20 Photos That Show the Remnants of World War I Scattered Across Europe

Photo Credit: Fototeca Gilardi / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Fototeca Gilardi / Getty Images

The scars of the Great War, which raged from 1914-18, remain visible in Europe more than 100 years after the fighting stopped. The conflict left its mark in a variety of forms, from bunkers and trenches to the scattered war memorabilia that remains buried beneath the former battlefields.

The following photos offer a glimpse of these remnants of World War I, which continue to serve as a reminder of the conflict.

Main de Massiges

Aerial view of the trench network at the Main de Massiges
Photo Credit: JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN / AFP / Getty Images

In the northeast section of the Marne, the Main de Massiges serves as a testament to the ingenuity and fortitude of those soldiers who navigated its complex trench networks. Since 2008, volunteers have been dedicated to preserving this historical site, offering visitors a glimpse into the life of those who served during the First World War.

Livens projectors and the dawn of chemical warfare

Rusted remains of Livens projectors on the ground
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Introduced by the German forces during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915, chemical warfare fast became a grim reality of World War I. To fight against the enemy’s gas attacks, the British Army adopted Livens projectors to launch their own assaults, with the weapons remaining in Britain’s arsenal until the early years of the Second World War.

Collect du Linge

Interior of a World War I-era German command center
Photo Credit: Thierry Tronnel / CORBIS / Getty Images

The Battle of Le Linge, in Haut-Rhin, France, was characterized by the significant loss of life for minimal territorial gain by the French Army. Occuring between July and October 1915, it saw a lot of bloodshed.

The above image is of a German command center on the former battlefield.

Verdun’s Bois Azoule Forest

Rusty metal bowl, springs and a spool scattered on the forest floor
Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

In the Bois Azoule Forest near Verdun, remnants from one of the Great War’s deadliest battles lie scattered. The forest floor tells the story of conflict, resilience and the passage of time, with bullet-ridden bowls and German ammunition boxes emerging from the undergrowth with other wartime bits and bobs.

Remnants of Fort Vaux

Demolished turret partially covered in grass
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Fort Vaux was constructed to defend the French city of Verdun, but it wound up being the second fort to fall to the Germans upon the outbreak of World War I. This once-formidable defensive structure now lies in ruins, with this particular photo showing what was once a turret being taken over by Mother Nature.

Pillbox at Vimy Ridge

Pillbox at the end of a trench at Vimy Ridge
Photo Credit: Jack Taylor / Getty Images

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial stands on the site of one of the Great War’s most famous battles. The engagement was primarily fought by four divisions of the Canadian Corps (part of the British Army) and three from the German 6th Army, and what resulted was an Allied victory that continues to be celebrated, particularly by Canada.

Hidden histories in Spincourt Forest

Remnants of a German bunker covered by ivy and moss
Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A German bunker, nestled in the heart of Spincourt Forest near Verdun, hints at the area’s strategic importance during World War I. This relic, which has partially been reclaimed by nature, is just part of what was once a German hub that housed several important buildings, including a hospital, rail connections and a command center.

Protecting the English coast

Aerial view of the Bull Sand Fort
Photo Credit: English Heritage / Heritage Images / Getty Images

At the onset of World War I, plans were developed to build two sea forts within the confines of the Humber Estuary, to defend the English coast from German attacks. Work began in 1915, with the ultimate aim being to construct structures that could easily hold 200 soldiers at any one time.

Construction continued until 1919, a year after the conflict’s conclusion. That being said, it wasn’t like they were left without much use. Both the Bull Sand and Haile Sand forts were modernized during the Second World War, allowing them to see continued use by the British military until the mid-1950s, when they were abandoned.

Meuse-Argonne Offensive

German fortification poking out of the forest floor
Photo Credit: Horacio Villalobos / CORBIS / Getty Images

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began in mid-September 1918 and ran until the Armistice was signed that November. The months-long campaign involved the French, the Siamese Expeditionary Force and the United States, who faced off against the Germans, with major casualties suffered. With over 1.2 million Allied troops and 450,000 German troops taking part, the immense scale of the engagement explains why traces remain to this day.

