Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 15th, 1915

- Joffre replies today to General de Langle's review of 4th Army's recent offensive, identifying two causes for the failures of the attacks: first, the artillery bombardment was too short and of insufficient strength; and second, the fronts under attack were too narrow and assaulted by too few soldiers.  With respect to the latter, Joffre believes that despite 4th Army's offensive being conducted against twelve kilometres, the decisive assaults were often concentrated against just a few metres of the enemy line, which leaves the attacking infantry vulnerable to enemy artillery fire.  Instead, Joffre believes that as wide a front as possible needs to be attacked by 'incessantly repeated blows' in order to secure success.

- While discussing his views on operations to his subordinates, the French Commander-in-Chief does not do so with his nominal superior, the minister of war.  When the latter requests information on the methods used in attacks today, Joffre in reply refuses to offer any details, stating instead that if the government does not have complete confidence in his judgement he is prepared to resign.  Joffre jealously guards his command authority, denying his civilian masters even the most nominal of oversight.  In Joffre's view, war is best left to the experts (i.e. the generals).

Meanwhile, Joffre also wants the British to take over responsibility for a greater portion of the front line in the north by replacing the French 8th Army in the Ypres salient.  Doing so would allow Joffre to take two French corps from Flanders and redeploy them for operations elsewhere.  This fits Joffre's overall conception of operations on the Western Front - the French are to undertake the primary offensives, while their British allies play a secondary role by allowing Joffre to assemble additional reserves.  This also corresponds with Joffre's opinion of the fighting worth of the British army, especially the new formations arriving from England; as he explains to Foch today, having the British take over more of the front takes advantage of their 'aptitude' for the defense, hardly a compliment from the attack-orientated Joffre.

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