Talk:Battle of Verdun

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General statements and questions[edit]

The horrifying aspect about this battle is that the Germans never intended to overrun Verdun. Their primary goal was to win through a war of attrition. The German calculus was that they had one number of men coming to military age each year and France had a smaller. Eventually, the theory went, after both sides fought for long enough, France would be the first to run out of fighting men.

At Verdun there is now a memorial to the battle. Aside from the graves there, the bones of soldiers who could not be identified were removed from the battlefield and put in a massive Ostuary. Visitors can walk around the outside and see these bones piled inside through low windows.

I don't have a lot of details, how many soldiers' bones are there? How many graves? What were those numbers in the German calculus?—Preceding unsigned comment added by 171.75.4.159 (talkcontribs) 19:58 3 September 2003 (UTC)

Casualty figures and other problems[edit]

The article had considerable confusion about the size of the battle and the casualty figures (probably due to the usual way in which total casualties — killed, wounded, prisoner, missing — get reinterpreted as killed only). In particular there was a claim in the opening that the battle caused a million deaths. This seems rather unlikely given the official French figures of 162,308 killed or missing. There was also a claim that it was the bloodiest battle in history, which also seems very unlikely: [1] makes it the twelfth bloodiest in the 20th century. I changed the numbers and claims accordingly.

there was about a quarter million killed in all and a half million wounded.

It would be nice to be able to estimate the maximum numbers of troops on each side in the battle. Gdr 13:31, 2005 Mar 18 (UTC)

recent edits[edit]

Should this page have a British English tag appended? It may avoid tedious mistaken edits and reversions due to misunderstandings. Keith-264 (talk) 13:16, 4 July 2014 (UTC)

You're right; I have added it. Jonas Vinther (talk) 15:52, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Battle of Verdun/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Hchc2009 (talk · contribs) 15:29, 14 July 2014 (UTC)


I'll read through properly and review. Hchc2009 (talk) 15:29, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

I notice that I've been inconsistent with italics for French terms, a ruling will help.Keith-264 (talk) 18:03, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
Cheers - will look out for those pesky French words...! ;) Hchc2009 (talk) 07:08, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Right, about done - last couple of points added below. I'll finish off the images at the weekend if necessary. If it goes to A Class review at any point, I've some thoughts on how it might be expanded etc., but with the last bits done, I'm happy that it meets the GA grade. Hchc2009 (talk) 12:11, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

I haven't been able to get around to finishing off the image license editing (largely due to work pressures and an appalling internet connection here). I'm failing for now, but if anyone can get the image licensing fixed, it could be re-reviewed very quickly. Hchc2009 (talk) 05:27, 13 September 2014 (UTC)
  • I had another attempt at the copyright templates, hope they're all right.Keith-264 (talk) 13:09, 18 August 2014 (UTC)
  • When you put the GA criteria on here, I thought for a moment that it was your review, I was quite flattered. ;O) Now I'm still a bit flattered that most of my contribution was OK apart from a few blemishes. Congratulations on your slalom round my 1970s Eng Lit O level prose.... I've managed to glean information from the Times Encyclopaedia and the German OH, which I think is sufficient for the French counter-offensives of 1916 and 1917 to have separate articles, which eventually will make some room here.Keith-264 (talk) 12:48, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

Well-written:

(a) the prose is clear and concise, respects copyright laws, and the spelling and grammar are correct;

GA points:

