PIERRE's PHOTO IMPRESSIONS of the WESTERN FRONT
1914-1918
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              Pierre Grande Guerre
              shows his
              photo impressions
              of his trips along
              the Western Front
              with his selfmade photo's,
              historic pictures,
              and maps.
              Few words,
              many pictures,
              and many links.
               
              Pierre
               
               
              Warning: Sometimes on the battlefield
              you will still find relics of explosives.
              All these shells, hand grenades, and
              mortar rounds can even nowadays still
              be very dangerous.
              Some of the artillery bombs may contain
              poison gas, which can cause severe
              blistering or worse injuries.
              In France it is by law forbidden to
              remove relics from the battlefield.
              So, it is for your own safety:
              take a picture of the steel harvest,
              but leave these relics untouched!
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              Pierre is a Dutch member
              of the Canadian
              Central Ontario Branch
              of the Western Front
              Association,
              In 2015 awarded with
              a lifetime membership!
               
              And a member of:
               
               
              The Western Front
              Association Nederland
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              Régiment d'Infanterie" 
               
               
               
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              LINKS TO THE SPECIAL

              PHOTO IMPRESSIONS

              NEW! Pierre's Illustrated

              Lecture "Verdun 1916" - (Dutch)

              Pierre's illustrated

              WFA-NL lectures:

              The Tactical Significance 

               of General Gaede - (Bilingual)

              The Difficult Start

              of the L.I.R. 123 - (Eng)

              De Moeizame Start van

              het L.I.R. 123 - (Dutch)

              De Rode Duivels

              op de Hartmannswillerkopf (Dutch)

              De Blauwe Duivels

              in de Vogezen (Dutch)

              Botchkareva en haar

              Vrouwenbataljon (Dutch)

              Mata Hari -

              Het Spionagedossier (Dutch)

              More Special

              Photo Impressions

              of the Western Front (English) 

              Armistice Clearing Compiègne

              Kaiser's Exile Huis Doorn

              Cambrai

              Fort de Mutzig - Feste Kaiser Wilhelm II

              Colmar and Hansi, the Illustrator 

              The Red Baron's Crash Site

              Canadian National Vimy Memorial

              SOMME 1918 The Australians

              Fricourt Archeological Excavations

              Traces of Bairnsfather  - Xmas Truce

              Yorkshire Trench and Dugout

              Bayernwald Trenches Inside

              Maple Copse Cemetery 

              LINKS TO ALL
              BATTLEFIELD
              PHOTO IMPRESSIONS
              in the CORRECT SEQUENCE

              AISNE 

              Chemin des Dames part 1 

              Chemin des Dames part 2 - Dragon's Cave

              Chemin des Dames part 3     

              ALSACE LORRAINE

              The Gap of Charmes - La Trouée de C.

              Avricourt - Leintrey - Reillon - Montreux - Parux 

              Montreux German Front Walk

              The Battle of Morhange - 1914

              French Bunkers - Mnt. Grand Couronné 

              South of Metz - German Bunkers -

              Feste Wagner 

              ALSACE VOSGES NORTH

              Tête du Violu - Bernhardstein

              Chaume de Lusse - Haute de Faîte

              Bertrimoutier - Frapelle  

              Ban de Sapt - La Fontenelle

              Senones - la Roche Mère Henry

              Col de la Chipotte - de la Chapelotte

              The Donon - Bunkers - Dug-outs

              ALSACE VOSGES  

              Col du Bonhomme Col de Mandray

              Tête de Faux - Buchenkopf 

              Col du Wettstein - Schratzmännele

              Lingekopf - le Linge  

              Kleinkopf - Barrenkopf 

              Hohrodberg-Giragoutte-Trois Epis  

              Reichackerkopf  

              Munster Valley Petit Ballon  

              Le Tanet - Bichtstein - Villa Sidi-Brahim

              Route des Crêtes - Hohneck -

              Gr. Ballon - Sudelkopf 

              Hartmannswillerkopf - Vieil Armand  

              Guebwiller - Rimbach - Hirzstein  

              Moosch Nécropole Nationale  

              ALSACE SUNDGAU  

              Zillisheim Illfurth Largitzen Pfetterhouse 

              Burnhaupt-le-Bas Bunker Path     

              ARGONNE

              Mort Homme Côte 304

              Montfaucon- Romagne s/s Montfaucon

              Butte de Vauquois

              Haute Chevauchée

              The Bunker of the German Crownprince

              ARTOIS

              Illies - Wicres    

              Neuve Chapelle - Richebourg

              Aubers - 1915 

              Fromelles - 1916  

              Neuville-St. Vaast - Souchez

              Notre Dame de Lorette 

              Loos

              Arras Wellington Quarry

              Vimy Ridge

              Lichfield Crater

              CHAMPAGNE

              St. Hilaire le Grand Russian Cmty  Mont Navarin

              Sommepy Mont de Blanc Mont

              La Main des Massiges

              MARNE 

              Verberie Néry Villers Cotterêts  

              First Battle of the Marne   

              Belleau Wood - Château Thierry  

              Second Battle of the Marne

              SAINT MIHIEL

              Les Eparges Ridge

              Calonne Trenches Tranchée

              Fort de Troyon

              Apremont Forest Trenches

              Butte de Montsec

              Rémenauville Destroyed Village

              le Bois le Prêtre / das Priesterwald 

              SOMME British Sector

              SOMME INTRODUCTION

              Auchonvillers Trench

              Mine Craters Lochnagar Hawthorn

              Thiepval Memorial Mouquet Farm  

              Thiepval Wood - Ulster Tower

              Ovillers La Boiselle

              Hawthorn Ridge Beaumont Hamel

              Redan Ridge 

              Newfoundland Memorial Park  

              Serre Hébuterne 

              Sheffield Memorial Park Serre

              Gommecourt 

              Fricourt Deutsche Kriegsgräberstatte 

              Contalmaison 

              Mametz Wood 

              Trones Wood Montauban Guillemont

              Caterpillar Valley Longueval 

              High Wood Longueval

              Delville Wood Longueval

              Pozières  

              Martinpuich

              le Sars Butte de Warlencourt

              Flers Gueudecourt

              Adanac Canadian Cmty. Mireaumont

              SOMME French Sector 

              Bouchavesnes

              Rancourt Cimetière National

              Rancourt Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof

              Dompierre - Becquincourt Fay Soyécourt

              Flaucourt Biaches

              VERDUN

              VERDUN Citadel 

              Thiaumont - PC 118 & 119 - A 320

              Road To Fort Douaumont       

              Fort de Douaumont

              Douaumont Nécropole Nationale  

              Côte Froideterre - Les 4 Chéminées 

              Fort de Souville 

              Fort de Vaux 

              Tunnel de Tavannes Fort

              La Voie Sacrée

              Bois des Caures - Col. Driant's C.P. 

              Flabas German Reprisals Camp

              The German Camp Marguerre 

              Duzey German 380mm Artillery Base

              Destroyed Villages Bezonvaux - Ornes

              Azannes - Damvillers - La Grande Montagne 

              YPRES

              Menin Road Railway Wood

              Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood

              Hooge

              Clapham Junction Zandvoorde Bunker

              Polygon Wood Zonnebeke

              Hill 60 Hollebeke Lankhof Farm

              Messines Ridge

              Pilkem Ridge

              Boezinge Essex Farm Ziegler Bunker

              Langemark Poelkapelle St. Juliaan

              Passchendaele Ridge

              Mount Kemmel Lettenberg Bunkers

              Ploegsteert Wood

              YZER

              Nieuport Ramskapelle

              Pervijze  Stuijvekenskerke

              Diksmuide Trench of Death 

              Leke Vladslo Houthulst

              OTHER GREAT WAR LINKS

              Pierre's Nederlandstalige
              artikelen en columns
              over de Grote Oorlog
               
              (Copy & Paste de titel in de
              zoekmachine!) 
               
