==Preparing for the Battle==
[[File: Verdun.jpg|thumbnail|350px|left|The Famous Long Max cannon used at Verdun]]
As it was early spring, poor weather delayed the beginning of the German attack by two weeks. It was eventually launched on February 21st. However, the Germans did not know that the French had been made aware of the build-up by the Germans in the area. They had been ignored by British intelligence that a German attack was imminent and had prepared for an assault. Despite this the Germans enjoyed initial success, capturing Fort Douaumont in the first week of the offensive. However, because of unexpected resistance and the weather, which turned the battlefield into a quagmire, the German advance ground to a halt. However, they did manage to inflict heavy casualties on the French. As anticipated by the German High Command the French rushed in reinforcements and they also build up their defences. The French were led by a man who was a born fighter Pétain.<ref> Keegan, J. <i>The First World War</i> (London: Hutchinson, 1998), p. 234</ref> He ordered that no withdrawals were to be made and that counter-attacks were to be staged at every opportunity. This involved exposing French infantry to withering artillery fire. The French artillery then began a bombardment of their own and this inflicted massive casualties on the French.
In March, the German offensive was switched to the left of the Meuse River , to deny the French artillery the observation posts they were using to target German positions. The German divisions advanced by the French were able to deny the Germans of their objectives.<ref> Clayton, p. 232</ref> This was the opportunity that Petain sought, and he ordered the French to attack positions in and around Fort Douaumont. The French managed to penetrate the actual fortress but a German counter-attack drove them back and they suffered many casualties.<ref> Philpott, p 214</ref> The Germans then launched a counterattack and in June captured Fort Vaux, which they had hoped to capture in February. The Germans continued the offensive beyond Vaux, and they drove a wedge between the French forces and neared the fortress of Verdun. This was the main objective of the offensive and according to Petain, the most ‘dangerous period for France in the entire battle.’<ref> Pétain, H. P. <i>Verdun</i> (trans. M. MacVeagh ed.) (London: Elkin Mathews & Marrot, 1939)</ref>