Primary Documents - General Dubois on the Battle of Verdun, October 1916
Reproduced below is a statement on the course of the Battle of Verdun by French General Pierre Dubois, given the day before German setbacks towards the close of the battle, namely the loss of Forts Douaumont and Vaux.
With the appointment of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff to the military high command in Berlin in August 1916 - and Erich von Falkenhayn's dismissal - a decision was promptly taken to bring to an end the enormous German Verdun offensive. While Falkenhayn saw it as a useful means of sapping French resources and morale, Ludendorff in particular regarded it as a largely pointless endeavour which had failed.
Click here to read Falkenhayn's justification for the offensive. Click here to read Crown Prince Wilhelm's summary of the battle. Click here to read Wilhelm's summary of its abandonment. Click here to read von Hindenburg's decision to call off the offensive. Click here to read Erich Ludendorff's dismissive view of the battle. Click here to read Joseph Joffre's August 1916 summary of the battle. Click here to read British newspaper baron Lord Northcliffe's despatch during the early days of the battle.
Click here to read a French memoir of the German attack on Le Mort Homme in May 1916. Click here for a memoir of the struggle for Fort Douaumont the same month. Click here for a memoir of the German assault upon Fort Vaux in June 1916. Click here to read General Millerand's official account of the see-saw fighting at Thiaumont in July and August 1916. Click here to read a semi-official German historian's account of the end of the battle. Click here to read General von Zwehl's memorandum issued immediately before the French recapture of Forts Vaux and Douaumont. Click here to read Ludendorff's statement regarding the loss of Forts Vaux and Douaumont. Click here to read a French staff officer's account of the recapture of Fort Douaumont in October 1916.
General Pierre Dubois on the Battle of Verdun, October 1916
The most striking thing at Verdun is the pitiable and lamentable failure of the German effort against all the military organizations of the town.
Their present certainty that they will soon be definitely compelled to retire leads them from time to time, as has happened again within the last few days, to redouble the fury of their bombardment. But it is trouble lost.
During eight months nothing has given way, nothing has been seriously injured in the vitals of the defences. The old enceinte of Vauban and the citadel itself are unharmed, in spite of the storm of 380 shells and projectiles of other calibres which have been showered upon them.
Quite the contrary - and it is hardly necessary to say so - the whole time which has passed since the beginning of the attack has been made wonderful use of in putting Verdun in a state of solidity of resistance of which the Germans have no idea.
This considerable reinforcement of the means of defence would have very much surprised them if their assault had succeeded.
Lastly, the bombardment itself - a detail which is not without its piquancy - has on more than one occasion facilitated the execution of important works. A 380 shell is sometimes very valuable; it can do the work of 50 men for eight days.
That is the way in which the Germans, without suspecting it, have collaborated in the defence of the fortress. It is also one of the reasons, and not one of the least original, why they will never take Verdun.
Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923
A 'Tracer' was a phosphorescent machine-gun bullet which glowed in flight, indicating course as an aid to artillery.
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