7/3/1916 Verdun: continuing German advances, political crisis in Paris

At Verdun the Germans are continuing to press the French on the west bank of the Meuse. Progress is slower than at the opening stages of the offensive on the east bank. The French are putting up a more spirited defence and the ground is less favourable to German infiltration tactics. But progress is still being made, albeit paid for in considerable quantities of blood.

The lynchpin of the French position is the ominously named Mort Homme, a double-peaked section of high ground that dominates the battle field. Frontal assaults on this position have failed but now the Germans are hoping to take it by an indirect approach. Today, after savage fighting, they manage to capture the Bois des Corbeaux, to the Mort Homme’s northwest. From here they hope to press on and seize the high ground in the coming days.
In Paris the fighting at Verdun has led to political crisis. Gallieni, the war minister, has long been a rival of Joffre, commander of the French army. In the past they have clashed over their respective prerogatives, with Joffre resisting any attempt to impose political control over his decisions. Today Gallieni reads a report to cabinet, criticising Joffre’s conduct of the war, accusing him in particular of running down the Verdun defences in advance of the German assault.

Prime Minister Briand fears that publishing the report would damage morale and lead to the fall of his government at a time of crisis when the country cannot afford such a political vacuum. He decides to keep it secret. There will be no move against Joffre by the politicians. Gallieni’s position as war minister is now untenable; he tenders his resignation. To prevent public disquiet, Briand persuades him to remain in office until the time is right to announce his replacement.

image sources:

Advancing German troops (Les Français à Verdun)

map (Les Français à Verdun)

Joseph Gallieni (Wikipedia)

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