Robert Nivelle came to prominence in the Battle of the Marne when the devastating artillery fire he organized helped stem the German advance on Paris. Promoted to General, he went on to lead the fêted defence of Verdun, using his tactical innovation of saturation bombardment followed by the creeping barrage, where artillery fire moved in increments, with infantry to the rear. A national hero, Nivelle was made Commander in Chief in December 1916. The Nivelle plan was to achieve a breach in the heavily-fortified German positions along the River Aisne, using his trademark tactics. Nivelle secured its adoption in the teeth of concerted opposition. The Germans captured a copy of the plan and prepared an effective counteroffensive. Although aware of this, Nivelle refused to reconsider, and the offensive went ahead with massive losses, exacerbated, ironically, by ineffective implementation of Nivelle’s signature creeping barrage. He was replaced within days.
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