Macabre Trench of Bayonets

The Trench of Bayonets, Verdun, France.
The Trench of Bayonets, Verdun, France.
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As the centenary of the start of the First World War approaches on August 4, I will, for the next month or so, be dedicating part of these pages to the conflict.

I will include photographs, some my own and some postcard views, over the coming weeks. They may not all be to do with the British side of the conflict as I will attempt to be impartial. As the lyrics of the song say: ‘If they all came back but one, he was still some mother’s son.’

I took this photograph at the Trench of Bayonets at Verdun, France. The Battle of Verdun from February 21 to December 18, 1916, claimed 300,000 French soldiers’ lives. Another 300,000 were wounded.

On June 12, 1916, the Germans unleashed an horrendous attack on the French lines. The 137th Regiment of French infantry was wiped out almost to the last man.

Legend has it that in a trench, soldiers were waiting to defend an oncoming charge when a shell exploded in front of them sending many hundreds of tons of earth, mud and slime over the trench completely covering and suffocating the soldiers standing at the ready. Some years after the war the trench was found with a line of bayonets pointing out of the earth.

When excavated, each bayonet was found to still be attached to its rifle. The soldiers, having been buried alive, were standing in the positions they were at on that awful day having died where they stood holding their rifles.

The site is now a covered memorial with a cross marking the location of each bayonet.