Circular bronze medal with eyelet for ribbon suspension; the face with the head and shoulders of a helmeted, armoured female figure representative of the French Republic holding a sabre and facing right, inscribed ‘ON NE PASSE PAS’ (They shall not pass), signed ‘VERNIER’; the reverse with the façade of the citadel of Verdun, inscribed ‘VERDUN’ on a rayed background above, the date ‘21 FEVRIER 1916’ (21 February 1916) below, palm branches to either side; on original ribbon with silvered bronze ‘VERDUN’ bar.
The Verdun medal was created on 20 November 1916 by the Municipal Council of Verdun to commemorate the heroism of its defenders. Originally intended to be awarded to those who served on the Verdun front between 21 February 1916 and 2 November 1916, the medal was, in fact, awarded to those who served anywhere on the Argonne and St Mihiel sectors between 31 July 1914 and 11 November 1918.
The original, official version was by Vernier, as in the current example, but since supplies of this medal were inadequate, others created Verdun medals and at least seven versions of varying rarity are known.
Between 21 February and 19 December 1916, some 70% of the entire French army by rotation fought in defence of Verdun. The Battle was the pinnacle of the truly appalling strategy of attrition, the town with its forts being attacked by the Germans in the certain knowledge that the French command would have to do whatever was necessary to defend it and with the aim of ‘bleeding France white’. In the event, French losses of 120,000 dead and 260,000 wounded were almost equalled on the German side and by the end of 1916 the French had regained all the ground they had lost earlier in the year.
The medal is becoming harder to find.