French Counterblasts

 

The French counterblast of October 24, 1916

The goal of the french supreme command is to establish now back the forts of Verdun in their whole. After the damage, which caused the Germans in June and July to the French front, is eliminated, the appropriateness orders to carry the whole line in only one jump forward. For the execution of this operation, the Generals Nivelle and Mangin have a strong artillery: 290 field guns and over 300 heavy guns. 8 divisions are to attack.

With October 21, the artillery preparation starts. Day for day is regulated and supervised into details. On 23rd a fire shows up around the Douaumont. On the same day a simulated attack makes it possible for the infantry to look up new German batteries which got shelled immediately. On 24th at 11 o’clock the attack implemented with dense fog bring success. The Frenchmen penetrate into the quarries from Haudromont, into the fortress and into the Thiaumont-Ferme, into the Fort and the village Douaumont, to the northern edge of the Bois de Cailette, to the pond from Vaux, to the edge of the Fumin-Forest and to the battery Damloup. They take at October 24, and 25, over 6000 prisoners and capture 15 guns. When they return on November 02, to Fort Vaux given up by the Germans, they are overall in their positions from February 25.

The French offensive from 15 December 1916

To free the clomplete east bank of the Meuse at Verdun after the back-conquered Forts Vaux and Douaumont, General Mangin organises a new attack. The army in front of Verdun makes large preparations, builds approximately 30 km roads, one with planks, occupied roadway for the artillery and more than 10 km narrow-gauge railway. They lift storm- and liason trenchs and puts on ammunition -, hand grenade and material stores. This whole work is accomplished frequently under artillery fires. Immediately after completion the attack troops, (4 divisions) go into position; 4 further remain in reserve. 10 km German front from Vacherauville to Bezonvaux were hold primarily by 5 divisions, while 4 divisions lie in reserve.

On December 15, supported by an enormous artillery, the storm waves proceed. Several of the set goals, in particular Vacherauville and the two front lines in front of Louvemont, are occupied in some minutes in only one approach. The forests and ravines in front of Douaumont are more difficult to conquer, the Vauche forest got stormed and taken with the bayonet, while the Chambrettes-Ferme and Bezonvaux can be taken only in the next days.

Success is large: over 11.000 prisoners, among them 300 officers, 115 guns, several hundred machine guns, important ammunition and quantities remain in the hands of the Frenchmen. The German troops, which were distant from Fort Souville in July only few hundred meters, are now more than 5 km far away. On December 18, they had lost areas, to whose occupation they had needed 5 months.

 

The French offensive from 20 August 1917

Through long months, the front of Verdun is again nearly completely quiet, the war raves at the Chemin the Dames, in Flanders and at the Isonzo. General Pétain decides to bring the enemy at the Verdun front to stagger.
The victory of the last December, which liberated Douaumont perfectly, had left the points of observation of the Cote de Talou to the Germans. Besides they possessed the excellent  positions of the height 304 and the Mort Homme on the left bank. Deep tunnels served the troops as shelters and connected the positions. Since they observed the French preparations to this new offensive, they had increased the number of their batteries to almost 400. The German divisions were strengthened on the line Avocourt-Woevre on 9, further 5 lay in reserve.

 

On French side the area had been prepared since long time. Roads had been thoroughly built in that wrecked combat area, connections doubled, the supplies enabled. 2500 cannons of all calibres waited for their employment.

In the coming battle, the most important role had been assigned to the artillery. To 20.000 men infantry,  an army corps set 40,000 men artillery, 4 army corps participated in the offensive.
With August, 13 an extremely regular artillery preparation begins, which has to destroy the German positions. On August 20, 8 divisions go to the storm forward under the eyes of the officers of the recent US Army, who pursue from different observation posts the battle.
The Mort Homme, the Cote de l Oie and the Cote Talou were taken, only the height 304 offers still resistance.
Prisoners and material are extremely numerous. In the tunnels of the dead man over 1000 men got taken imprisoned. On the next day, Samogneux and Régneville are conquered. The height 304 is occupied on 24 August after the Germans gave it up. In the recent offensive the Frenchmen made 9500 prisoners and captured 39 cannons, 100 mine launchers and over 200 machine guns.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *