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The “hyperbataille” of Verdun, sixth episode : the french offensives 19 October – 15 December, 1916

In September 1916, following the German General Staff’s decision to halt its offensive policy, the fighting eased in all the sectors. On 13 September 1916, the President of France, Monsieur Raymond Poincaré visited Verdun where he awarded the Croix de Guerre – France’s War Cross – and the Legion of Honour to the city that stood as the French symbol of glorious resistance.

Verdun épisode 6-1 : offensive-francaiseIn the meanwhile, French High Command was preparing a major offensive aimed at retaking control of all the sectors lost since the beginning of the Battle, and more particularly the symbolic forts of Douaumont and Vaux. The mistakes of the disastrous French offensive on Fort Douaumont in May, were taken into consideration and extensively analysed. On 21 October, the French launched an intense artillery preparation with 400-mm Creusot-Schneider guns placed on rails on a frontal width of 7 kilometres and attack troops consisting of six divisions marched behind the massed artillery fire. French units were especially trained for this new tactic: the creeping barrage.

By 24 October, the French had recaptured Fort Douaumont and on 3 November, Fort Vaux. On 15 December, the French launched a new offensive aimed at bringing the front on the right bank of the Meuse to its original position as it had been at the beginning of the Battle ten months earlier. On the other hand, the front on the left bank did not move as the Germans held strong to Hill 304 and Le Mort-Homme. In the meantime, 163,000 French soldiers and 143,000 German soldiers had lost their lives at Verdun.

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