Fort Douaumont was actually built in 1885, to prevent a repeat
of France's humiliating defeat in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. It
fell to the Germans before the end of 1916, and a large section was
destroyed by the bombardments of German artillery. Much of its
ground level layout survives intact, but the damaged fortress was
never rebuilt, and today it stands as an evocative ruin.
Running close to Fort Douaumont, the Bayonet Trench was sadly
ambushed whilst French forces were still inside, armed only with
their bayonets. They were completely buried, and so this mass grave
was left more or less as it was. It has since been roofed over.
This moving site is perhaps France's most important monument to
the First World War. Lined with thousands of memorial crosses, the
ossuary contains the remains of some 130,000 unknown French and
German soldiers. There is also a striking memorial hall dedicated
to those who fell in the conflict.