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Ferdinand Foch was considered the most original military thinker of his generation. He ended World War 1 during his time as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, where he controlled all the planned attacks on Germany, forcing them to retreat. He was also known for correctly predicting that World War II would happen in 20 years.
See the fact file below for more information on Ferdinand Foch, or you can download our 22-page Ferdinand Foch worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY
- Ferdinand Foch was born on October 2, 1851, in Tarbes, a municipality in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées in Southwestern France.
- He came from a devout Catholic family. His father, Bertrand Foch, was a lawyer and a civil servant from Valentine. His mother, Marie Dupré, was the daughter of one of the soldiers in the army of Emperor Napoleon.
- Foch was astounded by the story of the great battle of Napoleon. It ignited the young Ferdinand’s desire to be a soldier, and he looked up to Napoleon as his hero.
- Foch’s parents wanted him to have a solid religious foundation. They enrolled him at a seminary near Tarbes and was educated by monks.
- Foch then transferred to where his father worked, St. Michael, a Jesuit college in Saint-Étienne. Foch impressed his teachers. He was an excellent student and always won prizes. He then attended the Jesuit school of St. Clement in the town of Metz in 1869.
EARLY MILITARY CAREER
- Foch had been closer to his dream of becoming a soldier in Metz. The city was part of the region that France and Germany had long disputed. During the Franco-Prussian War, he enlisted in the French 4th Infantry Regiment but did not participate in combat.
- A year later, the young soldier entered the École Polytechnique, choosing the school of artillery. In 1873, despite not completing his course, he served as a lieutenant in the 24th Artillery regiment in Tarbes.
- He then attended the cavalry school of Saumur to train as a mounted artillery officer in 1876, became a captain in 1878, and in 1879, he arrived in Paris and served as an assistant in the Central Personnel Service Depot of the Artillery.
- In 1898, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and colonel in 1903, as a regimental commander of the 35th Artillery Regiment at Vannes. He became General de Brigade from 1907-1911 and assumed command of the French War College, École Supérieure de Guerre.
- He was appointed General de Division and influenced the Chief of General Staff, General Joseph Joffre, by drafting the French plan of campaign, also called Plan XVII, in 1913. The same year, he took command of XX Corps at Nancy and led them into battle in August 1914.
- He studied French military history at the War College in 1885 and returned ten years later to become an instructor of military history strategy and general tactics.
- He was the first to critically analyze the Franco-Prussian War and Napoleonic campaigns.
- In his lectures, he emphasized the offensive approach to fighting, the importance of flexibility as a good quality of an army leader, and the need to inspire confidence and a positive attitude in his men.
- His lectures were so impressive that they were collected and published as The Principles of War in 1903 and the Conduct of War in 1904.
- Before becoming a soldier, Foch already believed in élan, one of the valued qualities of his hero, Napoleon, which means spirit and energy, plus a little showmanship and flash.
WORLD WAR 1
- Foch led several regiments in several critical battles of World War I. His bold strategies and strong will helped the Allied armies secure victory against Germany in 1918. He was one of the military officers responsible for the Allied victory in World War I.
- The XX Corps, commanded by Foch, took heavy casualties in the Battle of Frontiers. But Foch acquitted himself by launching a counter-attack that prevented the Germans from crossing the River Meurthe. He was close to retirement age, and it was the first time he saw action.
- Foch became in charge of the Ninth Army during the Battle of the Marne, where he blocked the German advance at the Marshes of St. Gond. He implemented the theories he had developed while he was an instructor.
- The Germans retreated after Foch received further reinforcements from the Fifth Army and counter-attacked again on the Marne. He successfully liberated the city of Marne at Châlons. He was accepted as a hero and was widely believed to be the man instrumental in stopping the retreat and stabilizing the Allied position.
- In 1915-1916, Foch took charge of the Northern Army Group. This time he had to coordinate his moves with the British and Belgian armies during the “race to the sea.”
- Unfortunately, his insistence on using offensive tactics during the Battle of Ypres caused many French lives and Allied losses. It was followed by the Battle of the Somme, where he gained more territory and lost fewer men, but the defeat still cost him his career. He was relieved from active service and was replaced by other generals.
- In 1917, the Allied forces (excluding Russia) established the Supreme War Council, where the Minister and Prime Minister from each Western Front powers would have a once-a-month meeting. Foch was appointed France’s military representative, and military plans were submitted to him.
- Foch’s appointment increased France’s control over the Western Front.
- On March 26, 1918, the Supreme War Council named Foch the Supreme Commander with the title of Généralissime. He controlled the Military Board of Allied Supply, an Allied agency coordinating logistical support of the Allied forces and all the planned attacks against Germany. He halted the German spring offensive and defeated the Germans last campaign at the Second Battle of the Marne. The Généralissime coordinated with Allied commanders and ordered a series of attacks that resulted in the Allies’ victories at Amiens and St. Mihiel.
- Foch forced the Germans to retreat by keeping the offensives in Meuse-Argonne, Flanders, and Cambrai-St. Quentin. The Germans sought an armistice which Foch granted by drafting the armistice terms on Foch’s train car in the Forest of Compiegne on November 11.
- On the same day of the signing, Foch was elected to the Académie des Sciences and ten days later to the Académie Française. The Allied governments awarded him many honors, such as the Army Distinguished Service Medal by the US, and was made marshal of Great Britain
- In January 1919, at Paris Peace Conference, Foch presented a memorandum to the allied that included permanently weakening German power by the demilitarization and separation of Rhineland from Germany because it offered an ideal springboard for future German attacks on the west.
- However, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and American President Woodrow Wilson objected as they felt the balance of power should not be too much in favor of France.
- They agreed on the military occupation for fifteen years, which Foch argued was not enough to protect France and that the Treaty was not for peace but a truce that would last for 20 years. Foch signed the treaty under protest and correctly predicted World War II.
- Foch died of a heart attack on March 20, 1929, and was buried in Les Invalides next to Napoleon and other famous French soldiers and officers.
Ferdinand Foch Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Ferdinand Foch across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching kids about Ferdinand Foch, who served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces at the end of WWI.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
Below is a list of all the worksheets included in this document.
- Ferdinand Foch Facts
- Foch’s Life
- Ferdinand’s Moments
- The General’s Inquiry
- The Soldier’s Traits
- College Life
- A Military Career
- Battles Won and Lost
- The Marshal’s Wisdom
- Impact of Foch
- Foch: World War I Hero
Frequently Asked Questions
What did Ferdinand Foch do during World War I?
Ferdinand Foch was an important French military commander during World War I. He started out as an infantryman in the Franco-Prussian War. Later, he became head of a war college. When World War I started, Foch was named commander of the XX Army Corps. He helped to win the First Battle of the Marne.
What is the Foch approach?
The Allied leaders, including Ferdinand Foch, discovered a more effective way of operating. Rather than trying to break through enemy lines and push deep into the rear, the allies focused on encircling the enemy.
Did Ferdinand Foch predict World War II?
Ferdinand Foch said that the Treaty of Versailles was too lenient on Germany when it was signed on June 28, 1919. “This is not peace,” he said. “It is an armistice for twenty years.” His words turned out to be true: the Second World War did begin twenty years later.
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