Fort Vaux, located in Vaux-Devant-Damloup, was built from 1881-1884 to house 150 men. It became the second fort to fall in the Battle of Verdun after Fort Douaumont which was virtually undefended and had been captured by a small German raiding party in February 1916. Fort de Vaux, was garrisoned when it was attacked on June 2 by German assault troops. The fort had been modernised before 1914 with additional reinforced concrete top protection like Fort Douaumont and was not destroyed by a German heavy artillery preparation which had included shelling by 16-inch howitzers. The superstructure of the fort was badly damaged but the deep interior corridors and stations remained intact and can still be seen in their original condition. A side bunker is still equipped with its 75 mm gun.

The defence of Fort Vaux was marked by the heroism and endurance of the garrison, including Major Sylvain-Eugene Raynal. Under his command, the besieged French garrison repulsed German assaults, including fighting underground from barricades inside the corridors, during the first big engagement inside a fort during World War I. The last men of the French garrison gave up after running out of water (some of which was poisoned), ammunition, medical supplies and food. Raynal sent several messages via homing pigeons, requesting relief for his soldiers.

After the surrender of the garrison on June 7, the German army group commander Crown Prince Wilhelm, presented Major Raynal with a French officer's sword as a sign of respect. Raynal and his soldiers remained in captivity in Germany until the Armistice of 11 November 1918. The fort was recaptured by French infantry on November 2, 1916 after an artillery bombardment involving two long-range 400-millimetre railway guns. After its recapture, Fort Vaux was repaired and garrisoned. Some damage from the fighting on June 2 can still be seen. Several underground galleries to reach the far outside, one of them being 1.6 km long, were dug and equipped, the water reserve was quadrupled and light was provided by two electric generators. The underground installations of the fort are well-preserved and are currently open to the public for guided visits.

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Founded: 1881-1884
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

anthony nye (2 years ago)
Well worth a visit but could be better
Frank Leonard (3 years ago)
This was a pretty cool place to visit.
gill ansell (3 years ago)
This fort was key in WW1 and is still impressive Today. The scars of battle are still very visible and you can imagine the horror of having to defend the fort. Well worth a visit to understand more about the history that helped shape our world Today.
Simon Gould (3 years ago)
Great WW1 history visit. iPad/audio tour with pictures and video footage. My teenagers were impressed.
meghann milligan (3 years ago)
This is such a haunting place, and has such an important military history. The museum/fort itself is a few euro to go in (it was either 4 or 6 euro) and you can choose from a long tour with an audio guide or a short tour with a page of information. I highly recommend the audio guide because you get a lot of information on each room. The fort is in fairly good condition, but it can be wet and slippery in places. It's free to walk around the outside and perimeter of the fort as well, so if they happen to be closed you can still see some of it.
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