Russia had suffered devastating defeats over
the course of the war, from Tannenberg in 1914 to the Austro-German Offensives of last
year, which cost the Russians thousands of miles of land and hundreds of thousands of
men. And after the disastrous Russian March offensive this year the general belief among
the Central Powers was that Russia was no longer capable of meaningful offensive action. . I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Austro-Hungarian Imperial army
continued its advance in northern Italy, the German and British navies had a mighty clash
at the Battle of Jutland, and the Germans opened a new battle in the Ypres salient. Let’s head west first then, to see what
went on over there. At the beginning of the week a Canadian counter
attack failed to retake the lost territory but closed the gap in the lines that had left
the road to Ypres open. But the real news in the west this week was
at Verdun, where the German took Fort Vaux. It had held out for three months. The French
defenders fought in subterranean passages with the overpowering stench of rotting corpses
that couldn’t be buried. They fought for the final week under an enormous bombardment
of artillery and gas shells. Finally they were down to their last 12 gallons of water.
600 survivors of the fort were captured, but Verdun did not fall. This is French Commander Sylvain Reynal’s
account of the end, “Toward 2300 our artillery ceased abruptly, and the night passed away
in silence, more nerve-wracking for me than the storm of battle… I took a tour of the
corridors. What I saw was awful. Men were overcome with vomiting, for so wretched were
they that they had reached the point of drinking their own urine. Some lost consciousness.
In the main gallery a man was licking a small wet streak on the wall. 7th June! Day broke.
And we hardly noticed it. For us it was still night, a night in which all hope was extinguished.
Aid from outside, if it came, would come too late. I sent my last message, the last salute
of the fort and its defenders to their country. Then I returned to my men,>>it is all over,
my friends. You have done your duty, all of your duty. Thank you.