The above image shows a German fortification in the Forest of Argonne that was manned during the offensive.

Fort Douaumont

Armored observation turret at Fort Douaumont
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Fort Douaumont was the first French fortification to succumb to the German forces during World War I, being seized just three days into the Battle of Verdun in 1916. It was recaptured later that year. The above photo shows an armored observation turret located within the remnants of the defensive structure.

Prisoner of war (POW) cemetery in Poland

Crosses serving as grave markers lining the forest floor
Photo Credit: Michal Fludra / NurPhoto / Getty Images

In Czersk, Poland, this cemetery from World War I sits on the grounds of a former prisoner of war (POW) camp operated by the Germans. It’s believed to house the graves of 4,500 Russian soldiers who were detained there during the conflict.

Wire of Death along the Belgian-Dutch Front

Sentry box along the Wire of Death
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

The above photo shows a rebuilt segment of the infamous Wire of Death, an electrified barrier constructed by the Germans along the Dutch-Belgian Front during World War I. It’s estimated between 2,000-3,000 individuals perished due to this obstacle, with its power supply being disconnected after the Armistice was signed in 1918.

Iron Harvest

Rusty World War I-era artillery piece balancing atop a pile of rocks
Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

During World War I, an astonishing quantity of artillery shells – we’re talking around 1.5 billion pieces – were fired along the Western Front. As a result, it’s hardly surprising to discover not all of these shells detonated or were retrieved.

In Belgium and France, farmers continue to uncover unexploded ordnance from the Great War during what’s known as the “Iron Harvest.” Taking place during the spring and autumn plowing seasons, the shells and shrapnel are a reminder of the impact of the conflict on the terrain.

Sanctuary Wood

Bomb craters covering the forest floor
Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Sanctuary Wood, east of Ypres, Belgium, bore witness to the intense battles of the Ypres Salient during the First World War. Even though over a century has passed since the conflict’s end, the forest floor still bears the scars of bomb craters and trenches.

Communications trench on the former battlefield of Verdun

Communications trench winding through a forest
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Here lies the remains of a French communications trench within a forest near Douaumont, Lorraine, a significant battleground of the Battle of Verdun. This area is dotted with trenches that were once bustling thoroughfares during the First World War.

More sights at Fort Douaumont

View of loopholes at Fort Douaumont
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Considering the extensive action that unfolded at Fort Douaumont, it’s understandable that efforts have been made to conserve its remnants. The site welcomes visitors, affording them the opportunity to witness this significant piece of World War I history firsthand, including the loopholes that span the remaining structure.

Unearthing history in West Flanders

Pile of rusty artillery shells on the ground
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

The ongoing discovery of artillery shells in West Flanders, the site of the Battle of Passchendaele, shows the enduring legacy of the Great War. These remnants serve as a link to the past, providing a reminder of the conflict’s scale.


View down the length of the Trench of Death
Photo Credit: DIRK WAEM / AFP / Getty Images

Formally known as the Dodengang, the Trench of Death near Diksmuide, Belgium has a grim and tragic past. Stretching beside the Yser Canal, it emerged just before the Battle of the Yser in October 1914 and witnessed an innumerable amount of casualties. It remained occupied until 1918.

Bomb craters at Vimy Ridge

Bomb craters marking the ground on the edge of a forested area
Photo Credit: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Vimy Ridge lies within the Red Zone – Zone Rouge, in France – a region that’s been deemed too hazardous for human habitation by the French government, due to the amount of unexploded ordnance scattered across the terrain.

The above photo shows the bomb craters created during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, providing insight into the staggering volume of artillery unleashed during the engagement (and World War I, in general).

Additional remnants of the Battle of Verdun

Rusty remnants of a metal spade on the forest floor
Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

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Remnants of artillery aren’t the sole wartime artifacts strewn across Europe; everyday objects used by servicemen during World War I also dot the landscape. A prime example is this weathered spade, which was discovered in France’s Bois Azoule Forest.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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