John French (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: From the outbreak of World War I until December, 1915, French commanded the British Expeditionary Force in France.
After a stint as a midshipman (1866), John French joined the army in 1870. The Boer Wars established his reputation as a successful cavalry leader. French went on to serve as inspector general of the army and chief of the imperial general staff in 1913. With the outbreak of World War I, he received command of the British Expeditionary Force.
French’s lack of understanding of modern war and poor judgment made him a far-from-ideal military leader. His response to the heavy pounding received at the hands of the Germans was a call for the expeditionary force to withdraw from the line to refit. Only the personal intervention of the secretary of war stopped French from pulling out of the line on the eve of the critical Battle of the Marne in September, 1914.
The following year, French launched a series of failed attacks against the German lines in Flanders. He placed the blame for these failures on the shortage of shells. He also directed operations at the first and second Battle of Ypres (1914, 1915). French’s attempt to shift the blame for his failures and the unsuccessful Battle of Loos (September, 1915) proved his undoing. Growing criticism resulted in his removal from command in December, 1915. French took the post of commander in chief of the Home Forces...
(The entire section is 307 words.)
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