Fort Douaumont (Photo: Centenary News)

Verdun, 100 years ago - France recaptures Fort Douaumont

Posted on on 24 October 2016
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French colonial forces entered Fort Douaumont on 24 October 1916, ending an eight-month German occupation of the biggest of the fortresses that surrounded Verdun.

Soldiers of the Régiment d'Infanterie Coloniale du Maroc, reinforced by Senegalese and Somali troops, carried out the final assault after days of bombardment by 'super-heavy' railway guns. Much of the German garrison had been forced to pull out.

Fort Douaumont's recapture marked the start of a fightback which ensured that Verdun, with its network of defences guarding France's northeastern approaches, remained in French hands.

It reversed a humiliation suffered by the French Army at the opening of the Battle of Verdun in February 1916. 

German troops captured the fortress without a fight just days after launching their offensive on the heights of the River Meuse.

Memorial to the Régiment d'Infanterie Coloniale du Maroc, and Senegalese and Somali troops, at the entrance to Fort Douaumont. The plaque alongside commemorates 679 German soldiers who lie buried within the walls following an explosion in May 1916 (Photo: Centenary News)

The French high command had removed many of Douaumont's guns for use elsewhere in 1915. An attempt to recapture the fort in late May 1916 failed.

The German Army also suffered a disaster during its occupation. Hundreds of men were killed following an explosion in an ammunition store, caused by a cooking fire which got out of control.

They're commemorated in a small chapel with a cross bearing the dedication 'Den Toten Kameraden' (to the fallen comrades).

The last of the French offensives securing Verdun took place in December 1916, bringing to an end the longest single battle of the Great War.

Ten months' fighting cost more than 700,000 French and German casualties (killed, wounded or missing), and forced shake-ups in the military leadership of both countries.

Also in Centenary News: 

French & German leaders take part in Verdun Centenary Commemorations - 29 May 2016

Re-opening of the Verdun Memorial Museum after €12.5 million Centenary redevelopment 

'They Shall Not Pass' - US World War I Museum, Kansas City, remembembers Verdun & The Somme

Centenary News visited Fort Douaumont with the international press in February 2016

Photos: Centenary News