About Fort Vaux
Fort Vaux or ‘Fort De Vaux’, located just outside Verdun, was a nineteenth century defensive structure which was fiercely defended by French forces during the Battle of Verdun in World War One. It was the second such fort to be captured after the nearby Fort Douaumont.
Fort Vaux history
Fort Vaux, another Séré de Rivières fort, was one of the main priorities of the German attack, from the beginning of the Battle of Verdun. Early in March 1916, the Germans launched a 100-day siege from their position a few hundred metres from the fort. The French soldiers inside were subjected to a deluge of artillery shells but they withstood the attack despite a lack of food and water.
The soldiers refused to abandon Fort Vaux, staying until they had run out of all supplies and even carrier pigeons. In a famous moment which represents French heroism, Major Raynal, who was in the fort, was using these pigeons to carry messages to his commanding officers and continued trying until he reached his final carrier pigeon, known as Cher Ami.
On 1 June, the Germans reached the fort. For a week, cut off and without any outside help, the French garrison put up a heroic fight within the fort before exhaustion forced it to surrender.
Fort Vaux today
Visitors can tour the inside of Fort Vaux, which includes its impressive weaponry and, of course, the pigeon loft.
A tour of the Fort Vaux shows the everyday living conditions of the men besieged within it, men whose heroic and dramatic struggle has become a symbol of the dogged determination shown by soldiers at Verdun.
One can view the command post, infirmary, telephone switchboard and telegraph office, dovecote and Bourges bunker with its two 75mm guns. A booklet and game, “Gaspard au Fort de Vaux”, is available free of charge for children aged between 8 and 12 years.
Getting to Fort Vaux
Fort Vaux is located just north of the city of Verdun, which lays roughly 50km south of the border between France, Belgium and Luxembourg. It comprises part of Verdun Battlefield and neighbours the older Fort Douaumont.
There is parking on site large enough for coaches. It is advisable to travel via car as there are no near bus stops or train stations outside of Verdun.
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