature of the battles of Somme, 3rd Ypres, Cambrai and even Amiens! Haig wanted to continue Amiens, even after he had gained his objectives, but Currie persuaded Haig to close it down.....
  6. Bargoed Ridge

    Bargoed Ridge New Member

    Last year I went to Verdun and visited Fort Douaumont, it's a grim relic. The Germans lost a number of troups when a magazine exploded killing 60 or so soldiers. Unable to remove them for burial they bricked up the entrance and left them there. I have some pictures of the inside of the fort if anyone is interested.

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