Vauquois, once it was a pictorial village, situated idyllic on a hill, only a view miles away from the Argonne forest. Today this place is likewise symbol for the fights at the edge of the Argonne. The hill of Vauquois shows till this day the horrible wounds, which were inflicted him in the years 1914 – 1918. He is crossed with huge big craters, resulted through numerous underground explosions from the mine war. Tough Vauquois is more than 25 miles away from Verdun, the hard fighting hill shows the common destiny of the fortress Verdun.
With the target of the encirclement of Verdun, German troops conquered, already at 25th September 1914, after 3 days hard fighting, the small village on top of a hill, Vauquois. The hill of Vauquois was for both sides of strategic importance, because who was on the hill, could overlook the whole area eastward the Argonne forest and thus he had also insight over supply routes and the rear of the enemy. The German troops extended the place into a fortress. Since the 7th January 1915 the area was fortified by the pioneers of the 1./ Pionierbataillons 30 from Koblenz which moved to the 33rd German Infantry Division.
After 3 unsuccessful attacks it succeeded to the French at 01st March 1915 to gain ground. German counter attacks at 05th and 15th March could be refused. So it came that the French occupied the southern and the German the northern part of the hill. In order to provide combat ready troops in case of further French attacks, the Germans built in the northern part of the hill underground barracks in deep galleries. Now everyone wanted to push the other from the hill.
No more successes could be achieved soon over the ground. So the battle was to continued under the earth. Attack galleries were driven under the 1st adverse line and then blown up. To prevent this, defence tunnels were built, to wit if as a result of listening posts an attack tunnel was located, a tunnel would be driven sidewise or under the tunnel and blown up. The enemy was thus squeezed and the work of weeks was of no earthly use.
The whole garrison of Vauquois, whether French or Germans, had to live permanently with the thoughts to be blown up. Especially at the beginning of the mine war, as listening units and defence tunnels were not so deployed.
After 52 months war the village was razed, not even the rests of the cellars were seen. The French in the Aire valley are of the opinion that no other village in the Great War was so destroyed as Vauquois was, it is literal blown up in the air. Enormous craters take over his place. This is the result of the underground mine war, who reached since springtime 1915 a mad dimension. 536 explosions had happen on the hill.
In December 1918 a couple of refuge inhabitants wanted to return to Vauquois. Because the fighting area was full of ammunition, war material and corpses, the American troops, which fought at last around Vauquois, forbade any access. The small group moved into abandoned barracks closed by and tried over and over, to put through their sake. Only as the summoned General Deprez, who lived earlier himself on Vauquois, could wrest the Prefect the authorisation, to build up a small settlement at the foot of the south slope of Vauquois.
The visitor, who is the first time on the height, wonder what has happened here, which mysteries are on that hill.
When he hears, what has happened here, how the men could stand their lives, he gets into amazement which swings sometimes into fascination.
Most people want to learn more over Vauquois and the Great War, want to understand, why Vauquois was a unique position in the war. The underground mine war took also place at other battlefields at the western front, but never at a place, where a village stood and never with a doggedness on such a little space.
The knowledge of Vauquois will pass by the guides at organised visits of the galleries. The association “Les amis des Vauquois et de sa Region” was put in charge with administration and care of this historical monument.
Guided tours are offered at every 1st Sunday of the month. If you are interested contact us by mail.
Marie, F-55270 Vauquois