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The French Army Thread


Tomb1302
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Tomb,

 

The two principal examples of a frightful beating at the start,  which resulted in triumph at the end, in twentieth century warfare are surely France in 1914 and the Soviet Union in 1941.

 

I often wonder how far the analogy is valid.

 

Many a time Verdun and Stalingrad are cited as twin representatives of national ordeal in the two world wars.

 

Symbolic battles both, with horrific reputations.

 

Is there a resurgent French national pride in the achievement of their people in the Great War ?  I notice that this is extant in Russia at the moment, as the Great Patriotic War is being evoked in the face of dissidence.

 

Phil

 

 

 

 

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Tomb. 

Look forward to all your contributions, France a main force in the the War. Thanks for posting..

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29 minutes ago, 17107BM said:

Tomb. 

Look forward to all your contributions, France a main force in the the War. Thanks for posting..

Very much appreciate the warm reception!

 

1 hour ago, phil andrade said:

Tomb,

 

The two principal examples of a frightful beating at the start,  which resulted in triumph at the end, in twentieth century warfare are surely France in 1914 and the Soviet Union in 1941.

 

I often wonder how far the analogy is valid.

 

Many a time Verdun and Stalingrad are cited as twin representatives of national ordeal in the two world wars.

 

Symbolic battles both, with horrific reputations.

 

Is there a resurgent French national pride in the achievement of their people in the Great War ?  I notice that this is extant in Russia at the moment, as the Great Patriotic War is being evoked in the face of dissidence.

 

Phil

 

 

 

 

Phil, again, great points. The analogy is to be taken with a grain of salt for sure (it isn't strictly applicable to every situation), but, the French in 1914 do reflect this I believe.

 

In regards to national pride, I can't speak on behalf of everyone. I know the French population in today's world are renowned for their lack of respect of what makes the country so incredibly unique. A testament to this is the riots over random nonsense that saw historical structures in Paris be vandalized. Sad.

 

* * * * * 

 

@Jools mckenna

 

Thanks for sharing Jools!

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14 hours ago, Robert Dunlop said:

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 ;)

Robert, forgive me for taking so long to get back to you; I absolutely love and respect the project!

 

I will definitely look into it more in detail.

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22 hours ago, phil andrade said:

But what are Aspirants and Adjutants ?  Are they fully fledged officers, or what we British call NCOs ?

 

In the first instance, this would correspond with a NATO OF(D) rank. The Adjudants would correspond with OR-8 and OR-9 NATO SNCO classifications, based upon a quick comparison of the following wikipedia pages:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Army_other_ranks_rank_insignia#Ranks


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Army_officer_rank_insignia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranks_in_the_French_Army
 

One area of potential confusion is for a francophone nation corporal of horse (or artillery & train) of the French or Belgian army having the rank title of "Brigadier". I came across a letter to a newspaper from a Legion of Frontiersman who signed himself off as a "Brigadier", but this was with reference to him being an NCO in the Belgian lancers, rather than an officer in the British Army

The Fusiliers Marins retained their naval rating structure (link in French). I believe the correct term is <<grade>> to denote a rank in the french language.
https://forum.pages14-18.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=70858
 

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Thanks, Keith.

 

Never easy for a civvy like me to come to terms with these titles !

 

I get the impression that the “ Continental “ armies retained a much smaller officer cadre ( in relative terms) and relied on relatively large NCO contingents.

 

Phil

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On 18/08/2019 at 17:00, phil andrade said:

 But what are Aspirants

I thought an Aspirant was an Officer Cadet or Under Officer, ie someone aspiring to be an officer and under training ?

 

Wiki says this:

Pendant la première guerre mondiale, il est utilisé massivement pour les jeunes gens issus des formations accélérées d'officiers. De nombreux aspirants commandent alors des unités au combat, bien qu'officiellement ils ne soient pas considérés comme officiers. Le grade est supprimé avec le retour à la paix en 1919.

 

which google translates pretty fairly as:

During the First World War, it is used massively for young people from the accelerated training of officers. Many aspirants then command units in combat, although officially they are not considered officers. The rank is abolished with the return to peace in 1919

 

Charlie

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Thank you, too, Charlie.

 

The rank was a Great War expedient, then.

 

It suggests how the French adapted.

