Verdun is situated along the banks of the river Meuse.
The city with her Citadel lies on top of a height, an important strategic position along the road Reims - Metz.
In February 1916 Verdun and it's sourrounding fortresses would be the objective of General Falkenhayn "to bleed the French to death at Verdun".
In 1986 we were on our way back home from a holiday
in the French Alps, looking for a hotel.
By accident we arrived at dusk in the town of Verdun.
My curiosity for this period of time in France was awakened
during this stay in Verdun.
Nowadays Verdun is a typical northern French town,
a busy and a pleasant place to stay over for some nights.
(right: Opera House of Verdun).
Satellite photo of the City Centre of Verdun.
The quai's of the Meuse are bordered with cosy terraces
with parasols and fine restaurants.
Verdun has been under fire and heavy bombardments
during the whole war period.
The Meuse quai's and a large part of the centre were totally
destroyed by the end of the war.
During the war Verdun was an important logistic station
for transport of troops and supplies to the 12 fortresses,
that surround the vicinity of the town.
The city was the centre-spot of the Battle of Verdun in 1916.
You will find all kinds of memorials in the town,
like this one:
the Memorial for the fallen French soldiers of the Great War.
And of course the "Monument à la Victoire", the Victory Memorial,
towering over the town and visible from any spot in Verdun.
The ancient city gate of Verdun, the Porte Chaussée.
Along the former remparts: Rodin's "La Défense",
an afterwar gift to Verdun by "friendly Holland".
The eastern city gate; the Porte St. Paul.
BESIEGED, DESTROYED, OR DAMAGED.
450 - 485 - 984 - 984 - 1047 - 1246 - 1338 - 1562 - 1792 - 1870
HAS BEEN DESTROYED IN
FEBRUARY - DECEMBER 1916
HAS BEEN REBUILT IN TEN YEARS
ON 23 JUNE 1929 UNVEILED BY ….
(Followed by a list of a company with illustrious names
Amongst others: President Doumergue, Poincaré, Maginot, Pétain, and Painlevé.)
ON 26 FEBRUARY 1926 THE FRENCH STATE HAS RETURNED TO THE CITY OF VERDUN 54 HECTARES OF TERRAIN OCCUPIED BY THE OLD REMPARTS, ERECTED BY VAUBAN. -
THE CITY OF VERDUN IS NOW ABLE TO PLAN NEW ROADS, EXPEND THE OLD QUARTERS, OPEN NEW ACCESSES, DEPLOY NEW ENTERPRISES, CONSTRUCT HOUSES.
ON THIS DAY A NEW ERA HAS BEGUN FOR DISMANTLED VERDUN."
Along the Quai des Londres on the east bank of the Meuse: ...
... the former officers mess.
On the west bank of the Meuse,
the street leading to the entrance of the Citadel: Rue du Rû.
La Citadelle de Verdun. The Citadel.
The military heart of Verdun is the Citadelle de Verdun,
an underground base, giving shelter to 6.000 troops.
This is the entrance to the underground base nowadays.
In the war the Citadelle was an underground city,
with 6000 inhabitants, 4 kilometres of underground corridors,
6 gunpowder-stores, 7 ammunition depots, a mill,
a water pump station, a bakery, a hospital, a church,
and an underground mini railroad for transports.
The same entrance in 1916.
The Citadel tries to revive it's past by showing life size
window-figures of soldiers and officers in the corridors
and rooms of the underground base.
It looks a bit tricky, but on the other hand,
it gives quite a reasonable 3D-impression of the daily life
of the soldiers in the Citadel.
This picture was taken in one of the kitchen's and officer's messes.
Life in the dormitories of the soldiers.
The radio control room.
In those times radio and field-telephones (all wired!)
were a rather new technological invention,
and it was not yet a very reliable communication system.
Officers supervising the radio-traffic of encoded
battle orders to the trenches and fortresses.
The Election of "The Unknown Soldier" - 1920
The exhibition in the Citadelle of 1986 showed a large element of patriotism and nationalism.
The exhibition payed much attention to the proces of the election
of the "The Unknown Soldier",
now buried under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
This is an artist's impression made for a
French News Paper in 1920.
The army collected 8 nameless soldiers,
from 8 different battlefields in France.
The veteran officer of Verdun, the Minister Maginot,
supervised the election.
The soldier, Auguste Thin,
had the honour to elect "The Unknown Soldier".
Some period photo's of the event:
The Guard of Honour around the coffin.
The artillery prolonge with the coffin leaves the Citadel.
The procession passes through the streets of Verdun.
The coffin with "The Unknown Soldier" arrives at the Arc de Triomphe,
The impressions of the Battle of Verdun of 1916,
and some concise information about the battle
will be in shown on the next photo pages.
Continue to the next chapter: