Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre
(12 January 1852 - 3 January 1931) was a French general
who was Commander-in-Chief
of the French Army
between 1914 and 1916 during the First World War
. He is most known for regrouping the retreating allied armies to defeat the Germans at the strategically decisive First Battle of the Marne
in 1914. His popularity led to his nickname Papa Joffre
Joffre was born in Rivesaltes
. He joined the École polytechnique
in 1870 and became a career officer. He first saw active service during the Siege of Paris
in the Franco-Prussian War
, but spent much of his career in the colonies as a military engineer
, serving with distinction in the Keelung Campaign
during the Sino-French War
(August 1884–April 1885). He returned to France and was made commander-in-chief of the French Army
(1911), after Joseph Gallieni
declined the post. With the revival of the army and a purge of "defensive-minded" officers he adopted the strategy devised by Ferdinand Foch
, the offensive known as Plan XVII
. Joffre was selected to command despite never having commanded an Army, even on paper, and "having no knowledge whatever of General Staff work."
At the outbreak of war, the French plan clashed with the German Schlieffen Plan, much to the detriment of the French. Joffre helped to retrieve the situation through retreat and counterattack at the First Battle of the Marne. He combined the French 9th and 10th armies into the French 6th army in under two weeks before turning it over to Joseph Gallieni in the First Battle of the Marne. Following the enormous losses at Verdun and the Anglo-French offensive at the Somme he was replaced by General Robert Nivelle on 13 December 1916.
Still popular, Joffre was made Marshal of France, the first man to receive that rank under the Third Republic, but his role was little more than ceremonial.. Following the catastrophical defeats of France's ally Romania at the hands of Germany in late 1916, that forced the capital Bucharest to be evacuated, Joffre was appointed as head of the French Military Mission aimed at reforming the Romanian army. He spent the first part of 1917 here. In June 1917, he was appointed head of the French military mission to the USA, then leader of the Supreme War Council in 1918. In 1918, Mount Joffre in Western Canada was named after him. He retired in 1919 and was made a member of the Académie française.
In 1920 Joffre presided over the Jocs Florals in Barcelona, a Catalan literary certamen. He died on 3 January 1931 in Paris and buried on his estate in Louveciennes. His memoirs, in two volumes, were published posthumously in 1932.
A French aircraft carrier bearing Joffre's name was under construction at the start of World War II but was never completed due to France's rapid fall in 1940.
The following landmarks were named in Joffre's honor:
- Place Joffre, Avenue de la Motte-Piquet, Paris, with bronze statue of mounted subject.
- Mount Joffre, a mountain located on the Continental Divide, in British Columbia
- Rue Joffre (Joffre Street), located in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada.
- Joffre Avenue, located in Milltown, New Jersey, USA.
- Avenue Joffre, located in Shanghai, China (since renamed Huaihai Road).
- Joffre Street, located in Pascoe Vale, Victoria, Australia.
- Jauffre, a character from the Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, is named after Joseph Césaire Joffre.
- Joffre, Pennsylvania, zip code 15053 (Latitude 40.4 degrees north; Longitude 80.4 degrees west).
The joffre cake
In 1920, when Joffre returned to Romania for a brief visit, Casa Capşa created an eponymous, cylindrical-shaped, all-chocolate petit four cake, resembling an ovesized kepi, to honour his role in reforming the Romanian army as head of the French Military Mission, in 1917. The cake became an instant hit and has been a favorite in all Romanian confectioneries ever since.