The Battle of Verdun , fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916, was the largest and longest battle of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies. The battle took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France. The German 5th Army attacked the defences of the Fortified Region of Verdun and those of the French Second Army on the right bank of the Meuse. Inspired by the experience of the Second Battle of Champagne in 1915, the Germans planned rapidly to capture the Meuse Heights, an excellent defensive position with good observation for the artillery to bombard Verdun. The Germans hoped that the French would commit their strategic reserve to recapture the position and suffer catastrophic losses in a battle of annihilation, not costly for the Germans because of their tactical advantage.
Poor weather delayed the beginning of the German attack until 21 February, but the Germans enjoyed initial success, capturing Fort Douaumont in the first three days of the offensive. Afterwards the German advance slowed, despite many French casualties. By 6 March, 20 1⁄2 French divisions were in the RFV and a more extensive defence in depth had been constructed. Pétain ordered that no withdrawals were to be made and that counter-attacks were to be conducted, despite exposing French infantry to fire from the German artillery. By 29 March, French artillery on the west bank had begun a constant bombardment of German positions on the east bank, which caused many German infantry casualties.
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