“This book is more than the story of two French soldiers, although that story is worth telling by reason of the strange inversion of their two careers. For one of them surrendered Metz in 1870 and was sentenced to death, while the other surrendered France in 1940 and was sentenced to become its ruler. The first Marshal was made a scapegoat by his defeated country; and when the second Marshal came to power, the scapegoat was France.”
François Bazaine and Henri Petain are two of France’s most famous generals.
Bazaine joined the Foreign Legion in 1832, a time when standards were reasonably poor. Their expeditions often took them miles away from home, so requests to travel to lands afar from King Louis Phillipe were expected. From the beginning of his career, Bazaine’s dedication, and hard work were noted. His position of Mariscal had not been an easy achievement, he’d risen through the ranks, only for his country to betray him.
Surrendering at Metz, Mariscal Bazaine became a scapegoat when France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War.
Bazaine was held captive for a while, and on his return, he realised he’d been put forth as a scapegoat.
Immediately, he launched into clearing his name, but was then given a life-sentence, much to the repulsion of Mac-Mahon, who’d served with Bazaine in the Foreign Legion.
Marshal Petain’s life was elusive, only for the sake of preserving his objectivity.
Marshal Petain was raised and educated in his hometown. Hardened by regimental life, Petain joined the 3rd Chasseurs as lieutenant in 1884, a time when Paris was going through its rousing years.
In 1916, Petain’s heroic capabilities were put to the test, and he succeeded. Verdun was under attack from the Germans and Verdun’s defence was placed at the hands of Petain.
It seemed the Germans intended the attack to draw innumerable French forces to the protection of Verdun, thereby weakening its army.
But this was not Petain’s view.
He saw beyond what others were seeing. His reputation was sealed through his success at Verdun.
Through a twist of fate, Petain was sentenced to death for treason on his return to France from Germany; a fate he was pardoned from due to his service.
Praise for Philip Guedalla
‘Polished, witty, lucid, excellently proportioned.’ – The Times
‘A brilliant piece of work.’ – Spectator
‘Lively, dashing, entertaining.’ – Daily Telegraph
‘Extremely well done’ – Kirkus Reviews
Philip Guedalla (1889-1944) was the Oxford University President of the Union Society. Later he was called to the Bar and contested several Parliamentary elections as a Liberal. Having become interested in British relations with South America, he founded the Ibero-American Institute and was responsible for the Latin-American Division of the British Council. He lectured in both North and South America, and broadcast frequently to South America. Among other distinguished books by him are The Second Empire, Palmerston and Mr Churchill.