  • "The Battle of Verdun" in the lead shouldn't have Verdun linked (the MOS is against the linking of words in the title of the article itself).
    • Done
  • "The German strategy intended to provoke the French into counter-attacks and counter-offensives to drive the Germans off the heights, which would be relatively easy to repel with massed artillery-fire from the large number of medium, heavy and super-heavy guns, supplied with large amounts of ammunition on excellent pre-war railways, which ran within 24 kilometres (15 mi) of the front-line." A v. long sentence; I'd break it after "off the heights."
    • Done
  • "The precedents of the Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive (1 May – 19 September 1915) where the German and Austro-Hungarian armies had attacked Russian defences frontally, after pulverising them with large amounts of heavy artillery and in the Second Battle of Champagne (Herbstschlacht "autumn battle") of 25 September – 6 November 1915, when the French suffered "extraordinary casualties" from the German heavy artillery, were considered to offer a way out of the dilemma of material inferiority and the growing strength of the Allies." - another monster sentence. How about: "Two recent battles appeared to show a way around the dilemma of material inferiority and the growing strength of the Allies. The Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive (1 May – 19 September 1915) had seen the German and Austro-Hungarian armies attack the Russian defences frontally, after pulverising them with large amounts of heavy artillery, and during the Second Battle of Champagne (Herbstschlacht "autumn battle") of 25 September – 6 November 1915, the French had suffered "extraordinary casualties" from the German heavy artillery."?
    • Done
  • "5,000 kilograms (11,000 lb) of explosives had been laid," - did this mean "mines", rather than "explosives"? I don't think it needs the comma after laid.
    • Not mines, demolition charges. Done
  • "The 18 large forts and other batteries surrounding Verdun, were left with fewer than 300 guns "- surplus comma after Verdun
    • Done
  • "Special arrangements were made to maintain a high rate of artillery-fire during the offensive, with 33½ munitions trains per day to deliver ammunition sufficient for 2,000,000 rounds to be fired in the first six days and another 2,000,000 shells to be available for the subsequent twelve days. " - The second half read rather oddly; I think it is probably because the verbs are unclear.
    • Done
  • " Five repair shops were built close to the front to keep guns in action with minimal delays for maintenance and factories " - needs a comma after maintenance, or some other work to distinguish the two parts of the sentence.
    • Done
  • "to begin in the morning of 12 February and at 5:00 p.m.infantry" - there's a space missing after p.m.
    • Done
  • " As the infantry advanced, the artillery would lift to the French second position. " - I don't think the artillery's lifting; "artillery fire"?
    • Done
  • " The conversion of the RFV to a conventional linear defence, with trenches and barbed-wire began but proceeded slowly, after resources were sent to the Champagne region for the offensive of September 1915" - as written, it implies that the proceeding slowly was a consequence of the resources being sent to the region, which I presume isn't what is intended.
    • Verdun isn't in the Champagne region, clarifed with a wikilink
  • "In October, building began on first, second and third positions" - Which positions were these? I got a bit confused here.
    • Done
  • "under the Gardien de Batterie Warrant-Officer Chenot and 68 technicians" - I could understand how a barracks could be under the Warrant-Officer, but it sounded odd that it was under the technicians as well.
    • Done
  • " captain Rohr " - Should be "Captain", I think.
    • Done
  • "but by the end of the first day," - missing comma after but?
    • Done
  • "At 3:00 p.m. on 25 February, infantry of Brandenburg Regiment 24 advanced with the II and III battalions side-by-side, in two waves of two companies each." - I wasn't quite sure what the end bit meant; did it mean that there were 4 companies in total (which doesn't feel right), or that the regiment and II and III battalions each had four companies in this formation, or that just the Regiment had four companies in this formation?
    • Done
  • "Some troops took cover in woods and a ravine which led to the fort, as German artillery began to bombard the area of the fort, after refusing to accept claims sent by field telephone, that the infantry were within a few hundred metres of the fort." I wasn't sure if the troops here were French or German. From the next sentence, I'm guessing German.
    • Done
  • "The French had seen the German flares and took the Germans on the fort to be Zouaves retreating from Côte 378 and the Germans reached the north end of the fort before the French resumed firing." - is there any way of restructuring to avoid the "... and ... and ..." format?
    • Done
  • "The German party found a way through railings" - felt odd without this being "the railings" or something like that.
    • Done
