The Great War Part 115, October 28th 1916

to all the Underworld. a blasting shellfire of three-quarter-tons and half-tons of metal and high ex­plosive they dug deeper into the caverns the Germans had made, watched by their telephones and periscopes and sought forrest from the monster guns at Spin- court by closing with hand- grenades on the remnant of the German garrison in the north­eastern corner of the fort. But in the night came the furious mass attacks of the dis­concerted and frightened German commander. His position was already menaced by the surprising French success. If he could not hammer the 5th Division from the fort the position of Falken- hayn himself would not be safe. In fact the Hohenzollem dynasty FIRE AND DESOLATION IN VERDUN. The town of Verdun suffered terrible material damage in the epic siege, and many fires raged in its forsaken residential quarters. and at dawn on May 22nd Douaumont Fort looked alike volcano in eruption. The French artillery was completing its methodical bombardment and as soon as the air brightened a squadron of pilots overflew the lines and exploded six of the German observation balloons. Having thus “bandaged the eyes of ”the Boche as the French soldiers put it the 5th Division began to advance from shell-hole to shell-hole at ten minutes to twelve in the morning. One regiment skirmished forward through the Caillette Wood towards the right side of the fort. Another regiment made a frontal attack in the centre while the third regiment converged on the left near Thiaumont Farm. The Germans divining their danger drenched all the ground with shrapnel but the veterans of France went through the hail of lead and over three lines of German trenches. Just at noon a French aerial pilot reported by wireless that a Bengal fire was burning on Douaumont Fort. It had taken the 129th Regiment a little under eleven minutes to break into the fort. Bengal fires also appeared on the western side among the shattered masses of concrete, indicating that the 36th Regiment was succeeding in its flanking attack on the west. When the north-western and northern angles were reached machine-gun sectors and sappers began to move about the ruined French checked at masonry constructing redoubts against Cailiette the coming counter-attacks. But the French thrust from the Caillette Wood in which the 74th Regiment was engaged was shattered by a flanking fire from some German communication trenches. This check prevented the swift enveloping movement from being completed with the result that the north-eastern angle of the fort remained in the hands of the Germans. Nevertheless the two victorious regiments bombed their way into nearly three-quarters of the entire position and in half an hour captured more than a hundred prisoners. General Mangin had remarked to his men before the operation started :“If we do get in we must look forward to having not a moments rest.” But the veterans of the 5th Division had fought in the labyrinth of Artois under General Foch long before they came to fight under General Petain and General Nivelle at Vaux and Douaumont. They under­stood what would happen to them if they captured the fort about which the German Emperor had boasted clamorously THE PIT WHERE MAJOR RAYN AL WON RENOWN. Vaux Fort as the Germans received it from Major Raynal when thirst at last compelled him to capitulate. was vitally concerned in the matter as General Nivelle had calculated. An enormous number of infantry was collected east of Haudromont Wood and by sharp bombardments alternating with mass attacks the French inline front of Thiaumont and east of the fort was slightly pressed back. But in the fort itself the 129th Regiment resisted in a marvellous manner. Instead of giving ground its men somewhat increased their gains. At dawn on May 23rd the German fire 011 the fort became appalling. The trenches had for months been battered by heavy French shells, and now that the Germans again turned their parks of artillery upon the ruins tearing the concrete into more murderous splinters and excavating the ground to an extra­ordinary depth it seemed that nothing could remain alive amidst the choking smoking poison fumes. But the masked men of the 129th Regiment though falling in hundreds continued to breakup every charge. Some of their grenadiers went berserker outran to meet the German attacks bombed their way round the fort broke into the German lines and came back unhurt. The miracle was how the regiment managed to save any machine-guns and bombs in their front lines during the terrific bombardments The Great War
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