At Verdun the Germans are continuing to press forward. They have reached the village of Thiaumont and are threatening to overrun the last French defences before the town itself. The Germans have also deployed the fighter ace Oswald Boelcke and a large number of aircraft to the battle, in an effort to regain control of the skies.
Pétain commands the sector of which Verdun is part, though direct control over the battle is now exercised by Nivelle, his subordinate. At the start of the battle Pétain was ambivalent as to whether it was essential to hold Verdun. Now though he sees its retention as vital. He writes to Joffre, who has been denying reinforcements to Verdun in favour of the planned Anglo-French Somme offensive. “The capture of the city would constitute for the Germans an inestimable success which would greatly raise their morale and correspondingly lower our own,” he writes. If the blood spent to hold Verdun turns out to have been spent in vain then the French face the prospect of a general collapse in fighting spirit.
Pétain is also irked that the French are fighting and dying while the British appear to be sitting on their hands. He urges Joffre to have the British attack on the Somme brought forward.
Philippe Pétain (Les Français à Verdun)