Samogneux, 15 km north of
Verdun, is our point of departure.
We follow the yellow D 905, northward, to the Command Post of the French legendary Colonel Driant.
At Samogneux we find this demarcation stone,
reminding the most advanced point, ...
... conquered by the Germans on 24 February 1916,
during the Battle of Verdun.
Nearby stands this impressing Poilu-statue
of a soldier lifting his gas mask, overlooking
the battlefield in horror and awe after the fightings.
We continue south and go to the left to enter the D 905.
After 7 km we reach a junction.
On the left side of the road stands
this Memorial for the legendary Lt. Colonel Driant.
Only some 150 m away from the spot,
at the east side of the road D 905, is the location,
where Lt. Colonel Driant received a bullet in his head,
and died instantly. His last words:
"Vous savez très bien qu'ils m'ont jamais touché!"
("You know very well, that they never have touched me!")
"THEY HAVE FALLEN SILENTLY UNDER THE SHOCK LIKE A TALL WALL"
"HERE HAS FALLEN THE LT. COLONEL DRIANT"
Lieutenant Colonel Emile Driant was quite a remarkable character.
In 1905 he destroyed his career in the army by marrying the daughter of the disputed General Boulanger. Besides that, he also publicly took position against the anti clerical tendencies within the French army.
After leaving the Army in 1905, Driant wrote several books under the alias of "Capitaine Danrit".
In 1910 he was elected to be a member of the Chambre des Députées (House of Deputies).
As the war broke out in August 1914, Driant re-entered the army in August 1914. He commanded two battallions of "Chasseurs à Pied" of the 72th division.
Before the Battle of Verdun broke out, Driant had protested heavily with General Joffre about General Galliéni's recent withdrawal of troops and weapons from this front sector in the Bois des Caures.
On 21 February 1916, at the start of the Battle of Verdun, Driant was 60 years old.
We enter the wood at the west side of the road D 125,
to walk to the Command Bunker of Lt. Colonel Driant.
A 1918 Model Machine Gun Bunker along the road D 125
near the monument, south east side of the bunker.
East side of the bunker...
View inside the bunker.
Machine gun opening on the north east side,
towards the direction of the German lines.
Until the Battle of Verdun this sector of the front line had been relatively "quiet".
At dawn,on 21 February 1916, German 210 mm shells bombarded the trees in the wood, the French positions and artillery guns.
At 16.00 hrs the German infantry troops, with their "pickles" removed from their helmets, "Pickelhaubes", attacked the French 72th and 51st Divisions.
Driant disposed in this wood over a large network of three lines of trenches and bunkers.
Two whole sections of troops were destroyed by the bombardment.
By the end of the bombardment only one fifth of the Chasseurs à Pied (Light Infantry Troops) were left to defend their positions.
During the German infantry attack the French Soldiers defended ferociously every inch of their positions with bayonets and handgrenades. At the end of the day the casualties on the side of the 18th German Army Corps were enormous. They did not succeed to take over the French positions in the wood yet.
But this would take only one day more.
These ditches are the relics of the French trench system
in the wood.
Two shellholers caused by German field artillery.
The wood is covered with these shellholes.
A relict of a French sideboard in a trench.
Another waterfilled shellhole.
This communication trench connects directly
to Col. Driant's Command Post Bunker.
The "blinded" north side of the Command Post bunker,
in the state of 1918.
The southern "open" side of the Command Post Bunker
of Colonel Driant.
The 32 small remembrance columns, positioned in a half circle
around the bunker are erected by the families of
the battallions of the Chasseurs à Pied,
who were fighting around this spot
in the wood, the Bois des Caures, on 21 February 1916.
The two entrances to the Command Post Bunker.
A period photograph of Colonel Driant
in front of his Command Post before the battle.
The next morning, on 22 February 1916, Driant planned a counterattack to recover some of his lost territories in the area.
German flame throwers had burned many French troops on his right flank.
Only 80 Chasseurs à Pied were left over, and defended this position around their Colonel Driant.
With his gun in his hand Colonel Driant declared:
"Vous savez très bien qu'ils m'ont jamais touché!"
"You know very well, that they never have touched me!"
A moment later Driant received a bullet in his head, and died instantly.
The loss of the Caures Wood would launch another three days of fierce combat fighting in the adjacent front sectors.
Of course I entered the bunker for some inside views.
A view of the interior of the bunker.
Another view of the interior of the bunker.
We went back to our car,
parked nearby this Memorial for the brave Lt. Colonel Driant.
We take our car to go 4 km northward through
the Bois des Caures, to Flabas,
behind the nearby, former German lines,
to visit the location of the German Reprisals POW Camp.
Continue to the next chapter: