Top 10 Generals of the First World War
Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Maria - June 18, 2016

The First World War had some of the bloodiest battles and the greatest victories in history. Each of these victories was made possible by the brilliant work of some of the prominent generals of the early militaries. Here we have sampled 10 of the war generals whose strategies and military tactics determined the outcome of World War 1 and have significantly influenced the modern military establishment.

10. Paul von Hindenburg

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Paul von Hindenburg was named the German Eight Army commander in August 1914. At the time, he was leading Germany in battles on two different fronts against the powerful Russia.

Still, he managed to defeat both the Second Army and the First Army in the Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes respectively. He eventually pushed the Russians out of East Prussia, extremely demoralizing them in the process. A lot of sources say this is one of the main factors that caused the 1917 Russian Revolution.

9. Ferdinand Foch

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Ferdinand Foch was a highly decorated French Marshal. He played a central role in checking Germans forces at the start of the First World War. He was widely responsible for the victory against the Germans at the First Battle of Marne in September of 1914.

Foch was however later dismissed in 1916 following the botched offensive at Ypres and the massive casualties suffered in the Somme offensive a year later. He returned to the forces in 1917 as Chief of the French General Staff. A year later in 1918, Ferdinand Foch was appointed the Allied Armies’ Commander in Chief. He took a central part in creating the Hundred Days Offensive, following the successful German Spring Offensive, which ultimately forced the Germans to succumb.

8. Aleksei Brusilov

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Aleksei Brusilov was top of the list of innovative World War 1 generals. It’s his creative, strategic and tactical ideas that gave Russia its first most victory in the war after a series of disheartening losses. Brusilov commanded the Russian Eighth Army in Galicia. He orchestrated plans for a full-blown attack on the comparatively larger Austro-Hungarian army. His celebrated Brusilov Offensive started with spectacular conquests like the Battle of Lutsk and resulted in a complete decimation of the Austro-Hungarian forces.

Within the first two days of the battle, their opponents had suffered about 230,000 casualties, allowing the Russian troops under Brusilov’s command to advance further. The offensive ended with the intervention of the German troops transferred from the Western Front, leaving the Austro-Hungarian army utterly broken. It’s because of the massive success of the Brusilov troops during the early stages of the offensive that Romania agreed to join the battle.

7. Živojin Mišić

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Vojvoda Živojin Mišić played a crucial role in the liberation of Serbia after being a conspicuous figure on the Serbian Front at the start of World War 1. Despite the overwhelmingly large numbers of the Austro-Hungarian forces, Mišić in late 1914 decisively defeated them in the Battle of Kolubara.

It was only after the Austro-Hungarian army joined forces with German troops and Bulgarian forces that Serbia capitulated in 1915. Živojin Mišić pulled out his forces to Greece through Albania and Montenegro. He was later appointed the commander of the First Army following the establishment of the Thessaloniki Front. About two years later in mid-1918, he was appointed Chief of Supreme Command and commanded the Serbian army until the war ended.

6. Svetozar Boroević

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

The Austro-Hungarian army suffered many losses to their rivals even though they were often numerically superior in most cases. Svetozar Boroević, however, changed that narrative. This Austro-Hungarian general from a Serbian Orthodox family was one of the most adept of all Austro-Hungarian generals. His was a defensive strategy, which enabled him to achieve a great victory in the 1917 Battle of Caporetto where his Austro-Hungarian forces joined with the German forces and advanced over 60 miles.

His weakness in offensive tactics, however, worked against him when the attempt to bombard the Italian forces failed. This resulted in the collapse of his Austro-Hungarian army after the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.

5. Philippe Petain

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

French Marshal Philippe Petain fought the Germans and collaborated with the same in the two different world wars. While he is popularly remembered to have collaborated with Germany during the 2nd World War, he actually headed the troops that fought and repulsed the German attack at Verdun in World War 1 (1916). This made him a national hero.

He had a stint as Commander in Chief, a position he used to enhance discipline in the French military. He also helped raise their morale at a time when this was most needed to be able to withstand the great German offensive of spring 1918.

4. Douglas Haig

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Douglas Haig was a British Field Marshal. He replaced John French in late 1915 as Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, BEF, and held the position until the end of World War 1. He led the British troops in the Somme Offensive in 1917 and a year later in the Battle of Passchendaele. Even though both of the battles suffered massive casualties, General Haig is remembered to have played a key role in the Allied victory over the Central Powers.

3. Armando Diaz

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

He was an Italian general and Field Marshal born in Spain. Armando Diaz served as corps commander of the Italian forces after being promoted from the position of major-general under Luigi Cadorna.

He replaced Cadorna as Italian Army’s Chief of Staff after the tragedy at the Battle of Caporetto in the fall of 1917. In 1917 he repulsed the Austro-Hungarian offensive and launched a counter-offensive that achieved a decisive victory over the Austria-Hungarians. He also led the Italians to a great victory in the June 1918 Battle of the Piave River. This was followed a few months later by yet another decisive victory in the Vittorio Veneto War that ended World War I on the Italian Front.

2. John Monash

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

John Monash, an Australian general, was one of the architects of the Third Battle of Picardy, which unlocked the final phase of the First World War. He led the 4th Brigade in 1915-16 during the Gallipoli campaign and became commander of the Australian 3rd Division in France. Monash took General William Birdwood’s place as commander of the Australian Corps and achieved a series of victories in that position in the final phase of World War 1.

1. Erich Ludendorff

Top 10 Generals of the First World War

Germany’s Erich Ludendorff was widely responsible for the victory over Russian forces at Tannenberg. Many sources point out that this led to the Russian Revolution and their subsequent withdrawal from the battle in spring of 1917.

He was less successful against Britain though. He ordered unrestricted submarine warfare against the British in 1917 to break the blockade. This failed. His attempts, however, caused the US to join the war. Ludendorff later launched a full-scale attack in the West in March 1918, the Spring Offensive. This started with some success, but that did not last long. He soon realized he had lost after the Second Battle of the Marne. He wanted the war to continue but his demand was rejected, and he resigned on October 26, 1918.

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