Joseph Joffre

Biographical Article
By: Tyler Schlecht

Joffre's Account of The First Battle of Ypres

According to Joseph Joffre, The First Battle of Ypres was launched to support German military operations against the coast. Being Commander-in-Chief, Joseph Joffre saw the field differently than many of the field soldiers, and had more of a formal military education. He wrote in militaristic terms and objectively, throughout the entire diary.(16)

On the 16th of October, Joffre and his men began moving towards Ypres. They reached Roulers and Courtemark by the 18th. The French army of Belgium consisted of two territorial divisions, four divisions of cavalry, and a naval brigade. They received reinforcements from October 27th - November 11th. In all, Joffre received five army corps, a division of cavalry, a territorial division, sixteen regiments of cavalry, plus sixty pieces of heavy artillery. In the Battle of Flanders (Ypres), Joffre's divisions were set up in a defensive unit against the enemy's offense, and that's all their orders were to do. They were to remain on the defensive until the enemy pretty much gave up the battle. (17)

Joffre's men, the French, and all the rest of the men dominated the battle, but the opposing side still didn't think they had lost. The Crown Prince of Bavaria stated that his soldiers, "had just been fighting under very difficult conditions," and he added: "It is our business now not to let the struggle with our most detested enemy drag on longer. The decisive blow is still to be struck." Basically, the trench warfare did not work out for his troops, and he didn't want to admit defeat to his enemies (Joffre's men). So, he still wanted to deal the decisive blow.(18)

The true battle of Ypres was when Joffre decided to not turn to his flank on the coast, but rather to drive right under the shock of powerful masses. The Battle of Ypres was extremely violent, causing massive losses on each side. Many times Joffre thought that he and his men were going to lose their positions and maybe even the battle, but they always seemed to get reinforcements at the right time. The French and British caused especially massive lost when the Germans charged while the French and British were set up with 300 machine guns on the front line. Due to loss of life amassing more than 150,000 in total, Joffre's enemies pretty much gave up, and Joffre won the battle, all by making exceptional progress on the defensive end.(19)