By Vincent Kessler
The year 2014 brings together the past and the future for France. It is a time of local elections, and it is also the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.
The Battle of Verdun in northeastern France was the longest battle of the so-called Great War, lasting some ten months from February to December 1916. It was also one of the most murderous.
After the 1870-71 war between France and Prussia, which ended with the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by the Germans, Verdun was at the eastern edge of France. The city was fringed by hills – hills in which a network of forts was built to protect the border.
During the First World War, the Germans wanted to make a massive attack on a target that had great historical significance for the French, and they thought that weakening France around Verdun could change the face of the war.
On February 21, 1916, they started the assault with a huge bombardment. A charity named “The Western Front Association” writes that during the initial stage of the Battle of Verdun, Germany fired more than a million shells.