The Battle of Verdun and The Battle of The Somme
History 8


2/4/01



The battle of Verdun and the battle of the Somme are two very important battles. They both took place in France, and were fought in the same year, 1916. The first battle was the battle of Verdun. It was fought near an ancient Roman fortress that was sacred to the French. The Germans chose this spot because they thought that if it were destroyed, the French would lose confidence. (Strokesbury, p.142)


The second battle was the battle of the Somme. It was fought on the Somme River. The French chose the Somme as a chief battlefield for 1916. However, the French did little but assist the British in the battle of the Somme. (Heyman, p.40)


The battle of Verdun began in February and lasted until the end of the year. Each attack made by the Germans hurt their army almost as much as it hurt the French army. Much of the fighting was done by heavy artillery. (Heyman, p.19) In fact, there was an overall sum of 542 heavy guns used in the battle. Thirteen of them were 420mm howitzers and seventeen were 305mm howitzers. These howitzers were devastating to the other troops. (Keegan, p.279)








The German’s plan was actually quite simple. The French did not want to lose Verdun and they would send as many troops as needed to defend it. The Germans focused a great deal of troops and artillery on this battle. No matter how many troops the French sent in, they would not be able to put up a good fight, but if they stopped the Germans would surely destroy Verdun, and for the French, losing Verdun was not an option. They were trapped. They did not want to lose Verdun and they did not want to lose their troops. (Keegan, p.279)


On February 21st the German troops moved in, but the German infantry did not attack in great strength. The idea of the operation was that heavy artillery would destroy the French defenses that would then be finished off by infantrymen. If the Germans did attack in full strength, they may have succeeded in advancing eight miles towards the fort.


It was extremely hard to get supplies to Verdun. French general Philippe Pétain found several ways to get supplies to the fort. 0ne of those ways was improving the road to the fort developing continuing flow of supply trucks. (Heyman, p.19)


On June 22, a new attack by the Germans began. It was followed by a bombardment of shells, on the French artillery lines. These shells contained a new deadly gas called Green Cross. Green Cross was an improved form of chlorine that could not be stopped by the French gasmasks. The artillery lines that where attacked contained 600 guns. That’s one third of the French artillery at Verdun. Robbed of their protection, the French had no defense against the Alpenkorps, an elite division of mountain troops made up of Bavarian guard and German infantry. Among the German infantry officers was Lieutenant Paulus, the future Commander of the Sixth Army at Staligrad. (Keegan, p.285)


By the end of June, over two million men had been killed and wounded on each side. The landscape had been permanently altered by artillery shells. (Keegan, p.285) Nearly 400,000 French soldiers were killed. The Germans lost 340,000 soldiers. The French had lost more than the Germans, since they started out with only one third as many men than the Germans had. On July 11th, the Germans made one last attempt to take Verdun. They surprisingly managed to reach Fort Souville, but from there the attack was beaten off. (Keegan, p.285)


At the start of October the French attempted to take back the ground they lost. On October 24th the French recaptured Douaumont. By December 15th the French had regained much of the ground on the east bank that had been lost at the beginning of the battle. (Keegan, p.285)


Mean while another battle had already begun, The Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme began July 1st, 1916. General Haig of the British army hoped that his forces would break through German defenses, and enter an open field. There he would fight the German army. His