The Doullens Conference was held in Doullens, France, on 26 March 1918 between French and British military leaders and governmental representatives during World War 1. Its purpose was to better co-ordinate their armies' operations on the Western Front in the face of dramatic advance by the German Army which threatened a breakthrough at that moment of their lines during the War's final year.
On 21 March 1918 the Army Groups of the German Empire launched a massive offensive against the British on the Western Front with the strategic aim of defeating the Allies in the West and winning World War 1, before the United States of America, which had recently entered the conflict on the Allies' side, could mass enough troops in France to intervene in the conflict. The German Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht or Kaiser's Battle), started with Operation Michael. The commencement of the German offensive was an astonishing success, with the British Fifth Army being initially routed from its trench systems to the point that there appeared to exist the danger as it fell back en masse of it being overwhelmed, risking a breakthrough the French and British lines on the Western Front by the Germans. The strategic situation was made more unsure for the Allies by a lack of co-ordination between the Commander-in-Chief of the French Armies on the Western Front, General Philippe Pétain, and his peer British Commander, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, with Petain having hitherto refused Haig's requests for support for the threatened British 5th Army fearing that the attack upon it was a diversionary tactic for an - as yet - undisclosed attack by the Germans upon the French Army.
It became clear in the crisis that better co-ordination between the Allies was needed to prevent a German breakthrough. The Allies decided to meet at Dury, France, on the 26th but moved the meeting to Doullens because Field Marshal Haig had already planned to meet with his subordinate Army Commanders there. There was a concern that the advancing Germans might actually overrun the town of Doullens before the conference was convened, so precipitous being the German assault, but this didn't happen and it was held there despite being in the path of the oncoming German advance.
The meeting was held at the Hotel de Ville, its French attendees were General Petain, French President Raymond Poincaré, Premier Georges Clemenceau, General Ferdinand Foch, and General Maxime Weygand. Lord Milner, Field Marshal Haig, and Generals Henry Wilson, Herbert Lawrence, and Archibald Montgomery were the British representatives.
The conference was successful in forming a more unified command. It agreed the creation of an Allied Commander-in-Chief with the power to co-ordinate Allied operations collectively. The members attending the conference believed that General Ferdinand Foch was the most qualified figure for the nature of the role, and placed him in executive charge of co-ordinating the operations of the Allied Armies on the Western Front. One of Foch's remarks at the conference, to give confidence to the British military figures present (who had grave doubts about the willingness of the French to go on with the war) about his qualifications for role was: "I would fight without a break. I would fight in front of Amiens. I would fight in Amiens. I would fight behind Amiens. I would fight all the time. I would never surrender".
It was at a secondary meeting at the French town of Beauvais on 3 April 1918 that Foch was officially given the title and authority of Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies in the West. General Tasker Bliss, senior military representative of the United States of America's Supreme War Council was also present at this meeting, and gave the United States' assent to the candidature of Foch for the post.
This conference was held on 1-2 May 1918 in the French town of Abbeville, France. Its purpose was to resolve the Allies' reinforcement troop shortages in the 4th year of the war. The French and the British were by this late stage of the conflict struggling to meet the numbers for the maintenance of the war, and requested of the American representatives present an escalation of the U.S.A.'s plans for the shipment its troop formations across the North Atlantic Ocean to assist with making up the shortfall.
Also at this conference Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando consented to General Foch's (as the new 'Allied Commander-in-Chief') authority extending to the Southern European theatre front in North Italy, to facilitate co-ordination of the Italian Army's operations there with those taking place on the Western Front in France and Belgium.
- Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts, and John S. D. Eisenhower, World War I: A Student Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2005), 587
- Rod Paschall, Colonel Rod Paschall, and John S. D. Eisenhower, The Defeat of Imperial Germany 1917-1918 (Da Capo Press, 1994), 144
- 'Doullens on parade for Foch centenary', World War 1 'Centenary News' website (1919). https://www.centenarynews.com/article/doullens-on-parade-for-foch-centenary
- Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts, and John S. D. Eisenhower, World War I: A Student Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2005), 588
- Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall, World War I (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001), 357
- Jehuda Lothar Wallach, Uneasy Coalition: The Entente Experience in World War I (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1993), 114
- Spencer Tucker, Laura Matysek Wood, and Justin D. Murphy, The European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia (Taylor & Francis, 1996), 1