Histoire & Collections 13 French Army 1940.pdf

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The Metropolitan Troops
General Headquarters, Military academies, lnfantry, Fortress lnfantry, Alpine lnfantry, Chasseurs a pied, Chasseurs alpins, Alpine Fortress
lnfantry, Tanks, Cuirassiers, Dragoons, Chasseurs a cheval, Hussars, Armored Cars, Reconnaissance Groups, Artillery, Engineers, Train,
Gendarmerie, Services (Supply, Administration, Medica! Corps), Paris Fire Brigade.
The Mrican and Levant Special troops
Zouaves, Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan Tirailleurs, Foreign Legion, African Light lnfantry, chasseurs d'Afrique,
Algerian and Moroccan Spahis, Saharan companies, Levant Special troops.
The Colonial troops
Colonial lnfantry, Senegalese tirailleurs
The Air Force
The Navy
Translated from the French by Alan McKAY
1940 N
since 1918. The 1916 Model infantry rifle, the carbine, the
Ruby pistol and the 1892 Model revolver were the main indi­
vidual weapons. For the unit weapons, the FM 24/29 machine
gun was in general use and popular with its servants. The
Hotchkiss machine gun was still in use.
60- and 81-mm mortars, developed directly rom the trench
artillery like the anti-tank guns, appeared in the French infan­
try arsenal.
The MAS 36 was the most recent individual weapon issued,
but only to certain active units.
The MAS 36-type cartridge belts were used alongside the
former Lebel ones. The lozenge-shaped pouch was repla­
ced by a canvas backpack, together with a lower pack and
a pouch which could be attached to the belt. The ANP 31
gas mask sheath replaced the ARS type metal box.
With the ups and downs of the Year 1914, the army of the
Belle Epoque, with its madder-red trousers, quickly changed
into a "horizon blue" army. After one year of war the soldier
who had gone off to war without a care in the world had meta­
morphosed into a less conspicuous warrior facing the enemy.
In the years following the end of the conflict it was recogni­
sed that the mustard-coloured cloth used by the Aflican troops
was more practical and far better adapted to meeting the fun­
damental need of making the infantryman less visible.
But as the horizon blue clothing had irst to be worn until
all the stocks were used up, the colour change was only car­
ried out among the rank and ile uniformly so that there
wasn't a medley of khaki and horizon blue uniforms in any
one regiment.
This complete change of uniform was generally effective
from 1935 onwards but Reserve troops and certain non­
combatant units nonetheless kept horizon blue uniforms
until up to the eve ' of the war.
Unfortunately this change in colour was not the result of
a moden vision of the combatant and overall, the silhouette
of the 1940 soldier did not differ very much from his 1918
predecessor. Combat dress and equipment was dated.
The NCOs and the Oicers
For the everyday uniform, an effort had been made for
the NCOs' dress. For the re-engaged NCO corps (SOR- Sous­
Officiers Rengagés), an attempt had been made to ind a
more elegant service dress and a real off-duty uniform which
more closely resembled the officers'.
On the other hand the Sergents' and Sergent-Chefs' bat­
tledress was identical to the rank and ile's. The Adjudants
wore officers' uniforms with the NCOs speciicities.
Likewise the lntendancy tried to preserve a certain deree
of elegance for the officers' uniforms. Since they paid for
their own clothes, sone couturiers supplied accessories
from the top of the range to those officers who could afford
them. Officers therefore had a veritable wardrobe at their
disposal, supplemented by the fanous 1931 Model uniform
which renewed with lllrd Republic tradition by blinging back
into fashion the traditional colours of each sub-division of
the different arms.
The soldier
He wore the inevitable greatcoat, the symbol of French
military battledress ever since the Second Empire. lndeed,
whether it was bluish metallic grey, or horizon blue, with a
straight collar or a fold-down one, one row of buttons or two,
it was the single battledress item used whatever the season
or the theatre of operations. In winter the infantrymen wore
a jersey under it; in summer they wore it over their shirt
together with a tie - a quite useless touch of elegance in com­
The khaki trousers were cut to the same style as in 1918
and worn with puttees. In 1939, golfing breeches were
brought in; they were very fashionable anong the young of
the day. This novelty was accompanied by fawn leather or
canvas gaiters but they were only issued to a few units; with
use it was noticed that the trousers were not very practica]
because they were too bagy and snagged on everything.
The fawn or black boots were those used during the Great
War. The fnous 1915 Adlian helmet had undergone sone
changes. The one-piece 1926 Model had a crest and was
made of steel and manganese and its volume had been
increased slightly.
4 The infantryman's armanent had hardly been developed
The r Force and the Nay
Having become an independent service in 1933, the Air
Force adopted a modern uniform which was in tune with its
epoch and is still in use nowadays with the officers. Flying
suits were constantly being studied to salve problems lin­
ked to high altitude flying.
The Navy had always taken care with its crews' uniforms
and only a few modiications had been made to in the uni­
form since 1914, except for the cut of the cap and the width
of the off-duty uniform trousers.
On the other hand, the shipboard service dress, keeping
in tune with technological developments, had been consi­
derably improved.
757569509.005.png 757569509.006.png
Generals wearing the 1930 Model uniform
wearing the 1930 llodel
N' 1 uniform.
llarshall of France
a 1930 llodel N'2
JJ of France
l de France)
tbe 1930 llodel
1 .W m . At the time
.� Fnc h e t ­
' ( 1856-1942)
s e only person
o •r s uniform
t lJ Pén,
cs tbe French
�orto Spain still
n he 1922 llodel
oo blue uniform.
Brigadier-General wearing
the 1931 llodel N'2
llajor-GeneraJ belonging
to the llilitary Household
of the President of the Republic.
Generls in service dress
wearing daytime
dress 1'3. and
a greatcoat.
wearing daytime
dress 1'3.
wearing service
dress 1'4.
wearing battledress
and raincoat.
wearing service dress
1'4. variant with
simpliied kepi.
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