Ferdinand Foch was undoubtedly the military colossus of the western front in the First World War. He rose through the ranks of command in the French Army, becoming first Chief of the General Staff and then Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies with the title of Généralissime.
Together with General Haig he planned the Great Offensive of September 1918 which triggered the collapse and defeat of Germany. A grateful nation made him Marshal of France, and he strode towards the 1919 Paris Peace Conference with demands to render Germany incapable of posing a future threat to France.
He presented a memorandum to the Allied plenipotentiaries which demanded that Germany be denied territorial sovereignty over the left bank of the Rhine and that German power be so permanently weakened so as to render her incapable of military action against her neighbours.
What eventually emerged as the Treaty of Versailles would fall far short of his demands, so much so that he labelled the resulting peace a “a capitulation, a treason” His disappointment and disgust produced one of the most memorable and ultimately prophetic quotes. As the peace treaty was signed on 28 June 1919 in the glittering surrounds of the Palace of Versaille’s Hall of Mirrors, Foch was heard to remark:
“This is not peace, it is an armistice for 20 years.”
The Second World War would break out just over 20 years later, but Foch would not live to see the fulfillment of his prophecy. He died in March 1929 aged 77.