Who's Who - Joseph Alfred Micheler

Joseph Alfred Micheler (1861-1931) commanded the French Tenth Army during the Battle of the Somme from summer 1916 onwards and, following this, the Reserve Army Group in 1917.

Micheler's renown is based upon his opposition - never expressed directly to French Commander in Chief Robert Nivelle - to the Aisne offensive of April-May 1917 (the 'Nivelle Offensive').

Initially sceptical, like many others, of the potential success of the offensive, Micheler's fears grew to the point where he conspired against Nivelle behind his back.  Presumably fearful of the consequences of openly confronting Nivelle prior to the launching of what turned out to be a disastrous offensive (causing widespread mutiny in the French army), Micheler was more open and direct in his condemnation once it had run its calamitous course.

Others were more forthright earlier on; the eminent War Minister, General Lyautey, resigned in late March - weeks before the offensive was launched - rather than preside over what he was certain was a disaster in preparation.  Lyautey's resignation in its turn brought down Aristide Briand's government two days later.

Micheler survived the fallout from the failure of the Nivelle Offensive - unlike Nivelle and Reserve Army Group, which was disbanded - and was given command of Fifth Army.

Micheler's command of Fifth Army lasted until May 1918 when, contemptuously ignoring new Commander in Chief Petain's edict requiring defence in depth (rather than massing defenders in the front line), his stretch of the Aisne was ruthlessly overrun during the great German push of Spring 1918, and which was directly attributable to his refusal to implement defence in depth.

Micheler was summarily dismissed by Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, as was Sixth Army commander, General Duchene, who committed the same sin.

By 1918 the percentage of women to men working in Britain had risen to 37% from 24% at the start of the war.

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