We really only had a morning in Verdun so we drove into town with the intention of doing a tour of La Citadelle Souterraine (The Underground Citadel) but the earliest tour we could book was at 11 am and then we were bumped by a couple of tour groups so we requested a refund and meandered back to the car, buying baguettes and cold drinks on the way. We drove to La Tranchee des Baionnettes (Trench of the Bayonettes) which is the oldest memorial on the battlefield – Dec 1920. The memorial is set in beautiful woodland where you can follow overgrown paths to see remains of trenches.
The countryside here is lush and green and we had a peaceful picnic in a little, wooded glade. We drove on to the Ossuary of Douament, a memorial built over the bones of 130,000 unknown soldiers. These bones can be viewed through small windows set at almost ground level in the walls of the building. It is a chilling sight. In Feb 1916 the German army launched a great offensive on Verdun and the ensuing ‘Hell of Verdun’ was to last for 10 months: 300 days and 300 nights of fighting. However, it was not until Nov 1918 that the entire territory lost in 1916 was finally recaptured, but the cost in lives was horrendous.
We continued our journey to Reims where Geoff nearly gave me a heart attack by driving down what I was sure was a pedestrian-only mall. But, Dulcie had sent us there and it turned out to be OK. Geoff is becoming very French in his driving and parking habits!