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French soldier standing next to an unexploded 420mm shell that fell on Verdun. March, 1916. It weighed 2,100 pounds empty.
Text:
Musée de L'Armée
Obus de 420 tombé dans un coin des fossés de Verdun
Verdun, Mars 1916
Pois: 956 kilogr. vide
420 shell fallen into a corner of Verdun trenches
Verdun, March 1916
Weight: 2,107 pounds empty
Logo: ELD

French soldier standing next to an unexploded 420mm shell that fell on Verdun. March, 1916. It weighed 2,100 pounds empty.

Image text

Musée de L'Armée



Obus de 420 tombé dans un coin des fossés de Verdun

Verdun, Mars 1916

Pois: 956 kilogr. vide



420 shell fallen into a corner of the Verdun trenches

Verdun, March 1916

Weight: 2,107 pounds empty



Logo: ELD

Other views: Larger

Tuesday, May 23, 1916

"Letter of an eyewitness: Verdun is impossible to describe. It is about 7 or 8 kilometers from here to Douaumont. Not a trench, not a communications trench, nothing but shell holes one inside another. There is not one piece of ground that is not turned up. To see what has been done here one could not imagine all the shells of all calibers that have been used. The holes made by the 300[-millimeter shells] could hold fifteen horses. There are no more woods. Shattered trees resemble telegraph poles. It is complete devastation. Not one square of land has been spared. One would have to come here to understand it. One cannot imagine such a thing.

Everything has been brought together on this part of the front. The cannon are mouth to mouth and never cease firing there is not one second when the cannon cease. There are no attacks right now but still there are losses. Shells fall and mow down everyone and everything without pity.

One can only go out at night to work this land that has been churned up a hundred times. The cadavers of swollen horses infect this immense battlefield. We make a trench, a shell lands, everything has to start over again if one is among the survivors. Attacks become impossible. When a troops wants to go out the artillery aim at it. There are too many guns everywhere. For as long as they are here both advance and retreat are impossible.

You can be sure that Verdun will not be taken. Here it is extermination on the ground without seeing the enemy. Soon we will be relieved. I wonder how I am still standing after all of this one is completely numb.

Men look at one another with wild eyes. It takes a real effort to hold a conversation."

Quotation Context

Letter from French Artilleryman Paul Pireaud to his wife Marie, May 23, 1916. Pireaud's unit, the 112th Heavy Artillery Regiment, moved into the Verdun sector in early April. French commander Pétain rotated infantry units roughly weekly, but it was much more difficult to do so with the artillery.

Source

Your Death Would Be Mine; Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War by Martha Hanna, page 78, copyright © 2006 by Martha Hanna, publisher: Harvard University Press, publication date: 2006

Tags

1916-05-23, 1916, May, Verdun, Battle of Verdun, Pireaud, Paul Pireaud