historicalfirearms

historicalfirearms:

French Infantry: 1914

On the 1st August the French Army and Navy began a general mobilisation that called up over 1 million Frenchmen.  The French army used a system of conscription which saw men eligible for recall after their initial period of three years of conscription had ended.  In 1914, men aged between men 20-23 were conscripted and serving, men aged between 24-35 formed the reserve of the active army - these men were immediately mobilised and mustered to active units.  Older men aged between 35-41 years formed the Territorial Army and those aged 42-48 years make up the reserve of the Territorial Army Reserve.  As a result of this system of conscription and reserves the French army had over 1,000 battalions forming 173 Infantry Regiments available for action in 1914.

While the French Army was one largest in Europe in 1914, the uniform at the outset of the Great War was possibly the most striking and arguably most archaic of all the major powers.  The French infantryman or Poilu is famous for his red pantaloons which a French War Minister Eugène Étienne once described as quintessentially French.  But along with the venerable red trousers he also wore the 1877 pattern greatcoat over a blue tunic, which was buttoned back when on the march.  The average French infantryman also wore the traditional 1886 pattern red Kepi hat which was covered by a grey-blue cover when in the field.

The personal kit included the model 1852 mess tin and 1893 pattern pack, regulations stipulated that the mess tin be strapped in place on top of the pack above the soldier’s head.  This did nothing to improve the already high profile of the Poilu in the field.  Leather webbing supported two ammunition pouches and a bayonet frog.  The standard issue rifle of the French army at the outbreak of war was the Lebel M1886/93 rifle, one of the longest rifles of the war measuring 1.3 metres long.  It fed from an 8-round tube magazine beneath the barrel, firing a 8×50mm rimmed cartridge.

The French soldier looked much as he had during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and before.  His colourful uniform fast became a liability during the early months of the war.  The distinct red and blue uniforms made the troops highly conspicuous against the green fields and woodland of north eastern France.   While it had been planned to adopt a blue-grey service dress in June 1914, the French would not switch to a less conspicuous uniform late 1915.  

French Cuirassiers on the march (source)

Even more conspicuous were the uniforms of the French Cavalry and the Zouave Regiments whose clothing and equipment were even more archaic.  The French Cuirassiers went to war wearing helmets and breastplates the likes of which had been worn since the Napoleonic era. However, they were issued with canvas breastplates and helmet covers in the field.  They were not officially withdrawn from service until late 1915, by which time they had already stopped being worn in the field.  

Men of the 4th Régiment de Zouaves, not the prominent position of their mess tins (source)

Similarly the Zouaves were uniformed in a gaudy arabian style which dated from the mid 19th century.  The uniform was composed of a short embroidered tunic worn open over a vest with a pair of baggy trousers known as saroul.  Around the waist a 13 foot long sash was wrapped and a chechia (a tasseled red cap) was worn on the head. Unsurprisingly the Zouaves outlandish uniform was abandoned by late 1914.

Sources:

Image One Source - Artist’s impression of a French Infantryman, 1914

Image Two Source - Artist’s impression of a French Infantryman, 1914

Image Three Source - French Infantry c.1914

Image Four Source - French Infantry, Paris, c.1914

Military Uniforms in Colour, P. Kannik, (1968)

More on the French Army here

A Battalion Private of the South Fencibles, c. 1780
Watermark and all, this is probably one of my favorite images of a British Soldier during the period of the American Revolution.
A divergence with the regulars’ regulation uniform is what appears to be a fringed epaulette worn on this fencible’s right shoulder. Though obscured by his firelock, there may very well be a matching one on his left. In the regular army, corporals wore a single silk epaulette on the right shoulder.

A Battalion Private of the South Fencibles, c. 1780

Watermark and all, this is probably one of my favorite images of a British Soldier during the period of the American Revolution.

A divergence with the regulars’ regulation uniform is what appears to be a fringed epaulette worn on this fencible’s right shoulder. Though obscured by his firelock, there may very well be a matching one on his left. In the regular army, corporals wore a single silk epaulette on the right shoulder.

