Tracing Military Ancestors
WWI French & US Frontline:
Location 4 Ė Colonel Driantís Command Post (Verdun Sector)
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Unable to break the trench deadlock, the Chief of the German General Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, instead sought to ďbleed France whiteĒ by targeting a position that the French could not afford to lose Ė the border fortress town of Verdun. It was a battle that became one of the great struggles of the First World War and Colonel …mile Driant was destined to play a key part in it.
Formerly a captain in the French Army and a member of the Chamber of Deputies representing the city of Nancy before the war, he was recalled to the colours in 1914 and promoted to colonel the following year. He was placed in command of two battalions of Chasseurs, the 56th and 59th, in the Bois des Caures north of Verdun. Critical of the denuding of the Verdun fortsí defences to strengthen other parts of the front line, he argued that the Verdun sector was vulnerable to German attack but his protestations were ignored.
All photos © Mark Sluman. Click on image for full size.
On 21st February 1916, in accordance with Falkenhaynís grim strategy, the German Army launched a massive attack on the French front line. Whilst French regiments disintegrated around them in the fury of the bombardment, Driantís beleaguered battalions steadfastly fought on through the night and into the afternoon of the 22nd buying the French High Command vital time to bring up reinforcements. Sadly, Driant was killed in the struggle but his brave stand against insurmountable odds made him a hero to the French people.