Fort Douaumont was the largest and highest fort on the ring of 19 large defensive forts protecting the city of Verdun, France since the 1890s. It has a total surface area of 30,000 square metres and is approximately 400 metres long, with two subterranean levels protected by a steel reinforced concrete roof 12 metres thick resting on a sand cushion. These improvements had been completed by 1903. The entrance to the fort was at the rear. Two main tunnels ran east-west, one above the other, with barracks rooms and corridors to outlying parts of the fort branched off of the main tunnels. The fort was equipped with numerous armed posts, a 155 mm rotating/retractable gun turret, a 75 mm gun rotating/retractable gun turret, four other 75 mm guns in flanking 'Bourges Casemates' that swept the intervals and several machine-gun turrets.
By 1915 the French General Staff had concluded that even the best-protected forts of Verdun could not resist bombardments from the German 420 mm Gamma guns. These newly deployed giant howitzers had easily taken several large Belgian forts out of action in August 1914. As a result, Fort Douaumont and other Verdun forts were judged ineffective and had been partly disarmed and left virtually undefended since 1915.
On 25 February 1916, Fort Douaumont was entered and occupied without a fight, by a small German raiding party comprising only 19 officers and 79 men. The easy fall of Fort Douaumont, only three days after the beginning of the Battle of Verdun, shocked the French Army. It set the stage for the rest of a battle which lasted nine months, at enormous human costs. Douaumont was finally recaptured by three infantry divisions of the French Second Army, during the First Offensive Battle of Verdun on 24 October 1916. This event brought closure to the Battle of Verdun in 1916.
Today Fort Douaumont is open to the public.References:
Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka. Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In the mid-14th century, Czocha Castle was annexed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Then, between 1389 and 1453, it belonged to the noble families of von Dohn and von Kluks. Reinforced, the complex was besieged by the Hussites in the early 15th century, who captured it in 1427, and remained in the castle for unknown time (see Hussite Wars). In 1453, the castle was purchased by the family of von Nostitz, who owned it for 250 years, making several changes through remodelling projects in 1525 and 1611. Czocha's walls were strengthened and reinforced, which thwarted a Swedish siege of the complex during the Thirty Years War. In 1703, the castle was purchased by Jan Hartwig von Uechtritz, influential courtier of Augustus II the Strong. On August 17, 1793, the whole complex burned in a fire.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodelling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
After World War II, the castle was ransacked several times, both by soldiers of the Red Army, and Polish thieves, who came to the so-called Recovered Territories from central and eastern part of the country. Pieces of furniture and other goods were stolen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the castle was home to refugees from Greece. In 1952, Czocha was taken over by the Polish Army. Used as a military vacation resort, it was erased from official maps. The castle has been open to the public since September 1996 as a hotel and conference centre. The complex was featured in several movies and television series. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.