Who's Who - Maurice Sarrail

General Maurice Sarrail (1856-1929) ensured that he received a prominent command position during World War One via the simple expedient of his openly socialist views.  Having thus endeared himself to the political elite, this mandated that a senior command position be assigned to Sarrail by the then Commander in Chief of the French Army, Joseph Joffre, once war was declared in August 1914.

This caused Joffre some difficulty, since he personally disliked Sarrail, and was aware of Sarrail's position as open critic of his management of the French army.  His solution was to despatch Sarrail to the Ardennes in August 1914.  His troops there fought an effective defensive action, leading to his promotion to command of Third Army at the end of August.

Joffre however chose to remove Sarrail from command of Third Army the following year.  The resultant political backlash brought Sarrail command over the 'Army of the Orient' intended for Gallipoli but which was ultimately despatched to Salonika during the autumn.  He took command in October 1915; from January 1916 he was handed command of all Allied forces in the region.

Poor Allied communications somewhat hampered Sarrail during his sole major offensive in Salonika, at Monastir in November 1916.

Indulging in political intrigue throughout, Sarrail's tenure as commander was brought to an abrupt - and surprisingly a politically inconsequential - end by Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau in December 1917.

Sarrail thereafter retired from public life, reappearing (briefly) as French High Commissioner in Syria, where he was most unsuccessful.

Flak was a term used to describe anti-aircraft fire.

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