  • "and batteries bogged in the mud" - is "bogged" a verb?
    • Done, wanted to avoid "bogged down" as you can't get bogged up.;o)
  • "and the muddy conditions made it very difficult to implement the scheduled moves forward of artillery. " - the second half is unclear as written; did it mean "made it very difficult to bring the artillery forward as planned"?
  • "which inflicted higher losses on the German infantry" - higher than what? (or did it just mean "high"? - I wasn't sure here)
    • Done
  • "even after setting up an artillery task-force and French fire from the west bank caused many casualties." - this read very oddly. I'm assuming the task-force was a German one, in which case that fits, but the effective French fire doesn't quite work with the "even after" bit of the sentence, which would usually suggest some sort of potential causation.
    • Done
  • "Gossler then paused the attack, to consolidate the captured ground and to prepare another big bombardment for the next day and on 22 March, two divisions attacked "Termite Hill" near Côte 304 but were met by a mass of artillery-fire, which also fell on assembly points and the German lines of communication, which ended the German advance." - a bit of a monster sentence.
    • Done
  • " Infantry were exposed " - If this is linked to the reports from the previous sentence, could this run "Their infantry..."? It is a little unclear if the two bits are linked otherwise.
    • Done
  • "General Berthold von Deimling also wrote that passive endurance of French heavy artillery and gas bombardments" - I'd recommend altering the "passive endurance" phrase here, which read strangely.
    • Done
  • "and overcome strong-points" - "any strong-points"?
    • Done
  • "Falkenhayn ordered that command of the field and heavy artillery be unified" - I've had gone for "the command" as a more natural form.
    • Done
  • "Commanders like Mudra were sacked." - "like Mudra" or "such as Mudra"? (a subtle difference)
    • Done
  • "The initial plan was for an attack on a 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) front but several minor German advances captured Fausse-Côte and Couleuvre ravines on the south-eastern and western sides of the fort and a further attack took the ridge south of the ravin de Couleuvre, which gave the Germans better routes for counter-attacks and observation over the French lines to the south and south-west." - another long one...
    • Done
  • "III Corps was to command the attack by the 5th Division, the 71st Brigade, three balloon companies and a fighter group." - can a balloon company actually attack anything? (I can imagine it supporting other units, but not actually launching an attack)
    • Done
  • "Preparations for the attack included the digging of 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) of trenches and the building of large numbers of depots and stores but little progress was made due to a shortage of pioneers and German bombardments of the area, when French prisoners taken on 13 May disclosed the plan." - another one where the "due to a shortage of pioneers and German bombardments" suggests initially that it is telling the reader that there was a shortage of German bombardments.
    • Done
  • "when French prisoners taken on 13 May disclosed the plan" - I think this needs to go ahead of the bombardments bit to make sense.
    • Done
  • " Chapelle Sainte-Fine was quickly recaptured and the German attack could not be maintained, the stock of Diphosgene shells had been exhausted and water supplies to the troops in the front line broke down. The narrow salient was vulnerable to fire from three sides and the attack could not be continued until more supplies of Diphosgene ammunition could be brought forward. " - an element of repetition here.
    • Done
  • "and that German strategy in 1916 was to inflict mass casualties on the French" - moving from the block quote, ending in a full stop, to this as the start of the next paragraph read strangely - I suspect it would read better if this was a new paragraph with capitalisation, or if the block quote was incorporated into a regular paragraph.
    • Done The quotation is a sentence within a sentence, I've added a comma before the quote and dropped the "and" after it.
  • "Terraine gave c. 750,000 Franco-German casualties in 299 days of battle; Dupuy and Dupuy gave 542,000 French casualties..." I'd strongly recommend contextualising who these individuals are, e.g. "The historian J. Terraine gave..." - that way it's clear that these aren't contemporary generals/sources. It might also be worth a line at the start saying something like "Historians have varied in their estimates of the casualties at Verdun", or something like that.
    • I don't approve of labelling people like that because it assumes ignorance, I think it's banal and the information is in the citation. The sentence already describes something after the event and not all the people named are authorities, some might conventionally be assumed to be historians and others writers, which I think is a matter for the reader to decide. I've added publication dates to the text which should help.Keith-264 (talk) 12:48, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

