Tracing Military Ancestors
WWI French & US Frontline:
Location 5 – Beaumont-en-Verdunois (Verdun Sector)
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So concentrated and protracted was the fighting at Verdun, the struggle lasting eight months in all, that nine villages in the centre of the battlefield were simply blown off the face of the earth. By the time of the Armistice, nothing was left except abandoned trenches and a scourged land surface containing 20 to 30 tons of metal debris per hectare. So total was the devastation it was estimated it would take three to four centuries for the area to return to normal.
Faced with this ecological disaster, the French authorities designated the most severely damaged areas as the “Red Zone” and, from 1929, began to plant coniferous trees to hide the scars. There could be no question of villagers returning to rebuild their villages, it was simply too dangerous. The nine destroyed villages or “village détruit”, of which Beaumont-en-Verdunois is one, were instead left exactly as they were found at the end of the war. Memorial chapels were built and each village still officially exists, but nothing remains apart from the stone foundations of the houses and piles of grass-covered debris.
All photos © Mark Sluman. Click on image for full size.