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Fort Vaux, located in Vaux-Devant-Damloup, Meuse, France, became the second Fort to fall in the Battle of Verdun. The first fort to fall had been Fort Douaumont which was virtually undefended and had been captured by a small German raiding party in February 1916 . Fort de Vaux, on the other hand, was fully garrisoned when it was attacked on June 2 by German assault troops. The fort had been modernized before 1914 with additional reinforced concrete top protection, like at Fort Douaumont, and thus did resist a German heavy artillery preparation which had included shelling by 16 inch howitzers. The superstructure of the fort had been heavily damaged but the deep interior corridors and stations remained intact and can still be seen in their original condition today. One of the fort's side bunkers ("Casemate de Bourges") is still equipped with its 75mm cannon.
The defense of Fort Vaux was marked by the heroism and endurance of the garrison, including Major Sylvain-Eugene Raynal. Under his command, the besieged French garrison fended off repeated German assaults, including fighting underground from barricades inside the invaded corridors of the fort . What was left of the French garrison finally gave up after it had completely run out of drinkable water, ammunition, medical supplies and food. Raynal sent several messages to his commanding officers via homing pigeons (including the famous Vaillant[verification needed]), requesting relief for his soldiers. During his last communications, Major Raynal penned the phrase "This is my last pigeon."
After the capture of Fort de Vaux on June 7, the Crown Prince of the German ruling family, the Hohenzollerns, presented Major Raynal with a French officer's sword as a sign of respect, but Raynal and his soldiers remained in captivity in Germany until the Armistice of November 11, 1918. The fort was recaptured by French infantry on November 2, 1916 after an intense artillery preparation involving two long range 400mm (16") railway guns . After its recapture, Fort de Vaux was then thoroughly repaired during 1917 and fully reactivated. Several underground galleries to reach the far outside, one of them being a mile long, were dug and equipped. The water reserves were quadrupled. Light was provided now by two electric generators . The underground installations at Fort Vaux are still in a remarkably good state of preservation. They are currently open to the public for guided visits during the day.
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