Like the Somme for the English, for the French Verdun has come to symbolise the horror of war (or, to use a later example, France's Stalingrad). While it was a battle that the French ultimately won - in the sense that the Germans failed to accomplish their goals - it was at a terrible cost, with a quarter of a million dead and at least half a million injured.
|The iconic photograph capturing the death of a French Lieutenant, during the battle of Verdun|
But in the event, the French held - making the reputation of General (later Marshall) Petain, who went on to ignominy as the collaborationist leader (whatever his motivation) of Vichy France during the Second World War.
Anyway, back to the day's cycle, which takes us 86 miles from Sainte-Minehould to Nancy. It's mainly flat countryside with short sharp hills around Verdun and before Nancy:
After leaving Sainte-Menehould we have thirty miles before Verdun. As well as the town itself, James is keen to see the Ossuary at Douaumont a few miles north, which is a memorial to the men who died, from both sides, and contains the skeletons of around 130,000 unidentified men.
|Douaumont Ossuary, Verdun|