Alphonse Joseph Georges

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General Georges, left, with General Lord Gort at Arras circa 1940

Alphonse Joseph Georges (Allier - Montluçon, August 15, 1875 – April 24, 1951) was a French army officer. He was commander in chief of the North East Front[1] in 1939 and 1940. Opposing the plan by supreme commander Maurice Gamelin to move the best allied forces into the Low Countries, he was overruled by his superior. Georges tried to allow as much initiative to his inferiors as possible to improve operational flexibility. Alphonse Georges, the son of a blacksmith, was born at Montlucon, France on 19 August 1875. He entered École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr and graduated third in his class in 1897. He served in French Algeria with a tirailleur regiment.

Military career[edit]

First World War 1914-1918[edit]

He served in the French Army during the First World War and was seriously wounded while leading his battalion in 1914. He was then assigned to the general staff of the army where he remained for the rest of the war.

Interwar Period 1918-1939[edit]

In 1918 Georges served under General Ferdinand Foch as operations chief. He was also chief of staff under Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain in French Morocco during the 1920-26 Rif War and as a division commander in Algeria (1928–32).

Georges was appointed to the Supreme War Council in November 1932. Based in Paris, he witnessed the assassination of French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou and King Alexander I of Yugoslavia in Marseilles on 9 October 1934. Seriously wounded during the assassination, Georges had a long recovery, but was expected to succeed General Maxime Weygand as head of the French Army in 1935. However, the French prime minister Edouard Daladier, thought he was too right-wing and appointed General Gamelin instead.

World War 2 1939-1945[edit]

Georges was appointed as Gamelin's deputy but the two men did not get on and they had a fraught relationship. On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Georges became commander of all French field armies. Gamelin and Georges assured Daladier that France had the greatest army in the world and were shocked when the Allied front was broken through at Sedan by the Wehrmacht. According to the memoirs of then-French Army captain Andre Beaufre, after the front was broken, the feeling was rife in Georges' headquarter staff that the battle with the Germans was lost, with Beaufre himself witnessing Georges breaking into tears. On 19 May 1940 Gamelin and Georges were sacked and General Weygand returned as head of the French Army.

After Marshal Petain took power after the fall of France and the collapse of the French Third Republic, Georges refused to play any significant role in the new Vichy France government. Winston Churchill wanted Georges to become commander of French forces in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia after the invasion of North Africa in February 1942. However, President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that this post should go to General Henri Giraud.

In January 1943, Giraud and General Charles De Gaulle became co-presidents of the French Committee of National Liberation (NCNL). Georges was appointed minister without portfolio but it was not long before like Giraud he was ousted by De Gaulle. Alphonse Georges died in 1951.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Greenwood, John; Karl-Heinz Frieser (2005). The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press. p. 92. ISBN 1-59114-294-6.