Latest batch of Poilus for the front.
Minis are all from Forgotten & Glorious.
The past week saw me continuing the preparatory work for our Verdun 1916 project, as the Voie Sacrée of my painting table produced some fresh Poilus reinforcements, in the form of the wonderful WW1 French from Paris-based Forgotten & Glorious Miniatures.
No Man's Land can be an unwelcoming business.
British infantry goes over the top - this time with air support.
Meanwhile, a club event also offered me a chance to arrange and photo the beautiful trench terrain we’ll be using for the project. All the terrain boards were scratch build by fellow club member, Nils. Pictures of these impressive boards can be found throughout this blog post.
Close Up of the Poilus.
The Forgotten & Glorious sculpts are really amazing to paint.
In my research on the battle of Verdun, I’ve found a new “friend” – Audible.com.
This Amazon service offers historic audiobooks in abundance, and many classics as well as new titles on the Great War. So far, I’ve been painting miniatures while listening to “The Guns of August” by Barbara W. Tuchman and “A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918” by G. J. Meyer. They both offered around 30 hrs of superb entertainment, consumed with the appropriate period miniatures and a brush in my hand. But let’s leave the cosy comfort of the hobby table and go back in time to the cold, muddy February of 1916 at Verdun.
Germans coming out of their underground "Stollen" shelters to receive the enemy.
Von Falkenhayn and the German plan of attack:
Born on 9/11 in 1861, Erich von Falkenhayn was a coolheaded and pragmatic man with more than 30 years experience in the officer ranks of the Imperial German army. He was favoured by the Kaiser, and thus became a natural rival to the Hindenburg-Ludendorff branch of the army. On the contrary to Hindenburg, von Falkenhayn believed that the war would be won on the Western Front, and thus in his role as Chief of General Staff, preferred a strategy of limited engagement on the Eastern Front, while pushing any reserves into the Western theatre.
Erich von Falkenhayn.
Chief of the General Staff until Verdun proved a failure.
Von Falkenhayn had replaced von Moltke in 1914, when the latter’s health failed him due to stress after the defeat at the Marne, and consequent failure of the Schlieffen Plan. When assuming office, von Falkenhayn had the fresh offensives of August 1914 as available data, on which to base his strategy. He would see Germany through the difficult transition of mentally and strategically converting the outlook from a quick summer war, to the long war perspective. His key to success: Attrition.
An aerial view of the German trench lines.
1915 had seen the Western Front settle into a static war, fought from trenches, and with artillery, machine guns being joined by new terrible weapons like gas and flamethrowers. Army Commanders on both sides struggled to adopt strategies that would be prove even limitedly fruitful in this new scenario of war.
The Forgotten & Glorious minis come with a variety of heads and arms,
offering good animation in the ranks.
Von Falkenhayn had his own unique approach. His idea was to find a spot of great moral importance to the French, hit them there and thus goat the French into expensive counter attacks at well-prepared German positions, drawing the French into an downward spiral of manpower attrition – a sophisticated phrasing for what was in effect slaughter. In his own words he would “Bleed France white”.
The British trench left nearly empty as the Tommies go over the top.
In preparation for the attack, von Falkenhayn had massed around 1.200 guns at Verdun, while the busy German engineers had built 10 new rail lines into the back country, with 20 stations as drop of points for reinforcements. The improved rail-logistics would offer the German artillery an average of 33 munitions trains per day during the battle, equalling a constant flow of some 2.000.000 shells to the hungry guns. In addition several thousand km of telephone cables were laid in the Verdun area, to guarantee communications would flow uninterrupted as the fighting commenced.
Caught in the wire.
For the 5th Army, who was to undertake the attack, huge catacomb-like “stollen” (underground shelters) were dug, some of them up to 14 meters deep and each accommodating 1.000+ men. Thus the scene was set to create Hell on Earth.
A forward German machine gun position greets the visitors.
The attack started on the morning of February 21st 1916 by a colossal 1.000.000 shell “trommelfeuer” – an artillery barrage of such intensity that the explosion of each individual shell just merged into the sound of the next, becoming an indistinguishable rumble. This apocalyptic phenomenon was heard some 160 km away.
To be continued - Thank you very much for reading!