              Bochkareva en haar Vrouwenbataljon
              Bretonse Bécassine tijdens de Oorlog
              De Vanceboro Bridge Bomaanslag
              Beneath Hill 60
              Tijdreizen Op Internet
              Leutnant Von Forstner Koopt Chocolade
              Duitslands Oudste Oorlogsvrijwilliger
              Marcel's Bajonet
              Souvenir de Bezonvaux
              Namibië-Etnische Zuivering-1904-1908
              Het Beleg van Fort de Vaux
              Explosiecatastrofe In Fort Douaumont 
              Franse Aas der Azen: René Fonck
              Chasseurs Alpins, Franse Alpenjagers
              Prowse Point Cemetery
              Hoe Sgt. Kunze Fort Douaumont
                 veroverde op 25-02-1916.
              Frank Hurley: Fotoshoppen In 1917
              De Kaiserschlacht,
                 een beknopte samenvatting.
              Herdenking Op Douaumont 2008
              Wapenstilstand 1918 -90 Jaar Geleden
              Vijfde Lustrum WFA Nederland,
                 11-10-2008.
              Geur van Drukinkt
              De Vallei van Munster
              Der Rote Baron Versus Flyboys 
              De Fantomen van Landowski
              Louise de Bettignies -
                 Queen of English Spies
              Monument Op Vimy Ridge
              De Erewacht van
                 Notre Dame de Lorette
              Tank Tegen Tank 90 Jaar Terug
              Von Richthofen's Laatste Noodlanding
              Generaal Von Lettow Vorbeck
              Grafschennis Notre Dame de Lorette
              Google Earth 
              De Kaiserschlacht 90 Jaar Geleden 
              De Wolfsberg - le Hamel
              Overleden Veteranen
              Franse Sector Aan De Somme
              Kerstbestand 1914
              Raadselachtig Graf
              Caporetto; Kiem Van Fascisme
              Lenin's Treinreis
              Tsjechen Aan Het Westelijk Front
              Mata Hari
              325 Miljoen Voor 12 Zeppelins
              Slagvelden Van de Somme
              Schroot
              Op de Lingekopf
              Weinig Duitse Monumenten
                  Somme
              Soldaten Standbeelden
              Mosterdgas 1917
              Schwaben Redoubt
              Oogst Van Roest
              Mortier
              De Tekenaar Hansi
              Gifgas Bij Vancouver Corner
              Nationaliteit Kwijt?
              Beloond Geduld
              Prins Harry Naar Irak
              Thiepval
              De Arm Van De Kaiser
              Artilleriebunkers Nabij Duzey
              Kamp Flabas
              Eerherstel voor "Deserteurs"
              Vredig plekje?
              Moslimmonument in Verdun 
              Bayernwald
              De Slag aan de Somme
              De Tunnel van Tavannes
              Kapitein Joost van Vollenhoven
              Huis Doorn
              Update
                 “Raadselachtig Ansichtkaartje II
              Raadselachtig Ansichtkaartje I 

               

               












              Fort de Vaux
               
              Verdun:
               
              Etang de Vaux
               
              Vaux Destroyed Village
               
              Fort de Vaux
               
              Ouvrage de la Laufée
               
              years of visit: 1994 - 2005 - 2009.
              From Batterie de l'Hôpital we continue with a visit in 4 stops: Etang de Vaux, the Destroyed Village of Vaux devant Damloup, and the Fort de Vaux, to follow there some traces of the Siege of Major Raynal's fortress during the first week of June 1916. To end this impression, a visit to the nearby ruins of the Ouvrage de la Laufée. As always we start off with some situation maps.
               
              We depart at the Lion de Souville to follow the D 112 northward.
               
               
              Along the road, at the edge of the Bois de Chapitre, 
              stands the Memorial for the 407th Infantry Regiment.
               
               

              “407e R.I.

              TO OUR COMRADES, DISAPPEARED IN THE SOIL OF VAUX-CHAPITRE DURING THE COMBATS OF JUNE 1916. TO THOSE, WHO REST HERE. 23 JUNE 1916.

              FROM THIS QUARRY, COMMAND POST OF THE 407ME R.I., THE COLONEL ALLAIN HAS LAUNCHED THE ULTIMATE COUNTER ATTACK, THAT BROKE THE ADVANCE OF THE ENEMY AT SOUVILLE”

               
              For a long time these woods along the road,
              of La Caillette, Chapitre, and Fumin, 
              formed the French side of the frontline.
               
               
              We continue northward with some period pictures of the area.
               
               
               
              We arrive at the Etang de Vaux (The Pond of Vaux).
               
               
              Nowadays the natural landscape of the Pond of Vaux is beautiful.
               
               
              We walk northward along the pond to pass this Memorial,
              dedicated to the aviator, Sergeant-pilote, Guy Dussumier Latour,
              who crashed and died of his injuries near this pond
              on 2 June 1916. 
               
               
              View westward from the modest memorial,
              which reminds us of the hundreds of air combats,
              which took place in the skies above Verdun. 
               
               
               
              On the northern edge of the pond ...
               
               
              ... stands the Memorial for the 1st Battalion of Chasseurs à Pied.
               

              “IN MEMORY OF THE THREE OFFICERS, ELEVEN NON COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, TWO HUNDRED CORPORALS AND CHASSEURS OF THE FIRST BATALLION OF CHASSEURS A PIED, KILLED ON THIS POSITION, STOPPING THE GERMAN ATTACK OF 21 MARCH 1916.”

