22/6/1916 Verdun: as the Germans attack, French politicians become restive

At Verdun German assaults are continuing. The Germans are attacking the village of Fleury as a prelude to an attempt on Fort Souville, after which they hope to press on to Verdun itself. While the battle was initially conceived by Falkenhayn as an attritional struggle, where the French army would be broken by the amount of casualties inflicted, Verdun has now become something else. Both sides have lost so many men in the fighting that the battle is being fought to vindicate their deaths. Neither the French nor the Germans can give in without risking a collapse in morale. The battle has become a desperate battle of wills between the two armies.

In Paris the Chamber of Deputies is restive. The parliamentarians are concerned at how the war is being conducted. The Chamber meets in secret session. Many deputies are scathingly critical of the army’s senior commanders (including Joffre himself) and of the government for sheltering them. It seems for a time that Aristide Briand’s government will be brought down but he manages to remain in office for the moment. However the Chamber refuses to pass a motion supporting Joffre’s efforts. The army’s commander in chief remains in office for now, but the political winds are beginning to turn against him.

image sources:

Explosion (Les Français à Verdun)

The Chamber of Deputies (Le Figaro; the illustration depicts a French parliamentary debate from 1919)

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