france's military record - overstated?

Jun 2015
5,578
UK
#1
It's often said that France has the best military record in Europe. Is this really true?

If we take the date when France split from King Louis's empire (843) as West Francia, then they lost battles to the Norse, Normans, East Franks, defeated the English to gain Normandy, and then again in the Hundred Years War, defeat the Italian states, but lost in wars to the Dutch and Spanish, and then alliances under the Sun King.

They then lost the Seven Years War, helped the Americans defeat the British in the US War of Independence, lost in the end to the anti-Napoleonic coalitions, and like the UK up until WWI defeated Africans and Asians (sometimes together) in colonial conflicts, and technically lost WWII as they surrendered.

I know I may have left things out, but then is France's military record as impressive as made out? Even though the USA is far younger, it has only lost a handful of its wars, even though most of the recent ones were against far weaker enemies or in coalitions.
 
Feb 2016
4,179
Japan
#2
France has a good war record... its hard to define "the best". Britain, Prussia, Spain ... Russia and Poland at a push could all claim impressive ones.
Being that "winning" a war with a bad string of results is possible. Like wise losing a war despite being better than your enemy... happens a lot. Hanover smashed the Prussians at Lagensalza but still surrendered a few days later.
Hundred Years' War. France and England both had periods of winning and losing. France and Britain, Turkey and Greece all win in the Crimea but France clearly "performed" better especially off the field.
 
Sep 2013
406
France
#3
Hi notgivenaway.
Indeed you have left lot of wars out :)

Here you have a quite comprehensive record (victories in green, draws in violet, defeats in red):

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_des_guerres_de_la_France


I agree with Edric; defining "the best" is quite difficult. I think that the number of battles won by France is indeed one of the best, and the fact that, surrounded by other great powers, France achieved to get the largest territory in Europe (and quite a fertile and prosperous land) pleads to its military history. Finally the fact that France is one of the oldest state in Europe, and that it has always been, until 1939, amongst the "top dogs", compared to UK or Germany for example.
 
Likes: dukeofjive

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,029
Spain
#4
I agree with Edric

To speak about "records" is childish...France is between the country with best military history together a set of countries (Spain-Britain-Prussia-Russia-Turkey-Poland) and also I add Netherland-Sweden...
Also It is truth whilst Spain and Britain had 7 million inhabitants.. France had 21 millions...
Britain and Spain were more successful than France in Seaborne operations and Empires..and nor Britain nor Spain were never defeated in 42 days...It is also truth the orography and geography (and Island and a Peninsula) is not prone to lightning campaigns.
Records about victorys-defeat means nothing... it is better to study each case. And it is not a full list.. It is funny in the list it isn´t the Peninsular War... the deadliest war in Napoleon campaigns... the list goes from 4th to 5th Coalition and forget the Peninsular War.. I know it is the bloodiest war in history of France (more tha French-Prussian or WW2) only overcomed by WW1.. however in the list.. not Peninsular War at all.. maybe because it was not a victory...
The list qualifies as French Victory the Spanish-French war in 1595-1598... when the War finished with the Peace of Virvins that it was a reeisue of the Peace of Chateau-Cambresis.
 
Jun 2015
5,578
UK
#5
France has a good war record... its hard to define "the best". Britain, Prussia, Spain ... Russia and Poland at a push could all claim impressive ones.
Being that "winning" a war with a bad string of results is possible. Like wise losing a war despite being better than your enemy... happens a lot. Hanover smashed the Prussians at Lagensalza but still surrendered a few days later.
Hundred Years' War. France and England both had periods of winning and losing. France and Britain, Turkey and Greece all win in the Crimea but France clearly "performed" better especially off the field.
France is often said to have the best war record in Europe. But this often was with alliances, or they won initial conflicts but in the end lost the wars, like Napoleon. Or they got defeated by Prussia, even before Germany itself was founded.
 
