Monday, July 30, 2018

Visiting the WWI Ruins of Fort Vaux in Verdun, France

This is Fort Vaux World War I ruins in Verdun, France.

In the spring of last year (2017), Dutchman and I went to visit the battlegrounds of the First World War in France.

One of the places we visited, and in fact we have used as our base, is the city of Verdun in the Meuse valley in the department of Lorraine. For this short extended weekend history trip (4 days), we picked a few important places to revisit and one of them is Fort Vaux, located on the outskirts of Verdun.

I actually found it strange to be sitting on top of a bunker and taking a picture of it when people have died on this spot a hundred years ago. Is this what they say desensitised because of time? Shall I say that time indeed heals all wounds?

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Trivia: Did you know that the French government has stopped searching for bombs in the battleground areas?

There were so many bombs buried during the First and Second World Wars that is is almost impossible to dig them all up without sacrificing any casualty. Many of these places have been cordoned off from the public. It is therefore not advisable to take walks outside the footpaths or designated areas in the battlefields.

The fighting in Fort Vaux took place in 1916 for only 8 days when it fell under German victory. To begin with, though, the defense of this fort was impeccable. It took 5,200 German soldiers against only a fraction of French soldiers, about 600, to siege the fort in 8 very long days.

In addition to this, the Germans had 7x more casualties than the French! I am not sure if that is something worth celebrating for the Germans even if they managed to have taken over the fort. Shall I say Vive Le France even if it was, rather, short-lived?

I did some reading about the First World War and part of the conclusion that I can draw from this conflict is that the unnecessary bloodshed had something to do with the bruised and fragile egos of their psychopath generals and commanders. Ego and pride are the culprits that brought a lot of young men to their untimely death. Isn't that so sad?

It makes me angry actually, to think that those courageous young men. and I am sure they were petrified but they had no choice, could have had led a very good life. They could have gone to work instead, perhaps started a family and enjoying the Sunday lazy morning brunches... instead of hiding and cowering with fear inside a pit or a dungeon, even with a rifle on hand.

Nevertheless, Dutchman and I came here to Fort Vaux but didn't check the underground galleries. You would need a guide for that and Dutchman was not in the mood to go around in the dark. So we stuck to exploring the outdoors of the fort which was looking very lush in the springtime.

We took a lot of pictures!

And because the First World War is now a century ago, our generation today look at places like this differently. We have read and had known what happened, but to be honest, we cannot really fully relate and grasp what has happened, therefore, we do not have any emotions to keep.

The wounds have healed through time.

Some more reading I found on the net about Fort Vaux:

The location of Fort Vaux in the northeastern part of France:

Zoom in (use the + sign on the lower right-hand side of the map) to see the exact location of Fort Vaux in France.

One of the metal bunker head openings where French soldiers shoot from the underground.

You can see that heavy artillery has hit the metal head but it did not penetrate. Can you imagine when this hit and you are one of the soldiers inside? Trauma and hearing loss are just one of the side effects of war.

Below this what seemed to be beautiful and peaceful green grass and pathways is Fort Vaux, a military bunker with underground tunnels.

Inspecting the metal bunker head openings. German soldiers threw grenades into them.

You can see the very small opening, this one served as a lookout.

This is I believe the grave of the soldiers who experienced shell shock. There was very little known of shell shock before that many of the soldiers who suffered were put on trial and some executed for military crimes which included desertion and cowardice. 

Spring blossoms in Fort Vaux.

Traces of bombardment.

I am sitting inside a concave which are products of bombardments during World War I. As you can see on the terrain there are many concave, bowl-like grounds.

We had a quick little snack nearby the fort on this table overlooking the main road. The area is very strict with strolling and picnicking on designated areas only.

Travel Period: May 2017
Destination: Verdun, Lorraine (Grand Est), France

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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