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Remembered Today:

The French Army Thread


Tomb1302
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So, I'm not sure where to post this, but, I feel the need to explain - I am French, but, have been living in the States for a while now, and, prefer writing in English. I have had a number of ancestors serve during the war, of which the most 'decorated' being General Fenelon François Passaga.

 

I am fully aware there exists a French specific forum for the First World War, but, I figured that a forum called 'Great War Forum' would need to have, at the very least, a French 'corner' to discuss the French perspective during the war, so, here it is:

 

Hopefully this'll stay alive a while; A place to discuss anything French during, before, or after the First World War.

 

Thank you.

 

th.jpg

Edited by Tomb1302
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Thanks for the intro Tomb I'm sue there will be interesting stuff to come along into here. I wondered recently about the stories of farm boys bought up from their sleepy worlds in Avignon Toulouse and the South of France reacted to the battlefields, from a life of presumably good food and good living to the diet and hardship of the troops, a very transitional army from the Napoleonic field dress to the more modern patterns-definitely a subject to dig into.  I have met many Frenchmen in Northern France who are keen on the British subject, I have read a couple of German perspectives of fighting the French, and recently in December 1914 news the captured order of Bavarian Corps, published by Marshall Joffre which stated no further prisoners were to be taken. I for one would like to hear more. The Escadrilles need no introduction.  

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26 minutes ago, toofatfortakeoff said:

Thanks for the intro Tomb I'm sue there will be interesting stuff to come along into here. I wondered recently about the stories of farm boys bought up from their sleepy worlds in Avignon Toulouse and the South of France reacted to the battlefields, from a life of presumably good food and good living to the diet and hardship of the troops, a very transitional army from the Napoleonic field dress to the more modern patterns-definitely a subject to dig into.  I have met many Frenchmen in Northern France who are keen on the British subject, I have read a couple of German perspectives of fighting the French, and recently in December 1914 news the captured order of Bavarian Corps, published by Marshall Joffre which stated no further prisoners were to be taken. I for one would like to hear more. The Escadrilles need no introduction.  

Thanks for your contribution @toofatfortakeoff! Great name too by the way!

 

I'm happy to see some interest in the French side of the war on the forum, as, I understand it's mostly British and German.

 

Keep us updated on your finds, and, feel free to ask questions!

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A great idea Tomb; there are plenty of us on the forum interested in the French forces and their battlefields and I'm sure most members would be interested in general. For myself Verdun, Champagne and the Chemin de Dames have always held a fascination.

 

Thinking of TFFTO's (I like the name too) point about farm boys from the south I am reminded of the movie versions of Marcel Pagnol's La Gloire de mon père and Le Château de ma mère. Right at the end of the latter the hero's best friend from the hills above Marseilles is shown lying dead in what the film describes as a damp northern forest. It was a real jolt when I first saw it. I know Alastair Horne described the defenders of I think the Bois de Avocourt on the left bank at Verdun as being from the "soft and dreamy Midi" in 'The Price of Glory' which I thought was a bit harsh and stereotypical. If Christina sees this (@Christina Holstein) I know she would have a perspective.

 

Pete.

 

 

   
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@Fattyowls,

 

Thanks for sharing! I'm happy to see people be interested in the French!

 

You say Champagne fascinates you - I picked this up recently (see below), can you tell me anything about it? It's dated April 1917.

 

I believe it to have been taken during Nivelle's Offensive, but, no confirmation unfortunately. I can disclose the back if you'd like and are able to read French!

 

I have also, just last year, been bestowed the honor of visiting Verdun for myself, and, my word, seeing the grounds where your ancestors fought was truly chilling...

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 1.17.28 PM.png

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No problem.. I have walked a section of La Voie Sacree into Verdun in a spring mist-the pretty rolling countryside that rolled into hell itself , I would love to return as I missed so much-this photo is a stunner-yeah feel free show me the flip! 

thanks all Im a little slimmer these days....

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14 minutes ago, Tomb1302 said:

 I can disclose the back if you'd like and are able to read French!

 

I would be very interested mon ami. The weather looks about right for the Nivelle offensive certainly, but on the open landscape of that area it could be anywhere. I know what you mean about Verdun being chilling; I've been several times, although not for nearly two decades which is too long. It's a battlefield like no other, and I haven't got any family members who fought there.

 

I do like your idea of throwing up ideas about the French Army (and Navy and Air force). I was just reading about the French naval losses at Gallipoli as I'm researching a Royal Marine who was mortally wounded raiding the Asiatic shore before the big ships moved in.

 

Pete.

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3 minutes ago, toofatfortakeoff said:

No problem.. I have walked a section of La Voie Sacree into Verdun in a spring mist-the pretty rolling countryside that rolled into hell itself , I would love to return as I missed so much-this photo is a stunner-yeah feel free show me the flip! 

thanks all Im a little slimmer these days....

La Voie Sacrée is truly one of the war's most incredible stories. Truly sensational - I did drive directly over it, and, my word the views were sensational.

 

2 minutes ago, Fattyowls said:

I would be very interested mon ami. The weather looks about right for the Nivelle offensive certainly, but on the open landscape of that area it could be anywhere. I know what you mean about Verdun being chilling; I've been several times, although not for nearly two decades which is too long. It's a battlefield like no other, and I haven't got any family members who fought there.

It is incredible indeed. What other French battlefields have you visited?

 

Here you are! Thank you for your help!

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 1.17.40 PM.png

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To anyone interested; The book written by my ancestor as he recounts his experiences commanding an Artillery and Infantry regiment known as 'Les Gaulois' through Verdun.

 

I'm very fortunate to own a published copy.

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 3.47.25 PM.png

Edited by Tomb1302
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I've made a fascinating discovery. The General Passaga allegedly oversaw the 133e Division d'Infanterie, comprised of (see list below):

 

Further digging led me to another postcard depiction of men who may very well have fought under his command [402e RI] (see postcard below). I was also able to locate a 'Historique du 133e Division d'Infanterie', which will definitely help me uncover the historical connection between my ancestor and these individual men.

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 6.53.01 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 6.54.26 PM.png

Edited by Tomb1302
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2 hours ago, phil andrade said:

The French contribution will very much enhance us.

 

Looking forward to more.

 

Phil

Phil,

 

I appreciate the support. Please feel free to add to any discussion as well.

 

Thank you.

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7 minutes ago, David Filsell said:

Excellent. Thank you for your interest.

regards

David

David, thank you.

 

Feel free to share!

 

Thank you.

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And, of course,  the French involvement on the Somme in 1916 (inside the church at Hardecourt-aux-Bois together with several plaques commemorating the names of the fallen):

 

 

DSC05932.JPG

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@Don Regiano,

 

Do you have personal photos of the trip you'd like to share? I personally would appreciate that, as would others I'm sure.

 

Thank you.

 

* * * * *

 

Is anyone able to tell me what this hand signal means (Two soldiers in the back)?

Screen Shot 2019-08-17 at 9.53.11 PM.png

Edited by Tomb1302
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The ability of the French people to produce so many guns and shells - along with all the other military hardware - astonishes me.

 

The industrial base of the nation was focused largely in the north east, and so much of the coal and steel producing capacity must have been overrun by the Germans.

 

The French economy was more agrarian than the British ; yet their deployment of heavy artillery and the stockpile of munitions was significantly ahead of their British counterparts throughout much of the attritional battles.

 

Phil

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7 hours ago, Tomb1302 said:

@Don Regiano,

 

Do you have personal photos of the trip you'd like to share? I personally would appreciate that, as would others I'm sure.

 

 

 

Yes - not very good.  Here are some.  I will post others later:

 

 

DSC05926.JPG

DSC05922.JPG

DSC05923.JPG

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7 hours ago, phil andrade said:

The ability of the French people to produce so many guns and shells - along with all the other military hardware - astonishes me.

 

The industrial base of the nation was focused largely in the north east, and so much of the coal and steel producing capacity must have been overrun by the Germans.

 

The French economy was more agrarian than the British ; yet their deployment of heavy artillery and the stockpile of munitions was significantly ahead of their British counterparts throughout much of the attritional battles.

 

Phil

Phil, it is indeed remarkable what war brought out of each individual nation. I am equally astonished how much our army and technology developed over the course of 4 years after such a disastrous introduction.

 

2 hours ago, Don Regiano said:

 

Yes - not very good.  Here are some.  I will post others later:

 

 

DSC05926.JPG

DSC05922.JPG

DSC05923.JPG

Thanks for sharing Don!

 

1 hour ago, charlie962 said:

Present Arms !

 

ebay image

848798101_GWFFrenchChatPresentArms.JPG.4d54324e057405e697b57a2092c50535.JPG

Charlie, thank you!

 

Learn something new every day! And Louis de Funès again delivers hahaha

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The lists of names on those memorials to the various units intrigue me.

 

CHASSEURS A PIED  

 

Are these the French equivalent of British Light Infantry ?

 

The proportion of officers among those Chasseurs seems high : higher than it does in the 153rd Infantry Regiment.

 

Does this reflect a more conspicuous leadership role than was the norm for infantry units ?

 

Capitaines , Lieutenants, Sous Lieutenants ......they’re obviously officers.  But what are Aspirants and Adjutants ?  Are they fully fledged officers, or what we British call NCOs ?

 

Tomb, do you think that the scale and shock of the initial French disasters gave impetus to greater husbandry and flexibility, and, in this sense, produced a counter active benefit ; or do you feel that the experience of August 1914 was so catastrophic that the army, and by extension , the nation, never properly recovered ?

 

Phil

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Tomb1302, here is a link to the huge diorama that we created of the First Battle of the Marnes in Dormans:

 

Link

 

Here is a view of the final set-up:

 

spacer.png

 

There are several additional links on the page that trace the project through to its conclusion on the dates of the 100th anniversary. It was fantastic seeing the hundreds of French visitors who came, almost all of whom asked where the taxis were :lol:. We managed to create a very good approximation of the local terrain, which enabled the visitors to know exactly where things took place.

 

Robert

 

PS: The taxis were somewhere between the column top-left and the top-right table ;)

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17 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

Tomb, do you think that the scale and shock of the initial French disasters gave impetus to greater husbandry and flexibility, and, in this sense, produced a counter active benefit ; or do you feel that the experience of August 1914 was so catastrophic that the army, and by extension , the nation, never properly recovered ?

Phil, this is an excellently insightful question. Subjectively, I believe everything more or less happens for a reason, and acts as a 'base' or 'precedent' on which to improve on. Saying this, as horrible as the losses were, I believe it marked a revolutionary turning point in the Century for the French, and, undoubtedly prompted the change we'd see in them by the end of the war. Recall that before Pètain, French orders were as basic as 'attack', and, this did not counter the German orders very effectively, at all.

 

* * * * *

 

@Robert Dunlop

 

My word, thank you!

 

I'll give this a much more detailed look as soon as I get home!

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