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French WWI trench, The 'Forbidden Zone', Bois-Hauts, Les Eparges, Lorraine, France. Summer 2008. Photograph by Jonathan Olley

The 'Forbidden Zone', where the land undulates with bisecting shell craters. The mature beech and pine forests that cover the hills above the city of Verdun are home to some of the Great War's most bitter fighting, as many as 150 shells fell for every square meter of this battlefield. 'The Battle of Verdun' as well as being the longest Battle of 'The Great War' also has the ignominy of being the first test of modern industrialised slaughter. Not for nothing was the battlefield of Verdun known to the soldiers who fought in it, as 'The Mincer', where over the entire period of the war almost a million men became casualties. Recent estimates made by The French interior Ministry state at least 12 million unexploded shells lie undiscovered in the hills overlooking the City of Verdun.


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Members from the Département du Déminage, Moselle district, collecting Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), from the 'Great War' battlefields around the city of Verdun.

The démineurs work in the areas designated 'Zone-Rouge' after the Armistice of 1918. Today the forest still remains out-of-bounds to the general public due to the continuing hazzard of the explosive remnants of war. The Department for the Interior, (France), estimate that there are twelve million unexploded shells from WWI, in the Verdun sector alone.

Lorraine, France. Summer 2008. Photograph by Jonathan Olley