History of War

HOW THE WAR WAS WON   PART 1 THE GENERALS

“FOCH KNEW THAT THE ONLY WAY TO DEFEAT GERMANY AND TO LIBERATE FRANCE WAS TO BREAK THE ENEMY’S ARMY MATERIALLY AND MORALLY, AND THAT THIS COULD NOT BE DONE WITH A DEFENSIVE STRATEGY”

On 7 August 1918 Ferdinand Foch was made marshal of France, a deserved reward for checking the German Spring Offensive. The next day his systematic destruction of the German army, the so-called ‘Hundred Days’ Offensive, began. Starting off with the offensive at Amiens – that Foch’s opponent Ludendorff remembered in his memoirs as “the black day for the German army in the history of the war” – the Allied armies under Foch’s direction would drive the Germans out of France and much of Belgium with a co-ordinated and sustained series of large-scale offensives that culminated with the 11 November armistice.

Since the end of the inconclusive 1916 Somme Offensive, Foch had been preparing to take on the enemy in one huge and prolonged battle that would settle the war. He had judged that the Somme Offensive had been on too small a scale and too slow to destroy Germany’s manpower reserves, and that to win the war, offensives would have to be scaled up and sped up. This would require militarily efficient armies, but also much more modern war material – aircraft, tanks and above all guns and shells – which the allies would possess in abundance come 1918. The style of battle in which the armies under Foch’s direction would fight during this last phase of the war was faster, more mobile and more intensive than that of the slogging, attritional battles of the middle years of the war, and anticipated the methods of the next war. The Allies’ armies were no longer blunt instruments but well-equipped, experienced and supple fighting forces. With a soldier who understood warfare to direct them, they would achieve a series of victories that deserve far greater recognition than they have 100 years later.

After the war Foch was often criticised for his obsession with the offensive, but Foch knew that the only way to

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