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John French

Sir John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres (September 28, 1852 - May 22, 1925) was an English soldier and Field Marshal, the first commander of the BEF in World War I.

Born in Ripple Vale, Kent. The son of a naval captain he joined the Royal Navy in 1866 but transferred to the army in 1874. he served with the 19th Hussars in the Sudan 1884-85 and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. As a Lieutenant General he served as a cavalry commander in the Boer War from 1899-1902. He was the commander at Aldershot[?] from 1902-07 and was promoted to full General in 1907. Chief of Staff of the British Army in 1911. Chief of the Imperial General Staff 1912-13. Promoted to Field Marshal in 1913.

Given command of the BEF in August 1914. After the first battles at Mons and Le Cateau he was increasingly indecisive and more concerned with preserving his troops than aiding the French. He needed an emergency meeting with Kitchener in September to reorganise his thinking and direct the counter-offensive at the First Battle of the Marne.

He remained in command as major trenching began and oversaw the fighting at Neuve Chapelle and Ypres that finally destroyed the last of the original BEF. In 1915 his indecision returned, he declined to cooperate with the French and after the failures at Loos and Aubers Ridge the British offensive operations were almost halted. In September 1915 he was replaced by Douglas Haig.

He returned to England to be appointed Commander of the British Home Forces, a post he held until the end of the war. He oversaw the suppression of the Irish uprising in 1916 and was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1918 until his retirement in 1921.



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