|After defeat in the Franco-Prussian War,
France faced the
task of fortifying a new frontier, protecting against German advance
from territories that until recently were French. Verdun
become an important fortress town protected by a new system of
fortification. With advances in artillery technology, a
forts in two lines were constructed well outside Verdun on a ridge that
had been used by besiegers during the 1870 war. Although they
originally included exposed artillery pieces as part of relatively
traditional designs, the forts also featured significant underground
features. Over time, the forts were modified to deal with
improving technology. In 1885, improved explosives technology
re-design. The masonry surfaces, for example,
were capped with concrete, even ones covered with earth were dug up and
capped. Reinforced concrete whereby steel cement was poured
steel bars, was also used in some locations. Outward facing
caponiers projecting from the corners
of the fort were modified into inward facing casemates on the
counterscarp designed to enfilade the ditch.
Additional works were built
between the forts, including artillery emplacements. The
explosives technology also lead to a re-thinking of the armament of the
The exposed artillery on the ramparts of the forts were
replaced by turrets for 75mm and 155mm weapons along with
observation positions. A casemate near the barracks and
armored machine gun positions
were also added. New positions for artillery were made
the forts themselves.
German success early in the war against the permanent fortifications of Belgium and northern France made the French high command skeptical of the value of the forts around Verdun. As a result, they stripped guns from the forts and artillery batteries and slashed the number of defenders - all to strengthen the mobile armies. Although this seemed reasonable at the time, history would show this to be a major mistake. Although the fort was designed to be manned by about 800 men, during the German attack, only 57 Frenchmen defended the fort. A small German unit of pioneers, sometimes said to have been seeking shelter from their own artillery, entered the fort and captured the garrison.
The French lost many thousands of men recapturing the fort, which they did on October 24, 1916.
At times, over 3,000 men stayed in the fort. The fort is around 400 meters long and covers three hectares.
|Above is the view from the rear of Fort Douaumont. Beyond the fenced off old entrance (photo at right) you can see the barracks area, made of masonry and concrete. The Shell holes are a common site at the fort. Next, we will walk along the trail on the right of the panorama through the ditch and around the fort.|
|The French had already modified the original fort design, adding concrete over masonry. When the Germans captured the fort, they modified the barracks in the rear to create protected small arms firing ports.|
|Galopin 155R Turret
These are exterior views of the turret. The photo at right shows what appears to the result of a glancing shot on the 30cm thick armor. The turret is on the eastern side of the fort.
With this and other turrets, the armor extended into the concrete, the upper portion of which was classified as a special type with relatively little aggregate added.