Henri Mathias Berthelot

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Henri Berthelot
Henri Berthelot.jpg
Born December 7, 1861 (1861-12-07)
Feurs, France
Died January 29, 1931(1931-01-29) (aged 69)
Paris, France
Allegiance France France
Years of service 1883-1926
Rank General
Commands held French Military Mission in Romania
Fifth Army (France)
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Grand cross of the Légion d'honneur
Croix de guerre 1914-1918
Honorary citizen of Romania

Henri Mathias Berthelot (1861–1931) was a French general during World War I. He served as chief of staff under Joseph Joffre, the French commander-in-chief.[1]

Biography[edit]

In 1883, after graduating from the Saint-Cyr military academy, Berthelot was assigned to Algeria, and afterwards to Indochina.

In 1907, he was assigned to the French General Staff. During this period Berthelot worked together with General Joseph Joffre on the French war plan called Plan XVII.

In 1914, he served as chief of staff under General Joffre during the First Battle of the Marne. In November 1914, Berthelot was given the command of the reserve forces at Soissons, later the command of the 53rd Division and of the XXXIII Corps.

On 16 October 1916 Berthelot was appointed the chief of the French military mission in Romania, and between January and June 1917 he supervised the reorganisation and the retraining of the Romanian Army, defeated in the previous year by the forces of the Central Powers in Wallachia and Dobruja (see Romania during World War I). The results of the reorganisation and resupply of the Romanian troops were seen in the summer of 1917, when the Alexandru Averescu's army broke the front at Mărăşti and the major counter-offensive of the Central Powers with the aim of occupying the rest of the Romanian territory (Moldavia) and the port of Odessa was stopped at Mărăşeşti and Oituz. However, when the Bolsheviks took Russia out of the war, Romania, left surrounded by the Central Powers, had little choice but to sign an armistice in December 1917, followed by a peace treaty in May 1918. Under these circumstances the French military mission had to leave the country.

In July 1918, after his return to France, general Ferdinand Foch appointed him commander of the Fifth army.

After the successful offensive on the Thessaloniki front which put Bulgaria out of the war, Romania re-entered the war on November 10, 1918, a day before its end in Western Europe. On 11 November 1919, during the victory parade of the Allied forces in Paris, General Berthelot told General Foch at the sight of the Romanian detachment:

Foch, saluez! C'est la famille. ("Foch, salute! It's [our] family.")

From 1919 to 1922, Berthelot served as military governor of Metz.

From 1920 to 1926, Berthelot was a member of the Conseil Général de Guerre (Supreme War Council), and was involved in the decision to build the Maginot Line.

From 1923 to 1926, the general served as military governor of Strasbourg.

He died in 1931 and was buried in Nervieux (Department of Loire).

Berthelot's legacy in Romania[edit]

General Berthelot's village roadsign in Romania
General Berthelot's restored manor house

Grateful for the French army's contribution to the liberation of Romania, and in particular, Berthelot's role during the World War I Romanian campaign, the Romanian Parliament awarded him honorary citizenship of Romania and King Ferdinand rewarded the general with lands located in the Transylvanian village of Fărcădin, confiscated from the Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás family. The property included a manor house, some arable land, an orchard and a forest.

In 1923, the local council decided to rename Fărcădin to "General Berthelot".

In 1926, Berthelot was elected an honorary member of the Romanian Academy. In his will he left all his properties in Fărcădin to the Romanian Academy.

During the communist dictatorship, the castle was sacked and eventually turned into a silo. In 1965 the village's name was changed to "Unirea" (Union). In 2001, after Ceauşescu's downfall, a local referendum approved the renaming the village and the commune back to "General Berthelot".

Several schools, streets and boulevards bear his name in Romania.

References[edit]