Who's Who - Hubert Lyautey

Hubert Lyautey General Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934), a colonial administrator and Marshal of France, played a key role in bringing down Aristide Briand's wartime coalition government in 1917 over his disagreement with cabinet support for French Commander in Chief Robert Nivelle's doomed 'Nivelle Offensive'.

Born in Nancy on 17 November 1854, Lyautey - a career soldier - served in Indochina, Madagascar and Algeria before his appointment as resident general in Morocco in 1912.

A devoted colonialist and protégé of General Gallieni, Lyautey devoted all his energies in Morocco to securing French interests in the newly established protectorate, and was often required to adopt the tried and trusted colonial policy method of 'divide and rule' among the local tribesmen to maintain French dominance.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 Lyautey was still serving in Morocco, remaining there until his recall to Paris in December 1916 for his appointment as War Minister in Aristide Briand's government. Lyautey's appointment coincided with the effective dismissal, tactfully managed, of Commander in Chief Joseph Joffre (who was made a Marshal of France the same day in compensation).

Lyautey's term as War Minister was brief however.  In fundamental disagreement with newly-appointed Commander in Chief Nivelle's plan for an ultra-aggressive offensive on the Aisne in mid-April 1917, Lyautey felt obliged to resign on 14 March 1917 rather than remain in office (nominally responsible for Nivelle) and watch the disaster unfold - as actually happened.

However Briand, himself under increasing pressure as premier, desperately needed a French victory to secure his own position: thus he continued to back the charmingly persuasive Nivelle over the heads of many of his advisers.

Lyautey's resignation brought down Briand's government two days later (although the latter returned to office on numerous occasions following the war), and Nivelle was dismissed as Commander in Chief after the patent failure of his offensive and replaced by Henri-Philippe Petain.

Lyautey himself returned to his post in Morocco, where he remained until 1925, and from there received news of the predictable failure of the Aisne offensive, which in turn sparked widespread mutiny in the French army.

Appointed to the French Academy in 1912 and made a Marshal of France in 1921, Hubert Lyautey died in Thorey on 21 July 1934 at the age of 79.

Around one million Indian troops served in WW1, of which some 100,000 were either killed or wounded.

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