France's Glorious Military History

Jan 2017
1,184
Durham
#51
You mean like the Americans, and British, do about theirs?
Do you mean the British perception of the French during WW2?

That is the only negative perception of the French that comes to mind.

The defence of France was a disaster for both countries and both countries had to put a huge amount of spin on the events pretty much as soon as Dunkirk took place. 'Both proud nations which had just suffered a humiliating rout - that wasn't good for public consumption, so both nations tried to turn it into something different.

For example, 'the French' (some French) conveyed the notion that the British had abandoned them to save themselves. What they conveniently forgot was that the tactical blunders made by the French command meant we had no choice. Similarly, the British made no reference to the French fighting off Germans outside of Dunkirk while we escaped over the water.

I don't really understand the need for people to think their military is the best. Nations such as Britain, Germany and France were pretty evenly matched when you take into account army, navy, air force. 'Reason being, there wasn't too much of a wealth disparity between these nations and a similar amount of GDP went into the armed forces. Taking that into account, you'd win some and lose some. The only time one of these nations was at a huge disadvantage was Britain pre WW2 and that was because of our expenditure on the armed forces relative to Germany and France.

The French got it hugely wrong at the outset of WW2, just as they did at the outset of WW1, but this time the Germans weren't fighting a war on two fronts. It happens, though, can't get it right all of the time and it just so happens that the time they got it badly wrong is something we're all aware of because it's not that long ago.
 
Likes: Spartakus X

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,692
SoCal
#54
If it wasn't for WW2 they'd almost certainly be considered to have the greatest military reputation in history, and rightfully so. They dominated the battlefield with some of the best trained soldiers, highest quality equipment and most talented commanders all the way from the High Medieval Era (the stand-out being the Battle of Bouvines) to the First World War, a period of roughly 700 years. They regularly fought off and sometimes won against large coalitions of other European powers despite being surrounded and outnumbered (e.g. Philippe Augustus, Louis XIV, Napoleon), and until the late 19th century when Germany rose to prominence they were pretty much the de facto leader of military thought and innovation. The common soldier also tended - at least in the later period of French military history - to be extraordinarily brave and resilient, most notably during Napoleon's final campaigns when everything went wrong and all was against them, and in the early stages of WW1 when the Germans came within a few kilometres of Paris and appeared unstoppable. If I were a commander and had my pick of any troops throughout history to make up my army, I would probably go with the French (although the Germans are a very close second).
France only ended up on the winning side of WWI due to its alliance with Russia and later Britain and the US, though. Had Germany fought France alone, France would have certainly lost. Indeed, the fact that Germany was able to come out of nowhere and become Europe's premier military power says a lot about Germany.

France was certainly the undisputed hegemon of Europe until the Napoleonic Wars. However, due to its relatively poor demographics, France's position in regards to this steadily eroded between 1815 and 1914. France was only able to rise back to the top of the pack as a result of Germany's WWI defeat--though France's own demographics remained dismal and it might have been uncertain that France could have won a war against a rearmed Germany without British help.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#55
Armies are products of the society and political context they spring from and are heavily shaped by it for good or for ill. They also have their own culture, tradition which also heavily shapes them. There is much nationalist and racial guff which is often complete garbage. (many military ineffectiveness is caused by this sort of guff) One had to exmien stuff carefully to the effects of culture, politics and orgazaition without getting caught up in Nationalist and racist guff.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#56
. They dominated the battlefield with some of the best trained soldiers, highest quality equipment and most talented commanders all the way from the High Medieval Era (the stand-out being the Battle of Bouvines) to the First World War, a period of roughly 700 years.
France was easily the largest , richest and most populous state in Europe for much of this period. It was twice the size of any any Nation in Europe (in population) and richer significnatly per cpaita in 1800 (just france not the stailite aera). (I'm not counting Russia as Europe but Russia was about the same size in population and much poorer )

Best trained, soldier, highest equipment, most talent commandes, not throughout they had their moments but gross genralization.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#57
Reading a lot about the 18th Century European warfare right now. 1700-1792 the French army was not that hot, It performances generally poor to quite bad. Had the odd good commander but their share of nauces. In the Later 18th century they had some darn good theorists (though a few crackpots as well) , who laid the ground work for what was to come 1796-1815. I think the French have very strong cliams 1798-1811. But pre 1792, after 1815 they were pretty woefull the bourbon army either side of the revolution/napoleon were extremely bad.

