Who's Who - Charles Lanrezac

Charles Lanrezac Charles Lanrezac (1852-1925), whilst regarded as the French Army's most respected pre-war strategist, proved less able as a commander in the field and was removed from command in the first month of the war, in August 1914.

Lanrezac led the French Fifth Army at the onset of hostilities and was assigned to the left wing of the planned French invasion of Germany as dictated by Plan XVII.  However, having encountered the massing of German troops into Belgium - a German strategy virtually discounted by Plan XVII - Lanrezac quickly reversed his notions of a quick, aggressive, victory.

Lanrezac's change of heart, and his belief that the German forces represented a real threat to France, were viewed as overly alarmist.  Even so, his Fifth Army was redeployed away from the Ardennes invasion to face any potential German attack from the north.

Ordered to attack at the Battle of Charleroi an army twice the size of his own, and in the absence of reinforcements from the late-arriving British Expeditionary Force (BEF), Lanrezac executed a strategic retreat.

Whilst arguably justified it destroyed his reputation as an attacking General, and Lanrezac was used as a scapegoat by both the British and French commanders-in-chief for the calamitous collapse of the Allied forces in Belgium.

Consequently, Lanrezac was replaced immediately prior to the French counter-attack at the Marne battle by General Franchet d'Esperey.

He refused the offer of a new command in 1917 and after the war published a sharp attack upon Joffre's handling of the August 1914 campaign.  His reputation was rehabilitated by his decoration in 1924 by Petain.

Charles Lanrezac died in Neuilly-sur-Seine on 18 January 1925.

A Flechette was an anti-personnel dart dropped from an aircraft.

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