The Battle of Verdun – They Shall Not Pass I THE GREAT WAR – Week 83


There’s only one thing I can say about this
week; this week the greatest battle that had ever been fought in history, begins. So many
hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of men would fight and die for such a tiny piece
of land; it had never been conceived before. This was Verdun. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week Russia took the major fortress city
of Erzurum from the Ottomans. Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria were still overrunning Albania,
Germany and the US were having diplomatic problems, and Belgian armored cars were fighting
in Galicia. Here’s what came next. I think I’ll just jump right in at Verdun,
which you’ll hear an awful lot about this whole year. The very first shot of the Battle of Verdun
came February 21st, 1916 from one of the German long-distance naval guns; the shell exploded
in the Bishop’s Palace in Verdun and knocked a corner off the cathedral. Unternehmen Gericht
had begun. The battle began with a 9 hour German artillery barrage using 1,220 guns
on a 20-kilometer front on both sides of the Meuse (Strachan). In the Bois de Ville, at
the apex of the French lines, 40 heavy shells fell every minute. German Army Chief of Staff
Erich von Falkenhayn had wanted of this barrage, “no line is to remain unbombarded, no possibilities
of supply unmolested, nowhere should the enemy feel himself safe.” (Keegan) The Germans
fired roughly one million shells during the barrage- you heard that right- and you could
hear the explosions 100 miles away in the Vosges. Already by 0800 nearly all French
telephone communication to the front was cut off. French reinforcements could not arrive
and effective command no longer existed. The Germans had even deployed 168 aircraft in
the largest aerial net ever in order to prevent French planes from observation and artillery
spotting. When the barrage ended, at 4pm, the German
infantry advanced on the French. The French front line defenses had been wrecked or just
plain buried by the barrage. One French corporal remarked, that of every five men, “two have
been buried alive under their shelter, two are wounded to some extent or the other, and
the fifth is waiting.” But Falkenhayn didn’t want his men to make a huge advance; not that
day, they were to feel out any remaining defenses, which they did until night fell and the artillery
resumed its work. On day two the Germans surprised the French
by using 96 flamethrowers, and by day three had advanced two miles and taken 3,000 French
prisoners. Here’s a story from day three: (Gilbert) there was a rumor that the village
of Samoneaux had fallen to the Germans. When the rumor was believed, the French bombarded
their own troops who were there, and when the bombardment was over, the Germans just
came in and took it. One of the prisoners, Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard was brought before
a visitor to the battleground, the Kaiser himself, who was watching the battle through
a periscope. Bernard told him, “you will never enter Verdun.” But by February 25th,
the French 51st and 72nd Divisions, holding the line from Herbebois west to the Meuse
had suffered 60 percent casualties. February 24th was actually the day the dam
burst. The Germans broke through between Beaumont and Samogneaux, and the French positions fell
in just three hours. The Germans took 10,000 more French prisoners and their territorial
gains that day were equal to the first three days in total and by the evening, for the
first time on the Western Front since the Battle of the Marne, the war was a war of
motion. No more trenches, no barbed wire, no machine gun posts. French morale was crumbling
and the French artillery was ominously silent. Two main fortresses, Douaumont and Vaux, defended
the city of Verdun. Fort Douaumont dominated the northern approach. It had only been completed
in 1913 and had 155mm and 75mm guns as well as machine guns, all of which were housed
in steel turrets. Thing is, the French company that manned the fort had been reassigned to
the front lines and the fort was basically empty and on the 25th, it fell without a shot
being fired. This had a huge psychological effect for both sides. The German advance
finally stopped that day only 2 miles from Verdun itself. At this point the Germans were in a position
to abandon Falkenhayn’s plans and advance to the city itself, while the French could
have given up Verdun, the whole salient, and made a more defensible line, but that night,
at midnight, the defense of Verdun was given to General Phillippe Petain. The French army leader General Joseph Joffre’s
chief of staff, Noel de Castelnau, knew what effect the loss of Verdun would have on national
