Verdun, Road to Y.M.C.A. Canteen


On February 21, 1916, Germany launched its attack on the French fortress city of Verdun, beginning what was to be one of the longest and bloodiest battles of World War I. The French defenders at first fell back and by February 25 the Germans had captured the outer fortress of Douaumont. By June 6 they had taken another fort, at Vaux, but they never managed to take Verdun. The fighting finally ended in stalemate in December of that year. The official French history of the war set total French casualties for this battle at 377,231, of which 162,308 were killed or missing. German casualties were estimated at 337,000, with more than 100,000 dead or missing. The staggering level of losses was the result, in part, of the strategy adopted by Erich von Falkenhayn, chief of the German general staff. Falkenhayn believed that Germany, with its larger population and reserves of manpower, could outlast the French forces. This poster, based on a sketch made by a staff member of the British Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) while he was engaged in relief work in Verdun, shows a street strewn with rubble, the destruction wrought by the massive German artillery barrages.

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1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 102 x 75 centimeters



  1. Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (New York: Basic Books, 1999).
  2. Alistair Horne, The Price of Glory: Verdun, 1916 (New York: Penguin Books, 1993).

Last updated: February 10, 2014