The French Uniforms of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR – Special

The French Uniforms of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR – Special

We’ve been asked many times to do special
episodes about the various uniforms and equipment used during the war, which is something we
don’t have time to cover in our regular Thursday episodes, so that’s what we’re
going to do today. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a quick Great
War special episode about French uniforms and equipment in the First World War. We will hopefully cover the basics on all
of the major warring nations, and today we’ll start off with the French. Now, we’ve actually mentioned at times in
our regular episodes the tragedy that befell the French at the Battles of the Frontiers
in August 1914, when their brightly colored uniforms and strategy of marching en masse
across fields against the enemy proved disastrous against German machine gun emplacements. The
French lost 27,000 killed in one day, not counting wounded, missing, or captured, which
was the highest single day death toll for any country during the entire war. See, the French, at the outbreak of the war,
were prepared for war, but they weren’t prepared for 20th century modern war. Even so, when the war began France had universal
conscription, with men called to service at the age of 18 and usually serving a four-year
hitch. Upon discharge, they were placed in the reserves until the were around 33, and
after that in the Territorial Army until they were in their late 40s, so one way or another
they pretty much had some sort of military commitment for a big chunk of their adult
lives. The 1914 uniforms, equipment, and tactics
had changed little since the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. Infantry troops still wore the kepi- cap-
blue tunic and greatcoat, and red trousers. Personal equipment was made of leather and
was pretty cumbersome compared to that of many other European armies. The standard issue
rifle was the Lebel 8mm, which, while better than the rifles of two generations earlier
was very long and unwieldy, and when the bayonet was fixed, it towered over the average French
soldier. The standard unit of infantry in 1914 was
the Régiment d’Infantrie- R.I. Each one was individually numbered, and there were 173
R.I. when the war began. A typical R.I. consisted of 70 officers and 3,400 other ranks, and
was organized into three battalions. In addi tion to the regimental commander and his staff,
the regimental headquarters also included 12 mounted scouts and 120 men in an administration
platoon: stretcher-bearers, sappers, armorers, butchers, cooks, and so forth. The first couple of months of the war- much
like at the Battles of the Frontiers- really showed the shortcomings of the French uniforms,
and in the early months of 1915 they were replaced by horizon blue uniforms. In the
trenches, British style puttees- straps of cloth wrapped around the knees and ankles-
were adopted in October 1914 as trench warfare really kicked into high gear. In March 1915,
a steel skull cap was issued, to be worn under the wool Kepi, but it was eventually replaced
by the Adrian M1915 steel helmets. The French Army was the first to introduce steel helmets,
and by December 1915 more than three million Adrian helmets had been manufactured. The
Adrian helmet proved sufficiently practical to remain unchanged for the remainder of the
war. It was based on the French firemen’s helmets of the time, and was adopted by the
Belgian, Russian, Serbian, and Italian armies. The horizon blue uniform also proved practical
until the end of the war, although khaki of a shade described as “mustard” was introduced
as well after 1914 for the North African and colonial troops serving in France. Let’s look at the Kepi for a minute. Here’s the 1884 model. Bright red wool,
dark blue band, black leather visor, dark blue piping. Two air vents were actually situated
one on either side of the cap. The regimental patch in red was sewn onto a dark blue rectangular
patch, which in turn was sewn onto the front of the kepi. The interior was linen and had
a black leather sweatband. A lot of men kept their kepis into the spring and even summer
of 1915. The couvre-kepi- the kepi cover- was iron blue cotton and was secured to the
kepi with a cord and two buttons. If we want to see real detail, here are some
of the French belts. The 1873 le Centurion, black leather with
a flat brass buckle. Les cartouchieres, model 1888, a blackened leather cartridge belt.
And the 1905 model, which could not be worn only around the waist and required braces
to hold it up. These are the les bretelles des suspension. Well, that’s the basic rundown on the French
uniforms. If you search online you can find all sorts of more in-depth information about
all of this. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t Indy talk about the weapons
they were issued?” and that’s a good question. The answer is that we’re doing a series
of specials about the weapons used in the war in association with the YouTube channel
and weapons expert C&Rsenal, and if you’d like to know about some of the French guns
used, you can click here to check that one out. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you
Thursday with our regular episode.

100 Replies to “The French Uniforms of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR – Special”

  1. Didn't The British lose more soldiers on the first day of the Somme then the French did on that day in August? Around 60 thousand British soldiers died I believe? I'm probably mistaken, but anyway this is an awesome show! Keep up the good work!

  2. Herr von Richthofen here. I'd really like your Special videos to be longer, even 20 minutes long! The German uniform was great and discussed all the main points, though it'd be really nicer to have more detail in the videos!

    Great job as always, love the videos!

  3. For these videos you should bring in a reenactor with the gear sometime later to show how it looked all together e.t.c.
    Just an idea, keep up the great work

  4. In the early years of twenty century French tried a lot of uniforms and equipment to modernize her army. They tried an Austrian like uniform, a Boer like uniform with an hat like Boers 😉 They've got a very good idea in 1912 or 1913. The Reseda uniform.
    A functionnal and modern uniform. But politicians refused it !
    They said "Le pantalon garance c'est la France !" "The garance (red) trousers it's represent France !" Poor soldiers.