Non-GA points: (feel free to use or ignore!)

  • "The German Fifth Army attacked the defences of the Région Fortifiée de Verdun (RFV) and the Second Army on the right bank of the Meuse," - as put like this, the second half can be mistaken for a bit telling you about what the Second Army did; if you went for "attached both the defences..." it would be clear to the reader to expect two targets.
    • Never put "both" in front of a plural. The RFV was a fortified area and the Second Army was the military unit in the area but fortress troops weren't under the field army's command.
      • In which case it needs a slight restructuring, or something added, to help the reader... at the moment, you need to work all the way through the sentence before the meaning of the middle bit is clear.
  • "By seizing or threatening to capture Verdun, the Germans anticipated that the French would send all their reserves" - "commit all their reserves"?
    • No that could imply diversionary attacks elsewhere. Verdun was to be a killing ground.
  • "The Fortified Region of Verdun lay in a salient, after the invasion of 1914." "as a result of the invasion of 1914"?
  • "the German attack had reached the first-day objectives" - "their first-day objectives"?
  • "The resort to large, unlimited attacks was costly for both sides but still advanced the German positions only slowly. " - "and only advanced the German positions slowly."?
  • "In May General Robert Nivelle who had taken over the 2nd Army, " - seems to be a missing comma after Nivelle
    • Done
  • "German capture of Saint-Mihiel in 1914 and the line from Verdun to Paris " I'd recommend a comma after 1914
    • No commas next to "and" or "but" or "or"! I've rewritten the sentence to accommodate your suggestion and avoid a mad comma. ;O)Keith-264 (talk) 14:59, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
  • "thick steel-reinforced concrete top" - I'd have expected a comma after thick.
    • Done
  • "The forts and ouvrages were sited to overlook each other for mutual support and the outer ring," - the two halves of this fairly sentence don't feel linked - it might be worth breaking it in two.
    • Done
  • " In September and December 1914 the 155 mm gun at Fort Douaumont bombarded German positions north of Verdun and a German observation post at the Jumelles d'Ornes. In February 1915, Douaumont was bombarded by a 420 mm mortar known as Big Bertha and Long Max, a 380 mm naval gun." Personally, given the mass of detail in this section, I'd have removed these final details, as I'm not convinced they're adding much to the story of the battle - but they are adding further weight to any readers who are finding the fine detail hard going.
    • Done
  • "Redeployment of the artillery was arranged" - "The artillery was redeployed..."?
    • Done
  • "The opening bombardment was to build up slowly and trommelfeuer would not begin until the last hour." - it's linked, but any chance of explaining what the trommelfleur is in the text to help the non-specialist reader?
    • Done
  • "One rotating gun turret (the 155 mm (6.1 in) turret) of the two turrets on the fort" - is there any way to reword this to avoid the use of "turret" three times in a row?
    • Done (can't find it)
  • Battle: "Unternehmen Gericht (Operation Judgement)" - reminding the reader of what this was wouldn't hurt at the start of this section (it has been a while since it was introduced) - e.g. "The wider German offensive, Unternehmen Gericht (Operation Judgement),..."
    • Done
  • "More than half of the German guns and howitzers were heavy" - for me, this felt a little repetitive, as we've just been told above that two-thirds of the German guns to be used in the attack were heavy.
    • Done
  • "held the bois for two days" - using the English term "wood" here would help any reader who didn't know the French term.
    • Done
  • "9,500 prisoners, thirty guns, 100 trench mortars and 242 machine-guns" - the MOS would have this as "30 guns".

(b) it complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation.

  • Appears to comply at this stage. Hchc2009 (talk) 14:03, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

Factually accurate and verifiable:

(a) it provides references to all sources of information in the section(s) dedicated to the attribution of these sources according to the guide to layout;

(b) it provides in-line citations from reliable sources for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons—science-based articles should follow the scientific citation guidelines;

  • At first glance, it looks well referenced. I don't have access to many of the sources, but a spot check, though, suggests that some of the references don't support all the information in the paragraphs they're attached to. "In late January 1916, French intelligence had obtained an accurate assessment of German military capacity..." is mostly cited to Doughty, p.267, but on the Google Books version, I can only see the information in the last sentence in the source. Similarly "The artillery of the two-corps assault group on the west bank, was reinforced by 25 heavy artillery batteries... ... the hills also provided commanding views of the left bank" is cited to Foley, p.225; the Google version doesn't include many of the details in this section. "After a week, the German attack had reached the first-day objectives..." is mostly covered by the citation, but I can't see "German attacks changed from large operations on broad fronts, to narrow-front attacks with limited objectives..." in the source, or the bit about the 75th, for example. This may be a question of different editions, perhaps, but it raises some initial concerns. Hchc2009 (talk) 05:22, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Have added more citations from Foley and Doughty. There are a few passages from either Foley or Doughty where I've found a sentence from one in the middle of a passage from the other and not cited. There are also snippets from Michelin which I've overlooked.Keith-264 (talk) 11:22, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

(c) it contains no original research.

  • None found, but note the concerns over what the citations are covering above. Hchc2009 (talk) 05:22, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Broad in its coverage:

(a) it addresses the main aspects of the topic;

  • Yes. 14:03, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

(b) it stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style).

Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without bias, giving due weight to each.

  • Appears neutral. Hchc2009 (talk) 14:03, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute.

