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    French Army losses during WWI

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    The 1917 Rebellion in the French army is somewhat understandable when you read the following.

    Not forgetting that the germans spent much of the war on the defensive in the west, that in 1915 almost all Western front offensive fighting was done by the french, that verdun was a simple attack-counter attack- attack- counter attack scenario...

    With the exception of defensive fighting after the German attack in 1918 and a bit of 1914, the french spent almost all the war on the offensive...

    These are stunning figures..

    French army losses during the war.

    It is usually said that Verdun and the Nivelle offensive were the battles that caused the French their highest losses. The following statistics found by Yves Buffetaut at the French archives (reference 6 N 58 at the SHAT) provide an interesting breakdown of casualties suffered during the course of the war.

    By far the worst losses were those suffered during the war of movement, and many more were to follow in the years of static warfare that followed.

    August & September 1914 : 329,000 (Battle of the frontiers and the Marne)

    October & November 1914 : 125,000 (Race to the sea)

    December 14-January 15 : 74,000 (French winter offensives)

    February-March 15 : 69,000 (French winter offensives)

    April, May, June 1915 : 143,000 (French offensives in Artois and Champagne)

    July & August 1915 : 48,000

    Sept, Oct, November 15 : 131,000 (French offensives in Artois and Champagne)

    December 15 & January 16 : 22,000

    By the time the battle for Verdun had started, the French army had already lost 941 000 men.

    February, March, April 1916 : 111,000 (Verdun)

    May 16 : 29,800 (Verdun)

    June 16 : 37,600 (Verdun)

    July 16 : 44,700 (Verdun and the Somme)

    August 16 : 26,500 (Mainly Somme)

    September 16 : 39,200 (Mainly Somme)

    October 16 : 23,800 (Verdun and the Somme)

    November 16 : 23,000 (Somme)

    December 16 : 14,600 (Successful offensive at Verdun)

    January 17 : 6,500

    February 17 : 10,300

    March 17 : 11,600

    As the troops were preparing for the Chemin des Dames offensive, or "Nivelle Offensive", the total casualties (dead + missing) had already reached 1,319,000 men.

    April 1917 : 51,700 (Chemin des Dames)

    May 17 : 29,100 (End of Chemin des Dames)

    June 17 : 13,500

    July 17 : 15,500

    August 17 : 19,000 (2nd battle of Verdun)

    September 17 : 10,000

    October 17 : 13,000 (battle of the Malmaison)

    November 17 : 5,000

    December 17 : 4,000

    January 1918 : 6,000

    February : 9,000 (the Germans sent 15,000 prisoners to France in February)

    March 18 : 30,000 (German offensive on the Somme)

    April 18 : 28,000 (German offensive on the Somme & Flanders)

    May 18 : 29,000 (German offensive at the Chemin des Dames)

    June 18 : 81,000 (German offensives : Chemin des Dames and Matz)

    July 18 : 52,000 (German offensive on the Marne and French counter-stroke)

    August 18 : 24,000 (Allied offensive)

    September 18 : 23,000 (Allied offensive)

    October 18 : 39,000 (Allied offensive)

    November 18 : 9,000 (Allied offensive)

    The casualties totaled 1,798,000 including the 18,000 prisoners released before the armistice.

    Suprisingly, in spite of the horrible losses suffered there, the Chemin des Dames and Verdun losses appear rather small when compared to the losses of 1914 and 1915. Many people with an interest in the war like to repeat the old red herring "After the mutiny of 1917 the French army lost its fighting spirit and their allies had to carry the weight", not only the German histories dispute this, but so do the horrific losses suffered, France loosing over 300 000 men in 1918 alone.

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    ...and if these are from French sources, they probably don't include figures for colonial troops...

    Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August is a very good read on this subject.

    "In the chapel of St. Cyr (before it was destroyed during World War II) the memorial tablet to the dead of the Great War bore only a single entry for "The Class of 1914." (Guns of August, Bantam Books, 1980)

    I went to a military school for a time (The Citadel) so I can understand somewhat better than most the import of these words.

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