Joseph Joffre was born in Rivesaltes in 1852. At eighteen he joined the army and over the next few years developed his reputation in several colonial expeditions.
When Joffre was appointed chief of staff in 1911 he purged the army of defensively minded commanders and two years later adopted Plan 17 as the main strategy for defending France from Germany. Devised by General Ferdinand Foch, the plan involved attacking Germany at Lorraine and the southern Aedennes.
On the outbreak of the First World War Joffre took command of the French Army. Although hampered by the rigidity of Plan 17, Joffre did manage to adapt his strategy to help counteract the German Schlieffen Plan. Following the advice of General Joseph Gallieni, Joffre ordered the attack on the German Army at the Marne.
Blamed for the failure to break though on the Western Front and the losses at Verdun, Joffre was replaced by Robert Nivelle in December 1916. Still popular with the French public, Joffre was promoted to the post of Marshal of France. However, he was now restricted to ceremonial duties in France and military missions to the United States. Joseph Joffre died in 1931.