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October 24, 1916

Discussion in '"Today in History", Literature & Media Review' started by Martin Rohmann, Oct 23, 2021.

  1. Martin Rohmann A Fixture

    The French Recapture Fort Douaumont!

    The famous Fort Douaumont, which formed part of the fortified belt of the city of Verdun ...


    ... was a cornerstone of the French defense of the city during the ultimately pointless bloody fighting on the Western Front ...:



    On February 25, 1916, German troops took the fort ...


    ... allegedly after hard fighting by the 8th Kompanie of Infantrieregiment No. 24 of Leutnant Cordt von Brandis, who was awarded the order Pour Le Merite by Kaiser Wilhelm II for this - Brandis is on the far right in the following picture. ..:


    All wrong!

    The practically unoccupied fort was taken by another unit and completely without a fight - by soldiers of the 6th Kompanie of the same regiment under Leutnant der Reserve Eugen Radtke ...:

    At this point the 600 men of the French fort occupation had been completely evacuated - the Douaumont itself had already been disarmed because the French had originally intended to blow up the fort!

    Leutnant Radke officially filed a complaint with the Army High Command against Leutnant Brandis' award, received a severe reprimand for "indecency to criticize a decision of His Majesty" and applied for a court of honor against himself to justify himself (which came to nothing ) and was transferred to the Balkan Front as a punishment.

    Since then, the Germans used the underground vaults of the fortress as barracks ...


    ... as well as material and ammunition storage - with fatal consequences:

    In the early dawn of May 8, 1916, several hundred German soldiers were killed in an explosion of a grenade and flamethrower depot caused by an actually forbidden smoking ...:


    Due to time constraints, 679 of them were brought to the ammunition casemate I in the fort's inner courtyard and the entrance was bricked up.


    Today the cross stands in front of the walled-up exit to the inner courtyard, which has been buried in the meantime. The casemate is about 20 meters behind. This place is the so-called "German Cemetery" in the fort, which is now under state administration by the French government.

    On October 24, 1916, the French troops succeeded in reoccupying Fort de Douaumont as part of a counter-offensive on a broad front.

    Two 400 mm howitzers of the 77e batterie of the 3e régiment d'artillerie à pied were set up in the course of the French offensive off Verdun on October 21, 1916 near Baleycourt ... :



    The bombardment of Fort Douaumont began on October 23, at which a total of 15 shells were fired, six of which penetrated the ceiling of the fort - as can still be seen today ...:


    The first of these grenades exploded in the medical casemate, of all places, killing many wounded, another in the main aisle, three others in the casemates of the barracks, and the last in the engineer depot.

    This last caused a strong fire, the smoke of which forced the German occupation to abandon the fort and which was occupied by the French the next morning ...:


    And - what is all too often forgotten today: the soldiers who recaptured the Douaumont "for France" were Algerian tirailleurs from the 129e regiment d'infanterie ...



    Although during the fighting for Verdun, Fort Douaumont was practically wiped from the surface of the earth by tens of thousands of artillery shells of all calibres ...


    ... the underground facilities are almost completely intact to this day ...:



    sd0324, Airkid and Tom W. like this.
  2. Airkid PlanetFigure Supporter

    Amazing place. I visited it in 2003. Eugen Radke survived the war and lived into the 1960s. He was never accorded the honour of recognition for his action, however, I gather the first actual German soldier into Douaumont was one Sgt Kunze, who was also dispossessed of the honour by von Brandis. He did eventually obtain some recompense long after the war, receiving a promotion in his position as a policeman. Von Brandis made a career of being the "conqueror of Douaumont", writing a book and speaking at numerous venues, schools etc about his exploits. I guess the "von" made all the difference in the way he was looked upon.
    Alistair Horne's book "The Price of Glory" is an award winning account of the Verdun battles - well worth reading.

    Nap likes this.
  3. Nap A Fixture

    Hi Martin

    Verdun and everyone knows of the hellish fighting conditions , never knew about Von Brandis though

    Even now looking at the pictures they still invoke terror

    Cheers ......very interesting


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