Battleground Verdun: Fort Vaux, Christina Holstein

Battleground Verdun: Fort Vaux, Christina Holstein

The siege of Fort Vaux only lasted for five days, but it was still a crucial part of the wider Battle of Verdun, and came at the end of three months in which the Germans had been unable to get close enough to the fort to even begin a siege. The course of the desperate defence was followed around the world as a handful of messages reached the outside world, before eventually a lack of water forced the defenders to surrender.  

This book begins with a look at the history and development of Fort Vaux before the battle, from its first construction to the efforts to protect it from the increasing power of artillery. We then look at the changing role of the fort in the first two years of the First World War, when fixed fortresses appeared to be obsolete, and the German plans to capture it early in their attack on Verdun.

The bulk of the text looks at the events of the five day long siege, recreating in some detail each day of the fighting, using a variety of eyewitness accounts and contemporary reports. The German attackers are well represented in this section. The historical account finishes with the surrender of the garrison, the brief German occupation of the fort and the French counterattack that recaptured it later in the battle. This section gives one something of a feel for the claustrophobic nature of the battle, with the defenders effectively trapped in the tunnels under the fort, without water for much of the siege (after the cisterns were found to be empty).

The second part of the book consists of four tours, two around the fort and two in the surrounding area. The entire book is illustrated with a large number of photographs of the fort and its surrounding area, with a mix of wartime and modern pictures. This is an excellent account of a short but important battle.

1 - A Trapezium of Modest Size
2 - To Take Fort Vaux This Very Day
3 - Major Raynal Takes Command
4 - The Siege Begins
5 - A Problem With Water
6 - Surrender
7 - Fort Vaux Returns to French Hands

Tour No.1 - Fort Vaux Outside
Tour No.2 - Fort Vaux Inside
Tour No.3 - A Walk in the Vaux sector
Tour No.4 - A Driving Tour around French Rear Areas

Author: Christina Holstein
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 207
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2011

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