France before the warFor a majority of the EarlyModern Era (1500-1800), France had been the main power in Europe. Through theirskill of managing internal relations and military expertise, Louis XIV (seventeenthcentury) and Napoleon I (nineteenth century) extended French power. PrussianChancellor Otto von Bismarck aimed to assert Prussian dominance across CentralEurope, which led to the French declaration of war in 1870. France’s defeat inthe Franco-Prussian War created the French Third republic and left them withmany losses, such as loss of territory, which gave birth to their goal ofreacquiring such.
The new unified Germany was formed, run by Bismarck. France had an economicrivalry with the rapidly industrializing Germany, who had taken their coal-richregion Alsace-Lorraine in 1870, as well as growing militarism which led to anarms race. Germany was seen as a big threat in 1882, as it formed the triplealliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, who all agreed to support eachother if attacked by France or Russia. Russia left 3 years later to joinBritain and France, forming the triple entente, the foundation for ‘The Allies’.The German declaration of war on August 3rd 1914 brought France intothe war, as they were pinned by treaty to defend Russia. Entering the warThe press and mostpoliticians pressured for war, however, war was opposed by notable socialistsand pacifists, such as socialist politician Jean Jaures of the French Left, whowas assassinated at a Montmartre café for being an “enemy of France”. Patrioticpassion drove demonstrations on the Place de la Concorde and at the Gare de l’Estand Gare du Nord as mobilized soldiers left for the front.
Mobilization wasunderway on August 1st, the day Germany declared war on Russia. Universalconscription led male Parisians of military age (21+ the next year) to stationsaround the city, for mobilization into the army. Everyone except 1 percentappeared as ordered, 1% being a smaller amount than the expected absence of13%. The Ministry of the Interior refrained from arresting eminent pacifists andsocialists opposed to war as little hostility showed no need.
Soldiers or “les poilus” of the French army would spend threeyears in active service, then progress through reserve stages, which were lowerdegrees of commitment. – ActiveArmy (20–23) – Reserveof the Active Army (24–34) – TerritorialArmy (35–41) – Reserveof the Territorial Army (42–48) GROUPING: Regiments à military regions à army corps à field army à French first army (army group) – Divisionsin regional corps (e.g. infantry divisions) In the war The General Staff wasat the top of the French Army, under the leadership of General Joseph Joffre,who later became Commander-in-Chief. They were responsible for creating the mobilizationplan, Plan XVII. Using the railroad network, the Army would be moved from theirpeacetime garrisons in France to the eastern border with Germany. Joffre’sforces were forced in France’s north-east, to attack Alsace-Lorraine and meetthe predicted German offensive through the Low Countries.
Devastating battleson the western front sparked France to conscript men up to 45 years of age.- First Army (7th, 8th, 13th, 14th, and 21st Army Corps), with the objective ofcapturing Mulhouse and Sarrebourg.- Second Army (9th, 15th, 16th, 18th and 20th Army Corps), with the objective ofcapturing Morhange.- Third Army (4th, 5th and 6th Army Corps), defending the region around Metz.- Fourth Army (12th, 17th andColonial Army Corps) held in reserve around the Forest of Argonne- Fifth Army (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th and 11th Army Corps), defending the Ardennes. By 1918, 40% of French soldiers on the WesternFront operated artillery and 850,000 were infantry troops, less than the 1.5million in 1915. This was due to a greater machine gun, armored car and tank utilization.
Also, the Service Aéronautique (French air force). A few weeks after thewar had commenced, Paris was near the front lines and bombarded by the Germans.Parisians experienced food shortages, rationing and an epidemic of influenza,yet morale stayed high. With many men gone, women took a much greater place inthe work force. QUICK FACTS:- Atthe end of the war, France had called upon 8,317,000 men, with 475,000 of thosebeing colonial troops. There were 4.4 million causalities, with 1.3 milliondead.
Roughly 1/20 of France’s population were killed. – In1914, more than 65,000 mobilized horses were shared between the five Frencharmies.- TheFrench artillery fired more than 330,000,000 shells, this is more than 210thousand rounds each day.
On August 26th,trains full of refugees from Belgium (affected by the Schlieffen plan conductedby the Central Powers) arrived at the Gare du Nord and were given a roof overtheir head at the Cirque de Paris. French casualties at the beginning of thewar were kept hidden from the public as many expected a quick victory. GeneralJoseph Gallieni came out of retirement and was appointed military governor ofParis, a 14th century title. He started to arrange defenses of the city.Forts, cannons and batteries were implemented for defense against aerialattacks, along with machine guns and cannons placed on the Eiffel Tower. Cattlewere moved into the city for their meat, in case of a long siege.
Masterpiecesof the Louvre were relocated to Toulouse for safekeeping. In the First Battle ofthe Marne, when the Germans turned southeast to attack the French army on theflank (), Galliene sent all his Parisian reserves to the front to aid theattack but lacked enough transport to move the soldiers. On September 5,Gallieni requisitioned a thousand private vehicles, involving roughly sixhundred Paris taxicabs and their drivers to carry soldiers to the frontat Nanteuil-le-Haudouin, fifty kilometers away. Just the back lightsof the taxis were lit; the drivers were instructed to follow the lights of thetaxi in front. The majority of the taxis were demobilized on September 8, but afew remained to transport the wounded and refugees. The taxis ran their meters followingcity regulations and the French treasury paid the total fare of 70,012 francs.In summary, the Germans were pushed back, in reality making little militaryimpact yet having a grandeur effect on French morale by demonstrating thesolidarity between the people and the army. BATTLES https://en.
wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Battles_of_World_War_II_involving_France 27,000 French soldiers were killed in theBattle of Charleroi on August 22nd 1914. In1915, during the Artois Offensive between May 9th and June 18th, it cost300,000 lives and wounded men to gain just 4 kilometers of territory. CIVILIANS IN THE WAR TO REPLACE EXITING WARAvenue de l’Allemagne(Avenue of Germany in English) was renamed Avenue Jean-Jaurés, after the Frenchsocialist leader, and the Rue de Berlin became the Rue de Liège, after a cityin Belgium. The Grand Palais became a military hospital and Paris theatreseventually reopened, with plays of patriotic themes. Café concerts were verypopular, packed with people enjoying music, dancing and food. Grains, milk, sugar and eggs were at a fixed price determined by the governmentand margarine and sugar were taxed. The pain national was introduced in 1916, astandard loaf of bread made with a more rustic flour than the white loaf.
Eventually, special breads and brioches were banned and one type of load ofbread was sold, weighing seven hundred grams and being eighty centimetres long.Poor families received 135 grams of potatoes per day. With the major coal mines of northernFrance being behind the German lines, electricity and heat were very limited.In the winter of 1916 and 17, temperatures were -7 degrees Celsius.
Coal wasreserved for the elderly, unemployed and families of mobilized soldiers, buthad to pay 4.75 francs for a fifty kilogram sack of coal, and it had to last them40 days. Tram lines often couldn’t operate. The government were obliged to reorganizeParis’ industry to provide weapons and ammunition. 100,000 artillery shells hadto be produced every day and more than a thousand Paris enterprises wereworking in the sector of National Defence. As factory workersbecame soldiers, women, as well as 183,000 colonials from French Africa and Indochina took their place.
Parisian fashionswere modified for the benefit of working women; skirts were made shorter and corsetsmade looser. Woman were postmen (or ladies), tram drivers and factory workers. The first business school for women “Ècole deHaute Enseignement Commercial” opened late 1915. Defencefactories were intense and risky, with inexperienced workers handling dangerouschemicals and explosives. In April 1918, a new factory in Vincennes makingshells and mustard gas exploded, poisoning three hundred ten workers.
11Overall, the focus wason the army, with the government stressing efficiency and maximization of armysupplies. The union sacree was the idea that civilians sacrificed for theirtroops. The cost of living in Paris rose by 120 percent between 1917 and theend of the war in November 1918. In the spring of 1917, Paris workers began todemand more compensation for their efforts, including higher wages, betterworking conditions and no more importation of foreign workers. After the war On November 9th, the German monarchy collapsed and was proclaimed arepublic. The new German government sent a delegation to Compiegne, north ofParis, and the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. An excerpt from ayoung Paris college student (René Héron de Villefosse), describing what he sawstates: “At eleven o’clock in the fog, the church bells announced thearmistice.
The college released its students class by class… in the afternoon,on the Grands Boulevards, the enthusiasm of the crowd was indescribable. Peopleshouted, kissed, blew trumpets, and blew the horns of trucks surrounded by thecrowds. Any solider encountered was embraced and carried in triumph.” On November 17th, Alsace and Lorraine were returned toFrance, with huge crowds gathering at the Champs Elysees to rejoice.
OnDecember 16th, massive crowds welcomed President Woodrow Wilson tothe Hotel de Ville, upon his arrival to take part in the Versailles peacenegotiations.