  5. I'd always thought the British had the largest single-day losses of any army during the first day at the Somme. But I'm assuming those were general casualties, not just singularly deaths.

  6. I've heard somewhere the very early helmets in WW1 had something to do with the Portuguese before the French, I don't know if they were official uniform or not though one was handed on to the British and was assessed before the Brodie helmet was designed.

  7. The French still wore much of the equipment and uniforms from the Franco-Prussian War. Well, that one didn't go very well, did it?

  8. Corrigenda: Cartouchières, rather than cartouchiéres.

    Also, Unless I'm much mistaken, I was under the impression that the French uniforms of the Franco-Prussian War had horizon blue trousers, rather than the red trousers worn in 1914-15.

  9. I went to join the Legion a long time ago and there I was taught a lot about the history of the Legion. Our history is very important and we learn it well. It is pretty common knowledge that we were used as fodder and were killed en mass. I would like to see an episode on our battles.

    Also, it is terrifying how the French insist on form over function and rely on tradition to do things. Our issued boots were the same freaking boots used in WW2. Not joking. They were terrible.

    Legio Patria Nostra

  10. I read that economic interests were behind the use of madder red trousers, which went back to the 1830s for the French infantry, although some of Napoleon's cavalry had also worn them. By autumn 1914 they had started wearing horizon blue overtrousers and cap covers to reduce their conspicuousness after the initial slaughters.
    Supposedly the colour name magenta is derived from the colour of bloodstains on madder red trousers worn by French soldiers in the 1859 Battle of Magenta, but this may be a myth.

  11. It's amazing how this team is so talented that it can put amazingly realistic clolour in black and white pictures from over 100 years ago.

  12. Great video, as ever, thank you. Tiny point of admin: tried to find this video in your Technology playlist, should it be in there, too?

  13. If you haven't already, please do an episode exclusively a out the Japanese Empire in WWI, or African colonial troops of the Axis

  14. We NEED an Austrian uniform video. Seriously how did Romania get one of these before the other half of the Central Powers?



    Damn! We're doomed but keep charging anyway! Cowards will be shot!

  16. Hi, Indy. I know you get a ton of questions and probably have already answered this one, but if it hasn't come up yet, I would be greatful if you answered it in an "Out of the Trenches" episode. The french soldiers were issues with red hats!? I knew that their was a desire to change the french soldiers uniform, and the uproar from the 'old guard' french pre-world war I over this desire to change the uniform came off as an obsession with tradition to me, but this?! To argue against the replacement of a red hat is nothing short of madness. On any battlefield, regardless of the time, wearing a red hat would be a the equivalent of soldier, screaming at the top of their lungs, "Shoot me. Shoot me, now!'. What possible argument could those that were for keeping the traditional, prewar uniform possibly use?

  17. Did you guys do or will do a possible special on the Dreyfus affair and the effects on the French Army prior to the war?

  18. Thanks to this video, I understand why in that game: Valiant Hearts the Great War, why the French Army changed uniforms. At first I thought the helmet and blue coat was winter uniform!!

  19. It should be pointed out that an administrative decision to change over to the horizon blue uniform had been made in July 1913 but the change hadn't properly begun before the war started.

  20. Just to add that French halmets were used bot only in Serbian army during WW1, but also in Yugoslavia as kingdom and communist state.

  21. How did they change uniforms in ww1? I mean where there a guy who brougth the new uniforms to every soldier or was there a diffrent system?

  22. Faire une vidéo sur les uniformes français et mettre des sous titres russe, chinois…. mais pas les sous-titres français 🤔

  23. Well, I still don't understand how could the Horizon Blue uniform is any more practical than the old uniform. It still as flashy as the old uniform was, and as far as I know, during the late stages of the war even the helmet paint was changed to the more darker colour that will blend more to the environment

  24. Automatic and semi automatic firearms were the worst things to be invented, i preferred the era when war was civilized and gentlemanly.

  25. Great series. If you are ever visit the Verdun area, check-out the Musée du costume militaire in Thiaucourt Regnieville

  26. … so by early 20th C. average frenchmen were still as short as those in the days of Napoleon Bonaparte (Including himself)?

    And didn't the french called the skullcap introduced in 1915 'Secrete'? (introduced in the Renaissance Era to be worn under broad brim hats, either by VIPs (Charles II , his enemies, and maybe Oliver Crommwell too!) or (usually elite) soldiers.

  27. i would never wear that red cap. nope i'd refuse i dont care what my commanding officers said. i'd tell them im not putting that target on.

  28. 27000 killed in one day? Those bright red colors, especially on the "helmets" were great for target practice!

  29. I still have trouble believing France as a very powerful military power. Too many wars lost, compared to other european or foreign powers.

  30. I can't believe this video is 4 years old, I don't know where time goes. May all these brave soldiers, civilians and animals who died from this terrible war rest in peace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *