French, John Denton Pinkstone, First Earl of Ypres (1852–1925), a British army officer. French was given command of the British Expeditionary Forces (B.E.F.) in France at the start of World War I. Although troops under his command won a notable victory at the First Battle of the Marne (1914), French was criticized in this and other battles for timid leadership and for his failure to work in harmony with allies. He resigned as commander of the B.E.F. in December, 1915, after a series of costly, unsuccessful offensives.
French was born in Kent, enlisted in the navy in 1866, and transferred to the army in 1874. During the Boer War, he led a cavalry division to lift the siege of Kimberley. He was knighted in 1899. French was chief of the imperial general staff, 1912–14, and was made a field marshal in 1913. After his resignation as B.E.F. commander, he was commander of home forces in Great Britain (1916–18) and lord lieutenant of Ireland (1918–21). He became a viscount in 1916 and an earl in 1922. He wrote a defense of his actions in World War I entitled 1914 (1919).