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.References:
Château de Falaise is best known as a castle, where William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born in about 1028. William went on to conquer England and become king and possession of the castle descended through his heirs until the 13th century when it was captured by King Philip II of France. Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840 it has been protected as a monument historique.
The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. The construction was started on the site of an earlier castle in 1123 by Henry I of England, with the 'large keep' (grand donjon). Later was added the 'small keep' (petit donjon). The tower built in the first quarter of the 12th century contained a hall, chapel, and a room for the lord, but no small rooms for a complicated household arrangement; in this way, it was similar to towers at Corfe, Norwich, and Portchester, all in England. In 1202 Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew, was imprisoned in Falaise castle's keep. According to contemporaneous chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, John ordered two of his servants to mutilate the duke. Hugh de Burgh was in charge of guarding Arthur and refused to let him be mutilated, but to demoralise Arthur's supporters was to announce his death. The circumstances of Arthur's death are unclear, though he probably died in 1203.
In about 1207, after having conquered Normandy, Philip II Augustus ordered the building of a new cylindrical keep. It was later named the Talbot Tower (Tour Talbot) after the English commander responsible for its repair during the Hundred Years' War. It is a tall round tower, similar design to the towers built at Gisors and the medieval Louvre.Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840, Château de Falaise has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
A programme of restoration was carried out between 1870 and 1874. The castle suffered due to bombardment during the Second World War in the battle for the Falaise pocket in 1944, but the three keeps were unscathed.