"THE Commander in Chief has, with much concern, observed in various instances, in the clothing and equipment, both of the cavalry and the infantry, such deviations from His Majesty’s regulations on these heads, as require his immediate interference; and he has commanded me to address myself to you on the subject at this particular season, when the patterns of clothing for the ensuing year are about to be sealed, not doubting that he shall receive from you the most ready and effectual assistance, to check in the regiment under your command an evil productive of the most serious bad consequences to the soldiers, and to the service.

"The first point to which it is the Commander in Chiefs wish to call your attention, is the make of the coat, which is in some regiments so cut away, as literally to afford no covering, or protection to those parts of the body, where warmth is most essential, viz. the lowerparts of the belly, and the hip joints; they are moreover so tight that they are with difficulty buttoned over the waistcoats, and they diminish the power of action in a mode highly prejudicial to the health and vigour of the soldier, drawing the body together, and checking that freedom and alacrity of motion in the body, and arms, that are so conducive to the growth and expansion of the young, and to the comfort and health of all.”
- Horse Guards Circular, 28th of April, 1810, quoted in Charles James, The Regimental Companion. 
Pictured: Infantryman, Dragoon and Highlander from Goddard’s Military Costume of Europe, 1812 (x)

"THE Commander in Chief has, with much concern, observed in various instances, in the clothing and equipment, both of the cavalry and the infantry, such deviations from His Majesty’s regulations on these heads, as require his immediate interference; and he has commanded me to address myself to you on the subject at this particular season, when the patterns of clothing for the ensuing year are about to be sealed, not doubting that he shall receive from you the most ready and effectual assistance, to check in the regiment under your command an evil productive of the most serious bad consequences to the soldiers, and to the service.

"The first point to which it is the Commander in Chiefs wish to call your attention, is the make of the coat, which is in some regiments so cut away, as literally to afford no covering, or protection to those parts of the body, where warmth is most essential, viz. the lowerparts of the belly, and the hip joints; they are moreover so tight that they are with difficulty buttoned over the waistcoats, and they diminish the power of action in a mode highly prejudicial to the health and vigour of the soldier, drawing the body together, and checking that freedom and alacrity of motion in the body, and arms, that are so conducive to the growth and expansion of the young, and to the comfort and health of all.”

- Horse Guards Circular, 28th of April, 1810, quoted in Charles James, The Regimental Companion.

Pictured: Infantryman, Dragoon and Highlander from Goddard’s Military Costume of Europe, 1812 (x)

lobsterwarrior

lobsterwarrior:

Illustrations from book “American War of Independence Commanders” (Osprey, Elite 093):

  1. SARATOGA (OCTOBER 1777) 1: Sir John Burgoyne 2: Horatio Gates 3: Benedict Arnold
  2. GERMANTOWN (OCTOBER 6, 1777) 1: Sir William Howe 2: Henry Knox 3: John Sullivan 
  3. NORTHWEST AND MONMOUTH (1778) 1: Sir Henry Clinton 2: Charles Lee 3: George Rodgers Clark
  4. VARIOUS FRONTS (CANADA, INDIA, GIBRALTAR) 1: Sir Guy Carleton 2: Bailli de Suffren 3: George Augustus Elliott
  5. THE CARIBBEAN (1778-83) 1: Bernardo de Galvez 2: Marquis de Bouille 3: Sir George Rodney  
  6. GUILFORD COURTHOUSE (MARCH 15, 1781) 1: Nathaniel Greene 2: Banastre Tarleton 3: Charles, Earl of Cornwallis
  7. YORKTOWN (OCTOBER 1781) 1: Friedrich von Steuben 2: Marquis de Lafayette 3: Duc de Lauzun  
  8. YORKTOWN (OCTOBER 1781) 1: George Washington 2: Benjamin Lincoln 3: Comte de Rochambeau
Private Anthony Lutz, Minorca Regiment, carrying the captured “Invincible” standard of the French 21st Demi-Brigade.For this feat, Lutz was given the honor of wearing a representation of the standard on the left breast of his jacket.
Some controversy surrounds Lutz’s capture of the standard. During the Battle of Alexandria on 21st March, 1801, the 42nd Highland regiment repulsed the 21st Demi-Brigade’s attack on the British position. In the process, a certain Major Stirling the Brigade’s ‘Invincible’ standard. Stirling then entrusted the care of the trophy to a Sergeant Sinclair. However, during its advance, the 42nd was counterattacked by French Cavalry, and forced to retire. The standard was then apparently retaken by the French before being captured again by Private Lutz.
Lutz was given official recognition as the sole capture of the standard. This greatly incensed the 42nd, who asserted that they had been unjustly deprived of the honor. Their cause was taken up by the Radical Pamphleteer (and former ranker) William Cobbet. Cobbet asserted that the standard had been retrieved by ‘a soldier of General Stuart’s foreign corps’, and taken from Sinclair whilst the sergeant was incapacitated by blow from a French cavalry sabre (saved, indeed by his neck cloth and his thick hair worn clubbed).
However, in an inquiry on the 28th of August, 1802, Lutz’s fellow soldiers Corporal Schmid and Private Wohlwend both claimed that they had seen the standard in the possession of the enemy, and that Lutz had courageously seized the standard.

Private Anthony Lutz, Minorca Regiment, carrying the captured “Invincible” standard of the French 21st Demi-Brigade.For this feat, Lutz was given the honor of wearing a representation of the standard on the left breast of his jacket.

Some controversy surrounds Lutz’s capture of the standard. During the Battle of Alexandria on 21st March, 1801, the 42nd Highland regiment repulsed the 21st Demi-Brigade’s attack on the British position. In the process, a certain Major Stirling the Brigade’s ‘Invincible’ standard. Stirling then entrusted the care of the trophy to a Sergeant Sinclair. However, during its advance, the 42nd was counterattacked by French Cavalry, and forced to retire. The standard was then apparently retaken by the French before being captured again by Private Lutz.

Lutz was given official recognition as the sole capture of the standard. This greatly incensed the 42nd, who asserted that they had been unjustly deprived of the honor. Their cause was taken up by the Radical Pamphleteer (and former ranker) William Cobbet. Cobbet asserted that the standard had been retrieved by ‘a soldier of General Stuart’s foreign corps’, and taken from Sinclair whilst the sergeant was incapacitated by blow from a French cavalry sabre (saved, indeed by his neck cloth and his thick hair worn clubbed).

However, in an inquiry on the 28th of August, 1802, Lutz’s fellow soldiers Corporal Schmid and Private Wohlwend both claimed that they had seen the standard in the possession of the enemy, and that Lutz had courageously seized the standard.

Light Co. NCO, 10th Regiment of Foot in full dress, 1810. 
This charming, if somewhat naive, watercolor shows some interesting uniform details. This soldier’s jacket appears to have only eight lace loops (in pairs). There are no apparent buttons (possibly a mistake on the part of the artist- Though their absence could indicate the jacket is closed via hooks and eyes), nor rank insignia. These notable omissions might indicate an imprecise observer, rather than a non-regulation uniform. 
However, the painting does capture the close fit of the coat, as well as certain prominent features- Namely, the large worsted ‘wings’ on his shoulders and the equally large tuft on his shako.

Light Co. NCO, 10th Regiment of Foot in full dress, 1810.

This charming, if somewhat naive, watercolor shows some interesting uniform details. This soldier’s jacket appears to have only eight lace loops (in pairs). There are no apparent buttons (possibly a mistake on the part of the artist- Though their absence could indicate the jacket is closed via hooks and eyes), nor rank insignia. These notable omissions might indicate an imprecise observer, rather than a non-regulation uniform.

However, the painting does capture the close fit of the coat, as well as certain prominent features- Namely, the large worsted ‘wings’ on his shoulders and the equally large tuft on his shako.