Verdun - Fort Souville

With German capture of Fort Douaumont on February 25th then Fort Vaux on June 7th, the first of two lines of permanent fortifications had been breached.  If the Germans breached the second line on the heights overlooking town, Verdun would surely fall.  Fort Souville was the focus of German attacks on the second line, and its successful defense was the turning point in the battle.  On July 12th, German troops reached the fort but were repulsed by artillery and an infantry counterattack.

June 1, 1916 Trench Map From George C. Marshall Library

Fort Douaumont on the first line had been modified so that its caponier was replaced by casemates on the counterscarp designed to enfilade the ditch.  Fort Souville had not been modified in that way and still featured caponiers.


We will start at the southern end of this map and hike north along some trenches to the area near the fort itself.

Cavern Shelter

Built behind Fort Souville, this shelter was designed to protect infantry from bombardment.  Latrines and washrooms adjoin the shelter on the right.  Later, tunnels were dug connecting this shelter to Fort Souville, making this an additional entrance.


Infantry fought not only from the fort but from an array of trenches around it.

Having hike uphill, we are now approaching the area west of the fort.  The 'entrance' is to the 155mm gun turret, which we will see next.



Bussiere 155mm Turret

Built 150 meters outside the fort in 1890 and 1891, retractable turret (184 tonnes) held two 155mm guns, steam powered and raised and lowered with a counterweight of 80 tonnes.  The turret was lowered after each firing.  Armor was 45cm thick.  The turret, along with the other nearby positions, was surrounded by barbed wire.  This turret was a more expensive option than the Galopin 155R in Fort Douaumont and as such was the only one installed at Verdun.  On April 10, 1916, one of the guns exploded, putting the turret out of action for some time during the height of the battle.  By March 1917, it was operational once again but with one gun, powered by a 12hp electric motor, and connected to the fort and to an armored observation post via underground passages.  By that point, the facility was surrounded by a belt of barbed wire 20-30 meters thick.

Armored Observation Post

Now we have walked a few yard to the west to see the armored observation post.  In the panorama above, the 155mm turret, its entrance, and a Pamart casemate can also be seen.

Now we have walked to the Pamart casemate and can see the armored observation post and the 155mm turret and its entrance.

Pamart Casemate

Three of these were installed at Fort Souville beginning in 1917.  Although the Pamart armored machine gun position could not be retracted or rotated like the machine gun turret, it was cheaper to produce, could not be jammed by debris like a turret could, and provided 14cm of protection.  Two machine guns were used alternatively when as one became too hot to use.  The field of fire was 160 degrees.  

Copyright 2010-11 by John Hamill

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