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:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.