Orchard Dump
Webmatters : The Battle of Verdun 1916 : Fort Thiaumont

The Battlefield

Fort Thiaumont

Decimal49.206315.41936 Map
The tower of the ossuary in the background

The tower in the background

When visiting the Ossuaire at Douaumont it is quite easy to miss the shattered remains of the minor fort of Thiaumont to its left.

These Ouvrages were meant to fill the gaps between forts, more as part of the greater defensive network than as the last line of resistance.

In the case of Thiaumont it was more of a shelter than a fort being equipped with a MG post and room for fifty soldiers.

Its strategic position was important because, along with Froideterre it guarded the ridge leading south-east which formed the last line of defence before the River Meuse and Verdun Town. Its position also flanked the village of Fleury which was to be the scene of some of the most intense of the fighting.

Thiaumont was occupied for a moment at the beginning of June 1916 but the French almost immediately retook it.

The battle was to rage in this area throughout the summer and the ground held by each side in turn, changing hands some 14 times. The results of this terrible conflict are all too apparent today.

All that is left of the command observation post

On 21 June 1916 whilst still in French hands, the fort came under heavy 420mm shell fire and was badly damaged. The weight and power of these shells can be judged by the shattered observation turret.

The following day the Germans launched a major assault with the intentions of taking the final ring of defences and marching on victorious into Verdun by the 25th.

A key part to this assault was a massive bombardment using what they called Green Cross gas shells. These used a new form of phosgene gas and one which the French gas masks were ill equipped to deal with.

On 23 June 1916 the Germans launched their Infantry offensive and men from the Bavarian 10th Regiment managed to overwhelm the small French garrison.

For three months the battle raged backwards and forwards as one side pounded the fort with artillery fire and then the other.

Finally on 24 October 1916 French soldiers finally managed to re-occupy the position on a permanent basis.

By now the fort had been reduced to pieces of tangled metal rods and collapsed concrete.

The fort was destroyed in the fighting

PC 118

A few minutes walk from the battered hulk of Thiaumont lies this Command Post — Poste de commandement 118.

Never intended to be anything more than a shelter and control point, it nevertheless, became a focal point for the defence of the area after the fall of Thiaumont.

Israeli Memorial

The Jewish memorial at Douaumont

On the main road near to the Ossuaire you will see this memorial wall to all Jewish soldiers who fell fighting for France. It recalls the wailing wall in Jerusalem and carries an open bible in Hebrew.

It is situated opposite the Jewish plot within the cemetery and was constructed in 1938.

Famously President François Mitterand and Chancellor Helmut Kohl stood before it, hand in hand, during the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the war in 1984.