London: Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd, 1930. Presumed First U.K. Edition, First printing. Hardcover. 254 pages. Frontis illustration. Illustrations. Maps. Cocked. Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Pétain (24 April 1856 – 23 July 1951), commonly known as Philippe Pétain or Marshal Pétain, was a French general who attained the position of Marshal of France at the end of World War I, during which he became known as The Lion of Verdun. From 1940 to 1944, during World War II, he served as head of the collaborationist regime of Vichy France. Pétain, who was 84 years old in 1940, remains the oldest person to become the head of state of France.
During World War I, Pétain led the French Army to victory at the nine-month-long Battle of Verdun. After the failed Nivelle Offensive and subsequent mutinies he was appointed Commander-in-Chief and succeeded in repairing the army's confidence. Pétain remained in command for the rest of the war and emerged as a national hero. During the interwar period he was head of the peacetime French Army, commanded joint Franco-Spanish operations during the Rif War and served twice as a government minister. During this time he was known as The Old Marshal. With the imminent Fall of France and the Cabinet wanting to ask for an armistice, on 17 June 1940 Prime Minister Paul Reynaud resigned, recommending to President Albert Lebrun that he appoint Pétain in his place, which he did that day, while the government was at Bordeaux. The Cabinet then resolved to sign armistice agreements with Germany and Italy. The government voted to transform the French Third Republic into the French State or Vichy France, an authoritarian regime that collaborated with the Axis. After the war, Pétain was tried and convicted for treason. He was originally sentenced to death, but due to his age and World War I service his sentence was commuted to life in prison. His journey from military obscurity, to hero of France during World War I, to collaborationist ruler during World War II, led his successor Charles de Gaulle to write that Pétain's life was "successively banal, then glorious, then deplorable, but never mediocre". The Battle of Verdun was fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916 on the Western Front in France. The battle was the longest of the First World War and took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse. The German 5th Army attacked the defences of the Fortified Region of Verdun and those of the French Second Army on the right (east) bank of the Meuse. Using the experience of the Second Battle of Champagne in 1915, the Germans planned to capture the Meuse Heights, an excellent defensive position, with good observation for artillery-fire on Verdun. The Germans hoped that the French would commit their strategic reserve to recapture the position and suffer catastrophic losses at little cost to the German infantry. Poor weather delayed the beginning of the attack until 21 February but the Germans captured Fort Douaumont in the first three days. The advance then slowed for several days, despite inflicting many French casualties. By 6 March, 20+1 2 French divisions were in the RFV and a more extensive defence in depth had been organized. Philippe Pétain ordered there to be no retreat and that German attacks were to be counter-attacked, despite this exposing French infantry to the German artillery. By 29 March, French guns on the west bank had begun a constant bombardment of Germans on the east bank, causing many infantry casualties. The German offensive was extended to the west bank of the Meuse to gain observation and eliminate the French artillery firing over the river but the attacks failed to reach their objectives. In early May, the Germans changed tactics again and made local attacks and counter-attacks; the French recaptured part of Fort Douaumont but then the Germans ejected them and took many prisoners. The Germans tried alternating their attacks on either side of the Meuse and in June captured Fort Vaux. The Germans advanced towards the last geographical objectives of the original plan, at Fleury-devant-Douaumont and Fort Souville, driving a salient into the French defences. Fleury was captured and the Germans came within 2 mi of the Verdun citadel but in July the offensive was cut back to provide troops, artillery and ammunition for the Battle of the Somme, leading to a similar transfer of the French Tenth Army to the Somme front. From 23 June to 17 August, Fleury changed hands sixteen times and a German attack on Fort Souville failed. The offensive was reduced further but to keep French troops away from the Somme, ruses were used to disguise the change. In September and December, French counter-offensives recaptured much ground on the east bank and recovered Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux. The battle lasted for 302 days, the longest and one of the most costly in human history. In 2000, Hannes Heer and Klaus Naumann calculated that the French suffered 377,231 casualties and the Germans 337,000, a total of 714,231 and an average of 70,000 a month. In 2014, William Philpott wrote of 976,000 casualties in 1916 and 1,250,000 in the vicinity of Verdun. In France, the battle came to symbolize the determination of the French Army and the destructiveness of the war. Condition: Good / No dust jacket present.
Keywords: WWI, Battle of Verdun, Second French Army, Fort Vaux, Fort Souville, Battle of Fleury, French Tenth Army, Fort Douaumont, Western Front, German High Command, Robert Nivelle, Battle of Thiaumont