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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

100 Years Ago: Foch in the Lead


The crisis generated by Operation MICHAEL led to one supremely valuable change for the Allies. At the height of the crisis, discouraged by Pétain's slowness in providing reinforcements and willingness to prioritize the defense of Paris, thus increasing chances of a physical split in British and French forces, General Haig called for an inter-Allied conference. 

Doullens Town Hall: Site of the 26  March Meeting

It was convened on 26 March at Doullens, France. Without consulting their American, Belgian, or Italian comrades, Prime Minister Clemenceau and General Milner, representing the British government, signed an agreement charging General Foch with “coordinating the action of the allies' armies on the Western Front.” After nearly four years of war, the Allies had a semblance of unity of command. 

Artist's Depiction of the Doullens Meeting

On 28 March, however, General Pershing offered Foch the direct and immediate help of the American forces: "I come to tell you that the American people would consider it a great honour for our troops to take part in the present battle. I ask this of you in my name and theirs. At this time, the only question is to fight. Infantry, artillery, aviation, all we have is yours."

The Three Key Army Commanders with Generalissimo Foch:
Pétain, Haig, Foch, and Pershing

The understanding yielded almost instantaneous progress when Foch declared that saving Amiens was the first priority of the Allies. The action of 26 March was formalized at a later meeting at Foch's headquarters in Beauvais on 3 April and gained official American concurrence with this instrument:

Gen. Foch is charged by the British, French, and American Governments with the coordination of the action of the Allied Armies on the western front; to this end there is conferred on him all the powers necessary for its effective realization. To the same end, the British, French, and American Governments confide in Gen. Foch the strategic direction of military operations. The Commander-in-chief of the British, French, and American Armies will exercise to the fullest extent the tactical direction of their armies. Each Commander-in-Chief will have the right to appeal to his Government, if in his opinion his Army is placed in danger by the instructions received from Gen. Foch.

Sources:  OVER THE TOP and The Steve Miller Photographic Collection

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