               
              In the woods around the pond there are still
              traces of shellholes and trenches.
               
               
               
              We continue eastward to visit for a short moment
              the memorials of
              the Destroyed Village of Vaux devant Damloup.
               
               
              Now the former village is overgrown with dense vegetation.
               
               
              A memorial reminds us of the location of the destroyed village.
               

              “PASSER-BY, GO ON AND TELL OTHER PEOPLES, THAT THIS VILLAGE HAS DIED TO SAVE VERDUN AND WITH VERDUN IT SAVED THE WORLD. VAUX 10 AUGUST 1924.

              R. POINCARE.”

               
              At the edge of the modern village stands this memorial tower.
               
               
               
              We return back to the junction of the Lion de Souville, ...
               
               
              ... to pass it southward along the D 913,
              next turn left at the Batterie du Tunnel, ...
               
               
              ... and northward to the D 913 a.
              At the end of the road we arrive at the Fort de Vaux.
               
               
              To familiarize ourselves with the site of Fort de Vaux,
              we start our visit with some satellite photo's, some maps,
              and a ground plan of the fortress.  
               
               
              We start our visit at the south-east corner of the Fortress.
               
               
              One of the entrances to the fortress.
               
               
              The south-eastern "Casemate de Bourges".
               
               
              View through the gate of the exit on the left:
               
               
              The concrete bunker contains above ground two rooms
              with 75 mm artillery guns on a platform with rails. 
              In the basement there are munitions and powder storage rooms and resting places for the crew.
                
               
              Two 75mm artillery guns are directed eastward.
               
               
              We walk some metres back to climb the superstructure
              of the fortress.
               
               
               
              View from the flagpole on the roof north-eastward, from left ....
               
               
              ... to right.
               
               
              The German "Operation Maiköpfchen”. 
               
              From 6 March 1916 General von Falkenhayn released "Operation Maiköpfchen” (Maycup). In the sector of Douaumont and Vaux the General deployed 5 divisions of the 10th and the 5th Reserve Corps, and in the east the 15th Corps. Main targets were Thiaumont, Côte de Fleury, Fort de Souville, and Fort de Vaux.
                
               
              After 27 May the German Artillery intensified their bombardments on the area around and on Fort de Vaux itself from the aera around Spincourt, Billy, and Spincourt in the nort-east. 
               
               
              On 1 June 1916 General von Falkenhayn choose the sector of Damloup, the trenches around the fortress, and the fortress itself, as his second main target.
               
               
              After a huge bombardment the General deployed 7 divisions to attack Thiaumont, Fort de Souville, and Fort de Vaux.
               
               
              Before I tell you later on this page more about the 7 days Siege of Fort de Vaux,  we continue our walk on the top construction of the fortress.
               
               
              Dutch Readers, read my more detailed reconstruction of the events of the Siege of Fort de Vaux in my Dutch article: "Het Beleg van Fort de Vaux".
               
              We explore first the east side of the superstructure.
               
               
              Although the grass has not been mowed,
              the shell holes are still to be seen. 
               
               
              A steel, bell-shaped observation cupola.
               
               
              We move to the centre of the top construction.
               
               
              The central observation post.
               
               
              The observation post was located
              near the former 75 mm gun turret.
               
               
              View northeast from this observation post.
               
               
              Below the observation bell, ...
               
               
              ... lie relics of parts of the 75 mm gun turret.
               
               
               
              2 June 1916. Rackow's men conquer the superstructure.
               
               
              At dawn of 2 June suddenly the heavy bombardment stops. Two battalions of General Weber - Pasja's 50th Division approach the fortress at 150 meters. They know to penetrate the dry moats of the fortress.
               
               
              Major Raynal's machine gun turrets keep the attackers from the wings with flanking fire. Despite of attempts of "Pioniere" to enter with explosives the defenders know to cause still heavy losses to the the Germans. Another attempt by "Pioniere" to penetrate into the north-east corridor failed. Some pioneers injure themselves, if they try to let down bags, filled with hand grenades, in ventilation shafts.
              The entrance to the north-west corridor though is rapidly in German hands, despite the heroic resistance of Captain Tabourot, who remained throwing grenades until he killed himself, injured by a German grenade. Thirty-two French soldiers and one officer surrender at this gate. 
               
               
              At the north-western counterscarp gallery, the 19-year old Poilu, Cahuzac, takes up the defence from his post from an armoured post along the inner slope of the dry moat, since all his officers in that sector of the fort were killed.
               
              German flamethrower attack - Fort de Vaux.
               
              Pioneers connect their flamethrowers to long tubes through openings in the fortress to set it on fire, or at least at smoking. Surprised by this action  the French machine gun stops firing.
               
               
              Using this short break thirty soldiers of Second Lieutenant Kurt Rackow's Paderborner 158th Infantry Regiment were climbing from the dry moat and they reached, just after 5 AM, as the first Germans, the superstructure of the fortress. The French machine guns resumed their murderous work again.
               
               
              By the artillery barrage back and forth for hours, Rackow's men on the roof get even more isolated.
                
               
              At the end of the morning the Germans discover a breach near the north-west corridor in the top construction, sealed with sand bags. They remove the sand bags and throw grenades inside. 
               

              Commandant Raynal, commander of the garrison, orders immediately to evacuate this corridor. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon Raynal has lost its main defensive positions of the north of the fortress. Through the observation holes the French see, that the German soldiers on the superstructure are  at ease enough to smoke a pipe. The superstructure of the fort was finally in the hands of the Germans.

               
              With these events in our mind we continue our exploration.
               
               
              On 26 February 1916 the 75 mm-gun turret on top of the fort ...
               
               
              ... was destroyed by an impact of a German 420 mm-grenade.
               
               
              In some way or another, this period picture of
              Hanotaux's "Histoire Illustrée de la Guerre de 1914"
              must have been imprinted forever in my memory, ...
               
               
              ... for sure during the moment, when I shot this photo below.
               
               
              Under the observation post one of the firing holes.
               
               
              With a last view of the superstructure,
              we descend to inspect the dry moat around the fortress.
               
               
              A view of the northeast corner of the dry moat.
               
               
              These fortified inner gates,
              which the French call  a "coffre de contre-escarpe",
              or counterscarp gallery, controlled with machine guns
              the dry moat against invaders. 
               
               
              View to the northern corner of the dry moat.
               
               
              The coffres de contre-escarpe were connected to the fortress ...
               
               
              ... with tunnels, running beneath the moat.
               
               
              From the moat we reach the west corner and the exterior
              of the south-western Casemate de Bourges.
               
               
              Although mirrored, the western casemate is
              almost similar in structure to the eastern casemate.
               
               
               
              Later on this page, we will visit the interior of
              the south-western Casemate de Bourges.
               
               
              We approach the fort from the front side.
               
               
              These renovations were made after 1916.
               
               
              We pass a memorial plaque
              with the list of the defending units of the garrison,
              and the official text of Raynal's letter of capitulation.
              Later on I will name these units in more detail.
               
              "TO THE DEFENDERS OF FORT DE VAUX"
              IN THIS RUINED FORT 250 MEN RESISTED DURING 7 DAYS (1-7 JUNE 1916) THE FURIUOUS ASSAULTS OF THE GERMANS. TO ATTACKS WITH GAS AND FLAMABALE LIQUIDS, TO TORTURE AND THIRST.”
              (Next the garrison list.)
              Official Text of the capitulation of the fort:

              "To the Commander of the German forces, who attack Fort de Vaux,
              Under the following conditions: with the honours of war, respectful treatment, the choice of officers respected to keep their personal care-takers, and personal objects left with their proprietors,
               I surrender the premises and parts of the stronghold, still under my command in Fort de Vaux, to the German troops.
              Fort de Vaux June 7, 1916. Commander of the battalion, Commander of the fort, Raynal."

               
              Before we continue our exploration of this site,
              first some concise background information about
              the Siege of Fort de Vaux.
               
               
              The Siege of Fort de Vaux.
               
               
              When Raynal assumes his post in the Fort de Vaux on 24 May, he is Commander of a garrison, consisting of the 6th Company and part of the 7th Company of the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the Second Army, from 2 machine gun Companies of the 142nd regiment, a unit of gunners of the 5me Régiment d'Artillerie the Position (R.A.P.) and the 6me R.A., a sapper unit of the 2me Regiment de Génie and of the 9me, and stretcher bearers of the 101me R.I.; together around 250 men.
               
              The Major finds a desolate state in the fortress. The fort is overpopulated. Above the normal occupancy of 250 people, even hundreds of men, like soldiers of the 101st and 142nd regiments and members of the 53rd machine gun company, during the fighting detached from their units, are also packing the tunnels and rooms. They looked for refuge in the fort. Raynal tries, still unsuccessfully, to evacuate these refugees from the fort. But in the chaos of fighting and artillery shelling, there are only more refugees turning in, so that the occupation of the fort is in fact at about 600 men! Besides these 600 men there are still 4 pigeons in the fort and a Cocker Spaniel dog, owned by a sapper, who listens to the name "Quiqui.
               
               
              The Commander notes that the defence is almost zero, so he orders immediately to strengthen the fort. Raynal lets his soldiers fill the recently impacted breaches with sand bags. In the corridors he orders to build "chicane"-shaped barriers of sand bags up of 1 meter thick, with holes for the grenadiers behind it to throw grenades, and sometimes he leaves behind these barricades also some machine guns. The tank of 5,000 litres of water seems, for now, sufficient.
               
               
               
              The next days the garrison fought a tough battle for every inch in the dark,
              underground corridors against repetitive German attacks with flame throwers, grenades, and poison gasses.
              All communication lines to Fort de Souville have been cut off. The light signal system has been destroyed. A few carrier pigeons are the only means of communication for Commandant Raynal. On 4 June Raynal sends his last pigeon.
               
               "Nous tenons toujours, mais nous subissons une attaque par le gaz et les fumées très dangereuses.
              Il y a urgence à nous dégager - Fait nous donner de directe communication optique par Souville,
              que ne repond pas à mes appels.
              C'est mon dernier pigeon. Raynal"
               
               
               
               
              (The image of the letter is in the original size.)
              "We still hold, but we will suffer an attack by gas and very dangerous fumes. It is urgent that we withdraw - do give us direct optical communication to Souville, that does not answer my calls.
              This is my last pigeon. Raynal "
               
              The pigeon arrives successfully at the Citadel of Verdun, but it drops dead immediately.
              In the afternoon Raynal receives the news that the water tank is leaking and that there is an acute shortage of water.
                
              On 5 June the Germans explode a mine near the south-west Casemate de Bourges. In the afternoon the Germans succeed to conquer the last latrines along the eastern corridor. Raynal’s soldiers are receiving only 125 mm. water a day, and they are forced by thirst to lick the moist of the walls. The loss of the latrines and the lack of water breaks the morale of the defenders. Raynal realises that he is not able to continue his resistance.
               
               
              On 6 June the French units of the 238me R.I. and the 321me R.I. organize a counterattack to liberate the fortress. With an improvised light signal system Raynal sends Fort de Souville a message, that the counterattack is a complete failure. Ten minutes later Raynal sends another desperate message.
               
              "I have no water anymore, despite the rationing of the last days. I should withdraw and I have to be supplied immediately with water. I believe that I have used the utmost of my forces. Under these conditions the troops, men and officers, have all done their duty to the utmost."
              The telegram continues with mentioning the names of men nominated for a medal award, the names of the dead men, and the wounded, and then to end with:
              "I hope that you will intervene with renewed vigor before the total exhaustion."
               
              Around nine o’clock the Grand Quartier Géneral decides that Raynal is to be honoured with the award of Commander of the Legion of Honour, a message Raynal will not read, because it is impossible to reach Fort de Vaux.
               
               
              On 7 June Raynal and his garrison have to surrender. What is left of the garrison is too dried out of thirst to be able to fight on. When the Germans capture Raynal, he is treated as a real war hero.
               
               
              The Germans have such an admiration for the perseverance of Raynal, that he may pose for the photo along with Second Lieutenant Kurt Rackow, on the same day awarded with the high honour of "Pour le Mérite".
               
               
               
              While Raynal's fort occupation counts 50 deaths and 87 wounded, the German losses though were much heavier after 6 days. For a week Raynal and his men have kept busy 4 German battalions, which together have lost 2.678 soldiers and 64 officers. 
               
              Dutch Readers, read my more detailed reconstruction of the events of the Siege of Fort de Vaux in my Dutch article: "Het Beleg van Fort de Vaux".
               
              The frontline of 20 June, after the German conquests of the Forts de Douaumont and Vaux. The front lines of the later German attacks of June 1916 on Thiaumont, Ouvrage de Froideterre, Côte de Fleury, Fort de Souville, Bois de la Laufée, and Fort de Tavannes. 
               
              After this historic intermezzo we continue our visit.
              There is another plague on the wall,
              dedicated to the carrier pigeon.
               
