I wasn’t prepared for my visit to the Douaumont Ossuary, I didn’t know enough about the battle that took place there in WWI. I didn’t understand its’ significance or just how many men died.
It has been 99 years since the battle of Verdun, but as you drive along the winding roads you can still see the devastation. Entire villages were wiped out. The ground is still covered in craters. Look between the trees and you can see that nature has tried to fix the damage, but it isn’t quite there yet.
This isn’t your typical war memorial. The Battle of Verdun lasted for 300 days. Approximately 230,000 men died. It was known as ‘The Hell of Verdun’ by both sides.
The remains of 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers are kept buried at the Douaumont Ossuary.
Start your visit by watching the video – it is in French, but you can ask for headphones that will provide the audio in your language. Then make your way around the Cloister, which is not a happy place. There is a chapel you can visit (if you’re into that kind of thing), otherwise start climbing the 204 steps to the top of the tower. Check out the little museum and take in the views over the cemetery. You can then make your way back down and take a look at the graves.
It’s OK to cry. I cried.
Visit the Douaumont Ossuary website to find out more