On this Day 21 February 1916: The Battle of Verdun commenced

The battle was fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916, and was the largest and longest battle of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies

The Parc d'Artillerie or Artillery Park near Verdun, during World War I, circa 1916. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Parc d'Artillerie or Artillery Park near Verdun, during World War I, circa 1916. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Parc d'Artillerie or Artillery Park near Verdun, during World War I, circa 1916. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Lasing for 303 days, it was the longest and one of the most costly in human history. In 2000, Hannes Heer and K. Naumann calculated 377,231 French and 337,000 German casualties, a total of 714,231, an average of 70,000 a month.

Pictures: Getty Images

9th May 1917:  A French telegraphist in Verdun in north-east France, scene of a long and extremely bloody battle between French and German troops.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
9th May 1917:  A French telegraphist in Verdun in north-east France, scene of a long and extremely bloody battle between French and German troops.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
9th May 1917: A French telegraphist in Verdun in north-east France, scene of a long and extremely bloody battle between French and German troops. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
January 1918:  French troops passing through ruins at Verdun.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
January 1918:  French troops passing through ruins at Verdun.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
January 1918: French troops passing through ruins at Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
May 1916:  German infantrymen before leaving a village near Verdun in north-east France, scene of a long and extremely bloody battle between French and German troops.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
May 1916:  German infantrymen before leaving a village near Verdun in north-east France, scene of a long and extremely bloody battle between French and German troops.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
May 1916: German infantrymen before leaving a village near Verdun in north-east France, scene of a long and extremely bloody battle between French and German troops. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1925:  The French fortified town of Verdun, on the Meuse, scene of the longest and most severe battle of World War I in 1916, in which the French repelled a powerful German offensive.  Ten years after the battle, the reconstruction of Verdun is almost finished.  The archbishop's residence, which had to be almost entirely rebuilt, is viewed from the cathedral.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
circa 1925:  The French fortified town of Verdun, on the Meuse, scene of the longest and most severe battle of World War I in 1916, in which the French repelled a powerful German offensive.  Ten years after the battle, the reconstruction of Verdun is almost finished.  The archbishop's residence, which had to be almost entirely rebuilt, is viewed from the cathedral.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
circa 1925: The French fortified town of Verdun, on the Meuse, scene of the longest and most severe battle of World War I in 1916, in which the French repelled a powerful German offensive. Ten years after the battle, the reconstruction of Verdun is almost finished. The archbishop's residence, which had to be almost entirely rebuilt, is viewed from the cathedral. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
November 1916:  Soldiers in a trench outside a dugout at Verdun.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
November 1916:  Soldiers in a trench outside a dugout at Verdun.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
November 1916: Soldiers in a trench outside a dugout at Verdun. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1916:  French troops going ' over the top' during the Battle of Verdun.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1916:  French troops going ' over the top' during the Battle of Verdun.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1916: French troops going ' over the top' during the Battle of Verdun. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
June 1916:  Captured Germans in a prisoner of war camp in Verdun.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
June 1916:  Captured Germans in a prisoner of war camp in Verdun.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
June 1916: Captured Germans in a prisoner of war camp in Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1918:  Engineers clearing away wire entanglements from a German position, to make way for a new road to the front, North West of Verdun, France.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1918:  Engineers clearing away wire entanglements from a German position, to make way for a new road to the front, North West of Verdun, France.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1918: Engineers clearing away wire entanglements from a German position, to make way for a new road to the front, North West of Verdun, France. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
6th September 1916:  French dugouts near Verdun.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
6th September 1916:  French dugouts near Verdun.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
6th September 1916: French dugouts near Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1916:  A French soldier at the Battle of Verdun, wearing a gas mask.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1916:  A French soldier at the Battle of Verdun, wearing a gas mask.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1916: A French soldier at the Battle of Verdun, wearing a gas mask. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
French troops under shellfire during the Battle of Verdun.   (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
