The Scars of World War I Battlefields a Century Later

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Charles Platiau/Reuters

A century ago today, on July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, marking the beginning of World War I. A month earlier, on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, marking the precusor to the four-year long war in which 10 million soldiers died, and sent Europe hurtling toward the Second World War two decades later.

Today, peaceful landscapes where battlefields once stood, riddled with land mines, corpses, and barbed wire, and wafted over with deadly gas, show the trenches and cratered face of warfare. European nations are commemorating the war all year long, including a procession of giant marionettes through the streets of Liverpool, U.K. 

7_28_wwI-battle-10 The tombstones of five WWI French soldiers are pictured at Fleury-devant-Douaumont near Verdun, northeastern France, March 30, 2014. The second grave (2ndL) contains the bodies of two brothers, Georges and Pierre Siben. Hundreds of thousands of French and Germany soldiers were killed during the battle of Verdun. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken March 30, 2014. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-09 WWI shell craters are seen below the Douaumont cemetery with its Abri 320 (Rear C) a large four shelter French bunker system near Verdun, northeastern France, March 30, 2014. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken March 30, 2014. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-08 General view of WWI trenches and shattered terrain at the Butte de Vauquois, northeastern France, March 30, 2014. By 1916, the Butte de Vauquois had become an important strategic position and on May 14, 1916, the Germans set off 60,000kg of explosives. It created a massive crater that today is some 80m in diameter and approximately 20m deep. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-07 General view of WWI trenches at Massiges, northeastern France, March 28, 2014. During the World War One, the battlefield between the Champagne and Argonne fronts was taken and lost several times by French and German troops between September 1914 and September 1915. During trench restoration works, in the last two years, the Main de Massiges Association has found seven bodies of WWI soldiers. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-06 A tree grows in the WWI London trench at Douaumont near Verdun, northeastern France, March 30, 2014. After the recapture of Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux by French troops in late 1916, this trench was built to join the town of Belleville to Fort Douaumont and the ruined town of Douaumont in order to deliver supplies, relieve troops and for hospital evacuation. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken March 30, 2014. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-05 WWI shell craters surround Fort Douaumont, near Verdun, northeastern France, March 29, 2014. During the Battle of Verdun, Fort Douaumont which was the largest and highest fort, was captured by German troops on February 25, 1916 with relative ease. It was later recaptured by the French army in October 1916, after major casualties on both sides. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken March 29, 2014. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-04 The place where the remains of French WWI soldier Albert Dadure was found is seen in a trench at Massiges, northeastern France, March 28, 2014. During trench restoration works, the Main de Massiges Association discovered a piece of the soldier?s skeleton on July 21, 2013, who died at the Massiges Front in 1915. In the last two years, the Association unearthed seven bodies of soldiers. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken March 28, 2014. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-03 WWI shell craters surround Fort de Vaux, near Verdun, northeastern France, March 29, 2014. During the Battle of Verdun, the Germans captured Fort Vaux on June 7, 1916 which was recaptured by the French army on November 2, 1916. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken March 29, 2014. Charles Platiau/Reuters 7_28_wwI-battle-02 Inside view of a WWI trench at Massiges, northeastern France, March 28, 2014. During the World War One, the battlefield between the Champagne and Argonne fronts was taken and lost several times by French and German troops between September 1914 and September 1915. During trench restoration works, in the last two years, the Main de Massiges Association has found seven bodies of WWI soldiers. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken March 28, 2014. Charles Platiau/Reuters

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