truthergw, on 18 November 2011 - 01:57 PM, said:
Pretty wide area there and you would likely have to do a bit of reading to get anything like a full appreciation of morale in French civilians. A quick summary might go like this. Army morale plummeted after Chemin des Dames and pacifist and pro-German factions fed off that. Petain for the army and The Tiger behind the lines both took strong and effective steps to counter sedition and raise morale. This started to take effect by late '17. By 1918, the civilian populations of all the belligerents were growing weary of the war. In France, it was felt that neither the nation nor the army could well sustain a major defeat. That view was also held in certain influential sectors in Britain. How deep the war weariness was has been a subject of debate. Some feel that Petain was correct while others feel that the French were more resilient than assumed. Germany gambled on French defeatism three times during the war, Verdun, Chemin des Dames and Kaiserschlacht and she was proven wrong each time. The French army and people rose to the challenge, met and overcame it. T o get a real idea of the subject, you should read some of the French political memoirs. President Poincare's War Memoirs for example.
Can you recommend any other titles besides political memoirs? I will definitely check them out, thanks for the tip.
As to the three occasions you mention, Verdun was against the army to soften them up for follow on blows, not to break their morale; Chemin des Dames was a French, not German, offensive, so I fail to see how the Germans 'were banking on French defeatism' there, and Kaiserschlacht was a battle against the British, not the French, by design, because the Germans thought the French were the more dangerous foe.
Honestly, other than the war lasting so long and the French wasting so much manpower, the Germans never really banked on French defeatism at all. One can make an argument for Verdun, granted, but it was supposed to bleed them physically, not morally, at least in conception. The 1918 offensives were tactical flailing at the Allies to get them to surrender by separating and defeating them in detail militarily, not morally.
If anything there was not enough focus on the French morale in the German efforts, at least from the German army.