              “TO THE PIGEON-FANCIERS WHO DIED FOR FRANCE. TO THE PIGEON OF VERDUN.
              ON 4 JUNE, DURING THE BATTLE OF VERDUN, FROM THIS FORT, THE LAST CARRIER PIGEON OF MAJOR RAYNAL (NO. 787-15) DEPARTED, CARRYING THE MESSAGE:
              "We still hold, but we will suffer an attack by gas and very dangerous fumes. It is urgent that we withdraw - do give us direct optical communication to Souville, that does not answer my calls. This is my last pigeon. Raynal "

              THE PIGEON SUCCEEDED IN HIS MISSION AND HAS BEEN AWARDED WITH THE CITATION: ...."
               
              Followed by the text of the citation, which belonged to the posthumous award for the pigeon of Knight of the Legion of Honour!
               
              Fort de Vaux, the Interior.
               
              A part of the interior of Fort de Vaux is open to the public. Photographing is allowed. We make a tour along some interesting sites in the fortress, important for the story of the Siege: the main corridor, the water tank, the barracks, the office of Raynal, the first aid post, the east corridor, the "lost" latrines, and backwards to the west, to the memorial chapel at corridor D, and the interior of the western Casemate de Bourges.
               
              The main corridor.
               
               
              The water tank.
               
               
              "GLORY TO THE HEROIC DEFENDERS",
              followed by the list of units,
              defending the fortress during the siege.
               
               
              Down the entrance to the 75 mm gun turret tunnel
              still lies the symbolic grave of a French soldier.
               
               
              On the southern side of the main corridor are the barracks.
               
               
              Next to the barracks:
              the rather small office of the Commanders of the fortress.
               
               
              Behind the glass:
              window figures representing Raynal giving orders to a Poilu.
               
               
              We continue to the First Aid Post or Lazaret.
                
               
               
              There is only place for 6 men!
               

               
              At 6 June the garrison had yet 76 wounded men!
              They were packed in the corridor, leading to the lazaret.
               
               
               
              On the door of the Commander's dormitory
              a list of 1916 Commanders of the fortress.
              Notice the name of the German Commander, Major von Enchen.
               
               
              The small dormitory of the Fort Commander.

               
               
              Opposite the bed a stool with a modest desk.
               
               
              The communication centre, which would be of no use after 1 June.
               
               
              Adjacent to the communication room,
              is the cage for the 4 carrier pigeons,
              of whom one played such an important role in this story.
               
               
              We continue through the northeast corridor. 
               
               
              Notice the chicane-shaped walls,
              which were fortified with sandbags, ...
               
               
              ... and with square holes
              to throw handgrenades or fire machine guns at the intruders.
               
               
              The German conquest of the latrines broke
              definitely the morale of the thirsty troops of Raynal.
               
               
              We return to the main corridor, and go westward.
               
               
              At the western dead end corridor D
              is now located a small memorial chapel.
               
               
              Behind the wall still rest the corpses of soldiers.
               
               
              We continue to visit two rooms
              of the western Casemate de Bourges, ...
               
               
              ... with it's 75mm artillery guns on rails. 
               
               
              We leave the fortress with a last view, 
              again at the exterior of the western Casemate de Bourges.
               
               
              We continue along the road southward.
               
               
              On 24 October the French start an operation to retake Fort de Vaux. It will them take nine days, before they succeed to reconquer the fort on 3 November 1916.
              Units of General Andlauer's 63rd Infantry Division occupied the fortress in the night of 2 and 3 November 1916. 
               
               
              On our return from the fortress,
              along the west side of the dead end road,
              stands this memorial, ...
               
               
              ... dedicated to Jacques David of the
              50me Bataillon Chasseurs à Pied,
              "KILLED BY THE ENEMY ON 24 OCTOBER 1916".
               
               
              To end our voyage in time around Vaux we make
              a jump of 1.300 m. southward to the Bois de la Laufée.
               
               
              In the wood there are many traces of trenches.
               
               
              We detect an improvised grave or a memorial,
              covered with a piece of "horizon bleu", corrugated board.
              It is dedicated to two "Comrades of the 171e R.I.".
              The names are not readable.
               
               
              Along more traces of trenches we reach ...
               
               
              ... The Ouvrage de la Laufée.
               
               
              Some details about the Ouvrage de la Laufée.
               
