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Can anyone tell me what branch of the French military this WWI uniform belongs to?


LeCauroy
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Hi Folks,

            I am doing a lot of research on French family who served during World War I. Attached are two photos of a grand-uncle who served in the French military. I am trying to figure out what specific branch of the French military he served in, his rank, the color of the uniform, and any other details you can provide me with. The anchor on his hat seems to indicate an association with the French Navy. I tried to research this on the internet but failed to find answers to these questions. Given my ignorance of the subject, I thought I would turn to this forum, hoping that some of you with a deeper knowledge of the subject can help me out. 

           I also attached a military census form that I got from the website of the archives of the Gironde in Bordeaux. I have never studied French, the handwriting is difficult to read and I am unfamiliar with the terminology. So as they say, "It is all greek to me." I hoping that from this document, you could tell me which unit and campaigns he served in. 

          Can anyone help me with this?

          Thanks,

          Daniel

 

 

edited b and w Eugene (Phil) de Got French Army copy   EUGENE DE GOT SOLDIER.png

b and w edited overcoat  Eugene (Phil) de Got in French army copy (1)   EUGENE DE GOT SOLDIER.JPG

cropped edited b and w Eugene (Phil) de Got French Army copy   EUGENE DE GOT SOLDIER copy.png

Eugene Philbin de Got Bordeaux Archives Military FRAD033_1R1612_0326.jpg

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He’s a junior officer of the Colonial Marine Infantry (‘Les Troupes Coloniales’).  They served on board French warships but were predominantly involved in waging Colonial warfare on behalf of the French State.  Their instantly identifiable insignia was a fouled anchor.  As many of France’s colonies were in Africa and the Far East those were the principal areas where you might expect to find Colonial Marines.

“The title ‘colonial troops’ was adopted in 1900, when all the Marine Infantry and Marine Artillery troops that had previously come under the Ministry of the Navy were transferred to come under the orders of the War Department. In 1958 when France's African colonies had gained their independence, the mission and title of these troops was redefined. After a brief period as ‘Overseas Troops’ (Troupes d'Outre-Mer) the traditional title of Marines was restored. The Marine regiments did however remain part of the French Army.“

NB.  For all intents and purposes they were the equivalent of Britain’s Royal Marines and like them had an artillery and an infantry branch.

CCD6173A-CB43-4019-95C8-CF97E49E7AC2.jpeg

 

C0AE5A7E-D287-4E55-973B-9E32071F6812.jpeg

 

F9631092-5E34-4DEA-AD5F-4B37B3553D39.png

90AE0941-5635-491D-8E4F-1CAD8A205267.jpeg

F10C4245-B787-4C30-A711-536653904546.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Frogsmile,

       Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and the great pics. Really fascinating stuff. I am guessing that his uniform at that time would have been light blue. I noticed that he has a double row of buttons, whereas I heard that on other uniforms they had been reduced in number because of rationing.

          I am still trying to figure out his rank. Enlisted? Officer? And the units that he belonged to. He came in during the last year of the war so I am wondering how much action he actually saw— on sea? on land? The document is not only in French but the handwriting is difficult to read.

                 

 

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Frogsmile,

       Sorry I didn’t see that you had said he was a junior officer. I guess I will have to figure out what the 3E and 3M Regiments were up to to trace his path.

I couldn’t find his dossier in the French military archives. I am guessing that was because he was born in France but at the time of the war, he was living in America. 

      Thanks again. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, LeCauroy said:

Frogsmile,

       Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and the great pics. Really fascinating stuff. I am guessing that his uniform at that time would have been light blue. I noticed that he has a double row of buttons, whereas I heard that on other uniforms they had been reduced in number because of rationing.

          I am still trying to figure out his rank. Enlisted? Officer? And the units that he belonged to. He came in during the last year of the war so I am wondering how much action he actually saw— on sea? on land? The document is not only in French but the handwriting is difficult to read.

                 

 

Yes I think his uniform is indeed Horizon Bleu.  It ought to be possible to trace the unit histories.  As for the French language there are a few native speakers who are members here from France and Belgium.  They might perhaps be able to assist a little.  One is @battle of loos and another @Aurel Sercu

Edited by FROGSMILE
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3 hours ago, LeCauroy said:

Frogsmile,

       Sorry I didn’t see that you had said he was a junior officer. I guess I will have to figure out what the 3E and 3M Regiments were up to to trace his path.

I couldn’t find his dossier in the French military archives. I am guessing that was because he was born in France but at the time of the war, he was living in America. 

      Thanks again. 

 

 

Others are @Tomb1302 ,@Christina Holstein , @Gauci
and @Gabelou . Bon chance mon ami! 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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merci beaucoup!

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A combination of google translate, and posting on the francophone equivalent of this forum will likely produce further dividends. They will be able to pick up on words and abbreviations from the matricule militaire that a non-native speaker will not.
https://forum.pages14-18.com/

In the UK, there were military service appeal tribunals, where deferrals could be made. I don't know how this worked in other countries in WW1. There's an untold story here, insofar as he lived and worked in Argentina, was due to return in 1916 (classe de 1916), yet he returned in 1918.

I am aware of a British citizen who enlisted in 1916, just before his 21st birthday, having been living in Russia prior to this date. I have wondered if he was given a deferral, to allow essential shipping or similar to be done, for the economic benefit of the homeland. Was your man given a deferment, in order to train his replacement in Buenos Aires?

Interesting to see that he spends his war service as a <<marsouin>> yet when the war ends, and this reverts to being a branch of service that in peacetime only accepted volunteers (Engagé Volontaire), he is transferred to the 144th Infantry of the line, of the Metropolitan Army, for the purposes of demobilisation.

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Keith, 

   Thanks so much for the feedback!  I was confused by the reference to Argentina and the dates from the 1930’s. I didn’t know that he ever lived or worked in that country. 

    He is my French grandmother’s brother. The children in that family were born overseas in the 1890’s and came to  New York in 1900. From what what I understand, they all lived and worked in and around New York City. But he was in business and sales, so maybe his work took him to Argentina. 

      The French family from Bordeaux had a long history as seafarers, so I am guessing that is why he became a marine. His father, grandfather and several of his uncles held the title of “capitaine au long cours.”

       If I could access his dossier, I imagine I could find a lot more information. Several of his relatives appeared in a search on the French military archives site, but his name didn’t. I am guessing that because he was a French international, his records are kept separately? 

       Thanks again. You guys have been extremely helpful. The pieces are starting to come together.

 

 

 

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good morning,

here is the transcription of the box "details of services and various transfers" :
- incorporated on 26 March 1918.
obtained date postponement (8 & 7 days).
arrived in the regiment on 10 April 1918.
- 42nd Colonial Infantry Regiment on August 10, 1918
- 7th Colonial Infantry Regiment on 22 September 1918
- passes on 18 September 144th Infantry Regiment to be demobilized

he emigrated to Argentina and did not make himself known to the French authorities of that country.

he is of the class of 1916 because born in 1896.
he was forgotten by the military authorities because he lived in Argentina (a chance for him that earned him to survive the conflict).

in the campaign box:

against Germany from 10 April 1918 to 13 August 1918 (investigation period).
passes to the army (is not at the front perhaps for health reasons) from August 14, 1918 to September 18, 1919 (or even the history of the regiment in order to know if it served in the colonies or in the occupation in Germany).

its decorations are not mentioned.

as for its rank: porpoise 2nd class (private)

regardes

michel

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Thank you Michel for making the effort to translate.  It is interesting that he was permitted to travel to Argentina and yes it does seem likely that the emigration saved his life.  Perhaps there was some medical excuse.

 I did think he was a junior officer because of what appeared to be bars on his shoulders of both tunic and coat?  However, it puzzled me because I could see that the quality of cloth was inferior for an officer.  

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Hi Frogsmile,

That's all very interesting. Thank you for telling us about him.

Colonial infantry wore the same uniform as the Line infantry but it was a sandy-brown, not horizon blue. 

'7m' and '7e' just means 7th. 

 As a quick summary of their 1918 action during the relevant period, the 7th Colonial served in the Rheims area (May-June), Bazaincourt (October), then returned to the Aisne and saw action at Herpy. They moved to the Marne on 4 November and ended the war in the Neufchateau (Vosges) area.

Christina

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23 minutes ago, Christina Holstein said:

Hi Frogsmile,

That's all very interesting. Thank you for telling us about him.

Colonial infantry wore the same uniform as the Line infantry but it was a sandy-brown, not horizon blue. 

'7m' and '7e' just means 7th. 

 As a quick summary of their 1918 action during the relevant period, the 7th Colonial served in the Rheims area (May-June), Bazaincourt (October), then returned to the Aisne and saw action at Herpy. They moved to the Marne on 4 November and ended the war in the Neufchateau (Vosges) area.

Christina

Thank you Christina, that is very helpful.  I was puzzled because although I saw images (such as the recruitment posters) of troupes coloniale in light brown uniform they all seemed to be single breasted (just one central row of buttons), whereas the subject photos were double breasted with two rows of buttons.  Now with your advice I have been able to find some colour images showing the same uniform as in the original post.

 

9B6CF38A-94C7-4FB1-AFD4-CEB697AFAF37.jpeg

387C0B10-4E89-4E3C-96F4-131B32F1CA6E.jpeg

 

64312DC6-4F3D-4528-8049-8B0863C37221.png

Edited by FROGSMILE
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That first image is of a Zouave. The headdress is the giveaway. They were associated with the 19th Military District, and are part of the Metropolitan Army. They are frequently confused with the <<Troupes Coloniales>> but are not part of this organisation. Zouaves did wear the French khaki (moutarde) later in the war, as did the Tirailleurs Senegalais. The former (latter i.e.) Tirailleurs Senegalais were Troupes Coloniales, and not part of the Metropolitan Army.

In peacetime, on overseas postings, the Marsouins would wear <<Coloniale Blanche>>, which would be either light tan/khaki drill or white. I have seen images of Infanterie Coloniale in horizon blue uniforms in WW1, and someone I spoke to said not all of them wore French khaki. 

Edited by Keith_history_buff
meant latter, but wrote former
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13 hours ago, LeCauroy said:

       If I could access his dossier, I imagine I could find a lot more information. Several of his relatives appeared in a search on the French military archives site, but his name didn’t. I am guessing that because he was a French international, his records are kept separately? 

I have never had a satisfactory answer to the question of service files. I think that the rank-and-file only have files in special circumstances, such as interpreters. Officers would have service files at the Chateau de Vincennes. I believe that the ordinary footsoldier will only have the page of matricule militaire, such as you have posted.

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1 hour ago, Keith_history_buff said:

That first image is of a Zouave. The headdress is the giveaway. They were associated with the 19th Military District, and are part of the Metropolitan Army. They are frequently confused with the <<Troupes Coloniales>> but are not part of this organisation. Zouaves did wear the French khaki (moutarde) later in the war, as did the Tirailleurs Senegalais. The former (latter i.e.) Tirailleurs Senegalais were Troupes Coloniales, and not part of the Metropolitan Army.

In peacetime, on overseas postings, the Marsouins would wear <<Coloniale Blanche>>, which would be either light tan/khaki drill or white. I have seen images of Infanterie Coloniale in horizon blue uniforms in WW1, and someone I spoke to said not all of them wore French khaki. 

There seems to have been a period when rather a lot of the French troops were referred to as Troupes Coloniale and not just the marine infantry, not helped by changes in description because of politics/changes in regime.  There were also a lot of different uniforms for the same troops and it's clear from some images that there was mixed dress too (e.g. a light brown uniform with a horizon bleu greatcoat over).

 

Troupes Coloniale v.jpg

Troupes Coloniale iv.jpg

Troupes Coloniale iii.jpg

Troupes Coloniale ii.jpg

Troupes Coloniale i.jpg

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10 hours ago, battle of loos said:

good morning,

here is the transcription of the box "details of services and various transfers" :
- incorporated on 26 March 1918.
obtained date postponement (8 & 7 days).
arrived in the regiment on 10 April 1918.
- 42nd Colonial Infantry Regiment on August 10, 1918
- 7th Colonial Infantry Regiment on 22 September 1918
- passes on 18 September 144th Infantry Regiment to be demobilized

he emigrated to Argentina and did not make himself known to the French authorities of that country.

he is of the class of 1916 because born in 1896.
he was forgotten by the military authorities because he lived in Argentina (a chance for him that earned him to survive the conflict).

in the campaign box:

against Germany from 10 April 1918 to 13 August 1918 (investigation period).
passes to the army (is not at the front perhaps for health reasons) from August 14, 1918 to September 18, 1919 (or even the history of the regiment in order to know if it served in the colonies or in the occupation in Germany).

its decorations are not mentioned.

as for its rank: porpoise 2nd class (private)

regardes

michel


Of particular interest is him being in Buenos Aires, and not having told the authorities of his overseas whereabouts close to the time (1915-1916) when he was due to do his military service. It would be interesting to know a bit more about this, but goodness knows how this could be researched.

The war diaries and the WW1 regimental histories are online 

Regimental history of the 7e RIC
https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6228914v.texteImage
Their fr.wikipedia page has them at Reims at the start of 1918

The 42e RIC were in Salonika, as were the 3e RIC, so he got to see two theatres of war as a Soldat de 2e Classe. I have read about lighter shades of attire being worn by both marsouins, and also their colleagues in the Metropolitan Army, whilst in Salonika with the Armee Française d'Orient. He was with this formation from 14 August 1918 onwards. 


 

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5 hours ago, Keith_history_buff said:

That first image is of a Zouave. The headdress is the giveaway. They were associated with the 19th Military District, and are part of the Metropolitan Army. They are frequently confused with the <<Troupes Coloniales>> but are not part of this organisation. Zouaves did wear the French khaki (moutarde) later in the war, as did the Tirailleurs Senegalais. The former (latter i.e.) Tirailleurs Senegalais were Troupes Coloniales, and not part of the Metropolitan Army.

In peacetime, on overseas postings, the Marsouins would wear <<Coloniale Blanche>>, which would be either light tan/khaki drill or white. I have seen images of Infanterie Coloniale in horizon blue uniforms in WW1, and someone I spoke to said not all of them wore French khaki. 

 

  

3 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

There seems to have been a period when rather a lot of the French troops were referred to as Troupes Coloniale and not just the marine infantry

I disagree with this statement, as I think the definition is clear in the source material, but you have to take time to read it.

As a newcomer, the fact that troops from North Africa - be they Arabs, or Europeans in the Zouaves - are part of the Metropolitan Army, rather than being Troupes Coloniales is misunderstood.

To my mind, the direct parallel of the marsouins des Troupes Coloniales are the Foreign Legion. They are a force of pre-war volunteers, dressed and equipped in a similar manner, yet are non-French nationals. Rather than being part of the Troupes Coloniales, they are part of the Metropolitan Army, funnily enough.

The troops associated with the 19th Military District of the Metropolitan Army have the more exotic nickname of <<Armée D'Adrique>> which implies a body of men that is separate to, rather than an integral part of the Metropolitan Army and its constituent 22 districts.   

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Keith, I’m not doubting for one moment your description of the different categories of French troops, I was just commenting that there are numerous cases online where a large number of these categories are described as ‘colonial troops’/troupes coloniale (i.e. in both the French and English language), although I agree that you are correct that that is a misunderstanding, and perhaps due to sloppy translation between the two languages.  e.g. All the uniforms below were categorised as French Colonial Troops.  They are of course from a wide range of categories.  The earlier images were all listed (erroneously as you’ve pointed out) under ‘Troupes Coloniales’.
 

B0D057EF-7A9D-42AF-9358-CE7970153951.jpeg

BEF5884E-71F2-4D30-89D5-9BDDB6B4503C.png

Edited by FROGSMILE
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You make a pertinent point with the first image from a Russian (?) publication, as the first two soldiers would appear to be Metropolitan Army, with the third, fourth, fifth and sixth being Troupes Coloniales. Most empires have a binary split between colonial and "home" forces. 

As with many, many things, the French have something that is standalone and unique, which is in keeping with the spirit of <<l'administration française>>

As for Soldat de 2e Classe Eugène DE POL, it looks like there is now a clearer idea of his military history. I'm surprised that he got to see two theatres of war.... and he may also have redeployed postwar to Hungary and the Crimea, but it is up to the OP to look into the unit histories of his man.

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I’m glad to have made a pertinent point…

Hopefully the inquirer will be pleased with the various responses.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Good evening

to return to the uniform of our "Marsouin", his uniform is "bleu horizon".


this photo was taken during his military training.


rereading the history of the 42nd and 7th RIC, he did not serve in external operations.
he remained in metropolitan France.

Kind regards
 

michel

Edited by battle of loos
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6 minutes ago, battle of loos said:

Good evening

to return to the uniform of our "Marsouin", his uniform is "bleu horizon".


this photo was taken during his military training.


rereading the history of the 42nd and 7th RIC, he did not serve in external operations.
he remained in metropolitan France.

Kind regards
 

michel

Thank you Michel, it is very helpful to have the interpretation of a French speaker with expert WW1 knowledge.

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Hey guys, Wow!  Thanks!  I didn't get the usual email notifications for these posts, so I didn't see them until now.. I am going to read it all over and get back to you. 

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Damn, I am in way over my head. But I came to the right place obviously. Michel, thanks so much for the translations and comments. And thanks to Christina,

Frogsmile, Keith and Christina for the comments and pictures. It is going to take me a little while to digest all this. In the meantime, I want to share a few more things you might find interesting. 

         Below is a picture I got from a book on French Army uniforms in WWI which shows what appears to be the same uniform in Horizon Blue. Let me know what 

you guys think. Many thanks again.

 

 

French Colonial Infantry uniforms 1915-1918.png 2021-07-19 17.55.33.png

Philbin de Got uniform compared with drawing.png

French Colonial Infantry uniforms 1915-1918.png 2021-07-19 17.55.33.png

By the way, here is the pdf. 

(Officers and Soldiers 12) André Jouineau - French Army 1918 _ 1915 to Victory-Histoire & Collections (2009).pdf

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