The largest mine crater is still visible today – the result of the German mine blown on the 14th may 1916, which contained some 60 000 kilos of explosives and removed the western end of the ridge, killing 108 men..
The "Butte de Vauquois" was the site of a small hill-top village that was first occupied and heavily fortified by the Germans in September 1914 and remained a heavily contested part of the front line right through to April 1918. Today few parts of the Western front still show so graphically the devastation caused by the First World War.
The Butte was a small hill, 290 metres high, that dominated the valley between the Argonne massif to the west and the Mort Homme/Hill 304 massif to the east. Making it an excellent observation point, with views in every direction, including road and rail traffic leading to Verdun, making it of strategic importance to both sides. After a series of attacks and counter attacks throughout 1915a stalemate ensued, with each side dug in on opposite sides of the village and they began to tunnel into the hill and resorted to mine warfare. In total some 530 mines were blown here by both sides, with the largest being one of 60 tons in May 1916. Bit by bit the village of Vauquois was blown way, leaving a series of massive craters which removed the top of the hill and split the Butte in two. In 1917 the French changed tactics to setting off smaller camouflet charges that destroyed German tunnels, but didn't create craters, in an attempt to preserve some of the strategic advantage of the hill. Whilst the Germans began to prepare to try to blow it off the map altogether, as they reasoned that if they could not win, then no-one would have it! But by 1918 they began to withdraw without completing their plan and the American Expeditionary Force finally cleared the hill on the first day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on 26th September 1918. It is estimated that some 8,000 French and German soldiers went missing on the hill and their bodies were never found.
Further info: www.worldwar1.com/france/vacquois.htm