Initially the strongest of all the Allied armies, France's metropolitan and colonial units bore the greatest burden during the first two years of the Great War, and made a great contribution to the final victory. In common with most European countries, the pre-war French Army was based on a system of national military service providing conscripts who could be subject to recall as reservists for several years after. However, the advent of war, the crisis in manpower, and the development of new tactics and weapons brought radical changes. The influence of these factors on the organisation, equipment, uniforms and tactics of the French Army during World War I is examined in detail in this title.
A world-famous expert on the French military provides a major contribution to our understanding of World War I. He reveals why and how the French army fought as it did, with profiles of the senior commanders--Joffre, Ptain, Nivelle, and Foch--and analyzes the major campaigns on the Western Front, the Near East and Africa. There are details on the trenches, the makeup and performance of colonial armies, the mutinies of 1917, and how, ultimately, the wartime experience helped shape the nation.
Recent scholarship has challenged the assumption that military commanders during the First World War were inflexible, backward-looking and unwilling to exploit new technologies. Instead a very different picture is now emerging of armies desperately looking to a wide range of often untested and immature scientific and technological innovations to help break the deadlock of the Western Front. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the development of tank warfare, which both the British and the French hoped would give them a decisive edge in their offensives of 1917 and 1918. Whilst the British efforts to develop armoured warfare have been well chronicled, there has been no academic study in English on the French tank force - the Artillerie Spéciale - during the Great War. As such, this book provides a welcome new perspective on an important but much misunderstood area of the war. Such was the scale of the French tanks’ failure in their first engagement in 1917, it was rumoured that the Artillerie Spéciale was in danger of being disbanded, yet, by the end of the war it was the world’s largest and most technologically advanced tank force. This work examines this important facet of the French army’s performance in the First World War, arguing that the AS fought the war in as intelligent and sensible a manner as was possible, given the immature state of the technology available. No amount of sound tank doctrine could compensate for the fragility of the material, for the paucity of battlefield communication equipment and for the lack of tank-infantry training opportunities. Only by 1918 was the French army equipped with enough reliable tanks, as well as aircraft and heavy-artillery, to begin to exercise a mastery of the new form of combined-arms warfare. The successful French armoured effort outlined in this study (including a listing of all the combat engagements of the French tank service in the Great War) highlights a level of military effectiveness within
In the English-speaking world the First World War is all too often portrayed primarily as a conflict between Britain and Germany. The vast majority of books focus on the Anglo-German struggle, and ignore the dominant part played by the French, who for most of the war provided the bulk of the soldiers fighting against the central powers. As such, this important and timely book joins the small but growing collection of works offering an overdue assessment of the French contribution to the Great War. Drawing heavily on French primary sources the book has two main foci: it is both an in-depth battle narrative and analysis, as well as a work on the tactical evolution of the French army in Spring 1915 as it endeavored aggressively to come to grips with trench warfare. This period is of crucial importance as it was in these months that the French army learned the foundations of trench warfare on which their conduct for the remainder of the war would rest. The work argues that many advanced practices often considered German innovations - such as the rolling barrage, infiltration tactics, and the effective planning and integration of artillery bombardments - can all be traced back to French writing and action in early 1915. The work argues that - contrary to received opinion - French army bureaucracy proved effective at very quickly taking in, digesting and then disseminating lessons learned at the front and French commanders proved to be both effective and professional. Such radical conclusions demand a fundamental rethink of the way we view operations on the Western Front.
France and the Great War tells the story of how the French community embarked upon, sustained, and in some ways prevailed in the Great War. In this 2003 book, Leonard Smith and his co-authors synthesize many years of scholarship, examining the origins of the war from a diplomatic and military viewpoint, before shifting their emphasis to socio-cultural and economic history when discussing the civilian and military war culture. They look at the 'total' mobilization of the French national community, as well as the military and civilian crises of 1917, and the ambiguous victory of 1918. The book concludes by revealing how traces of the Great War can still be found in the political and cultural life of the French national community. This lively, accessible and engaging book will be of enormous value to students of the Great War.