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JOFFRE THE TACITURN, Issue 15663, 30 November 1914
JOFFRE THE TACITURN
THE FRENCH GENERALISSIMO.
A CHARACTER SKETCH
“You do not know him,” says Dr P. Pugade, formerly deputy of tho Pyrenees Onentules, in ‘Le Matin' of August 10. “I know him well, having frequently lived with him and his brother in his house at Rivesaltvs, where I used to go on Sundays, because my house, in tho days of the diligence, was too far from tho University of Perpignan. Very young, ho was silent and reserved. At the end of his sixteenth year ho was unostentatiously admitted a Bachelor of Science, with honorable mention, and nine months afterwards ho accomplished a unique feat in tho annals of our great army. Before ho attained his seventeenth year he was admitted to the Polytechnicgo School (one of the leading French military schools), aid was fourteenth on the list of candidates I will briefly pass, over his career from that day 7 . An early opportunity came to him by tiie war of 1870, when he had completed his first year of study at the school. He admirably did his duty, as did all the other men who fought, and after the war he was charged to organise the new defences of Paris. It was by him and under his plans and great constructive ability that we erected the fortifications of the Sectcur of Enghien. It was on the slopes of those forts that Marshal MacMahon, surrounded by his .headquarters staff, called a quiet, young lieutenant to him and said: T congratulate you, Captain Joffre’ —captain at 22 years of age is a wofiderful thing in the French army.
“They then sent him cast to organise tho fortifications of Pontarlier—an hnpoixant position commanding the Valley of the Rhone. ‘lt is all very fine,’ he f.aid to me, ’ but I shall only bo able to build fortifications. I should very much like to command some troops. After Pontarlier they sent him to Tonkin, also to make fortifications and even barracks. Fortunately Courbet came and took the trowel out of the hands of tho captain, whose ability ho had observed, and ggyo him the command of an army. Joffre, sword in hand at tho head of his troops, won all the battles in which destiny entrusted him. He went to Formosa with Courgct. and under tho fire of tho enemy lie organised the defence of tho island. He was then sent, to Madagascar to build the fortifications of Diego Suarez, which w:re man els of their kind.
Ho at last left for Dahomey with Colonel Bonnier ; who was defeated and killed by the natives. Joffre, who commanded the rearguard, rallied the fugitives, annihilated the enemy, and, without any demonstration. was the first to enter Timbuctoo. Since then he has never left France. Teacher at i’ecole de guerre, director of the field engineers, general of brigade, general of division, commander of army corps, he could now give his strategical and organising genius opportunity for full development. Speaking of his instruction, Lieutenant-colonel Roussel (a leading artillery commander) wrote 18 months ago in ‘La Liberte ’ alluding to him as another Napoleonic genius. Ho was unanimously chosen supreme chief of the French armies by tho members of the Supreme Council of War on the proposition of General Pau himself. He did not say a word in order to gain this great honor; neither did ho say a word to refuse it. And now a personal reminiscence. “ I was in Dresden in 1911 at the time of the Agadir incident. Tho parliamentary delegation, of which I was a member, had been officially invited to a great dinner given by the Mayor of the Saxon capital. The gravity of the situation closed our lips, and during the dinner the conversation was strictly restrained. Towards the close the German tongue began to loosen. In tho smoke room the president of the Hygienic ‘ Exhibition of Dresden, who thought that I might bo more communicative than my colleagues, asked me pointblank : ‘ What do you think of the situation in-France?’ I did not answer. He renewed his question, and again I took no notice 'of it. The Gorman Francophobe, after the manner of the bourgeoisie, got exasperated: ‘Yes, I know perfectly well that tho French soldier is worth two Germans,’ he said, ‘ but you have no discipline and no generals.’ Like the cricket that has its breast tickled, I commenced to make a noise. ‘We have no discipline! You are right,’ I retorted. ‘We have not your discipline. We have replaced it by the love that our officers have for .their soldiers, and the love that the soldiers have_ for their officers, thanks to which their leaders can make them pass through tho eye of a needle. We have no generals. That may be understood. And of yours? What proofs have you of them? Of the French generals I only know one, but I know him well. It is the Commander-in-Chief, General Joffre, and I give you a good piece of advice: Don’t rub yourself up against him.’” The German did not answer. Joffre, the taciturn, i» gowa t©>.
JOFFRE THE TACITURN, Issue 15663, 30 November 1914
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