Who's Who - Marie Fayolle

Marie Fayolle Marie Fayolle (1852-1928) had served as an artillery officer in the French army before retiring in 1914.  With war declared Fayolle was brought out of retirement and served in senior command positions for the duration of the war.

Having returned to active duty in August 1914 and given a divisional command Fayolle's career unexpectedly saw rapid progress, initially perhaps on account of Commander in Chief Joseph Joffre's wide scale purges of unsuccessful field generals (who, he believed, were to be found wanting in 'offensive spirit').

Handed command of the French Sixth Army in February 1916 (from a corps command role) its role in the Somme Offensive that summer achieved modest success at Peronne (to the right of the British), although he was personally horrified at the tactics of attrition adopted by British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig.

Despite the overall failure of the Somme Offensive, Fayolle's star remained bright however with the change of command at the top: Joffre was replaced by Robert Nivelle at the end of 1916.

Transferred to the French First Army early in 1917, Fayolle was given command of Army Group Centre with Nivelle's replacement as Commander in Chief by Philippe Petain in May.  Fayolle's outlook on the war was in many ways similar to Petain's.  With a gunnery background he understood the importance artillery played in modern warfare, a reality that was slow to dawn on many of his colleagues.

In autumn 1917, in November, Fayolle headed six divisions of French forces despatched to the Italian front in the wake of the disastrous Italian performance at Caporetto.

He did not remain long in Italy however, returning the following March to assume command of the Reserve Army Group.  The Reserve Army Group (of 55 divisions) played a significant role in the Allied defence against the German army's great Spring push of March 1918.

Having met with success at the Second Battle of the Marne, the Reserve Army Group was at the centre of an Allied advance east during the autumn that finally saw the war end in victory.

Marie Fayolle died in 1928.

A "Dixie" (from the Hindi degci) was an army cooking pot.

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