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The Verdun battlefield is dramatically and physically different to those on the Western Front. It straddles both sides of the River Meuse, which flows through wonderful scenery and we gain some magnificent views from the dominating ridge lines that surround Verdun. This is a tour that explores many of the forts – destroyed and otherwise, miles of underground tunnels and gun positions, trenches and museums. We will discuss the valiant feats of French soldiery such as the not so prescient Colonel Driant’s defence at the Bois de Caures, the desperate fight to recapture the easily relinquished Fort Douaumont, the keystone of the Verdun defences and Major Reynal’s month-long isolated defence of Fort Vaux. We will of course also enjoy French culture and cuisine of the area.
On 21 February 1916, the German high command launched a battle not to take ground or to capture for strategic advantage but solely to destroy the French army, to ‘bleed France white.’ The attrition Battle of Verdun lasted ten months, the longest of the Great War and during that time nearly all of the French Army’s 100 divisions served there, emerging shattered but undefeated.
The German plan misfired and consequently they suffered equally: by November the ‘Mill on the Meuse’ had caused over 700,000 French and German casualties. Neither army gained an advantage and neither would recover fully.
- With First World War expert Dr Bruce Cherry
- The wonderful landscape surrounding the River Meuse
- The longest battle of the Great War
- The Trench Lines of the Butte de Vauquois
"A congenial group skilfully brought together by Bruce, who seemed to cleverly cater for our individual needs without detriment to others - very well managed in fact."
Day 1 - Verdun
We depart London St Pancras for Meuse via Paris. On arrival in Meuse we take the Voie Sacrée to Verdun stopping briefly at Souilly and the Voie Sacrée Monument to hear about the importance of this road. Then an introduction to Verdun with time to photograph the various memorials. Drive to our hotel and check-in to our hotel for the duration of the tour.
Day 2 – Right Bank
We’ll begin by looking at the German preparations, with visits to the wonderfully preserved camp Marguerre and the long range gun pits at Spincourt and the Duzey German 380mm Artillery Base. We’ll also visit two interesting German cemeteries. Returning to Verdun mid-afternoon will allow us time to enjoy a walking tour of the city’s monuments and cathedral.
Day 3 – Right Bank
The battle begins at Col Driant’s command post in the Bois de Caures, where we will take a walk to see German jump-off positions, the remains of French defences and the spot where Driant fell. Thence to the heart of the defence, dominated by the French national cemetery and the ossuary: the evocative Tranchée des Baïonnettes, the destroyed village of Fleury and Forts Vaux, Douaumont and Souville.
Day 4 - Left Bank
We examine the German assaults on the Left Bank of the Meuse at Mort Homme and Hill 304, the furthest point of German advance. We will also see some of the defences located within the Argonne Forest such as Malancour, Montfaucon American Monument, Romagne, Nantillois and Forêt de la Haute Chevauchée.
Day 5 – The Butte de Vauquois
Our visit allows us the opportunity of seeing incredible evidence of a perpetual mining war: craters, trenches and bunkers. This is probably the most breath-taking site on the whole Western Front. Continue to Meuse to begin our journey back to London, via Paris.
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Your Holiday Essentials
Take a look at some independent reviews of this tour by previous participants here