Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, May 20, 2017

General Henri Gouraud at Gallipoli

Gouraud with Captured Turkish Artillery
Henri Gouraud (1867–1946) was one of the most honored French generals of the Great War but is mostly remembered for the campaign of 1918. He had begun, however, to demonstrate his capabilities earlier in a forgotten element of the Gallipoli operation. After commanding a division in the Argonne in 1914, in May 1915 Gouraud was sent to Gallipoli —where early French efforts had been highly criticized—to assume command. Charged with anchoring the right side during the effort to break out of the Cape Helles beachhead, the French colonial troops had not fared well in their attempts to seize the high ground, consistently leaving the British troops on their left exposed, ultimately preventing any advance. Gouraud arrived in May, but on 4 June saw his troops again fail. 

He proceeded to galvanize the French contingent, starting with a meticulously planned operation to capture a trench section the Turks had reinforced with two redoubts. By using artillery to greater effect, he eased the burden on his infantry. The operation went as planned for the French troops, but once again, his colonial troops had problems. Gouraud, however, would simply not accept failure; he insisted on a final push by the Regiment de Marche d'Afrique. The second line of trenches was captured and the Allied line was advanced. In this successful attack, his forces suffered 2,500 casualties but inflicted over 6,000 on their Turkish adversaries. The French deployment at Gallipoli had finally begun to be a positive asset for the Allies, but this would not last long. 

On 30 June 1915, Gouraud became one of the highest-ranking officers of the war to be wounded. He lost an arm and broke both legs as a result of being hit with numerous fragments from the explosion of an artillery shell. The effectiveness of the French forces around Cape Helles diminished noticeably after his evacuation when he was replaced by a general of lesser caliber. 

French Soldier at Gallipoli
15,000 French and Colonials Killed Are Buried at Cape Helles

Later in the year he was given command of Fourth Army in the Champagne but was rotated to Morocco soon afterward. Gouraud returned to the Western Front, though, to command Fourth Army in time to defeat the last of the German offensives east of Reims in July 1918. Just before the Armistice he was given the honor of retaking Sedan for the Allies. His remains are interred today in the monument at Navarin Farm in the Champagne. The monument honors the French sacrifices in the sector throughout the war as well as the American troops that fought under his command in 1918. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this episode of Gouraud's life.
    And what a career. Imperial administrator, military ruler, a leader in 1918. Did he live his last years in Nazi-occupied Paris?