Illustrated, if possible, by images:

(a) images are tagged with their copyright status, and valid fair use rationales are provided for non-free content;

The tagging needs a little bit of work to be valid:

  • File:Verdun, east bank, February to March 1916.jpg. Needs a publication date to justify the US PD tag, and needs a valid UK tag as well.
  • File:Verdun, west bank, 1916.jpg. Ditto.
  • File:German dispositions, Verdun, 31 March 1916.jpg. Ditto.
  • File:Verdun, May 1916.jpg. Ditto.
  • (and the same files from the same source in the rest of the article)
  • File:Fort Douaumont Anfang 1916.jpg needs a US PD tag.
  • File:StB5 – Sturm-Pionier.jpg. The tag is a life+70, but this won't apply to Ludwig Dettmann (1865–1944) until the end of the year. (NB: since resolved, as German law is different aparently). Also missing a US PD tag.
  • File:Fort Douaumont Ende 1916.jpg. Missing a US PD tag.
  • File:French Heavy Mortar 1916 AWM H04494.jpeg. Ditto.
  • File:Frech long gun battery overrun at Verdun (alternate view).jpg. Has the wrong tag on it - needs a EU anonymous tag, rather than a life+70
  • File:Panorama de Verdun, vue prise du Fort de la Chaume, 1917.jpg. Needs an author to justify the life = 70 tag (or a EU anonymous tag); also needs a US PD tag.
  • File:Félix Valloton-Verdun. Tableau de guerre-1917.jpg. Wrong tag (the painting was by Félix Vallotton, d. 1925); needs a EU life+70 tag to be valid, and a US tag.

(b) images are relevant to the topic, and have suitable captions.

  • Good choice of images; will check the captions in a moment. Hchc2009 (talk) 07:27, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
  • "French long gun battery (155 L or 120 L overrun" - missing a closing bracket after 120 L.
    • Done
  • "French assault under artillery fire at the Fleury ravine." I don't think this needs a final full-stop (unless the "assault" is a verb, as opposed to a noun - it could be either I suppose!)
  • "Félix Valloton, Verdun Tableau de guerre, 1917" - I'd suggest "Félix Valloton's Verdun Tableau de guerre, 1917"
    • Done
  • "The battlefield today" - MOS would probably prefer "The battlefield, 2005"
  • I believe that they just have to be on the relevant Commons file to meet the GA requirement. Hchc2009 (talk) 09:28, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
    • Right, I thought I did enough by pasting in

etc, what do I need to add and how please?Keith-264 (talk) 10:51, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Have a look at File:Verdun, east bank, February to March 1916.jpg as an example; I've clarified the publishing date (justifying the US pre-1923 tag), added the fuller details of the book, and added the Anonymous UK tag. All it needs now is just a line or two on the "Author: Anon" bit to explain what steps you took to identify the author (NB: as per the tag, important under UK law; e.g. "no author given in original newspaper or in reprinted version; basic Google searches produced no additional information" perhaps.) Then it's good to go. Hchc2009 (talk) 11:02, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
I realise now that the US pre-1923 criterion is insufficient but it was the reason I bothered to upload anything in the first place, since most of the uploads are better than nothing, rather than good in themselves. I'm not going to change them so feel free to delete. I feel an obligation to help with the GA review because much of the article is my doing but I'll restrict myself to textual improvements. RegardsKeith-264 (talk) 09:09, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
Understood, and thanks for your helping with the GA around the main article itself, it's much appreciated! Hchc2009 (talk) 11:52, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
It's either that or lose the will to live.;O)Keith-264 (talk) 11:55, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

Battle Result[edit]

Given the heavy casualties and especially the way that the war is remembered and discussed, would it be appropriate to classify the result of Verdun as a pyrrhic victory? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.160.176.186 (talk) 04:15, 2 August 2014 (UTC)

We should be NPOV which means describing what notable historians/writers conclude. The analysis section contains a summary.Keith-264 (talk) 05:44, 2 August 2014 (UTC)

Incomplete sentence?[edit]

"In May 1916 Joffre began a plan to issue each division two groups of 155mm guns and each corps four groups of long-range guns."

This appears to be incomplete.

I fear soKeith-264 (talk) 20:57, 14 April 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the fix.

"In a directive of the General Staff of 5 August 1915, the RFV was to be stripped of 54 artillery batteries and 128,000 rounds of ammunition."

I dont see RFV explained prior to this sentence. I assume it is the German artillery reserve, but the full name would be nice for the first mention (if I have not missed it) region fortified Verdun, although clarification would be nice a few sentences earlier when the region. Was first mentioned.2600:1015:B104:E26D:A1C7:BA98:D06B:B61A (talk) 15:51, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
Try the leadKeith-264 (talk) 16:12, 16 April 2015 (UTC)