First batch of skirmish-based Poilus.
The minis are from the wonderful "Forgotten & Glorious" 28mm range.
In some aspects I hesitate to even write about this battle out of pure respect.
But then I remind myself, that there is a generation now, which needs to apprehend and value the lessons inherent in true catastrophes like Verdun.
How do we teach our children, that human life can be so utterly stripped of meaning and consumed by violence? I find it hard, but I also know that it’s important. It’s the road to not making the same mistakes twice.
Young men became veterans.
Ever since I first read about the Great War as a teenager, I’ve been drawn by this epic battle, and to understanding the legend of the “generation sacrifié”. When working a short summer job in Strasbourg at the age of 19, I took my car one weekend, and drove over to see the actual place. I still recall the discomforting feeling in the air, not lost on a Danish teenager about the same age then as many of the 900.000 dead, who’s bones lay buried in the field below. I saw the collapsed trenches, where you still today see rusty bayonets sticking up through the ground, marking the resting place of men buried alive. It was as if it the place itself was one big scar.
View towards the Douaumont memorial.
Inside the bones of 130.000 unknown dead are stacked.
Next year we mark the centennial of Verdun, the longest and bloodiest of all the battles in the Great War. With that occasion in mind, I’ve set out together with a few club members here in Stockholm, to paint up a suitable skirmish based collection in 28mm. The goal is to run a series of scenarios from the almost 10 months long battle. There will be plenty of visual candy coming up, as I’m going to photo the impressive trench-terrain club member Nils have made. Look out for that soon.
Close-up on three Poilus - the FG Minis are in my opinion
the best WW1 French available out there.
VERDUN - BACKGROUND
The name Verdun rings out with importance in history, all the way down to the Romans.
First mentioned during the conquest of Gaul as “Verodunum” (meaning: Strong Fortress), Verdun had a DNA of military significance right from the start. After Roman control of Europe faltered, none other than Atilla the Hun later sacked the city. But, it was during the Frankish era, that Verdun would start to become a symbol of Franco-German rivalry. The sons of Charlemagne meet here in Verdun, to devide their fathers empire into what would later be France to the west, and to a large extend what was the Holy Roman Empire to the east.
The “Generation Sacrifié”
The Battle of Verdun lasted almost 10 months,
and demanded close to 900.000 casualties.
It was here at Verdun, that the French master architect of defensive fortresses, Vauban, build his line of defence, to bolster and strengthen the conquests of Louis XIV. It was Verdun that became the last French fortress to surrender during the initial campaign of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and it was Verdun to which France anchored it’s hope once again in 1914.
A view on the back - equipment and the iconic buttoned-up long coat.
Boots and socks touched up with earth pigment.
In 1916 Joffre had robbed the place of any real defensive artillery, and one could argue the actual strategic importance of Verdun. But, the morale of a people is a tricky size altogether, building on pillars of national symbols and subjective feelings, not always in line with what is militarily practical or even strategically sound. After the initial battles of 1914, acting as an anchor in the French line as the Battle of the Marne played out, Verdun had in many ways become just that. A symbol of France’s ability to hold on, to stand it’s ground.
Poilus getting ready for the charge.
German commander Erich von Falkenhayn, had counted on just that symbolic value, when he planned to strike at Verdun in 1916. His direct tactical dispositions were not made to conquer Verdun, but rather to draw the French army into a mass slaughter. In effect he wanted to “Bleeding France White” as he himself put it. In February 1916 the massive German onslaught would set in.
To be continued – Thank you very much for reading!