31/3/1916 Verdun: the butchers’ bill

At Verdun the Germans are still trying to break the French army. German morale may be showing some signs of cracking, but discipline and esprit de corps keeps the men in the field. Their line inches forward. The Germans are taking terrible casualties but surely the smaller French army must be suffering even more?

In fact, yes, the French are having the worst of it, though they have not taken as many casualties as Germany’s Falkenhayn thinks. Since the start of the battle the Germans have taken 81,607 casualties, but French casualties amount to 89,000. The French have less reserves of manpower than the Germans. Falkenhayn is determined to continue the offensive, thinking that the enemy will run out of men before he does.

To keep the men fighting they must still be fed the prospect of victory. Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Prussia, commands the German army at Verdun, but he follows the advice of Knobelsdorf, his chief of staff. Knobelsdorf proposes now that the offensive be resumed in earnest on the east bank of the Meuse. Falkenhayn agrees, though he declines to supply reinforcements to the level Knobelsdorf is requesting, as he fears a French or British offensive elsewhere along the line.

image source (Wikipedia)

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