Report - - Verdun - Artillerie bunker (France) Aug 2011 | European and International Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Verdun - Artillerie bunker (France) Aug 2011

The Lone Ranger

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Verdun - Artillerie Bunker


General view of the center of Verdun

Introduction and history

The town of Verdun is situated in the Lorraine district in north-eastern France; the town has a long history of fortification and the ensuing battles.

From 1624 to 1636, a large bastioned citadel was constructed on the site of the Abbey of Saint Vanne. In 1670, Vauban visited Verdun and drew up an ambitious scheme to fortify the whole city. Although much of his plan was built in the following decades, some of elements were not completed until the after the Napoleonic Wars. Despite the extensive fortifications, Verdun was captured by the Prussians in 1792, but abandoned by them after the Battle of Valmy. During the Napoleonic War, the citadel was used to hold British prisoners-of-war. In the Franco-Prussian War, Verdun was the last French fortress to surrender in 1870. Shortly afterwards, a new system of fortification was begun. This consisted of a mutually supporting ring of 22 polygonal forts up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the city, and an inner ring of 6 forts.

1st World War

The Battle of Verdun is considered the greatest and lengthiest in world history. Never before or since has there been such a lengthy battle, involving so many men, situated on such a tiny piece of land. The battle, which lasted from 21 February 1916 until 19 December 1916 caused over an estimated 700,000 casualties (dead, wounded and missing). The battlefield was not even a square ten kilometres. From a strategic point of view there can be no justification for these atrocious losses. The battle degenerated into a matter of prestige of two nations literally for the sake of fighting......

Verdun resulted in 306,000 battlefield deaths (163,000 French and 143,000 German combatants) plus at least half a million wounded, an average of 30,000 deaths for each of the ten months of the battle. It was the longest and one of the most devastating battles in the First World War and the history of warfare. Verdun was primarily an artillery battle: a total of about 40 million artillery shells were exchanged, leaving behind millions of overlapping shell craters that are still partly visible. In both France and Germany, Verdun has come to represent the horrors of war, like the Battle of the Somme in the British consciousness. The renowned British military historian Major General Julian Thompson has referred to Verdun as "France's Stalingrad".
A more in depth and interesting history can be found here;

My visit

We had 3 weeks family holiday camping around Europe in the rain, things were not looking too good for an explore after 2 weeks; fate finally played its hand and after a long drive to one of our favourite campsites in France we found the AA road map to be completely wrong and ended up about 150 miles away from where we should have been sat in the sun, next to vineyards and drinking our favourite wine.

Keeping with the theme of the holiday so far it was pissing down after a 7 hour drive, we had no idea where we were, but knew it wasn’t where we wanted to be, a shop owner confirmed this when we asked, he just laughed but pointed us to the nearest campsite. After putting the wet tent up in a puddle as the water ran down our sleeves we decided to eat in the campsite cafe. After the first large beer my brain moved from the fast lane of the motorway and started taking in where we had actually stopped. Verdun did not ring any bells, but the huge collection of leaflets on war graves and underground bunkers suddenly had caught my interest.

The next morning the rain had eased by mid-morning, so we set of for a wander around the town. It soon became apparent that this town had the potential for an explore, lots of tunnels and fortified walls; some had been converted into museums, but most were gated. Being a Scottish Yorkshireman I was not going to pay to wander around one of these tunnels, so after convincing the wife and kids that it would be nice to chill for an hour or two by the swimming pool at the campsite I managed to escape for a closer look.


The first tunnels I entered were very close to a pikey campsite and had unfortunately been used as toilets and dumping ground for their unwanted trash, dodging the piles of shit was not my idea of a pleasant explore (I know some people can’t get enough of the fresh stuff)


Much the same as the previous tunnel; every step had a turd!


Once away from the pikey camp I found these impressive fortified walls, a quick wander around found there was a way in to the Artillerie bunker.


This is the original walled entrance to the bunker, wasn’t really sure what to expect to find on the other side of the metal doors?


Inside was an impressive brick lined tunnel with a railway track running away into the darkness.


Looking back from the first junction in the tunnel, this was one of the few images I took with my tripod, I soon realised that if I wanted a proper look at the bunker I was going to have to take my images handheld with a flash.


Every 25 to 30m the tunnel came to a cross roads, the main tunnel carried on straight ahead, but on either side were guardrooms, which led into large storage bunkers, there were 36 of these within the tunnel. In addition there were about 4 locations where the railway line split and ran down side tunnels which were unfortunately bricked up.


Inside the storage bunkers on either side of the main tunnel there was usually the remains of timber shelf, old oil cans and empty ammunition boxes.


Most of the guardrooms were empty, not even and graffiti on the walls. The only remains were the old electrical switch gear.


Within another of the storage bunkers, the remains of the timber shelves stacked neatly.


Here is one of the locations that the railway track splits, the remains of the turntable is still evident at the junction.


Getting near the end of the line, more debris line the side of the main tunnel.


The end of the lower tunnel ended at some rusty ladders to the upper levels, time was running out, I had already been away longer than I said I would so left the upper levels.


There were also a fair few vertical shafts linking the lower tunnel to the upper region of the bunker.


And last of all, about 10 meters back from the end of the bunker was a hand carved tunnel cut through the bedrock, I wish I had more time especially to see where this lead to?
Well that was the only proper explore I managed, and thoroughly enjoyed it once I got away from the shit covered tunnels. The town of Verdun and the surrounding area is full of fortified walls and bunkers, only a few have public access.


It was hard to appreciate how grim it must have been during the battle of Verdun, as well as the walls full of names of the fallen and the fields of crossed; many buildings are still riddled with bullet marks and shrapnel holes; as well as many of the surrounding fields being full of pock marks making them more like the surface of the moon than rural France.

I wish I had more time; a few days to do this place any justice, but if anyone is heading South through France and want somewhere to stop off there's a great campsite plus it’s near the motorway junction. I shall head back there myself next time I’m passing and have a better look around.




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