French troops under shellfire during the Battle of Verdun.   (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
French troops under shellfire during the Battle of Verdun. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
A French soldier's grave, marked by his rifle and helmet, on the battlefield of Verdun.   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A French soldier's grave, marked by his rifle and helmet, on the battlefield of Verdun.   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A French soldier's grave, marked by his rifle and helmet, on the battlefield of Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Those who took Douaumont, Soldiers of Moroccan colonial regiment, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Those who took Douaumont, Soldiers of Moroccan colonial regiment, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Those who took Douaumont, Soldiers of Moroccan colonial regiment, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, French troops at Verdun at Verdun Vaux Fort. From ILN. 16 Dec 1916 p. 742, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, French troops at Verdun at Verdun Vaux Fort. From ILN. 16 Dec 1916 p. 742, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, French troops at Verdun at Verdun Vaux Fort. From ILN. 16 Dec 1916 p. 742, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, Fortress of Verdum, undamaged by gunfire, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, Fortress of Verdum, undamaged by gunfire, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, Fortress of Verdum, undamaged by gunfire, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Bursting of German Shrapnel before Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Bursting of German Shrapnel before Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Bursting of German Shrapnel before Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Prisoners, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Prisoners, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Prisoners, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mort Homme, Verdun, 1917, of the troops who fought on the slopes of this famous ridge, very few survived, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mort Homme, Verdun, 1917, of the troops who fought on the slopes of this famous ridge, very few survived, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mort Homme, Verdun, 1917, of the troops who fought on the slopes of this famous ridge, very few survived, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
World War One, Tending wounded Haudromont 28 Feb 1916. From 'L 'Illustration' 22 Ap 1916 p. 385. Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
World War One, Tending wounded Haudromont 28 Feb 1916. From 'L 'Illustration' 22 Ap 1916 p. 385. Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
World War One, Tending wounded Haudromont 28 Feb 1916. From 'L 'Illustration' 22 Ap 1916 p. 385. Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French war dog wearing a gas mask during a gas attack, Verdun, France. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French war dog wearing a gas mask during a gas attack, Verdun, France. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French war dog wearing a gas mask during a gas attack, Verdun, France. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French soldiers on the battlefield, during an offensive action on the French fortress town of Verdun. A still from the 1928 film 'Verdun, Visions d?Histoire', by Leon Poirier.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French soldiers on the battlefield, during an offensive action on the French fortress town of Verdun. A still from the 1928 film 'Verdun, Visions d?Histoire', by Leon Poirier.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French soldiers on the battlefield, during an offensive action on the French fortress town of Verdun. A still from the 1928 film 'Verdun, Visions d?Histoire', by Leon Poirier. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French entrenchment near Verdun in 1914, Die franzË sischen Unterst⬰nde von Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French entrenchment near Verdun in 1914, Die franzË sischen Unterst⬰nde von Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French entrenchment near Verdun in 1914, Die franzË sischen Unterst⬰nde von Verdun, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
SCENES ROUND VERDUN, Artillery shelter, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
SCENES ROUND VERDUN, Artillery shelter, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
SCENES ROUND VERDUN, Artillery shelter, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, French Soldiers in trenches at Verdun watching shells exploding, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, French Soldiers in trenches at Verdun watching shells exploding, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
, French Soldiers in trenches at Verdun watching shells exploding, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
60TH ANNIVERSARY OF BATTLE OF VERDUN, Verdun Cemetary with Memorial in background, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
60TH ANNIVERSARY OF BATTLE OF VERDUN, Verdun Cemetary with Memorial in background, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
60TH ANNIVERSARY OF BATTLE OF VERDUN, Verdun Cemetary with Memorial in background, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French 120 Cannon on the way to Verdun. March 1916. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French 120 Cannon on the way to Verdun. March 1916. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
French 120 Cannon on the way to Verdun. March 1916. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Verdun under gas attack, 1916, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Verdun under gas attack, 1916, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Verdun under gas attack, 1916, Verdun. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)