Shelling the ridge, seen from a French trench, 1915. Private collection. All rights reserved.
A year before the Battle of Verdun began, bloody fighting took place some twenty kilometres to the south-east of the town at Les Éparges, a ridge less than 2 kilometres in length in the Meuse Hills that was the scene of the first French attacks. The battle was violent but limited in terms of time and space. It was, though, an indication of what was to come, as the weaponry became more effective and deadly. Among the soldiers experiencing the horrors of this implacable struggle was Second Lieutenant Maurice Genevoix, the future President and Founder of the Comité National du Souvenir de Verdun (national remembrance committee for Verdun), who described the terrible realities of war in his journals. Genevoix became a member of the Académie française and published a masterly collection of memoirs consisting of five works written between 1916 and 1923. It was called, “Ceux de 14” (The Men of 1914).
The Learning Resource Centre at the Verdun Memorial Museum offers teachers and pupils a chance to visit Les Éparges and learn more about the battle. The three educational trails are an excellent, comprehensive introduction to the study of the First World War in school curricula.