Fort Douaumont, pictured in February 2016, dominates a ridge overlooking the surrounding countryside of the Meuse (Photo: Centenary News)

100 Years Ago Today - Fort Douaumont falls at Battle of Verdun

Posted on centenarynews.com on 25 February 2016
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French forces defending Verdun suffered a disaster on February 25th 1916, when Fort Douaumont fell to a few German troops without a fight.

The capture of the biggest of the Verdun fortresses shocked an army still struggling to contain the German offensive launched four days earlier.

General Philippe Pétain was summoned to take charge of holding the heights above the River Meuse, propelling him to the forefront of French military commanders.

Despite Douamont's mighty reputation, many of its guns had been removed earlier in the First World War for use in French offensives elsewhere on the Western Front.

German raiding parties penetrated the fort unopposed, easily overcoming the much reduced garrison.

Inside Fort Douaumont (Photo: Centenary News)

Douaumont remained in German hands for eight months, defying a French attempt at recapture in May 1916.

That same month, the Germans suffered a disaster of their own making. 

Hundreds of men were killed following an explosion in an ammunition store, caused by a cooking fire which got out of control.

Today, the 679 soldiers who lie buried within the walls of the fort are commemorated in a small chapel, with a cross bearing the dedication 'Den Toten Kameraden' (to the fallen comrades).

French colonial troops recaptured Douaumont in October 1916.

Also in Centenary News:

Overview of the Battle of Verdun, fought from February-December 1916

Centenary News vists Verdun Memorial Museum after €12.5m redevelopment

UK Verdun Centenary tribute at French war memorial

Images: Centenary News

Centenary News visited Fort Douaumont with the international press in February 2016