Even by the standards of ‘The Great War’, Verdun was to prove one of the bloodiest, most protracted and most costly battles of them all. The fortress city represented not only the power of France, but its very spirit, a key stronghold blocking the way to the Champagne sector and ultimately Paris. If the Germans could break through, they could force the French to come to terms and Britain would be isolated. In February 1916 the Germans laid their siege with an intense nine-hour bombardment upon the Verdun salient causing thousands of casualties. The resultant ghastly struggle of attrition continued unabated for ten months, ground being gained, lost, and regained on both sides without a clear-cut victory. Ultimately the German war aims were thwarted but at enormous cost: between them the opposing armies suffered over 714,000 casualties.