The Battle of Verdun began a century ago on this day | 1916-02-21

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One hundred years ago, on February 21, 1916, the first shots were fired in the battle for the French fortress town of ‪‎Verdun‬. It would last for ten terrible months.

In the 303 days of this so-called ‘meat-grinder’, close to 750,000 men died, were wounded or simply disappeared...

As German soldier Ernst Toller wrote: ‘We were cogs in a great machine which sometimes rolled forward, nobody knew where, sometimes backwards, nobody knew why.’ From the other side of the no-man’s-land that separated the two armies, a French counterpart, Albert Joubaire, summed up his experience at Verdun: ‘What a bloodbath, what horrid images, what a slaughter! Hell cannot be this dreadful.’

It was a hell often overlooked. British histories tend to pass over Verdun in a few pages. That’s because it was an entirely Franco-German affair, re-running an old and bitter rivalry between those two nations, particularly over the border area in the east of France where the fortified city was sited.

It had been a fought-over, front-line fortress for centuries, with huge strategic implications. When war broke out in 1914, it was just 25 miles from France’s frontier with Germany. It also straddled the shortest direct route from Germany to Paris. Take Verdun, and the Kaiser’s army could be in the French capital in days.

Inside this concrete fortification were more than 400 field guns, billeting for 5,000 troops, its own airstrip and a narrow-gauge railway linking its principal parts for the speedy dispatch of men and ammunition to where they were most needed. Bristling and defiant, the tricolours waving in the breeze seemed to say to the Germans: don’t you dare.

Our No Man's Land Pinot Noir is a commemoration to those brave souls who faced the unimaginable perils of trench warfare. Our mission for No Man's Land is to inspire curiosity and open dialog about the events of history that have been long forgotten. We hope to serve as a reminder that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

verdun source

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  • Ben Martin
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