Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

terrymccully@hotmail.com

Translator's Uniform

Recommended Posts

terrymccully@hotmail.com

Hey everyone, this was the translator for the 85th Nova Scotia Highlanders, Need help to ID the uniform and country, cant figure out if this is French or Belgian... Anyway to figure out who this man was?

translator.PNG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE

I think he is a Belgian and wearing the later pattern uniform that was khaki in emulation of the British style (see Central figure in enclosed image), but his headdress, a P1915 bonnet de police (field cap) seems to be of a much copied French style that was available in khaki as well as the more usual horizon blue.  These latter were commercially made and sold to American troops amongst others.  The collar badges look rather like human skulls, at one time a popular style in various European armies.

 

C159DAC0-B6D1-4B9B-A4BC-B8E6269D682E.jpeg

00842F24-F304-4471-9005-C7B894B74A25.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ARABIS

The collar badges are the sphinx heads worn by French interpreters. Did Belgian interpreters use this badge as well?

 

ARABIS.

Edited by ARABIS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
terrymccully@hotmail.com

Still trying to date the photo but think its 1918 to 1919 ... there is no mention to the translator in the 85th in France and Flanders book so going through the war diary now... still nothing so far

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
terrymccully@hotmail.com

Like this one?

Screenshot_20181012-173544_Samsung Internet.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE
13 hours ago, ARABIS said:

The collar badges are the sphinx heads worn by French interpreters. Did Belgian interpreters use this badge as well?

 

ARABIS.

 

Yes I can see the Sphinx now that Terry has posted another photo.

 

I enclose some French tunics and it is plain that the number of buttons and the pocket flaps differ and confirm the likelihood that the subject is Belgian.

 

Compare with the Belgian tunic also enclosed.

 

 

French horizon blue.jpg

French Offr 1.jpg

Belgian Officer.jpg

Edited by FROGSMILE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ARABIS

Thanks FROGSMILE.

So he is either a Frenchman wearing French badges on a Belgian uniform, or a Belgian wearing French badges? Unless the Belgians also used the sphinx's head badge? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE
3 hours ago, ARABIS said:

Thanks FROGSMILE.

So he is either a Frenchman wearing French badges on a Belgian uniform, or a Belgian wearing French badges? Unless the Belgians also used the sphinx's head badge? 

 

On balance I think that he is probably a Belgian wearing some small elements of French uniform.  Given that the Belgian Army was poorly equipped in 1914 when compared with its much larger French ally, it wouldn't be surprising for such pragmatic arrangements to take root, especially for individuals based with foreign armies as in this case.

Edited by FROGSMILE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
terrymccully@hotmail.com

thanks for all the help guys... now I need to identify this man and his medal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

The Sphinx patch was worn against a sky blue background for those French Army interpreters attached to British and Commonwealth units. There was a green background patch worn by interpreters attached to the American Expeditionary Force.

This is a very interesting website about one such interpreter, which has been mentioned on GWF in the past, and well worth a read. Although the translators were in an "escadron", there were several thousand men who served in the unit.

https://mrtheinterpreter.wordpress.com/

 

This French museum has an image of the Sphinx and the background patch

http://archives.cotesdarmor.fr/

 

I do not know what the Belgian equivalent, Tolkenkorps / Corps des Interprètes, would have worn as a unit badge. 

This man has a CWGC grave, and has been mentioned both on the forum and in one of the battlefield tour guides.

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/4041893/

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

Of interest on the Jacques Vaché website is the following:
 

Quote

While the French army uniform after April 1915 was typically a light grey-blue (bleu horizon), a few branches wore khaki; most notably the colonial troops, but also the interpreters attached to the British and American armies.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE
8 hours ago, GrenPen said:

Of interest on the Jacques Vaché website is the following:
 

 

 

That is vital information and it must mean that the interpreter/translator is likely French, as that matches now perfectly with the collar badge and the bonnet de police.  Thank you for posting 👍

Edited by FROGSMILE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

It's a great website, and must have taken many hours to research.

 

Here's a better link to the French archive website with their sphinx badge and collar patch artefact:

http://centenaire.org/fr/tresors-darchives/fonds-publics/archives-departementales/archives/les-archives-departementales-des-2

 

It would be interesting to hear more details about the Belgian Tolkenkorps in terms of size, unit badge etc. 

 

There's an irony as I understand it, whereby any British Army Lieutenant Interpreter attached to the Armée française would have qualified for the Médaille Commemorative de la Guerre, for having served under French authority. None of the men of the 19e Escadron du Train des Équipages Militaires would have received the BWM. They were not formally in the British Army, so did not qualify. Nonetheless, there are a number of MICs from these interpreters of the Armée française, where a request has been made, and duly rejected by the War Office.

One interpreter of the Armée française who has been mentioned on the GWF is Louis Volant. He lived in the UK, appears on both the 1901 and 1911 Censuses, having an English wife and children. His service record was looked at on "Who do you think you are when his great granddaughter, J K Rowling, appeared on that programme.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE
On 15/10/2018 at 09:53, GrenPen said:

It's a great website, and must have taken many hours to research.

 

Here's a better link to the French archive website with their sphinx badge and collar patch artefact:

http://centenaire.org/fr/tresors-darchives/fonds-publics/archives-departementales/archives/les-archives-departementales-des-2

 

It would be interesting to hear more details about the Belgian Tolkenkorps in terms of size, unit badge etc. 

 

There's an irony as I understand it, whereby any British Army Lieutenant Interpreter attached to the Armée française would have qualified for the Médaille Commemorative de la Guerre, for having served under French authority. None of the men of the 19e Escadron du Train des Équipages Militaires would have received the BWM. They were not formally in the British Army, so did not qualify. Nonetheless, there are a number of MICs from these interpreters of the Armée française, where a request has been made, and duly rejected by the War Office.

One interpreter of the Armée française who has been mentioned on the GWF is Louis Volant. He lived in the UK, appears on both the 1901 and 1911 Censuses, having an English wife and children. His service record was looked at on "Who do you think you are when his great granddaughter, J K Rowling, appeared on that programme.

 

 

 

Thank you.  It makes complete sense that French interpreters serving with English speaking formations would wear khaki.  In ‘horizon bleu’ they would have been marked out and picked off by the highly skilled German snipers.

Edited by FROGSMILE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Martin Bennitt

The autobiography of Paul Maze, a talented painter and an interpreter with the British Army during the war, is entitled A Frenchman in Khaki. He was awarded the DCM and MM  by the British and the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honour by the French, according to Wikipedia.

 

Cheers Martin B

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

He's different to the men in the picures above, insofar as he was rejected by the French Army on medical grounds, and volunteered his services to the British. He was about to be shot as a spy, but was saved by a last minute intervention from an officer that testified that he had given assistance to the BEF. Thereafter he was dressed in khaki, to avoid the same circumstances, hence the name of the book. Although he performed the role of an Interpreter Lieutenant, he was not formally commissioned into the British Army. He was to don khaki again in WW2, as a member of the Home Guard, living on the south coast, not too far from Emsworth.

His artistic talent helped to cultivate a friendship with Winston Churchill, who wrote a foreword to his book.

 

There have been several posts on the forum with regard to Paul Maze.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

The emblem adopted by the Tolkenkorps / Corps des Interprètes was a Belgian lion, that I can tell. 

 

Source:

http://www.ablhistoryforum.be/viewtopic.php?t=886

 

Lion1.JPG

Lion2.JPG

Lion3.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen
ARABIS

Thank you GrenPen, that's answers the question about Belgian interpreters' collar badges.

 

ARABIS.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

That's not all......

The sphinx badges were specifically worn by French Army interpreters who spoke English, and were attached to the BEF or AEF. Those men of the French Army who were interpreters, with fluency in other languages, had a collar badge emblem of an olive branch.

 

This makes for an interesting website to scroll through various images

http://www.anolir.org/1914-1918-premiere-guerre-mondiale-nos-collections/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

It would be interesting to see if Army Orders refer to this, or whether the French Sphinx badge was unofficially adopted by certain British Army interpreters.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GrenPen

I was pleasantly surprised to come across this photo on the IWM website. As is unfortunately the case with a lot of the assets in the collection, the tagging leaves a lot to be desired.

This fellow was on loan from the 23e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (as noted on his collar). He was attached to 1/4th Gurkha Rifles as their interpreter. 

It can be deduced that he was already with the 1/4th Gurkha Rifles prior to Gallipoli for the following reason: He was awarded the D.C.M. In a rare instance, this was announced in the London Gazette dated 16 November 1915. In addition, he appears in War Office List No 2 which can be viewed at The National Archives, Kew - file WO 388/6/5 1914 Oct 20 - 1918 Nov 1 British to foreign: France - List Numbers 1 - 30. Both sources state that he was in 'attaché au 4e Gurkhas, Division de Lahore [3rd Indian BEF]'

He has a MIC, and later on in the war, he was in the 509ème Régiment de Chars Blindés.

 

 

Trobriand.jpg

IWM Catalogue number: Q 81622

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
terrymccully@hotmail.com

Fantastic info everyone.. forgot to click on the notify of reply slider... now to locate this mans name.. that be the hard part.. thanks for all your help and links everyone! Love this group

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David Fatscher

I’m new to this Forum but reading all the exchanges has been incredibly informative in learning more about my grand-father.

 

Some background: he was born in Alsace in 1885 so was ethically French but technically German (you’d all know why this is).

 

He was actually working as a pianist in London when WW1 started so was interned for most of it (Olympia, then St Mary’s Institute in Islington, then Ally Pally). I have found online his French war papers which suggest that in 1917 (having possibly been released from Ally Pally under the UK’s friendly alien policy) he was unlisted (or chose to enlist) in the French 86th Heavy Artillery Regiment (“86e RAL”). It also looks like he did this via initially joining the Foreign Legion (which I have read was typical of Alsace men as they were not officially ‘French’). This then took him, after training in Lyon, to Beirut (Summer 1918) then Northern Russia (September 1918 to May 1919) after which he was demobbed back in England and never really left (having my father in 1928: his 3rd son from 3 marriages).

 

What puzzles me is my father (knowing nothing of the internment or Beirut or Russia until I discovered it earlier this year) was always of the belief that his father was a translator and possibly attached to General Weygand and maybe that was what had brought him to England (whereas I have found evidence my grand-father was clearly already here in 1911 working as a pianist which I presume enabled him to develop the working knowledge of English that he later used as a translator). The photo I am sharing (now you have all educated me on the sphinx lapel) would appear to confirm that yes - he was a translator but the uniform is (to my untrained eye) not French but possibly more British. The exchanges on this forum suggest that some translators working for the British Army would wear such kit but this then poses multiple questions:

 

- If his French war record suggests that he never saw action in the European campaign but was (post- training) sent to Beirut and Russia, why would he be part of a heavy artillery regiment?

- If he never saw action in the European campaign, does that mean he would have been unlikely to have ever worked for Weygand (given Weygand was Foch’s CoS) and (I think) present at the armistice?

- I can see him being used as a translator whilst in Beirut and Russia, as in both operations the French army were working with the British (and in Russia with the Americans and Canadians) but why would he be pictured in what looks like a British uniform (and clearly not a French one. I think the collar is the giveaway) when I can find no record of his service in any British war records. Or is it simply that when French translators wore British uniforms, they remained French army for admin purposes (so the change of uniform was more for cosmetic purposes).

 

Any further information you can provide or sources you can point me to would be most appreciated (and apologies for the long post).

 

Many thanks.

 

David Fatscher
(his name was Alfred Francis Fatscher - occasionally Francis Alfred Fatscher, though he also has a record under the more French-sounding name 'Albert Fabre'. I assume this was in case we was captured by the Germans and to avoid them shooting him as a deserter) 
 

Alfred Fatscher - 1919.jpg

Edited by David Fatscher

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...