‘Fortunately, there is not . . . any serious dispute between France and Germany’

An ‘Irish Independent’ article highlights the French army’s lack of preparedness for a war with Germany

1914:  French politician Theophile Delcasse (1852 - 1923).  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

1914: French politician Theophile Delcasse (1852 - 1923). (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)



French Army Deficiencies

One remembers that when the Franco-Prussian war broke out the French War Minister declared that his Army was fully prepared for a campaign, even to the last button on the youngest recruit’s gaiters.

Yet before the war had been in progress a week it was found that in every branch of the service there were deplorable deficiencies. Again, as has been recently revealed, in 1905, when the German Emperor went to Tangier and France and Germany were on the brink of war, it was found that the French Army was unprepared for hostilities.

A Cabinet meeting was hurriedly summoned. M [Théophile] Delcassé [foreign minister] proposed that a fleet should be immediately sent to Tangier in reply to the Kaiser’s challenge. But M Berteaux, the War Minister, stated that the available supply of ammunition would be used up in ten days.

M Delcassé resigned, and there was no war, but the Commission of Finances, without public discussion, at once voted a credit of £56,000,000 to bring the French Army up to a condition of efficiency and preparedness for war.

It was taken for granted that the money was judiciously spent, but now, ten years later, one again finds the French Army not ready for a campaign. In the Senate on Monday, M Charles Humbert made a speech which was a veritable indictment of French military administration and of the General Staff.

The artillery, on which France prides itself, has practically nothing to oppose to the modern equipment of Germany. The stocks of ammunition have fallen to a dangerous level, even the supply of boots for the soldiers is deficient. After mentioning other deficiencies, M Humbert declared that in the past the money voted for the Army had been absolutely wasted.

The statement naturally created a great sensation in France, and yesterday , the National Festival, an emergency sitting of the Senate was held to consider the situation. Fortunately, there is not at the moment any serious dispute between France and Germany, otherwise the latter country might be tempted to take advantage of France’s unpreparedness for war and force a conflict.

The Irish Independent

July 15th, 1914