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Fort Vaux

Fort Vaux

Heroic defence of a fortress

Fort Vaux in Verdun has become a symbol of the heroism of the French soldiers who braved days of siege and shell attacks by the German army during the First World War.

After France's defeat in the Franco-German War of 1870, fortress belts were built around a string of French towns, also near Verdun. Fort Vaux was constructed from the 1880s onwards.

At the start of the Battle of Verdun in 1916, the fort came under direct fire. A German shell rendered the turret of the 75 mm gun unusable.

From 1 June 1916, the German army pounded relentlessly on the fort. They fired up to two thousand shells per hour at the fort, but the French did not budge. They fought man-to-man against the Germans in the corridors of the fort, braved attacks from flamethrowers and tried to break out.

On 7 June 1916, the crew of the fort surrendered. Nearly three thousand Germans were killed in the attack; in the fort itself, only 250 soldiers made it out alive. The futility of the fighting was demonstrated in early November 1916. Then the French retook the fort after the German defenses had withdrawn. 

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