The Memorial dedicated to the Battle of Verdun in World War I is on the site of one of the villages destroyed during the war. Not to rebuild a village was a conscious decision; it was done to respect the soldiers who died on both sides, French and German.
The memorial is a large square building, with various pieces of artillery outside the entrance that include massive shells, the Lange Max that fired shells for 38 to 40 kilometers, a Big Bertha that fired shells 14 to 16 kilometers, and an American cart with wooden wheels open at the bottom to drop sand and stones onto the road below to maintain some kind of surface.
What You See
Inside it’s a relatively small and modest museum. Start with the 22-minute film that sets the context and also sets the somber mood. The museum is on two levels and exhibits a wide range of objects to explain the war. In the middle, on both floors, there’s an open space which reconstructs the battlefield so you get two views of it, one from above and the second one at ground level.
You start with the general background to the war with themes like the development of arms and equipment adapted to the new kind of warfare; the chronology of the war, the birth of fighter aircraft at Verdun (tiny airplanes with wooden propellers), the lives of civilians, women and children, and the American operations in the Meuse in 1918.
The Lower Floor, named The Hell of Verdun shows trench artillery, the destroyed villages, the Sacred Way (the road used by thousands of vehicles to supply the troops from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun), models of the horrific wounds suffered by the troops, artefacts made from shells, helmuts and more, and the development of transport from those wooden wheeled carts to mechanized vehicles with rubber tyres.
The displays are not very high tech which makes it all the more effective, particularly as most of the collection came directly from donations from veterans and their families.
The Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun, a battle of 300 days and 300 nights, known as the Hell of Verdun, was one of the most destructive of World War I. Attack and counter-attack, forwards and backwards, during the battle 60 million shells were fired; 400,000 people died and whole villages were destroyed for ever.
Practical Information1 ave du Corps Europeen
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 29 84 35 34
Open daily Feb to April 9am-noon and 2-6pm
May-June and September 9am-6pm, July, August 9am-6.30pm
Closed December 22 to end of January
Admission Adult 7 euros, 8 to 16 years 3.50 euros, free for children under 8 years, family 2 adults and 2 children 18 euros
Every year at weekends between June and August, a son-et-lumiere (sound and light) show takes place in a vast quarry in Verdun. Des Flammes à la lumière ('From the flames to the light') is performed by volunteers and takes the audience from June 28th 1914 and the start of World War I, through mobilization of the French, the battle of Verdun beginning on February 21st 1917 through scenes involving a hospital, civilians behind the lines, gas, the German assault, the French offensive, to the end of the war and the armistice. It takes in the battles won by the Americans in the closing stages of the war. It’s a great show in the eerie former quarry. You get a headset with an English commentary with the ticket. Take warm clothes and possibly a blanket if it is cold.
Practical InformationCarriere d'Haudainville
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 29 84 50 00
Information and booking on the website
Tickets Adult 20 to 25 euros, special dinner and show offer 36 to 41.50 euros; 7 to 15 years 12 euros, family of 2 adults and 2 teenagers 53 euros, child under 7 free
Children must have an identity card or passport with them
Show starts at nightfall, but they advise arriving by 10pm.
Where to StayChateau des Monthairons
26 rte de Verdun
Tel: 00 33 (0)3 29 87 78 55
A 19th-century chateau set in rolling parkland on the banks of the Meuse offers peace and quiet, stately chambers, a small spa and a good restaurant.
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