The allied General Headquarters

During the first months of the war the Allied armies organised themselves setting up their headquarters in zones that were relatively near to the front.

The Belgian army, which had been on the move since the start of the German invasion on August 3rd, retreated to Veurne where it set up its headquarters. The British High Command, under the orders of Sir John French and subsequently of Sir Douglas Haig, set up headquarters at Saint-Omer, and then in Montreuil-sur-Mer. The French headquarters continuously moved as the conflict developed: from the Marne to the Oise, the Aube, Côte-d’Or and Seine-et-Marne and finally in the Moselle. The location of the headquarters was linked to the geographical areas that were in hands of the Allied. The Belgian army occupied the most northerly section of the Western front, to the north of Ypres. The British, meanwhile, held the front from the south of Ypres to the Oise, where French troops were fighting. Their area extended to the Vosges. Following their entry into the war in 1917 the American army was stationed in Lorraine.

The general staffs of the allied forces, meanwhile, were located in different cities than the headquarters. Soon hundreds of soldiers arrived. Generally speaking, these general staffs did not remain in the same place for long, moving in function of the front, in order to always be close to the lines.

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  • Hôtel de la Noble-Cour in Cassel, first quarter of the 20th century, photo, © Cassel, musée départementale de Flandre

    October 1914: General Foch (1851-1929) set up his headquarters in Cassel, on the first floor of the Hôtel de la Noble-Cour, where he coordinated the troop movements of the Allied armies in the North.

  • Réquin Jean-Edouard (1879-1953), General Foch and General Wilson, Cassel, 1915, watercolour and crayon on paper, coll. BDIC/Archipel

    During the conflict representatives of the British Army were generally involved in the decision-making process of the General Headquarters of the French Army and vice versa. This was also the case in the general headquarters, like at Cassel. This caricature by a French officer working there illustrates these relations.

Mont-Cassel – T’Landshuys ou Hôtel de la Noble Cour (Mairie)General Foch and General Wilson