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Verdun timeline


A timeline of the Battle of Verdun, which lasted for 303 days between February and December 1916 and became the longest and one of the most costly battles in human history.

Drianty’s Defence and Douaumont’s Fall


21 February – The Battle of Verdun begins with a lengthy German preparatory bombardment and an infantry assault

4.00 a.m. – German artillery units begin their preparatory bombardment at Verdun

4.45 a.m. – Bombardment ceases and the German infantry assault begins. The Bois d’Haumont and the Bois d’Herebois fall to the Germans, but Driant’s Chasseurs just manage to hold on to the Bois des Caures

22 February – The Germans renew their artillery bombardment at first light, then use a greater weight of forces to overwhelm the defence of the Bois des Caures. The hill is taken and Driant is killed

23 February – Brabant is captured, and Samogneux’s defence looks precarious. A French counter-attack to take the Bois des Caures fails

24 February – The German advance takes several other key points, pushing the 51st Division off the Bois des Fosses and capturing Ornes village on the Meuse. The French second line of defences collapses

25 February – Fort Douaumont is taken by the German 24th Infantry Regiment. Pétain takes command of the Verdun sector

Expanding the Battle

4 March – Douaumont village falls to Germans

6 March–9 April – Intense fighting continues at Verdun.  German attack on west bank of the Meuse makes slow but steady progress, capturing Forges, Regnéville, the Bois des Courbeaux (recaptured on the 8th then lost again on the 10th) and Côte de l’Oie. Le Mort-Homme remains in French hands

9 April – German forces launch a major attack on both sides of the Meuse. The onslaught on the west bank puts German troops on the slopes of Le Mort-Homme, but the offensive on the east bank makes little headway

30 April – Pétain takes command of Army Group Centre; Nivelle becomes commander of Second Army

The Grinding Mill

4–24 May – German forces make repeated attacks on Le Mort-Homme

22 May – A French counter-attack against Fort Douaumont by the 5th Infantry Division fails

29 May–2 June – Fighting is intense around Hill 304, Le Mort-Homme and Thiaumont

3–8 June – Fort Vaux is surrounded by the Germans, and after a five-day battle the French are forced to surrender this key position

23–30 June – A major German attack in the Thiaumont–Fleury–Souville sector brings further German gains, although the impending Anglo-French offensive on the Somme begins to pull German attention further north

1 July – Anglo-French Somme offensive begins further north, drawing off German reserves from Verdun

11–12 July – The final major German offensive of Operation Gericht fails to take Souville


French forces launch a major counteroffensive at Verdun, capturing Thiaumont Redoubt and Farm, Fort Douaumont and several other key locations

28 August – Falkenhayn resigns, and is replaced by Paul von Hindenburg

2 September – Hindenburg orders that all offensive operations at Verdun cease

19 October – French artillery begins a major preparatory bombardment of the German lines at Verdun

24 October – Major French offensive begins, making advances of 3km (1.8 miles) on the first day, and recapturing Fort Douaumont

2 November – French forces recapture Fort Vaux

15 December – Another French offensive at Verdun pushes German forces back almost to their February 1916 start positions at Bois de Chaume. The Germans have by now lost nearly all their territorial gains at Verdun

Beyond the Battle

The German defeats at Verdun in 1916 were not the end of fighting in the Verdun sector. The war still had two more years of agony ahead of it, and Verdun was not to be spared further suffering. The sector remained relatively quiet for the period January–August 1917. Then on 20 August 1917, French forces launched another major offensive, applying eight divisions and recapturing almost all of the features that remained in German hands from February 1916, including Regnéville, Samogeux and Hill 304. The final act came on 26 September 1918, this time with the energetic support of the US Army (the United States had declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917). The battle ran on until the very end of the war, and saw the French forces take the critical supply hub of Sedan on 6 November, five days before the Armistice. With the conclusion of hostilities on 11 November, the Verdun region could finally enjoy some measure of peace, and begin the long road to restoration.


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