French Government and High Command: 1914–18


Map Code: Ax00174

Unlike the German chain of command, civilian officials were responsible for all aspects of military and administrative action in France. The President was ceremonially responsible for general authorization of government decisions, and the Premier beneath him served as the head of the elected portion of government. During war the Army Chief of Staff General Joffre was given heightened powers as the head of the Grand Quartier Général, which was delegated control of specific areas of the country as determined by Parliament. The total control given to the army over regions near the German occupation effectively split the power balance of the Republic. A situation arose where two contesting governing forces were in control of different parts of the country. Under pressure, Joffre stepped down in 1916 and it took until Georges Clemenceau’s tenure as both Prime Minister and War Minister for the war effort to be unified under single leadership.

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