It had been agreed that the Allies would attack the Germans and Austro-Hungarians more or less simultaneously in an attempt to overwhelm them. Britain is scheduled to attack shortly at Arras as prelude to the main French offensive in the Chemin des Dames sector later in the month. However, the Italians are not yet ready for another attack on the Isonzo and the Russians will not be able to attack until the summer (with the recent revolution raising doubts as to whether they will be able to attack at all).
Meanwhile, on the Western Front the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line has raised doubts as to the desirability of a major offensive there. The German withdrawal to a shorter line means they have more reserves with which to meet any offensive and the French will also find themselves up against the Germans’ prepared positions. Some wonder whether the Chemin des Dames offensive remains feasible.
One person who remains convinced of the need for an offensive is Nivelle, France’s Western Front commander. He makes the point forcefully today in a meeting with President Poincaré and Painlevé, Minister for War. The Germans must be attacked before they complete further strategic withdrawals. The French must attack to show their allies what they are capable of. He remains confident that his assault will be able to smash through the German lines and bring the war to an end.
Nivelle threatens to resign if the offensive is called off. This would cause political chaos, so the politicians let him have his way. France will attack.
Robert Nivelle (Valour Canada)