Yesterday at Verdun the Germans attacked on both banks of the Meuse but the French line held. In his order of the day, Pétain notes that the German assault yesterday was broken but warns that they may attack again today. He calls on his men to repeat yesterday’s successes and ends with words echoing Joan of Arc: “Courage, on les aura!” [“We’ll have them!”]
In fact the French receive a stroke of luck today as the weather breaks, with rain falling down on the battlefield. It makes life miserable for soldiers in their flooded trenches and shell holes but it also makes it increasingly difficult for the Germans to renew the assault.
Meanwhile Pétain is receiving a possibly unwelcome visitor: Joffre, the French commander in chief. Joffre has been pressing Pétain to launch a counter-attack in force against the Germans. He visits the sector on the east bank where Nivelle has been staging local counter-attacks. These have incurred great casualties but Joffre is impressed with Nivelle’s fighting spirit. Joffre now encourages Pétain to supply Nivelle with more troops. Pétain demurs; he does not share the general French officer corps’ fondness for bloody counter-attacks.
On les aura! (Grande Guerre : territoriaux bretons et normands du 87 DIT)