Sunday, February 21, 2016

Battle of Verdun, Day One -- February 21, 2016

Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, 22-February-1916

German attacks on French positions around the fortress of Verdun launched the Battle of Verdun, which would continue until December. "Mitrailleuse" is a generic French term for a machine gun.  


Ejght Hundred Yards of Trenches in Artois Captured by Teutons 

Seven Battalions Take Part in Attack That Sweeps French From Positions Gained East of Souchez Last Spring

Paris Admits Loss -- Guns First Demolish Entrenchments -- Terrific Losses Suffered by Kaiser's Troops, but Newly Won Lines Are Held Fast 

PARIS, Feb. 22

Sevcn German battalions, by a most violent attack against the French front in the Boies Givenchy region, in Artols, carried more than half a mile of French first line trenches and also second line trenches in many places, the French War Office admitted this afternoon.

The Teutons occupied first line French positions on a front of more than 800 yards. By heavy French counter-attacks they were repulsed from practically all the second-line positions.

The War Office leported that the German losses were very heavy.

The attack, which was a very strong one, was carried out after a violent bombardment which virtually wiped out the French defense works. Enormous losses have been suffered by the Germans in
their attacks north of Verdun.  In that region the invaders captured some advanced trenches and some supporting trenches, but were afterward driven from the latter.  Heavy forces of men are being thrown forward by the Germans, who have resumed the massed formation attacks.

 The text of the communique follows:

"In Artois after the violent bombardment of the Germans, which was referred to in the communiques on Monday, the enemy carried out a strong attack on our positions in tho forest of Givenchy and
succeeded in penetrating our first line over a front of 800 yards.

"The trenches taken by the Germans had been practically destroyed by the German cannonade. The Germans also succeeded In entering at several points our second line works, but after a counter attack they were ejected from some of the positions which they had wrested from us. At the conclusion of the fighting the holdings of tho Germans were small.

"The enemy, whose troops in this attack numbered at least seven battalions, suffered heavy losses from our hand grenades and the fire of our infantry and mitrailleuse.

'To the southeast of Malincourt the enemy exploded a mine, the crater of which was occupied by us.

"In the region of Verdun the activity of the artillery has continued without abatement.  The Germans attacked on Monday about the hour of sunset, the assault being directed against our position east of Brabant-sur-Meuse between the Haumet wood and Hebe-Bois.

"They succeeded in gaining a foothold in some of our advanced trenches and pushed forward to our second-line trenches, but our counter-attacks ejected them from the latter (the supporting trenches) and forced them to retire, leaving in our hands 50 prisoners. To the east of Seppois (Upper Alsace) two German attacks were repulsed.

"There has been great activity by the artillery upon the Chapelotte-Ban-de-Sept front."

Virtually every important military critic In Paris today called attention to the heavy German attack which is developing north of Verdun. For 48 hours there has been a violent artillery duel, with each side hurling a tornado of shells upon the trenches of the enemy.

The cannonade is compared with the French cannonade in the second battle of Champagne when the German trenches were literally blasted to pieces.

If Verdun falls, the road from Metz to Rheims will have been opened and the menace removed from tho southern lines of communication of the Germans in France.

It would naturally compel the retirement of the French in the Argonne, in Champagne, in the Woevre district, on the heights of the Meuse and in Alsace-Lorraine.

It Is believed by some military experts that the attacks by the Germans In West Flanders and Artois were more or less of a blind to mask the concentration of troops in the region north of Verdun for
the big offensive which is opening there.

Although it has been said that Crown Prince Frederick William has been put in command of the German troops between Rheims and Alsace-Lorraine, it is believed that the attacks north of Verdun are really being directed by General Von Strantz, who was recently decorated by the Kaiser.


BERLIN, Feb. 22.

The capture of 800 yards of trenches from the French, east of Souchez, after a bombardment, was announced today by the German war office. Violent fighting is reported from Champagne.

Following is the text of the official report:

"The weather cleared up on Monday and this led to lively artillery actions at many points on the front between the La Bassee canal and Arras. After a bombardment we captured by storm 800 yards of French trenches east of Souchez.  Seven officers and 319 men of the rank and file were made prisoners.

"Between the Somme and Aisne rivers at several points in Champagne the fighting activity has increased. Northeast of Tahure (In Champagne), an attempt of the French to make an attack with hand grenades failed. In the hills on both banks of the Maas, particularly above Dun, an artillery duel of great violence was in progress all night."

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