André Beaufre was an eminent French general and strategist, who witnessed the fall of France to the Germans in 1940. Despite the title of this book, of the 215 pages of text, only the last 36 pages are about the Battle of France. This book is more of an autobiography, covering different chapters in Beafure's career, beginning with his service in the French Army in Morocco against the 'Riffs' in the 1920s.
As a soldier, he witnessed the decline of the French Army in the interwar period. Beafure notes that the Army became too focused on the strategy and the tactics of defensive warfare. The Germans, on the other hand, had learnt the lesson of their defeat at the Marne in 1914 by developing a theory of 'lightning war' that would achieve victory quickly to prevent the Allies fulfilling their full potential. The French Army's defensive attitude was at odds with Marshal Foch's Little Entente with the states of Eastern Europe because the basis of those alliances was that France would come to their aid; that is, they would attack Germany. The ruling philosophy of the French Army and its obligations were at total odds.
Even when it came to the defence of France, the preparations were slow and inadequate. The Maginot Line along France's eastern border was commissioned in 1928 but was not completed until ten years later, and even then its planned extension to Belgium did not see the light of day. In 1924 the French decided to adopt the light machine gun; it was brought into service between 1926 and 1932 but the design for the rifle that could use the same ammunition was not chosen until 1936. Even by 1939 only a few thousand existed, despite the Army consisting of millions.
In their air force too, rearmament was inadequate.Read more ›
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