Ouvrage de Froideterre. Photo ECPAD
Forming part of the entrenched camp of Verdun, Froideterre cordons off the northern edge of the town between the Meuse valley and the hills on the right banks.
Part of the entrenched camp of Verdun, Froideterre cordonned of the northern edge of the town between the Meuse valley and the hills on the right banks. It was designed as a centre for resistance, and is a great example of the variety of features and levels possible within a permanent fortification. The traces that remain also show how important these were during the crucial phases of the summer of 1916. Froideterre fortification , on the Meuse-Douaumont ridge, was key to the defence system. Surrounded by a stream, and boasting a concrete bunker and turrets or casemates for its artillery, it could flank the neighbouring fortifications at Charny and Thiaumont, support the units, and ensure its own defence. Its efficacy was enhanced by features that helped the infantry on guard, positioned at intervals along the wall. Concrete parapets (entrenchments X and Y) both sheltered marksmen as they stood and provided gun cover for the hill's exteriors flanks. Set slightly back from the military ridge, battle shelters hidden in the folds of the hillside were designed to protect the section's infantry soldiers from artillery fire. The concrete arches of these refuges contained arms, and played a vital role in battle. Elsewhere, logistical systems were hidden in the flanks of the ravines, containing food supplies. Like all places likely to come under shell attack, these shelters and storehouses became command posts or makeshift emergency rooms during battle, and served as precarious shelters for the units in charge of defending the ridge. The ventilation chimneys of the Quatre Cheminées cave shelter, which was planned to lodge reserve troops and supplies, were buried under 8m of rock. Buried in the same hillside, a little storeroom hid the masonry at its entranceway. It, along with the section's magazines, ensured that ammunition was supplied to the artillery batteries (like MF3) located far from the town. A network of stone pathways and narrow gauge railways linked this section, like all those on the belt, to the fortified town to allow artillery cannons to be moved, ammunition to be brought from the arsenal, and foodstuffs, supplies and accessories to be transported. The unprecedented bombing that accompanied the offensives at Verdun not only destroyed the fortifications' superstructure and access points, but also repeatedly killed communication with the outside world. The narrow liaison tunnels, filled with debris and dead bodies, had to be used instead of the path. Located opposite the Quatre Cheminées shelter, the ravin des Vignes, became a new artery for a front that kept gobbling up men and supplies. It was crisscrossed with these precarious alleys, which the artillery took for targets during the changing of the guard. To maintain the fragile link between the front lines and the shelters, they needed liaison officers, "runners" thrown into the fray of bombing and the barrage of gunfire - few of them managed to make it alive. In the end, they had to resort to flares to inform the artillery and ask them for help, hoping that in the midst of all the gunfire, their shot would spare their own men.
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