Places of Interest nearby
Location address: France, Lorraine, Douaumont
Number of texts: 3
Fort Douaumont (French Fort de Douaumont) was the largest and highest fort on the ring of 19 large defensive forts protecting the city of Verdun, France since the 1890s. However, by 1915 the French General Staff had concluded that even the best-protected forts of Verdun could not resist bombardments from the German 420 mm (16 in) Gamma guns. These newly deployed giant howitzers had easily taken several large Belgian forts out of action in August 1914. As a result, Fort Douaumont and other Verdun forts, being judged ineffective, had been partly disarmed and left virtually undefended since 1915. Consequently, on 25 February 1916, Fort Douaumont was entered and occupied without a fight by a small German raiding party comprising only 19 officers and 79 men. The easy fall of Fort Douaumont, only three days after the beginning of the Battle of Verdun, produced a deep shock in the French Army’s command structure. It set the stage for the rest of a battle which lasted nine months, at enormous human costs. Douaumont was finally recaptured by three infantry divisions of the French Second Army, during the First Offensive Battle of Verdun on 24 October 1916. This event brought closure to the Battle of Verdun in 1916.
The construction work for Fort de Douaumont started in 1885 and the fort was continually reinforced until 1913. The fort is situated on some of the highest ground in the area.
It has two subterranean levels protected by a steel reinforced concrete roof 12 metres thick. Fort Douaumont had the reputation of being the strongest fort in Europe and virtually impregnable. The German invasion of Belgium in 1914 forced military planners to radically rethink the utility of fortification in war. Belgium’‘s comparable forts were quickly destroyed by German artillery, and easily overrun. The decision was made in August 1915 to reduce the garrison at Douaumont and to strip the fort of virtually all its weaponry except for the 155mm and one of the 75s. In February 1916 the Germans, unaware of Douaumont’‘s semi-abandoned state, launched the Verdun offensive with Douaumont as a key objective. Douaumont was manned by fewer than 30 troops, assigned to fire its two largest guns.
No shots were ever fired in the capture of Fort Douaumont by the Germans. The only casualty was a scraped knee.
Fort Douaumont was one of the strongest, most state of the art forts in France at the time of the First World War. However, in 1916, it was destroyed during the Battle of Verdun and today it lies in ruins.