Douaumont Ossuary, the memorial to 130,000 unidentified soldiers killed during the struggle for Verdun, February-December 1916 (Photo: Centenary News)

France prepares for Verdun Centenary - February 2016

Posted on on 08 February 2016
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France embarks on a year of commemorations in February 2016, marking the Centenary of the Battle of Verdun. 

An official website,Verdun 2016, has been launched to guide visitors through the programme of cultural, educational and remembrance events paying tribute to all those who fell in the longest single battle of the First World War.

It also highlights major battlefield sites, among them the massive fortress of Douaumont, and the front line villages destroyed in the fighting, and never rebuilt. 

Franco-German reconciliation will be a key theme for the commemorations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will join President François Hollande for the French national remembrance event at Verdun in May.

Events coming up on February 21st will remember the opening day of the 1916 German offensive in the Meuse region of Northeastern France.

They include an historical reenactment in the Bois des Caures*, recalling the stand of French troops, led by Lieutenant Colonel Emile Driant, who briefly held the initial German advance in woods north of Verdun.

Driant, a member of the French Parliament, had warned the high command against weakening Verdun's defences.

A mass will be held at Douaumont Ossuary, the towering memorial to 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers killed during 300 days of fighting.

The Verdun Memorial Museum (Mémorial de Verdun) reopens its doors to the public on February 22nd after a major redevelopment for the Centenary.

The expanded exhibition space has been completely rethought, says the museum, with the aim of offering visitors an 'immersive experience' while remaining faithful to the spirit of the Verdun veterans who founded the Memorial in the 1960s.

There will be translations in German and English. 

The Centenary commemorations will continue throughout 2016, a reminder of the human cost of the prolonged struggle for Verdun 100 years ago.

Around 300,000 French and German soldiers were killed in a battle that lasted from February-December 1916.

President Hollande, accompanied by Chancellor Merkel, will lead France's national remembrance ceremony at Verdun on May 29th.

For more information, visit the Verdun 2016 and the Mémorial de Verdun websites. Centenary News has visited Verdun and will be reporting on the reopening of the Mémorial de Verdun.

*The Bois des Caures ceremony is now fully booked.

Additional sources: French Government, Wikipedia

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: CN Editorial Team