In short, France was one of the key countries in the First World War along with the German Empire, Russia, Great Britain and Austria-Hungary. The socio-political life of all the participating countries on the eve was distinguished by tension, distrust within the society and significant militarization of all. Many countries also faced internal political problems, which they sought to resolve by diverting attention to the military conflict.
The anti-German coalition, of which France was a part, went down in history as the Entente. It included Great Britain, Russia and the French Republic. It was the fulfillment of allied obligations that became one of the main reasons for France's entry into the First World War. More on this later.
French plans in World War I
The situation that developed in relations between the key players in the European political scene by the beginning of the 20th century was extremely difficult, andbalance - so fragile that it threatened to break at any moment.
Like most other European countries, France was going through hard times in all respects before the start of the war. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the country suffered a crushing defeat from Prussia in 1871, losing not only prestige, but also very significant territories. Therefore, for several decades, the people and the government lived in anticipation of revenge. Speaking about the date of France's entry into the First World War, it is necessary to name July 28, 1914. When the French "summoned" the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The chain of those who joined the action was formed quite quickly.
Most historians, describing the society of France at the beginning of the First World War, say that people took the news of the country's entry into the war with enthusiasm. After all, all aspects of public life were extremely militarized. Children were preparing for the war from the school bench, taking part in marches and exercises. Many schools had a special uniform imitating the military. Thus, the generation of the first participants in the war grew up in anticipation of revenge, with the cult of the state and the military banner, and very willingly, as a result of this, went to the front, expecting an early victory and return to their homeland. However, these hopes were not destined to come true and the war dragged on. The victory was postponed, and people died in the most severe fights and incredible torments. France had very significant reasons for entering the First World War, but Germany was not going to surrender to the last.
Fragile political balance
France in the First World War, like other states, pursued aggressive ideas, hoping to regain control of Alsace and Lorraine. Lost by her in the war with Germany three decades earlier.
To one degree or another, all states were interested in changing the existing order of things. Germany sought to redistribute African colonies, France was seized by revanchist expectations, and Great Britain wanted to protect its vast possessions around the world. The Russian government wanted to achieve more prestige, but received only a colossal political, economic and social disaster, which led to the fall of the existing political regime.
Despite the fact that hostilities were conducted throughout Eurasia and even in Africa, the main ones were the Western European, Eastern, Balkan and Middle Eastern fronts. France's participation in the First World War placed a huge burden on the citizens of the country, since during the first two years of hostilities, it was this country that conducted the main operations on the Western Front, trying to capture Alsace and protect Belgium.
By the end of 1915, the threat of capture by German troops loomed over Paris. However, as a result of the stubborn resistance of the Franco-British grouping, the military conflict turned into a trench and dragged on for a long time. Although the outbreak of the First World War did not take France by surprise, the country was not ready for a protracted conflict, and for a long time could not stop the slow, butconfident onslaught of the German troops, even with the support of the allies.
Military Company 1916-1917
The plans of the German government was to strike the main blow against France in the Verdun area. The operation, on which the main stake was made, began in February 1916 and dragged on until December. The sides suffered colossal losses from enemy bullets, unsanitary conditions and poor supplies. But no one was going to give up. Although Germany was unable to break through the defenses of the Anglo-French Corps.
By the spring of 1917, the initiative passed to the French military leaders, and they did not fail to take advantage of this. The allied forces launched an active offensive on the Aisne River, hoping to finally crush the enemy. In this offensive, which went down in history as the Nivelle Massacre, the French and British lost more than two hundred thousand people, but they could not achieve their goal.
1918 Campaign. Front Break
At the beginning of the eighteenth year, Germany decided to go on the counteroffensive and attack France on the Western Front. Having achieved some success in breaking through the French defenses, the German troops, however, again failed to reach Paris, stopping on the Marne River, where the operation again turned into a positional confrontation. It could not go on for so long, and the allied forces decided to attack the Germans again.
In the summer of 1916, the French military inflicted a serious defeat on the Germans and drove them back across the rivers Aisne and Vel. The strategic initiative passed into the hands of the French after the Amiens operation, and by September to stopGermany could not attack the allies in any direction - the defense was broken through throughout the entire front.
Revolution in Germany and its defeat
In the First World War, France fought mainly with Germany, which is today its neighbor. However, at that time, relations between the countries were so tense that it was impossible to resolve the contradictions in any other way. Both countries experienced serious internal difficulties and had a very limited margin of safety on the eve of entering the war, but the socio-political system of France proved to be more resilient in the face of military conflict.
In November 1918, a revolution took place in Germany, as a result of which the monarchy was overthrown, and all systems of economic and political management were destroyed. In such a situation, the situation of the Germans at the front became catastrophic and nothing else but a peace agreement was left for Germany.
On November 11, 1918, the Compiègne truce between the Entente countries and Germany was signed in the Picardy region. From that moment on, the war actually ended. Although its final results were summed up by the Treaty of Versailles, which determined the balance of power in Europe for a long time.
France during the First World War was one of the leading players in the entire theater of operations. But its leaders paid the greatest attention, of course, to the Western Front. It was here that the main striking forces of the republic were assembled. Date of entry of France intoWorld War I is also the opening day of the Western Front.
From a geopolitical point of view, this front included the territories of Belgium and Luxembourg, Alsace and Lorraine. As well as the Rhine provinces of the German Empire and the North-Eastern regions of France.
The greatest importance was given to this front, not least because of its great industrial significance, since large reserves of iron ore, coal and important industrial enterprises were concentrated on its territory. In addition, the geography of the front was distinguished by flat terrain and a developed network of roads and railways, which made it possible to use large military units on its territory. It is worth saying that during the First World War, France took a very active position, not only defending, but also making great efforts to attack opponents.
Both sides of the conflict made constant attempts to change the situation in their favor, but strong field fortifications, numerous machine-gun emplacements and lines of barbed wire prevented these intentions. As a result, the war took on the character of a trench confrontation, and the front line for many months could not change at all or change slightly.
For France, this front was of strategic importance also because it protected the country's capital from the German invasion, so significant forces and resources were concentrated here.
Battle of the Somme
Although France's entry into World War I was inevitable,it was almost impossible to prepare in advance for the difficulties that awaited her. Protracted confrontation was not included in the strategic plans of any of the participating countries.
By the spring of 1916, it became clear to the Allied command that France was suffering too many losses and could not alone change the course of the war on the Western Front. At the same time, Russia also needed support, which also suffered a serious blow. As a result, it was decided to increase the British contingent of troops in the French theater of operations.
The Battle of the Somme is included in all textbooks of military strategy. It began on July 1, 1916 with a massive artillery preparation, as a result of which the Allied troops fired at the positions of the German army for a week. Despite the fact that the French were very effective, the British artillery did not show great success and the British army lost more than sixty thousand people in the first week of fighting.
The last phase of the operation on the Somme began in October 1916, when the allies made serious attempts to move deep into enemy territory, but could only break through 3-4 kilometers. As a result, due to the beginning of autumn showers, the offensive was curtailed, the Franco-British corps managed to capture only a small area at the cost of colossal losses. Both sides together lost about one and a half million people.
How the attitude of the French towards the conflict has changed
Initially, French society rallied around the idea of revenge, andFrance's plans for World War I were supported by the majority of citizens. However, over time, when it became clear that the confrontation would not be quick, and the number of victims would only grow, public opinion began to change.
Growth of enthusiasm among the population at the forefront was also facilitated by the fact that the country's leadership kept in accordance with the situation of wartime. But good spirits did not compensate for managerial failures. In the first months of the war, even the highest leadership of the republic did not have accurate information about the state of affairs at the front. And the longer the French soldiers were in the trenches, the more defeatism spread among the Parisian elite.
Although France greeted the outbreak of the First World War with enthusiasm, soon the changed mood forced the elite to seriously think about a separate peace with Germany, which was avoided only thanks to the pressure of the British Empire.
French resentment also demanded that the government achieve all the same goals, one of which was the return of Alsace and Lorraine. This goal was achieved, but at the cost of incredible loss of life and huge material and financial losses.
Results of the war
The main result of the war for France was the victory over the old enemy - Germany. Although losses amounted to about 200 billion francs, almost one and a half million people were killed and 23 thousand destroyed enterprises, the French believed that the main goals were achieved.
For several decadesGermany was suppressed, the coveted lands were returned to France, and the burden of reparations and indemnities was imposed on the enemies. In addition, the fossil resources of the Saar basin came under the control of France, and its military received the right to be in the former German colonies in Africa.
The honorary title of "father of victory" went to Jacques Clemenceau, who formed the government in the last years of the war and made a huge personal contribution to the defeat of Germany. This very radical politician took a rather tough stance on such important issues for post-war France as the organization of trade unions, the fight against the strike movement, tax increases and the stabilization of the franc, which required very unpopular measures among the population.
Post-war France and its allies. Results
As a result of the First World War, France suffered huge losses, gained a lot, and French society has changed a lot. However, no matter how serious the social changes in the republic, its opponents suffered much more serious losses. Thus, the results of the First World War for France were rather positive, although a high price had to be paid for them.
As a result of the conflict, the political systems of Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany and Turkey radically changed, which, as a result of revolutions, coups and civil wars, turned from empires into republics and lost vast territories. It was in the first post-war period that the map of the Middle East acquired its modern outlines.was formed as a result of the division of the possessions of Ottoman Turkey.
The Russian Empire also collapsed, and on its ruins, first formed numerous semi-dependent states, and later the Soviet Union. However, Germany was hit the hardest.
As a result of the war, the German state became a republic, but lost Alsace and Lorraine. Also, obligations were imposed on the country to pay material and monetary compensation, and the troops of the victorious countries remained on its territories for a long time. It is these very onerous obligations that are believed to have awakened in the Germans the resentment that served as one of the main reasons for the outbreak of World War II.
Great Britain, however, suffered the least losses, as it has a favorable geographical position, and its industry at that time was the most developed in Europe. The First World War also affected the United States, which increased its external debt to four billion dollars.
Although the results of the First World War for France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia were very different, all countries suffered huge losses, and the conflict made an indelible impression on everyone who had anything to do with it.