why was the battle of verdun fought
On 6 March, the Germans renewed their offensive, this time on the west bank of the Meuse. The already terrible battlefield conditions were made worse throughout March and April, as persistent rain turned the area into a. In late April,
took over French command from Petain and began large-scale counter attacks. This offered the Germans a chance to return to Falkenhayn's strategy but by this time all sense of the original concept was lost, replaced by a fixation to take Verdun. In early June the Germans took Fort Vaux after very tough fighting. This proved to be their final success. Efforts to continue the advance later that month failed, despite the use of gas. P On 24 June, the Allied bombardment began on. The German offensive at Verdun was reduced in order to reinforce the Somme front. Nivelle seized his chance and attacked. His Second Army had artillery superiority and he employed new tactics based on specialist infantry sections armed with light machine guns, rifle grenades, mortars and light field guns. Even so, the Germans were not prepared to give ground. Casualties rose as villages such as changed hands several times. There was also terrible fighting for the forts taken by the Germans earlier in the battlePbefore these too fell to the French. P The battle closed down on 15 December, as winter conditions and results of fighting on the Somme made further activity impossible.
The French had lost 377,000 men and the Germans 330,000. Falkenhayn's plan to destroy the French army had failed. EvenPworse from a German perspective, the heavy losses at Verdun combined with even greater casualties suffered on the Somme to create a manpower crisis within the army that would become increasingly difficult to resolve as the war continued. As 1914 drew to a close, the Western Front had become a permanent fixture of trenches stretching 400 miles from the English Channel to Switzerland. Stalemate ensued. A year later, the situation was no better. Each side looked for a Big Push that would break the opposing line of defence and bring about victory. Rupert Colley summarises one such push the Battle of Verdun. âFrance will bleed to death At the end of 1915, the German commander-in-chief, Erich von Falkenhayn, decided that Germanyâs âarch enemyâ was not France, but Britain. But to destroy Britainâs will, Germany had first to defeat France. In a âChristmas memorandumâ to the German kaiser, Falkenhayn proposed an offensive that would compel the French to âthrow in every man they have. If they do so,â he continued, âthe forces of France will bleed to deathâ. The place to do this, Falkenhayn declared, would be Verdun. An ancient town, Verdun in northeastern France, was, in 1915, surrounded by a string of sixty interlocked and reinforced forts.
On 21 February 1916, the Battle of Verdun began. 1,200 German guns lined over only eight miles pounded the city which, despite intelligence warning of the impending attack, remained poorly defended. Verdun, which held a symbolic tradition among the French, was deemed not so important by the upper echelon of Franceâs military. Joseph Joffre, the French commander, was slow to respond until the exasperated French prime minister, Aristide Briand, paid a night-time visit. Waking Joffre from his slumber, Briand insisted that he take the situation more seriously: âYou may not think losing Verdun a defeat but everyone else willâ. âThey shall not passâ Galvanised into action, Joffre despatched his top general, Â (pictured), to organise a stern defence of the city. PÃtain managed to protect the only road leading into the city that remained open to the French. Every day, while under continuous fire, 2,000 lorries made a return trip along the 45-mile Voie SacrÃe (âSacred Wayâ) bringing in vital supplies and reinforcements to be fed into the furnace that had become Verdun. Serving under PÃtain was General Robert Nivelle who famously promised that the GermansÂ on ne passe pas, âthey shall not passâ, a quote often attributed to PÃtain.
But the French were suffering grievous losses. Joffre demanded that his British counterpart, open up the new offensive on the, to the south of Verdun, to take the pressure of his beleaguered men. Haig, concerned that the new recruits to the British Army were not yet battle-ready, offered 15 August 1916 as a start date. Joffre responded angrily that the French army would âcease to existâ by then. Haig brought forward the offer to 1 July. During June 1916, the attack and counterattack at Verdun continued. On the Eastern Front, the Russians attacked the Austrians, who, in turn, appealed to the Germans for help. Falkenhayn responded by calling a temporary halt at Verdun and transferring men east to aid the Austrians. The Battle of Verdun wound down, then fizzled out entirely, officially ending on 18 December 1916. The French, under the stewardship of Generals PÃtain and Nivelle regained much of what they had lost. After ten months of fighting, the city had been flattened, and the Germans and French, between them, had lost 260,000 men â one death for every 90 seconds of the battle. Men on all sides were bled to death but ultimately, Falkenhayn sÂ big push achieved nothing. Read more inÂ , published by Harper Press, available in various and as downloadableÂ. See also the.
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