Nivelle Offensive

Robert Nivelle became a national hero when his troops that recaptured Douaumont and other forts at Verdun in October, 1916. Nivelle argued that by using his creeping barrage tactics he could end the war on the Western Front. His ideas were popular with Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister, and in December 1916, Nivelle replaced Joseph Joffre as Commander-in-Chief of the French Army.

Nivelle argued that a massive onslaught on German lines would bring victory in 48 hours. The French War Minister, Hubert Lyautey, General Henri-Philippe Petain and Sir Douglas Haig were all opposed to the plan. When Aristide Briand supported Robert Nivelle, Lyautey resigned from office.

Launched in April 1917, the Nivelle offensive involved a million French soldiers on a broad front between Royle and Reims. At the 2nd Battle of the Aisne, the French Army had 40,000 casualties on the first day. A secondary assault by the British Army took place at Arras. The attacks on the German front-line continued throughout April and May. The Allied forces suffered 350,000 casualties and the French Army came close to mutiny. Robert Nivelle was sacked in May 1917 and replaced by Henri-Philippe Petain as Commander-in-Chief.