Courtesy Reuters

Unified Command: Lessons from the Past

ON THE evening of November 4, 1917, the unhappy and anxious leaders of Britain, France and Italy were arriving at the little town of Rapallo on the Italian Riviera to discuss the situation created by the crushing defeat of the Italian armies in the battle of Caporetto, and the position in which, as a consequence of this and other disasters, the Allied Powers found themselves as the long year 1917 drew to its close. They had every reason to view their situation with the gravest anxiety. Allied fortunes were at their lowest ebb since the German advance on Paris in the summer of 1914.

On the Western Front, the year had seen the crushing of Nivelle's great offensive in Champagne, followed by the series of mutinies which had shaken the military spirit of the French Army to its foundation and from which, under the fatherly guidance of Pétain, it was in November only beginning to recover. Meanwhile, time for its reconstitution was being bought in Flanders by the British Army at the price of 300,000 casualties and the Prime Minister's loss of confidence in the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Sir Douglas Haig was almost ready to say that his men could do nothing more for that year. Pétain was "waiting for the Americans and the tanks." As yet there were but 100,000 American troops in France, none of them fully fit for combat, and men were saying that the United States could never put an army on the Western Front.

At Saloniki, inaction and confusion prevailed under the leadership of General Sarrail, partly through that officer's fault but largely because the various Powers whose units composed his army could arrive at no unity of policy as to what they wanted him to accomplish.

In Palestine there was a single gleam of light. Allenby, the new Allied commander on that front, had just taken Beersheba and was preparing to attack Gaza; but there were plenty of voices to say that he

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