From August 1914 to early 1917, the French Army shouldered much of the the fighting on the
Western Front – and with astonishing endurance. In one two-week period – August 16-31,
1914 – they suffered 210,993 casualties. By comparison, British casualties numbered
164,709 in the opening month – July 1916 – of the Somme offensive.
The French Army also adapted very well to the difficulties that trench warfare presented.
They perfected the art of artillery “barrage” fire and they pioneered new & fresh
platoon-level infantry tactics, focused on automatic weapons and rifle grenades. While the
first day of the Somme – July 1, 1916 – was a disaster for the British, the French took
all of their objectives.
In early 1917, 68 French divisions suffered mutinies. But the soldiers taking part in what
were effectively military strikes neither refused to defend their trenches nor abandoned
France’s war aims. The army itself would rally magnificently from this near collapse and
would play a critical role in the coming Allied victory of 1918. From July to November
1918, French troops would capture 139,000 German prisoners. During the same period, the
American Expeditionary Force would capture 44,142 Germans.
Fort Vaux, November 22 , 1916
French and British soldiers standing around a German A7V tank captured at Villers-Brettoneux, May 1918
French cantonment with canteen near Verdun, March 1917
Chasseurs posing with guns
French lines on the right bank, Lorraine, 1918
French prisoners guarded by a Uhlan, Verdun, March 1917
French soldier in the 291st Infantry Regiment
French soldiers at the village of Souilly
Soldiers leaving the village to join Verdun, Nubécourt, August 23, 1916
French stretcher bearers loading a wounded soldier into an American ambulance, Westouter, West Flanders, May 1918
French Zouaves marching in 1914
Horse corpse on the Bouvancourt road, near Jonchery sur Vesle, April 22, 1917
Near Rethondes, November 10, 1918
Portrait of a French soldier taken in a studio in Mailly, 1915
Senegalese French troops getting acquainted with their new gask masks
Soldier trying a German mask found on the ground, Wood of the Caillette, 1916
Soldiers in Saint Folquin, September 3, 1917
Two men playing chess, Verdun, May 30, 1917
Soldiers posing for the camera in their Turco uniforms
Some French and American officers who took part in the reconquest of cantigny before a tank Schneider French, May 1918.
The 'Kolossal' German prisoner was captured in the eastern trenches, 8 January 1916
The soup in the lines of the 204th Infantry Regiment, Bois des Buttes, September 17, 1917
These men return from fighting the Battle of the Argonne, July 17, 1915
Troops returning from Fort de Vaux, around Nixéville (department of Meuse, France ), April 8, 1916
A French soldier killed while he was eating, October 27, 1915
After the fighting, soldiers surrounded the bodies of their comrades, Region of Verdun, 1916
Canadian officers interested in a large French gun mounted on railroad, October 1917
Chilly in the Somme, the 28th regiment soldiers in a trench
Cooperative canteen of Portes de Fer, October-November 1916
The village of Souilly, 1916
A French cavalryman of 1st Cavalery Division (6e Dragons), writes a letter to his family on 20 June 1915.
Castle of Lamotte. Underground; dressing room of the former rescue station of the 234th German Reserve Regiment.
On the right a soldier of the 128th Infantry Regimen teating at the station canteen in 1915. On the left certainly an Artilleryman of the 18th.
Farmhouse Champaubert. East of Bixschoote, Belgium. 1917
The 53rd Infantery Regiment relieved of lines, goes to rest, Somme, 10 April 1918
Photos by Frederic Duriez via Flickr