Feb 2016
4,179
Japan
#6
Still. Same could be said for all the "great" military powers.
Britain was always allied to someone. Sometime they won, sometimes they lost regardless of how well they fought. Almost always Britain was allied to someone else.
Same with Prussia. And Austria.

France's war record, while I wouldn't say "the best" is impressive.
I'm sure some people might say it's the best. But they were a minor world power and you don't get to be a major world power without an having a fearsome military.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2016
4,179
Japan
#7
They got defeated by Prussia in 1870-71.
But they smashed Prussia in 1806-07

Swings and roundabouts. You have periods of military supremecy and periods of neglect. One decade everyone fears and imitates the French the next it's the Prussiabs. Should be worth noting the the British tended to try and emulate the French after fighting them for twenty years. We copied their uniform style and adapted lancers and our horse guards started dressing like cuirrasier when really they were heavy dragoons.

Another thing, Britain has produced 3 great generals of which only 2 are truly great... Wellington (went to a French military academy) and Marlborough.
France has produced far more... Conde, Vauban, De Villars, De Saxe, Davout and Napoleon .... and even though he fought for Austria Eugene of Savoy were all great on a similar level.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,029
Spain
#8
France has produced far more... Conde, Vauban, De Villars, De Saxe, Davout and Napoleon .... and even though he fought for Austria Eugene of Savoy were all great on a similar level.
All of them born in a 150 years period.. from Conde (1621) to Napoleon (1769).. I don´t see any impressive French record...They have won and they have lost...and most of their victories numerically surpassing the enemy and however they has been defeated many time by outnumbered armies...Crecy, Azincourt, Cerignola, Garellano, Pavia, Neerwinden, Valenciennes, Blenheim, Alcañiz, Rossbach, Puebla... etc etc etc..
French Army is between the great armies.. but not the best.. because it didn´t exist the "best"...France won and France lost...as everybody... I don´t see any record...
And finally.. it is necessary to study each battle or war to see.. if the victory or defeat weres because France was the Best-The worst... or by other circumstances...
 
Oct 2015
1,021
California
#9
It's often said that France has the best military record in Europe. Is this really true?

If we take the date when France split from King Louis's empire (843) as West Francia, then they lost battles to the Norse, Normans, East Franks, defeated the English to gain Normandy, and then again in the Hundred Years War, defeat the Italian states, but lost in wars to the Dutch and Spanish, and then alliances under the Sun King.

They then lost the Seven Years War, helped the Americans defeat the British in the US War of Independence, lost in the end to the anti-Napoleonic coalitions, and like the UK up until WWI defeated Africans and Asians (sometimes together) in colonial conflicts, and technically lost WWII as they surrendered.

I know I may have left things out, but then is France's military record as impressive as made out? Even though the USA is far younger, it has only lost a handful of its wars, even though most of the recent ones were against far weaker enemies or in coalitions.

According to the BBC (which should put to rest any accusations of French bias)

There have been 53 major wars in Europe
France had been a belligerent in 49 of them; UK 43.
In 185 battles that France had fought over the past 800 years, their armies had won 132 times, lost 43 times and drawn only 10.
Giving the French military the best record of any country in Europe."


Its ashamed that 6 weeks in 1940 ruined the reputation of the impressive French military tradition.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,029
Spain
#10
According to the BBC (which should put to rest any accusations of French bias)

There have been 53 major wars in Europe
France had been a belligerent in 49 of them; UK 43.
In 185 battles that France had fought over the past 800 years, their armies had won 132 times, lost 43 times and drawn only 10.
Giving the French military the best record of any country in Europe."


Its ashamed that 6 weeks in 1940 ruined the reputation of the impressive French military tradition.
Only 43 defeats.. it is a joke.. When you like I wrote here the list of battles lost by France in Peninsular War... around 20.000 actions between 1808 to 1814...and you say France only lost 43 battles in history...:lol::lol:
Indochine? Spain? Flanders' Italy? in WW1?
Not lost 43 battles but thousands for sure...