19/4/1916 Joffre kicks Pétain upstairs

At Verdun the French are managing to withstand the German onslaught. The local commander there, Philippe Pétain, has become a national hero thanks to his steady leadership. But he is less popular with General Joffre, the commander in chief of the French army. Joffre sees Pétain as too cautious and too focussed on the defensive. Now that the Verdun crisis appears to be over, Joffre wants a commander there who will start taking the fight to the Germans. Joffre is also fed up of having to keep feeding men into the Verdun battle; he wants as many men free as he can for the summer’s Anglo-French offensive along the Somme.

Pétain is too popular to sack, so Joffre hits on a novel solution to his problem. Today Pétain is informed that he is being promoted to command the army group that includes the Verdun sector. The new commander of the French at Verdun is his subordinate, General Robert Nivelle, a man whose commitment to the offensive makes him far more appealing to Joffre. Pétain is despondent, fearing that Nivelle’s promotion will mean needless death for the men he has been commanding. But he can do nothing to prevent his replacement by Nivelle. The handover is to be completed by the 1st of May.

image source:

Joffre, Nivelle, Pétain (Grande Guerre : territoriaux bretons et normands du 87 DIT) (I think the picture of Pétain is post-war)

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