Though the 18th century teh French were so slow to get with the changing military evolution. Stadardised drill, Cadence marching, paltoon firing, formation and deployment, Shock cavalry. Though not in all things, there very horriblness at deployment and formation chnaging lead to the development of the divsion system. Expericnce with Austrian irregulars, lead to adoption of light infantry. (nothing to do with the AWI)

Starting to get a handle of Frederick the Great, inherited some reformed innovations, added some, had some good qualities, but some oh so bad ones.

Defeat, bad defeat can be an important driver of change. (The french after the 7 years war, the Prussians after 1806, the Germans after 1914-1918) victory can often teach little, defeat can be a powerful lessons and motivator for change.

Though the 19th Century the French were often early adpoters and innovators. Smokeless powder, the mitrailleuse, quick firing field artillery, but often stayed with early efforts while world best and innovations when they came in were dated and limited in 1914.

Doctrine coming into 1914 , massed attack, morale and red trousers over firepower has definite echoes of some of the 'order profound' crackpots of the 18th Century.
 
Mar 2016
883
Australia
#58
There is much nationalist and racial guff which is often complete garbage
Take your strawmanning of racism and nationalism elsewhere. There's been very little to none of that in this entire discussion, until you randomly brought it up just now. Just because people hold a decided opinion on what they think the greatest is doesn't mean they are either biased by nationalism or racism, even though I know you do believe everyone is unconsciously racist based on some things you've said in another thread.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#59
Take your strawmanning of racism and nationalism elsewhere. There's been very little to none of that in this entire discussion, until you randomly brought it up just now. Just because people hold a decided opinion on what they think the greatest is doesn't mean they are either biased by nationalism or racism, even though I know you do believe everyone is unconsciously racist based on some things you've said in another thread.
Guff without relevance or foundation. Noise. Address arguments not people.
 
Jan 2017
1,184
Durham
#60
France only ended up on the winning side of WWI due to its alliance with Russia and later Britain and the US, though. Had Germany fought France alone, France would have certainly lost. Indeed, the fact that Germany was able to come out of nowhere and become Europe's premier military power says a lot about Germany.

France was certainly the undisputed hegemon of Europe until the Napoleonic Wars. However, due to its relatively poor demographics, France's position in regards to this steadily eroded between 1815 and 1914. France was only able to rise back to the top of the pack as a result of Germany's WWI defeat--though France's own demographics remained dismal and it might have been uncertain that France could have won a war against a rearmed Germany without British help.
Germany was a huge nation, and a highly industrialised one, so they did hold an advantage over the French.

In terms of the armed forces, they were pretty evenly matched at the outset of WW1 - but what may have told in the end was Germany's superior resources which would have kept them fighting longer than the French. It was US loans to Britain passed onto the French which kept the French fighting.

It's taken as a given that Germany would have beaten France without outside help, but Verdun is an example of the French being able to hold a defensive line. The advantage lay with the defenders during WW1 and the Germans were equally unable to breakthrough a defensive position and instigate a mobile war. So, had things panned out differently, and the French dug in first, not the Germans; then the French would have chosen the best ground and the Germans would have found it difficult to break through. The problem with that line of thinking is nations don't usually dig defensive positions when they're supposed to be chasing the opponent off their turf, and I'm not sure that strategy would have been palatable for the French public.

Going back to Germany 'coming out of nowhere'. Germany was simply a huge, highly industrialised nation and therefore held advantages over her neighbours.

You only have to look at your own country to understand how this works. The United States, like Britain, never had a large standing army - both nations were always wary of the potential of an army to be used for the government's self-interest. These days, however, the US ploughs a lot of money into the armed forces. At the outset of WW1 the US pretty much didn't have an army, but now no western nation could come close to competing with today's US armed forces due to the money they put into it and their huge resources to back it up.

In the event a nation invests enough time, money and effort into the armed forces, then they're going to be pretty good. The French did it 18th century, we did it with the Royal Navy, the Germans did the same pre WW2, and the United States is the same today.