As one might expect, there are plenty of Great War related sites to see within the town of Verdun itself. The town is also the obvious base for a battlefield visit to the area. More information on visiting can be found on the main Verdun section page itself.
Most visitors from the UK will approach Verdun from the A4 motorway, and on leaving it one then travels along the N3 road, also known as the Voie Sacrée. There is a tall memorial (the Voie Sacrée memorial) located about three miles from the town, and lining the road itself as you travel towards Verdun are marker stones surmounted by a green helmet with the words 'Voie Sacrée on them. This road became known as the Voie Sacrée after the novelist and political commentator Maurice Barres originally used the name Route Sacrée. It was the route by which the French troops approached the grinding mill that was Verdun, and the road was heavy with traffic through which the infantry had to march.
In the town centre are several more sights. The town itself is a pleasant place, with plenty of restaraunts and bars to pass the time or to eat at in the evening. The town is split by the River Meuse which runs through it.
The quay area by the bank of the river, where there are bars and restaraunts with tables outside, has a stone tablet on the wall recording that this is the Quai de Londrés. The name comes from the 'adoption' of Verdun by the City of London after the wall, and the plaque, dated the 13th of December 1920, records that the Committee based in London, 'the heart and centre of the British Empire' chose Verdun 'the heart and centre of the French fight' to bring together the two countries.
Leading away from the river here are several roads, and one of these gives an outstanding view up to the Victory Monument. This imposing monument is set into the town walls, and small fountains play in the street leading up to it, and in the middle of the steps which lead up to it.
The monument was inaugaurated on the 23rd of June 1929. At the top of the steps is a 90 foot tall column on which stands the figure of a knight, and a pair of Russian field guns flank the column. There are annual commerorations here in June each year.
Back near the river is the impressive Chaussée Gate which dates from the fifteenth century, and which leads to a bridge across the Meuse.
Across the road from here is the town's memorial, in the form of five soldiers standing firm, and the names of those who fell listed beneath them. The famous words "Ils ne passeront pas" are inscribed here as well.
On the eastern side of the town is the Faubourg Pavée French Cemetery, which is located on the N3. In addition to the French graves, there are alsoseven CWGC graves; three British and four Canadian airmen are buried here
In the centre of the cemetery is a cross and a tricolour, around which were buried the remains of eight unknown French soldiers from different areas of the battlefields around Verdun. However, only seven lie here today, as in 1920, the body of the eighth soldier was transported to Paris, and interred under the Arc de Triomphe as France's Unknown Soldier. The body was taken by train, and there is a plaque at the railway station in Verdun commemorating this (see below).
At the entrance to the cemetery are a number of field guns, of various different designs and calibres. There appeared when I visited to be one missing - the base it stood on was there, but no gun. Past the guns is a monument on the right to victims of the barbaity of the Nazis, with two two graves in front of it.
At Verdun railway station towards the north of the town, a plaque records that the station was used during the war as a hospital and as an evacuation point for the wounded. It also records that the body of the unknown soldier, taken from the Faubourg Pavée Cemetery (see above) was taken from here to Paris by train on the 10th of November 1920.
Sources & Acknowledgements
Christina Holstein: Fort Douaumont
Major & Mrs. Holt: Battlefield Guide to the Western Front South
Ian Ousby: The Road to Verdun