Page 3655


On the 23d of June, with forces estimated

at seventy to eighty thousand men, the

Germans made a supreme effort to beat

down resistance. The orders were to

stop for nothing and to take the last of

the French positions. The great wave

of assailants captured Thiaumont and a

few other positions but elsewhere were

hurled back with frightful losses. The

French retook the Thiaumont works on

the 28th, lost them again the

next day, retook them once

more, lost them again. On

the 12th of July, the Germans

managed to reach the roads

to Fleury and Vaux, and, a

few days later, captured a position within a thousand yards

of Fort Souville,the French

key position, but they were

still three miles from Verdun,

and events elsewhere rendered

it imperative for them to

weaken their forces and cease

their efforts.

The conflict thus brought

to an end had been the most

stupendous ever fought. Hundreds of thousands on either

side had been killed or

wounded, while the bombardments had far exceeded in

intensity anything ever before

known. ''They shall not

pass!" had been the watchword of the French defenders,

and for five long and bitter

months they had foiled the

most powerful attacks ever

launched up to that time in

war. Verdun itself had been reduced to a

heap of crumbling ruins, but above it the

tricolor still waved defiant, triumphant. As

long as time shall last, the defense of Verdun will stand with Thermopylae as the last

word in supreme heroism. For months

the heart and conscience of Christendom

hoped and prayed that the ruthless invader would be turned back; the hopes were

fulfilled, the prayers were answered. The

world rang with praises of French valor,

and men in far away lands thanked God

that the land of Lafayette had risen to

heights undreamed of even in a glorious


"Once more! The land of arms and arts,

Of glory, grace, romance,

Her love lies warm in all our hearts:

God bless her! Vive la France!"

When the attack on Verdun began, the

world naturally expected the British to

do something to relieve their hard pressed

ally, and there was much criticism of

British inaction. Three courses were open

to Sir Douglas Haig, the British commander

in chief. He might send reinforcements to

Verdun, he might attack the German lines

in front of his position, or he might take

over portions of the line held by the French

and thus relieve French troops for use at

Verdun. The first course had many disadvantages, as it would have complicated the

situation around Verdun, for the presence

of two armies speaking different languages