morale and persuaded Joffre it must be held, hence Pétain. But this was falling right
into Falkenhayn’s plans! When Pétain ordered his men to “beat off at all costs the attacks
of the enemy, and retake immediately any piece of land taken by him”, he was reading a
script written by Falkenhayn! Falkenhayn’s plan was to attack the national treasure Verdun
that the French would have no choice but to defend, and bleed the French army to death
by attrition. Well, when Pétain took over, he saw his two
main tasks as co-ordinating the artillery and opening a supply line. And from this point
on it was the Germans who were constantly deluged by shells when they made their way
forward or stuck to the front lines. And the road from Verdun to Bar-le-Duc became a supply
route for truck and trucks alone. Three and a half thousand of them. The men marched in
the fields on the sides of the road. If a truck broke down, it was pushed off the road
so that the 24 hour traffic never came to a halt. Eventually, 12,000 trucks would be
driving what became known as the sacred road. Pétain was commander of the French Second
Army, and in 1914 had been actually about to retire. He had seen the evolution of trench
warfare, not from the rear, but as a front line commander and his conclusion was that
it was not possible in one big jump to take all of the successive lines of the enemy,
right? He recommended, just a few months before Verdun, limited offensives that didn’t go
further than artillery could reach and only once the enemy was exhausted would breakthrough
tactics be adopted. This would become the basis of his defense at Verdun. In 1914, enormous
forts of reinforced concrete had proven vulnerable in Belgium, but Pétain would make the inner
ring of forts at Verdun the backbone of his tactical plans. He would use it as a barrage
position. And turning out attention to another part
of Europe, we see another barrage in progress. In Albania on the 25th, Austro-Hungarian artillery
began to fire upon Durazzo, the capital. It had been evacuated the day before and the
closest thing Albania had to a ruler at the moment, Essad Pasha, had fled to Italy. And further to the east, another flight was
in progress. A huge Turkish army was retreating from Erzurum,
now in Russian hands. The country west of Erzurum was very difficult terrain for the
retreat, but it was also hell for the advancing Russians who were unable to follow up the
capture of Erzurum by capturing the Ottoman army so they turned their attention toward
Trabzon, the Turkish supply base on the Black Sea, but the Turks were reinforcing it, so
it was a race against the clock for both sides. And here’s something from the Russian home
front. On February 20th, Tsar Nicholas learned of
a plot within the Interior Ministry to murder the influential mystic Rasputin. Interior
Minister Alexei Khvostov, who apparently believed the rumor that Rasputin and the Tsarina were
German spies, had offered a man named Komissarov 200,000 rubles, about 15,000 pounds, to do
the job, but he failed. The plot was revealed when Khvostov appointed police chief Stepan
Beletsky Governor of Irkutsk, but the appointment was quickly withdrawn and Beletsky, in revenge,
gave Rasputin details of the plot. Rasputin told the Tsarina. Khvostov was forced to resign
and was banished to his estate. And we come to the end of another week or
war. Albania nearly overrun, Russian intrigue at home, and Russians still advancing in the
field. And the greatest artillery barrage in the
history of the world so far. That also happened this week. At Verdun. To begin the Battle
of Verdun. And 100 years later, what is Verdun? Alistair Horne wrote, “Verdun was the First
World War in microcosm; an intensification of all its horrors and glories, courage and
futility.” And here’s a last something to remember today; though there was a battle
with more dead during the war, the proportion of casualties suffered to the number of men
who fought was markedly higher at Verdun than any other World War One battle, as was the
number of the dead in relation to the size of the battlefield. I cannot even begin to
picture the carnage and destruction that fell exactly 100 years ago. Neither can you. Thank
God for that. And even though artillery played such an important
role in Verdun, close combat in the trenches was also common. We started a small series
about the tactics for trench assaults and you can check that out right here: Our Patreon supporter of the week is Mr splashypants
– thanks to your support on Patreon we are making this show more independent from often
fluctuating add revenue. Help us out on Patreon, so we can make the show even better.
For more insights into the Battle of Verdun, follow us on Facebook and don’t forget to
subscribe. See you next time.

100 thoughts on “The Battle of Verdun – They Shall Not Pass I THE GREAT WAR – Week 83

  1. Your input of Balkan states (aka Albania) has sparked an intruige of your channel. Thank God for sending someone that is consistent and accurate in historical accounts. You've done a superb job. Thank you!

  2. Geez where were you in my childhood? 😁this is good!! I was still an A student, but I would have enjoyed it more lol

  3. I’m happy that my favorite battle saw some action of my birthday (the 25th of February), but I’m not glad that was the day the French were being badly defeated.

  4. You will never enter Verdun! Even when the odds were against the French, they still had the balls to fight to the bitter end. Inspiring.

  5. This battle has never ended. Before the land (460 square miles) was restricted in 2012. Since 1918 hundreds of people and animals have died there. Water arsenic level are 300% above average,soil 17 % Only 1% of animal and plant life survive. 900 Tons of old ammo are cleared every year The area from Lille in the north to South of Nancy will be contaminate for the next 10,000 years due to the lead, zinc, and mercury from old shells.
    .

  6. One would assume the host of a show like this would practice foreign pronounciation. Thanks for the great content though, even if I don't understand words of my own language 😉

  7. Hey dear Grat War team,
    I would like to use this vido/channal for a presentation.
    Can I use it? Of course Iwould specify the source.

    Best regardes, Lukas/s4cul

  8. Thanks Clemenceau that was the head of state (not president) and didn't resign at any moment, he's speach "je fais la guerre" inspired Churchill's speach "we shall fight on the beaches" (never surrender) that said about Clemenceau "if one man was a country, Clemenceau was France".

  9. Decent at a glance series but lacks interesting detail. Also… stop telling me what I can and can't imagine

  10. "They shall not pass"

    Seems like not even their own troops passed after they bombarded them.

  11. The Germans weren't trying to pass. This wasn't about conquering land, this was about eliminating humans.
    They were trying to bleed the French white. Verdun was the bait.

  12. @ 9.22 that is a very poignant way of putting what a damndable carnage this was. Here's to peace and respect between neighbours. To wise use of power, money, lives and our environment.

  13. Do you now why the fort of Douaumont was captured so easily ?
    No ,it was because the French army staff did not believe anymore that battle in strongholds as fort de Douaumont en Vaux would be successfully and on the 15 August 1915 the singed a decreet that al French troops ,all ammunition,al food ,and al the small artillery pieces wood by removed from the fort ,the only troops that rested in the fort where (territorial regiments )these are regiments whit older man ,but in 1916 the French were wrong as y mentioned colonel Driant new that the Germans where preparing a massive attack.
    An fort Vaux never field in German hands ,and you can mention that fort de souville the munition chamber of Vaux en Douaumont played a key roll in retaking the fort off Douaumont,fort de souville was hit by approximately 45000 shells and we’d stand this whit no heavy destruction .
    I can also explain how the Germans fired there naval guns like the batteries de duzey near spincourt, it was not simple to fire a shot from such a artillery pieces 305mm
    ,if they fired one shot it was easily spotted by artillery experts German ,English,ore French ,they Did no which Shel was coming by the incoming sound so one single shot cold easily be spotted by well trained artillery observers,so they did it on a special way ….
    Want to now more ,contact me .

  14. France was only the country who was most diseprated in war but still fought salute to all French men i am m shy I have written this my self no matter from which side from they were no matter how poor they were the thing matter they were someone son to they were someone father to they were someone friend to the fought for their country for their liberty the were the hero's they sacrificed them selves they will be always remembered rest in peace you all will be always remembered. 1 like =u liked it 1 like=u hate it I am only 12 I am Pakistani love from Pakistan

  15. Verdun has always been terrible in my mind. When I was young I watched the BBC weekly documentary. And On the Verdun episode (I think) they showed French soldiers throwing dead soldiers onto a cart really high. It was so sad.

  16. A little bit disappointed that you didn't mention the last stand of Émile Driant and his 1200 men (2 battalions). They stood their ground (and even launched counter attacks to reclaim advances positions) for an entire day while heavily outnumbered and under constant bombardment and infantry attacks.
    Their causality rate for that day was at 70-80%, but their sacrifice gave the rest of the french army enough time to form a new line of defense.
    Just imagine this: 4 out of 5 men of these two battalions dead in a single day.

