Primary Documents - Lloyd George on Foch's Appointment as Allied Supreme Commander, 9 April 1918
Reproduced below is the text of the official statement issued by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George on 9 April 1918. In his statement - which followed an earlier announcement on 30 March 1918 - Lloyd George confirmed that British, French and U.S. forces were to act under the coordination of Ferdinand Foch and appealed for public support for the decision.
The decision to transfer overall command to Foch had been taken earlier by Allied government representatives at Doullens on 26 March. This was in response to sweeping German territorial advances following the opening of their key Spring Offensive which open on 21 March 1918.
Click here to read U.S. Commander-in-Chief John J Pershing's official despatch regarding Foch's assumption of overall military command. Click here to read the text of his address to Foch on the matter on 28 March.
Statement Issued by Lloyd George on Foch's Appointment as Allied Supreme Commander, 9 April 1918
It has become more obvious than ever before that the Allied Armies were suffering from the fact that they were fighting as two separate armies, and had to negotiate support with each other. Valuable time was thus lost.
And yet the inherent difficulties were tremendous. There were national prejudices, national interests, professional prejudices, traditions.
The inherent difficulties of getting two or three separate armies to fight as one were almost insurmountable, and it could only be done if public opinion in all the countries concerned insisted upon it as the one condition of success.
A few days after the battle commenced, not merely the Government, but the Commanders in the field - we had not merely the Field Marshals, but all the Army Commanders present - were so convinced - and the same thing applied to the French, they were so convinced - of the importance of more complete strategic unity, that they agreed to the appointment of General Foch to the supreme direction of the strategy of all the Allied Armies on the Western front.
May I just say one word about General Foch? It is not merely that he is one of the most brilliant soldiers in Europe. He is a man who, when we were attacked and were in a similar plight at the first battle of Ypres, rushed the French Army there by every conceivable expedient - omnibuses, cabs, lorries, anything he could lay his hands upon - he crowded French Divisions through, and undoubtedly helped to win that great battle.
There is no doubt about the loyalty and comradeship of General Foch. I have no doubt that this arrangement will be carried out not merely in the letter, but in the spirit. It is the most important decision that has been taken in reference to the coming battle.
There are three functions which a Generalissimo wields - the strategical, the tactical, and the administrative.
What does the administrative mean? It means the control of the organization, the appointment and dismissal of officers and generals, and that is a power which it is difficult or almost impossible to give to a general of another country with a national army.
Therefore, in spite of all the arrangements made, unless there be not merely good will, but the knowledge that the public in France, Great Britain and America will assist in coordination and in supporting the authorities in the supreme strategical plans chosen by the Governments, and in any action they may take to assert their authority, any arrangements made will be futile and mischievous.
I make no apology for dwelling at some length upon this point. I have always felt that we are losing value and efficiency in the Allied Armies through lack of coordination and concentration.
We have sustained many disasters already through that, and we shall encounter more unless this defect in our machinery is put right. Hitherto I regret that every effort at amendment has led to rather prolonged and very bitter controversy, and these difficulties, these great inherent difficulties, were themselves accentuated and aggravated.
There were difficulties of carrying out plans, and other obstacles, and, what is worse, valuable time is lost. I entreat the nation as a whole to stand united for a united control of the strategical operations of our armies at the front.
Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923
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