On the right side of the D 913A we find this artillery bunker
of Batterie de Tunnel.
Maybe it has been used for the protection of
a field artillery gun like this one.
On the left side of the road, I descended in a ravine to find
this fortified entrance to a French dug-out and tunnel system.
We climbed again the hill to find these relics of
a French dressing station bunker.
A trench at 200 m. north of the east exit of the Tunnel de Tavannes and 200 m. from the Germans.
With compass and map we entered a dense wood
in search for the eastern entrance of the Tunnel of Tavannes.
Just as we got on the moment to give up our search,
we detected through the dense vegetation the entrance
to the tunnel.
Nowadays there are two tunnel tubes, but we are interested
in the original left tube.
(The right one is of 1936 and still in use!).
In the war years the entrance to the left tunnel looked like this.
On the left side before the entrance,
we find relics of the guardrooms.
The entrance to the guard room ...
...via a narrow corridor.
The railwaytunnel's length is 1,2 km,
and it was in the French second line on the front.
It has been used as a huge bunker for 3000 French troops
during the Battle of Verdun.
The men were sleeping in high bunk beds.
Deeper in the tunnel, niches has been made for dressing stations,
bakeries, kitchens, and storagerooms.
On 4 September 1916 there was a huge Fire Disaster.
4 September 1916.
Tunnel de Tavannes.
More than 500 Dead.
Begin September 1916 the east exit of the tunnel was less than 500 m. away from the 1st German line. The area of Tavannes was again heavily bombarded for days.
On Monday, 4 September 1916, there were soldiers and officers of the 18th, 24th, 346th, 367th, 368, and the 369th Regiments d'Infanterie and the 4th, 22nd 24th, 98th R.I.Territoriale in the tunnel.
Around 21.30 hrs. officers and soldiers heared a series of explosions. Three bigger explosions, some moments later, caused a rapidly spreading fire.
The fire increased immensely, caused by the air current in the tunnel and turned, westward, into an inferno. Everybody panicked, and over 500 soldiers were killed. It took the French a week, until 11 September, before they could enter again the west side of the tunnel. Nevertheless, the confusion caused by this explosion remained unnoticed by the Germans.
About the causes of this disastrous incident, the secret report of the General Staff of the II Army, dated 23 September 1916, tells us:
The investigation into the fire in the tunnel shows that this is not due, as was first assumed, to a short circuit, but most likely to an explosion of flares and grenades, which were carried by a work team on the backs of mules, which has passed the entrance of the tunnel only a few minutes before the explosion.
Two men have seen how these flares at the backs of donkeys ignite, without being able to tell the first causes, that could have provoked their explosion. Without doubt, this first explosion set fire to a depot with flammable liquids, and the fire, activated by an air current of the central ventilation shaft, has increased rapidly nearer and nearer the ammunition depots.
(It is followed by a list of numbers of "disappeared" officers and soldiers.)
The noise of shellfire and the foul smell of all these men,
under battle conditions, must have been almost unbearable.
Though many soldiers prefered staying in the tunnel,
as a safe shelter, over being in the first line of
the Battle of Verdun.
In the dense woods around and before Fort de Tavannes ...
... we find many relics of ammunition niches.
A "Pamart" machine gun bunker, Model 1918,
about 100 yards before the entrance of the fortress.
Fort de Tavannes
Relics of the former outside main gate.
Dressing station at Fort de Tavannes,
first week of June 1916: wounded men, escaped from Fort de Vaux.
Fort de Tavannes on a French trench map in 1916,
and on a satellite photo of 2008.
The inside main gate and the "Grand Court" of the fortress.
For understandable reasons it is not allowed to enter the Fort.
The deplorable state of the Fort is too dangerous to enter.
Piles of scattered debris, unstable corridors, and the presence of
not cleared explosives, make wandering around in the Fort
A last view at Fort de Tavannes.
Continue to the next chapter: