...A Battleground Guide from Pen and Sword
Title: Fort Vaux
Author: Christina Holstein
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
This new edition is a reprint of a Battleground guide first published back in 2011. It is another covering part of the Verdun battlefield, and one of the important forts that ringed the area north of Verdun itself. After a siege and some vicious close-quarter fighting, the fort was taken by the German army.
A 200.page soft-cover book it follows the usual Battleground guide format so there is plenty of useful reference information and advice for visitors. It opens with the background to the building of the fort, and then the story of the siege that took place in early June 1916, when over a period of 5-6 days, the French defenders withstood what quickly became outlandish conditions within the tunnels and turrets of the fort, finally surrendering due partly to thirst and the pressure of close quarter fighting within the passageways of the interior of the fort. Some of the damage and marks from flamethrowers are still visible to this day. Once occupied, the German army made good use of the fort in their continued attempts to take Verdun, but they were unable to make a breakthrough. Even for the German occupiers, conditions within the fort became unbearable and it tells us how they were finally forced to evacuate their hard won positions, and had pioneers to carry out demolitions within the fort. Badly damaged, but the French did retake the fort.
The final sections feature guides to 4 tours, three for walking and one for a car journey. First is a guide to walking around the exterior of the fort and the second for the interior. Third is a walk in the immediate area of the fort. The fourth provides for a car tour of the rear areas of the French army.
The story of Fort Vaux makes for fascinating reading and the surviving but heavily damaged structure is open to visitors today. Some elements of the fort, especially the underground tunnels still collapsed and inaccessible to the public, t you still get a really good idea of the fort from the parts you can enter. Throughout the book there are many period photos, plus maps and modern day photos illustrating what can still be seen, including some showing the damaged tunnels that you are unable to enter within the fort itself. Having visited Fort Vaux myself, I have to say it is a fascinating place to see, and the craters and damage to it show quite clearly how it must have been such a frightening place to have been during the fighting/shelling. Well worth the visit if you are in Verdun.
These Battleground guides are an ideal size to take with you in your car to France.