  17. Fields of execution turned to wasteland from the grass
    "Thou shall not go further," it was said. "They shall not pass!"

    Sabaton – Fields of Verdun

  18. "Thanks to mr.Squashy Pants"

    I lost it 😂😂😂😂😂

    And during the whole thing he keeps on talking in normal tone making it even funnier

  19. As the drum roll started on that day heard a hundred miles away. Amillion shells were fired and the green fields turned to grey the bombardment lasted all day long, yet the forts were standing strong heavily defended, now the trap has sprung and the battle has begun descend into darkness 303 days below the sun fields of verdun!

  20. This war was a tragic loss of life that didn’t accomplish a single thing except for causing suffering.

  21. The battle of Verdun lasted 10 months from February 21, 1916 to December 18, 1916.The 1st French General to undergo the terrible German offensive was General Langle de Cary.
    Quickly informed Generalissimo Joffre sends his deputy General De castelnau with reinforcements Meanwhile he sends a message to Petain who already disappeared from his headquarters, without warning anyone this is the day of February 24,1916.
    Petain left the morning of 24 in Paris to find a woman. When Joffre's message arrives at the Petain's Headquarter is panic Where is petain ? Only Petain's deputy Serrigny knows where petain is supposed to be. Serrigny go immediate to Paris, and found petain in the company of a woman, at the hotel Terminus in front of the North Railways Station.

    Petain arrives at the headquarters of General Joffre around noon February 25, 1916 learns that General De Castelnau has already stopped the Germans and must be relieved immediately by Petain, who receives orders and instrucions of joffre and leaves for his new headquarters, in Souilly near Verdun,
    He arrives on the 25th at Souilly towards midnight he wakes up the morning of February 26, 1916 with a vivid and shivering cough.
    Bronchitis say some where Pneumonia say others, in short it must absolutely keep the bed to heal.
    Neat he re-appears on the forehead on March 3, 1916,

    he is credited with the rotation of the regiments, but this is due to the Generalissimo Joffre. So at least we should thank the two men (Joffre & Petain) of this initiative.

    In the same way we owe these two soldiers the established road known as the Sacred Way.This term of Sacred Way is due to a civilian Maurice Barres and nice shot will find this Term bombastic
    From 19 April 1916, Joffre dissatisfied with the offensive action of petain informs him that at the end of April he will be relieved by General Robert Nivelle.
    This succession between Nivelle & Petain is done on the evening of April 30th. And from May 1, 1916 General Nivelle is alone in command of Verdun he will remain until the end of the battle on December 18, 1916.And it is under the command of Nivelle that all the lost ground, as well as the forts of Vaux and Douaumont will be taken back to the Germans.
    So it would be inaccurate and false to say that Petain would be the Winner of Verdun since he stayed only about 2 months on the 10 months of the Battle of Verdun.
    In addition Clemenceau prime minister, Poincaré president of the Republic, and Foch Marshal and commander-in-chief of the armies in 1918, have all declared General Robert Nivelle as the winner and savior of Verdun.
    Declaring someone else would be an imposture

  22. FIELDS OF VERDUN!
    AND THE BATTLE HAS BEGUN!
    NOWHERE TO RUN!
    FATHER AND SON!
    FALL ONE BY ONE!
    UNDER THE GUN!
    THY WILL BE DONE!

  23. I’m sure they all became deaf with all those bombs 💣 going off must’ve been horrifying to have gone through that

  24. Von Falkenhayn almost succeed in bleeding the french army to the death but by bleeding in own army to the death too.Most of these old superior officers from all countries were just criminals.

  25. People: We are going to raid area 51 we 30,000 men they cant stop all of us!
    People who studied the battle of Verdun: No you aint

  26. How come I cannot footage anywhere of the actual BATTLES. People dying, people shooting, people heroically making their last stands? I believe they should be honoured through witnessing.

  27. 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤣😂🤣😂😭😭😭💀💀💀 someone really paid what I'm guessing is a significantly decent amount of money just to hear him say mr. Splashy pants😭😭😭😭😭💀💀💀🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤣😂🤣😂🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️

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