LLOYD GEORGE David - Typed Letter Signed 1917 to General Nivelle
David LLOYD GEORGE (1863-1945)
Typed Letter Signed (“D Lloyd George”) to General Nivelle, assuring him of his continued regard, despite remarks exchanged between the British C-in-C and French GHQ.
1 page 4to, 10 Downing Street, 17 September 1917.
“In reply to your letter dated September 9th, I have much pleasure in stating that the personal relations between the British War Cabinet and yourself were always characterised by the greatest cordiality.
It is true that certain communications from the French Grand Quartier General to the British Commander-in-Chief were couched in somewhat peremptory tones. But on investigation it was found that these communications were the work of a subordinate and the matter was cleared up to the entire satisfaction of the British Government at a subsequent meeting of the two Governments. On that occasion I myself observed that you were the last man to do anything discourteous, and that everyone in England who had met you had been struck by your great courtesy. Nothing has occurred since to alter this opinion to which I still adhere.”
An interesting letter, not least because General Nivelle, who by this date was in some disgrace in France, evidently still enjoyed at least good relations with the British Prime Minister.
Nivelle had been elevated to Commander in Chief of the French forces in December 1916, succeeding Joffre. Nivelle, who had an English mother and spoke excellent English, was soon in favour with Lloyd George, who placed General Haig under Nivelle’s command.
Needless to say, this resulted in considerable friction.
The spring of 1917 saw what became known as the Nivelle Offensive, the result of which which proved indecisive in military terms, but murderous in the number of casualties. Those casualties, on the first day of battle alone, amounted to roughly ten times the number which Nivelle had estimated. With disregard for lives lost, Nivelle persisted with the plan he had originally laid down, despite developments which should have made him reconsider. The developments included the fact that his plans had fallen into the hands of the Germans.
Lloyd George had backed Nivelle to the end, but the French nevertheless chose to dismiss Nivelle, replacing him as Commander in Chief with General Pétain in May 1917.
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