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One of the longest and deadliest battle of the First World War was fought over a small parcel of land in north-eastern France, near the commune and town of Verdun. The Battle of Verdun lasted over 300 days from 21 February 1916 until 19 December 1916 and caused an estimated casualty of over 700,000 dead, wounded and missing.

The attack on Verdun came about because of a cunning plan by the German Chief of General Staff, von Falkenhayn. Verdun wasn’t strategically important to the Germans, but had a historic sentiment for the French. The area around Verdun contained twenty major forts and forty smaller ones that had historically protected the eastern border of France for centuries. Falkenhayn knew that the French simply could not allow these forts to fall into the hands of the enemy because of the national humiliation that would follow. Falkenhayn believed that France would fight for this piece of land to the last man, and by doing so would lose so many men that the battle would change the course of the war. His plan was not to capture the city, but simply to kill as many Frenchmen as possible, or to quote him, “bleed the French army white”.

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The battlefield of Verdun scarred with shell craters. Photo credit

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