This rejuvenation of the high command was facilitated by a number of circumstances, notable among which were the strengthening of the higher regimental ranks carried out during the three years preceding the war, as a result of which at the outset of the campaign each infantry regiment had two Lieutenant Colonels, and each cavalry and artillery regiment a Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel, and also the system of promotion for the duration of the war. Many officers who began the war as Colonels now command brigades. Some are even at the head of divisions or army corps. Ability proved on the field of battle is now immediately recognized and utilized, and in this way it has been possible to provide in the most favorable manner for the vacancies created by the changes in command which were considered necessary in the first weeks of the war.
The higher grades of the French Army are inspired by a remarkable unity in the matter of military theory, and by a solidarity of spirit which has found striking expression in the course of the numerous moves of army corps from one part of the theatre of operations to another, which have been carried out since the beginning of the war.
The cavalry after six months of war still possesses an excess of officers. There are on an average thirty-six officers to a regiment instead of the thirty-one considered to be the necessary minimum. The artillery, which has suffered relatively little, has also an excess of officers, and is further able to count upon a large number of Captains and other officers, who before the war were employed in the arsenals or in technical research. Finally the reserve artillery officers have nearly all proved to be excellent battery commanders.
The losses in the junior commissioned ranks have naturally been highest in the infantry. There is, however, nothing like a want of officers in this arm. Many Captains and Lieutenants who have been wounded by machine-gun fire (such wounds are usually slight and quickly healed,) have been able to return speedily to the front. The reserve officers have in general done remarkably well, and in many cases have shown quite exceptional aptitude for the rank of company commanders. The non-commissioned officers promoted to sub-Lieutenancies make excellent section leaders, and even show themselves very clever and energetic company commanders in the field.
It must be remembered also that thanks to the intellectual and physical development of the generation now serving with the colors; and thanks, above all, to the warlike qualities of the race, and the democratic spirit of our army, we have been able to draw upon the lower grades and even upon the rank and file for officers. Many men who began the war on Aug. 2 as privates, now wear the officers’ epaulettes. The elasticity of our regulations regarding promotion in war time, the absence of the spirit of caste, and the friendly welcome extended by all officers to those of their military inferiors who have shown under fire their fitness to command, have enabled us to meet all requirements.