Leaders mark centenary of World War One’s longest battle, Verdun

The leaders of France and Germany are commemorating 100 years since the Battle of Verdun - the longest of the First World War. More than 300,000 soldiers from the two countries were killed and hundreds of thousands more were wounded in the fight which lasted 10 months. President Francois Hollande of France and Angela Merkel of Germany have laid wreaths at cemeteries containing the remains of both sides in the northeast French town. Mr Hollande will underline the need for European unity at a time when the EU is under pressure from the migrant crisis and a possible British exit from the bloc.

Only those who know the past can draw lessons and build a good future.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

The two leaders want their nations’ good relations to be a source of hope amid the current instability. With no survivors left to remember the war, the commemoration events are focusing on educating young people, including 4,000 French and German children. The leaders started by visiting the German military cemetery at Consenvoye, just north of Verdun. Later they were due to discuss the EU migrant crisis and the UK referendum on 23 June. Both leaders will give short speeches that will reflect the current challenges facing Europe.

Verdun… is where Europe lost itself, 100 years ago. But it also experienced the best - the town was capable of galvanising itself, coming together for peace and for Franco-German friendship. Long live the spirit of Verdun.

French President Francois Hollande