 

The thing that was especially apparent was how the preponderance of the infantry diminished over the years from 1914 onwards, reflecting the need to replace men with metal.

 

The catastrophic experience of the opening weeks of fighting must have made a huge impact in this respect.

 

Demographic fragility haunted the French, as they beheld the burgeoning German population and contrasted it with their own. 

 

France’s population was as three to Germany’s five in 1914.

 

To have their fears confirmed so mercilessly - and so quickly - must have been terribly traumatic.

 

I know I must be stating the bleeding obvious here, but it never ceases to excite my admiration when I reflect on how that horrific ordeal was so bravely and so resolutely sustained, and how superbly the nation rose to the challenge.

 

Finest Hour.

 

Phil

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2 hours ago, phil andrade said:

I get the impression that the “ Continental “ armies retained a much smaller officer cadre ( in relative terms) and relied on relatively large NCO contingents.

 

Phil

 

It was the "framework" (cadre) of the SNCOs and junior NCOs officers who were credited with keeping the wheels turning. The term <<cadre>> is used in French to refer to management. I presume this has its roots in WW1 rather than WW2. Jean-Louis Barsoux has written about this in the 1990s.

Edited by Keith_history_buff
strikethrough NCOs and insert "officers"
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Gents, can anyone tell me about the particularity of these uniforms (referring to what exactly those shoulder 'decorations' would have signified)?

 

Thank you!

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 3.18.44 PM.png

Edited by Tomb1302
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They are Epaulettes. They appear to be red which seems to be infantry. A leftover from the Napoleonic days. Probably pre-war.

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15 hours ago, Jools mckenna said:

They are Epaulettes. They appear to be red which seems to be infantry. A leftover from the Napoleonic days. Probably pre-war.

Jools, thanks for the insight.

 

I did know they were Napoleonic, but, I wanted to know if they were present at all during the war, potentially as signs of rank?

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37 minutes ago, Tomb1302 said:

I did know they were Napoleonic, but, I wanted to know if they were present at all during the war, potentially as signs of rank?

I think it just a sign of role. They are likely just privates. I don't think they were present during WW1. I'm guessing that photo is closer to the Franco-Prussian war than WW1.

Edited by Jools mckenna
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On ‎18‎/‎08‎/‎2019 at 17:34, phil andrade said:

Many a time Verdun and Stalingrad are cited as twin representatives of national ordeal in the two world wars.

 

Symbolic battles both, with horrific reputations.

Unrelated to your question, but Friedrich Paulus was an officer in the Alpenkorp at Verdun, and there must have been others at both. 

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Tomorrow marks the 105th anniversary of what is supposed to have been the most lethal day in French military history.  I have read that the rival  claimant is 25 September 1915.

 

The fact that more than an entire year separates the two dates speaks so much about the unremitting intensity of the fighting that the French army sustained : there were enough other dreadful days in the intervening year, especially in the Artois in the early summer of 1915, and then there was to be Verdun the following year. There was never to be a single day at Verdun that cost anything like the toll of a day’s fighting in the earlier battles, but the aggregate was bad enough .  The opening day of the Nivelle  Offensive on 16 April 1917 was the last single  day of notorious slaughter for France.

 

Bad days were still to come - 27 May 1918 ( and the loss of the Kemmelberg in the previous month?) - but it’s a striking feature of France’s  military record that while two thirds of all her deaths occurred by the end of June 1916, more than two thirds of all the German prisoners she  captured were taken from July 1916 onwards.  I’ve pitched those figures without checking : I hope they’re right !

 

Editing now : a chance to reconnoiter those sources of mine have given me a degree of confidence in my guesswork.  I exaggerated the preponderance of French deaths up until the end of June 1916 : but not by much.

From what I can deduce, without going into fastidious detail, about 60% of all the French soldiers killed on the Western Front died by the middle of 1916.

 

What is more surprising is that only about one quarter of all German prisoners captured by the French in the war can be attributed to that period .  The period of the war commencing with the second half of 1916 and ending with the Armistice resulted in 40% of French deaths, but three quarters of all Germans captured by them in the entire war.

 

Phil

 

 

 

 

Edited by phil andrade
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4 hours ago, phil andrade said:

From what I can deduce, without going into fastidious detail, about 60% of all the French soldiers killed on the Western Front died by the middle of 1916.

