In 1916, this nine-month battle of Verdun claimed over 300,000 lives, and left about 300,000 more wounded. (By comparison, the total current death toll for American soldiers of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is currently 6,227.)
The field of battle is today marked by the Verdun Memorial. The most chilling place in this eerie landscape is by far the so-called “Trench of Bayonets.”
In June 1916, this entrenched position was a part a salient west of Fort Douaumont, which the Germans desperately wanted to take. On June 12, Germans unleashed a hailstorm of iron and lead upon French positions. The attack caught the French by surprise.
The 137th Regiment of French infantry was annihilated almost to the last man. Years after the war, French teams exploring the battle field uncovered the clues of the horrific fate of this regiment. One of the trenches was discovered completely filled in, with only a neat line of bayonets sticking out of the ground. The bayonets were still fixed to their rifles. A body was found next to each one. The 3rd company of 137th regiment had been buried alive, almost instantaneously, having died where they stood.
Know Before You Go
The Verdun Memorial is situated at the heart of the Battle Field, approximately four kilometres from Verdun. The road signs indicate the route from Verdun city centre follow the direction Champs de bataille 14-8 or Ossuaire de Douaumont.