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Joseph JoffreJoseph Joffre

Life: 1852-1931
Birth Place: Rivesaltes, France
Historical Role: General
Titles: Chief of the General Staff, Commander in Chief of the French Armies, General de Division (Major-General), Marshal of France
Primary countries affected: France
Secondary countries affected: Cambodia, Germany, Laos, Madagascar, Taiwan, Vietnam
Events: Franco-Prussian War, First World War


Joseph Joffre was born in Rivesaltes, France, in 1852. He studied at the Ecole Polytechnique, but his studies were disturbed by the Franco-Prussian War, in which he participated. Once the war was over he finished his studies. He was then appointed as an officer in the French Army. He served in Formosa (Taiwan) and Indo China, later he would serve in Madagascar. In 1910 he joined the French Supreme War Council. In 1911 he was named the French Chief of the General Staff.

When war broke out in 1914, Joffre became the Commander in Chief of the French Armies. He devised a plan known as Plan XVII, in which he expected the Germans to attack through Lorraine, he would launch his own attack from the Ardennes and Luxembourg. However the German Schlieffen Plan did not intend for an attack through Lorraine, but rather through neutral Belgium, in an outflanking move that would close around the French Forces and capture Paris quickly. When Joffre launched his offensive, it was repulsed by the germans and the French Armies and their British allies started falling back. Thanks to Joffre's cool reaction to the situation he avoided a panic and was able to reorganize his forces in order to repulse the German offensive. He organized a new army that participated in the First Battle of the Marne, which was a resounding success for the French against the German forces. The German plan of quickly capturing Paris and encircling the French armies had been crushed, and the two belligerents had settled in for a long war, with very little initiative left.

The First Battle of the Marne proved to be the high point of Joffre's career, his future campaigns resulted in massive failures and the cost of life was devastating. These failures include the offensives in Champagne, Somme and Artois. Joffre tried to justify his actions but in 1916 he was replaced and appointed to a background role in the French war effort. He died in Paris, in 1931.


Tucker, S (1996). The European Powers in the First World War. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. p.427.

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