24/10/1916 Verdun: Fort Douaumont recaptured

The Verdun battlefield is wreathed in fog as day breaks. Despite the poor visibility the French now at last launch their great counter-offensive. After the battering they have received from French artillery, the Germans are in no state to resist. They crumple in the face of the French onslaught.

The French hope to recapture Fort Douaumont, lost in February in a debacle that haunts the gallic psyche. The German garrison have abandoned the fort after the terrible artillery bombardment it received, leaving behind two men who were forgotten in the evacuation. Since then a small group of signalmen have re-established themselves in the fort. Knowing that the fort will soon be under attack, they send desperate requests for reinforcements, but confusion reigns among the Germans. Despite the great symbolic value of the fortress, no reinforcements are forthcoming.

The fog makes it difficult for the French to coordinate their advance. At one point it seems as though the Moroccan troops earmarked for the assault have got lost in the murk. But then the fog lifts and the Moroccans find themselves almost on top of the fort. They attack and force their way into the ruined fort. The Germans put up some resistance (more than the French did when the Germans took the fort) but are overwhelmed after a couple of hours of savage combat. A German counter-attack fails to push back the French. Fort Douaumont is once more in their hands.

French gains today are considerable. All told, despite the shell-marked ground and the stickiness of the mud of early winter, they manage to advance some three kilometres, recapturing ground the Germans took over four months to seize. But of course, the cost in lives lost on both sides is ruinous.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s