 

I've often wondered what the proportion was, quality stats as ever Phil. I remember looking at the Fleury war memorial which used to hang in the museum and being struck by how much it was front loaded.

 

Am I right in saying that 90% of British casualties happened after 1st July 1916, or have I made that up?

 

Pete.

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5 hours ago, Heid the Ba said:

Unrelated to your question, but Friedrich Paulus was an officer in the Alpenkorp at Verdun, and there must have been others at both. 

 

Erich von Manstein served under Von Gallwitz at Verdun and although not in Stalingrad he was trying to relieve Von Paulus and his troops trapped there.

 

Pete.

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51 minutes ago, Fattyowls said:

 

I've often wondered what the proportion was, quality stats as ever Phil. I remember looking at the Fleury war memorial which used to hang in the museum and being struck by how much it was front loaded.

 

Am I right in saying that 90% of British casualties happened after 1st July 1916, or have I made that up?

 

Pete.

 

Pete,

 

Firing from the hip, and focusing on the Western Front only, I would state that there were  half a million British Empire casualties up until 30th June 1916, and rather more than two million from the First Day of the Somme until the Armistice : so that implies eighty per cent plus occurring from 1st July 1916.

 

I’ll consult CWGC and pitch an edit in a moment .

 

Editing : CWGC, deaths from all causes, France and Belgium, 4th August 1914 to 30th June 1916 : 146,951.

For period from 1st July 1916 to 11th November 1918 : 577,625.

 

So that’s just shy of eighty per cent for the period starting with the Somme.  I am thinking about how this contrasts with the French, who lost forty per cent of their dead in that later period.

 

Phil 

Edited by phil andrade
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3 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

 

Pete,

 

Firing from the hip, and focusing on the Western Front only, I would state that there half a million British Empire casualties up until 30th June 1916, and rather more than two million from the First Day of the Somme until the Armistice : so that implies eighty per cent plus occurring from 1st July 1916.

 

I’ll consult CWGC and pitch an edit in a moment .

 

Phil 

 

Epic Phil; as my old mum used to say, it's not what you know but who you know. The important thing is that there is a degree of symmetry which is illuminating, but shouldn't suggest that the French were inactive from the sacking of Nivelle on. Madame Holstein has some really interesting perspectives on how active the French army was at Verdun in 1917 which doesn't really fit with the anglophone received wisdom. That period - Chemin de Dames/Monts de Champagne - mutinies - the actions around Verdun in the high summer are fascinating.

 

Pete.

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Pleased you mentioned this very effective French performance in later 1917, Pete.

 

Above all, Malmaison, commencing 23rd October 1917, a true attritional triumph by the French, showing what could - and many contend, should - be done.

 

Phil

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10 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

Pleased you mentioned this very effective French performance in later 1917, Pete.

 

Above all, Malmaison, commencing 23rd October 1917, a true attritional triumph by the French, showing what could - and many contend, should - be done.

 

Phil

 

It's an interesting area all round Phil. I've been to Malmaison and like many of France's great forts it is not easy to see the wood for the trees but it's worth a visit. The German WW2 cemetery there is also imposing. But then the Chemin de Dames in general is covered with interest, British too. I've seen a case made for the first mass use of tanks being at Juvincourt in April 1917 rather than at Cambrai the following November for example.

 

Pete.

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Odd sort of mind that I’ve got, Pete.....but it reaches out and grabs me when I see the date of the Malmaison attack being exactly a quarter of a century before Second Alamein !

 

Phil

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17 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

Odd sort of mind that I’ve got, Pete.....but it reaches out and grabs me when I see the date of the Malmaison attack being exactly a quarter of a century before Second Alamein !

 

Phil

 

That's your usp Phil - slightly different weather conditions I think. And to think that 25 years ago from today is 1994, it's a strange persepective.

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18 hours ago, Tomb1302 said:

I did know they were Napoleonic, but, I wanted to know if they were present at all during the war, potentially as signs of rank?

Epaulettes were present on parade dress uniforms and coats as late as 1910. They were ceremonial in function and did not denote rank - I have seen epaulettes on uniforms worn by privates, NCOs, and officers.

 

Robert

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