Saturday, July 23, 2011

Le Butt de Vauquois

In 1914 the village of Vauquois was perched on a hill top 32 km west of Verdun with a panoramic view to the north over the German held territory.  Over the next 3 years the Germans tried to take it over and over again, and of course the French defended it to the death.  Both sides dug deep tunnels and set of huge mines under the enemy.  By the time the Germans retreated under the US+French Argonne offensive in 1918 the village had been obliterated and the hill split into two ridges with a rugged ravine about 50m wide between.

I had already visited the site in 1980.  As I remember, it was then a tangle of scrub with a track to the top, but even so the craters were impressive.  I'd never forgotten it and was keen to revisit it. 

Today there is an interp centre with a carpark below the hill and the main site has had the scrub cleared up.  An extensive network of tracks lets you get all around the site.  Some of the trenches have been excavated and cleaned out so you can see so much more.   There are no massive bunkers like at Verdun, but the destruction on the hill and the remaining trenches make an instructive lesson in WWI.

The pics really don't do it justice, but the best i can do in the rain.

Pic 1: From the German side of the centre crater.  A party of German school kids are being told of the exploits of their forefathers.

Pic 2: The view to the north the fight was all about.

Pic 3: Exploring German 2nd line trenches in the rain.

Pic 4: More German trenches - they are better preserved than the French ones, but the Germans always did build better trenches.

Pic 5: A view over the big German made crater at the west end.

Pics 6 & 7:  Photos of the information board.

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