Who's Who - Robert Nivelle

Robert Nivelle in 1916 Robert Nivelle (1856-1924), who was born in Tulle, France on 15 October 1856, began the war as a regimental colonel.

A chief assistant to Petain at Verdun, his success there in recapturing Douaumont led to him being given command of the Verdun sector in 1916.

In December 1916 he succeeded Joffre as Commander-in-Chief of the French army.  However the signal failure of the April 1917 Aisne campaign (the Nivelle Offensive), followed by mutiny in the French army led to his removal in May 1917 and a subsequent posting to North Africa.

Nivelle was an exponent of aggressive tactics, unrealistically believing that he could win the war on the Western Front in 48 hours by the use of his innovative creeping barrage attacks.  Politically his ideas were popular, not least with the under-siege Prime Minister Aristide Briand, but were effectively discredited during the Nivelle Offensive.

Nivelle's replacement as Commander-in-Chief was Henri-Philippe Petain.  Petain restored the fighting capacity of the French forces by improving living conditions for soldiers at the front, and by restricting himself to defensive operations.

Robert Nivelle died on 22 March 1924.

Stormtroopers comprised specially trained German assault troops used in 1918.

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