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Foch, Ferdinand

(633 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Foch, Ferdinand (October 2, 1851, Tarbes – March 20, 1929, Paris) French field marshal. In the course of the large-scale German offensive in March of 1918 the Allies realized that the lack of a central military command on the Western Front might result in a defeat. Up to that point, British generals (with some exceptions) had categorically refused to serve under French command. Now, however, General Foch was given the task of coordinating the operations of the French and British armies; later he r…

Delcassé, Théophile

(468 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Delcassé, Théophile (March 1, 1852, Pamiers [Ariège] – February 22, 1923, Nice), French politician (foreign minister). Delcassé was a journalist who entered politics as a disciple of Léon Gambetta. He remained deputy for his home department of Ariège from 1889 until 1919. His uninterrupted seven years’ service as foreign minister, from 1898 to 1905, was the most important period of his political career. Although his stance was for a long time anti-British rather than anti-German, it was during his…

Mutinies in the French Army 1917

(980 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Mutinies in the French Army 1917 On April 16, 1917, General Nivelle, who had replaced General Joffre as commander in chief of the French Army in December 1916, launched the great offensive on the Chemin des Dames (Nivelle Offensive). Many in the army (and in the country at large) believed that this offensive would decide the war. The disappointment was thus great when it became clear, only a few hours after the beginning of the offensive, that this assault in very difficult terrain and under terrible …

Clemenceau, Georges Benjamin

(982 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Clemenceau, Georges Benjamin (September 28, 1841, Mouilleron-en-Pareds, département Vendée – November 24, 1929, Paris), French politician (prime minister). If French contemporary history remembers two exceptional personalities with particular fondness, it is Charles de Gaulle and Clemenceau, nicknamed “le tigre” partly on account of his facial features. Also known as “Père-la-Victoire,” Father (of ) Victory, Clemenceau still enjoys an enormous popularity in France today thanks to the feat he accomp…

Nivelle, Georges Robert

(529 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Nivelle, Georges Robert (October 15, 1856, Tulle – March 23, 1924, Paris), French general and chief of the General Staff. A graduate of the École Polytechnique, Nivelle was an artilleryman. When war broke out in 1914, he was a 58-year-old colonel. Nivelle proved his military skill in the first weeks of the war, for the artillery tactics he had employed in the Battles of the Marne were new and successful. His career took a sharp upturn when he was made a brigadier general in October 1914 and in Febr…

France

(7,979 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
France The “Sacred Union” On August 4, 1914, the prime minister of France René Viviani read out a message from President Raymond Poincaré before the French National Assembly, whereupon the minister of justice proceeded to do the same before the Senate. This procedure, to begin with, illustrates the French politicians’ fear of evoking any resemblance to a monarchy: the president of the republic was not allowed to address the parliamentary assemblies himself, and his “message” had previously been disc…

Chantilly Conference

(554 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Chantilly Conference The second Interallied Conference in 1915, held in the French headquarters north of Paris. Ever since the beginning of the war, the Allies had fought without really attempting to coordinate their operations. This approach benefited the interests of the Central Powers, whose geographical position allowed them to reinforce their troops in precisely those sectors where it was needed. During the first two years of the war the general situation seemed rather favorable for the Central Powers, even though they were unable to achieve a decisive victory. The Allies were…

Marne

(1,369 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Marne River in France. Two battles of far-reaching significance in the First World War occurred on the Marne. In September 1914, after a long period when the Allies were retreating, the French Army and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) resumed the offensive and forced the German Army to retreat, bringing about the failure of the original German operational plan. France had not been defeated in six weeks, and a long war became a possibility. This was the First Battle of the Marne. In July 1918…

Genevoix, Maurice

(432 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Genevoix, Maurice (November 29, 1890, Decize [Département Nièvre] – September 8, 1980, Alicante), French author. A member of the Académie Française from 1946 onward and its secretary from 1958 to 1974, Genevoix was one of the most renowned French authors of the 20th century. Throughout his life, he considered himself a “survivor” of the World War. When the war broke out in 1914, Genevoix was a student at the École normale supérieure, to which he had been admitted as the top school graduate of his class. In the following year, he obtained the Agrégati…

Joffre, Joseph Jacques Césaire

(581 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Joffre, Joseph Jacques Césaire (January 12, 1852, Rivesaltes – March 1, 1931, Paris), Marshal of France. Joffre was descended from an affluent, southern French winegrowing family. At 17, he was accepted to the École Polytechnique. Like many officers of his generation, he spent much of his career in the colonies, namely in Tonkin, the Sudan, and Madagascar. In 1905 at the age of 53, his distinguished career led to his being named a divisional general even though he lacked the usual diploma. Joffre was named chief of the General Staff in 1911. He succeeded General Victor Michel…

Pétain, Henri Philippe

(572 words)

Author(s): Becker, Jean-Jacques
Pétain, Henri Philippe (April 24, 1856, Cauchy-à-la-Tour [Département Pas-de-Calais] – July 23, 1951, Port-Joinville [L’Île d’Yeu]), French marshal. Pétain graduated from the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint- Cyr (Specialized Military School of St. Cyr) in 1876. In 1914, he actually was a colonel facing the end of his career as a professional soldier. Moreover, his defensive orientation was not well suited to the then-prevailing offensive doctrine. Nevertheless he was swiftly promoted upon the outbreak of war. By August …