French Navy

French Navy of World War 1

At the outbreak of the First World War France had 19 battleships, 32 cruisers, 86 destroyers, 34 submarines, and 115 torpedo boats.

During the Dardanelles operation, the French Navy sent four battleships, six destroyers, and submarines. The battleship Bovet and four submarines were lost during this campaign.

The French Navy kept to the Mediterranean so the British Navy could recall most of her capital ships to the North Atlantic to counter the German fleet.

Following the 1904 Anglo-French Entente Cordiale, the French Navy policy was to concentrate its forces in the Mediterranean against a likely Italian-Austrian coalition, while maintaining a mainly defensive position in the north (North Sea, English Channel, Atlantic coast) where the Royal Navy would predominate.

French forces in this area initially included seven cruisers and a number of destroyers, torpedo boats, and submarines for patrol duty in the western English Channel.

In the Mediterranean on the other hand was the 1st Armée Navale under the command of Adm de Lapeyrère

French Army

French Army of World War 1

During World War I, France was one of the Triple Entente powers allied against the Central Powers.

Although fighting occurred worldwide, the bulk of the fighting in Europe occurred in Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Alsace-Lorraine along what came to be known as the Western Front, which consisted mainly of trench warfare.

Specific operational, tactical, and strategic decisions by the high command on both sides of the conflict led to shifts in organizational capacity, as the French Army tried to respond to day-to-day fighting and long-term strategic and operational agendas.

In particular, many problems caused the French high command to re-evaluate standard procedures, revise its command structures, re-equip the army, and to develop different tactical approaches.

Over the course of the First World War, another five field armies would be raised.

The war scare led to another 2.9 million men being mobilized in the summer of 1914 and the costly battles on the Western Front forced France to conscript men up to the age of 45.

This was done by the mobilization in 1914 of the Territorial Army and its reserves; comprising men who had completed their peacetime service with the active and reserve armies (ages 20–34).

In June 1915, the Allied countries met in the first inter-Allied conference.

Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, Serbia, and Russia agreed to coordinate their attacks but the attempts were frustrated by German offensives on the Eastern Front and spoiling offensives at Ypres and in the hills west of Verdun.

By 1918, towards the end of the war, the composition and structure of the French army had changed. Forty percent of all French soldiers on the Western Front were operating artillery and 850,000 French troops were infantry in 1918, compared to 1.5 million in 1915.

Causes for the drop in infantry include increased machine guns, armored cars, and tank usage, as well as the increasing significance of the French air force, the Service Aéronautique.

At the end of the war on November 11, 1918, the French had called up 8,817,000 men, including 900,000 colonial troops.

The French army suffered around 6 million casualties, including 1.4 million dead and 4.2 million wounded, roughly 71% of those who fought.

The French Airforce

French Airforce of World War 1

French military aviation was born in 1909.

After the approval of the law by the French National Assembly on 29 March 1912,

French Military Aeronautics became officially part of the French Army, alongside the four traditional branches of the French Army, the infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers.

French aircraft during World War I, flying over German-held territory, 1915 France was one of the first states to start building aircraft.

At the beginning of World War I, France had a total of 148 planes (8 from French Naval Aviation (aéronautique Navale) and 15 airships.

By the time of the armistice in November 1918, 3608 planes were in service.

5,500 pilots and observers were killed from the 17,300 engaged in the conflict, amounting to 31% of endured losses.

A 1919 newspaper report reports the French Air Force had a 61% percent war loss.