Charles Lanrezac
Charles Lanrezac was a distinguished general
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 of the French army at the outbreak of World War I.

Early life

Lanrezac attended the military school at Saint-Cyr
École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr
The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr is the foremost French military academy. Its official name is . It is often referred to as Saint-Cyr . Its motto is "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre": literally "They study to vanquish" or "Training for victory"...

 in 1869 but when the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 started 1870, he was sent to fight as a lieutenant. He fought with the Armée de la Loire
Armée de la Loire
The Armée de la Loire was a French army of the Franco-Prussian War. It was formed in October 1870 by Léon Gambetta, interior minister and minister for war in the Government of National Defence, then taking refuge in Tours after the French defeat at Sedan on 2 September 1870...

 at Coulmiers
Battle of Coulmiers
The Battle of Coulmiers was fought on November 9, 1870 between French and Bavarian forces during the Franco-Prussian War, ending in French victory.- The struggle :...

 and in the campaign around Orléans. In January 1871 he was transferred to the Armée de l'Est
Armée de l'Est
The Armée de l'Est was a French army which took part in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71...

 and following the failure of its campaign, he was interred in Switzerland. By 1876 he had been promoted to captain. He graduated from the École Militaire
École Militaire
The École Militaire is a vast complex of buildings housing various military training facilities located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France, southeast of the Champ de Mars....

 in 1879. The following years Lanrezac served in various staff functions in the 113th Infantry Regiment and on a brigade staff in Tunisia. Lanrezac was promoted to colonel in 1902 and given command of the 119th Infantry Regiment. He became a brigade general in June 1906, commanding the 43rd Infantry Brigade stationed in Vannes
Vannes is a commune in the Morbihan department in Brittany in north-western France. It was founded over 2000 years ago.-Geography:Vannes is located on the Gulf of Morbihan at the mouth of two rivers, the Marle and the Vincin. It is around 100 km northwest of Nantes and 450 km south west...

. After this brigade command he was made a professor at the École Militaire. He was made a divisional general in 1911 and the following year he was made Général de corps d'armée
Général de corps d'armée
A Général de corps d'armée is a senior rank in the French Army.The rank is the equivalent of a Lieutenant General in other countries and is junior to the rank of Général d'armée and senior to Général de division...

 in command of the XI Corps in Nantes
Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, from the Atlantic coast. The city is the 6th largest in France, while its metropolitan area ranks 8th with over 800,000 inhabitants....

. In April 1914 Lanreczac succeeded Joseph Gallieni
Joseph Gallieni
Joseph Simon Gallieni was a French soldier, most active as a military commander and administrator in the French colonies and finished his career during the First World War. He was made Marshal of France posthumously in 1921...

 as a member of the French Supreme War Coucil and was designated as the commander of the Fifth Army in the event of war.

World War I

At the start of World War I, Lanrezac was given command of the French Fifth Army, holding the extreme left of the French line. His command was arguably the most difficult on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

; he had to meet the enveloping right-wing of the German Army
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

 that quickly steamrolled Belgium.

Although Lanrezac knew retreat to be necessary from the beginning of the war and warned against the danger of the German sweep through Belgium, his superior, General Joseph Joffre
Joseph Joffre
Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre OM was a French general during World War I. He is most known for regrouping the retreating allied armies to defeat the Germans at the strategically decisive First Battle of the Marne in 1914. His popularity led to his nickname Papa Joffre.-Biography:Joffre was born in...

, believed that France should follow the offensive Plan XVII
Plan XVII was the name of a "scheme of mobilization and concentration" that was adopted by the French General Staff in 1913, to be put into effect by the French Army in the event of war between France and Germany but was not ‘a prescribed narrative for the campaign’ or battle...

, regardless of what happened in Belgium, and discounted Lanrezac's warnings. With the help of the British Expeditionary Force, the French held the line in retreat even after the great defeat at the Battle of the Frontiers
Battle of the Frontiers
The Battle of the Frontiers was a series of battles fought along the eastern frontier of France and in southern Belgium shortly after the outbreak of World War I. The battles represented a collision between the military strategies of the French Plan XVII and the German Schlieffen Plan...

 in 1914. His retreat after the Battle of Charleroi
Battle of Charleroi
The Battle of Charleroi , or the Battle of the Sambre , was fought on 21 August 1914, between French and German forces and was part of the Battle of the Frontiers. The French were planning an attack across the Sambre River, when the Germans launched an attack of their own...

 arguably saved the French army from decisive defeat as it prevented the much sought envelopment of the Schlieffen plan
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

. After fighting another defensive action in the Battle of St. Quentin
Battle of St. Quentin (1914)
The Battle of St. Quentin was fought during World War I.On the night of 26 August 1914, the Allies withdrew from Le Cateau to St...

, the French were pushed to within miles of Paris, but the line held at the sacrifice of Lanrezac's career.

His harsh criticism of his superiors in the Staff Corps overshadowed his impressive ability to avoid envelopment by the Germans and he was replaced by Louis Franchet d'Espérey just before the opening of the First Battle of the Marne
First Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Marne was a First World War battle fought between 5 and 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army under Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had...

. Lanrezac stayed in retirement for the rest of the war, refusing an offer to be re-employed in 1917.

The city of Paris honored Lanrezac by naming a street after him near the Place de l'Étoile
Place de l'Étoile
The Place Charles de Gaulle, , historically known as the Place de l'Étoile , is a large road junction in Paris, France, the meeting point of twelve straight avenues including the Champs-Élysées which continues to the east. It was renamed in 1970 following the death of General and President Charles...

. The Rue de General Lanrezac, one block from the Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
-The design:The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin , in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture . Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot; François Rude; Antoine Étex; James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire...

, connects Avenue Carnot with Avenue MacMahon.

External links

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