              In March 1916 the stronghold was garrisoned by units of the 52me R.I. , under command of Captain Chabert; one infantry company, a machine gun section, an artillery unit, and, as always in larger fortifications, a unit of engineers.
              The job of commanding the Ouvrage must have been stressful for the officers. On 31 March Captain Waltz of the 10me Regiment de Hussards takes over the command, sustained later by Captain Poirier and Captain Burthe d’ Arbriet, Commander of the 23me Escadron de Dragons. On 18 August 1916 Captain Rex, a Chasseur of the 4me Bataillon de Chasseurs à Pied, takes over the command of these morally and physically stressed officers.
               
               
              Function of the Ouvrage.

              This stronghold contains several underground shelters. During some periods it even served as a Command Post for 2 batallions. There was a shaft to a source, connected to two water tanks. There were two exit caverns. A part of  the redoubt served as a dressing station. During the end of October 1916 the French installed also a generator room to feed the stronghold with electricity. Beneath this concrete complex there were 530 tunnels and rooms, and 40 shafts. Much of the system is now filled in, or unstable, and very dangerous.
               
              Daily Bombardments and infantry attacks.

              The Ouvrage possessed a powerful 75 mm gun turret, which bombarded together with the guns of Fort de Moulainville and the nearby Batterie de Damloup, the Germans, occupying the Fort de Vaux. Only on one day, on 4 June 1916, it fired 294 grenades at the Germans! At 8 and 9 June however the superstructure of the Ouvrage received more than 400 impacts of German 210 mm and 380 mm shells. In the days before 23 June the German shells count 700 a day.
              On 23 June the Germans deploy an infantry attack at the Ouvrage and the Batterie de Damloup, which the garrison of the Ouvrage knows to withstand. In July the bombardments on the Ouvrage continue. On 11 July starts another series of German infantry attacks, with the German 126 I.R., 143 I.R., and the 99 I.R. conquering even the nearby Batterie de Damloup, but not the Ouvrage. The German artillery bombardments would continue until the end of August. From 24 October 1916, during the French counteroffensive, the 75 mm gun turret of the Ouvrage took part in the bombardments of the slopes around Fort de Vaux and the German trenches in Damloup and around the Batterie de Damloup, firing 545 grenades a day.

              During December 1916 and January 1917 the Ouvrage suffered many more of these heavy German artillery bombardments.
              Later, during the Second World War, the Germans exploded the 75 mm gun turret.
               
              Main Source:
              An after war report of an unknown French author: "Monographie de l'Ouvrage de la Laufée".
               
              Nowadays the ruins of the heavily bombarded
              Ouvrage de la Laufée is covered by a dense vegetation, ...
               
               
              ... which makes it almost invisible.
               
               
              Along some fire holes in the eastern wall, ...
               
               
              ... I try to reach the top of the Ouvrage.
               
               
              Soon I detect this concrete circle on the superstructure.
               
               
              It is the location of the base of the former 75 mm gun turret.
               
               
              The dense vegetation camouflages
              the circle with a diameter of about 5 m.
               
               
              I used some extra flash light
              just to give you some idea of the depth of about 5m.
               
               
              Be warned, and don't fall in!
              The vegetation hides more of these surprises, smaller,
              but still even, nasty surprises.
               
               
              I descend from the roof to find an entrance to the Ouvrage.
               
               
              At the end of a trench I succeeded to find an entrance.
               
               
              In this rather big entrance hall is only recent graffiti to be found.
               
               
              As I already know that this stronghold is in a dangerous state, ...
               
               
              ... I only enter it for about 50 m.
               
               
              In the dark these "unexpected" shafts are very dangerous.
               
               
              These manholes, only seldom equipped with a very rusty ladder,
              go straight down for sometimes 20 m. deep or much deeper.
               
              Warning: Only recently, on 12 July 2009, a 25 year old Swiss tourist was not cautious enough, and fell down one of the shafts of Fort de Souville near a Pamart bunker for about 20 m.! It took a special rescue team almost 3 hours to rescue this tourist! (Source: L'Est Républicain, 12-07-2009.)
               
              I continue my exploration to find more of these deep shafts.
               
               
              They sometimes were ventilation shafts to lower levels,
              or formed the direct connection to lower tunnels. 
               
               
              I decide, that it is safer for me to leave the impressive Ouvrage.
               
               
              With a last view of the Ouvrage de la Laufée we return to our car.
              By lack of time we were alas forced to abandon our walk
              to the Batterie de Damloup, which we will save for another time.
               
               
              We continue our virtual tour to the area of Fort de Tavannes.
               
               Continue to the next chapter:











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