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WW1 French Uniform


Gildwiller1918

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Here is one of my WW1 French Uniforms, this one was for an Engineer Sergeant. The tunic has collar patches in black for engineers with the correct red colored soutaches. The buttons are all the same, to signify engineering. Each sleeve has a gold chevron to denote the rank of Sergeant. The inside has several ink stamps but they are hard to make out. The trousers have black piping down the outer sides, again to show engineers. The laces at the end of the trousers are modern replacements. The last few pictures are the uniform on a mannequin with assorted field gear.

When France went to war in 1914, its uniforms had not changed much since the last war of 1870-71. The men wore madder red trousers and dark blue coats. The French government did try to replace the older color schemes for a more modern look, but the transition to the Horizon Blue uniform did not start until August 1914, with Kepis and puttees being the first items made. As the Horizon Blue uniform gradually became the norm, it was tweaked and modified as needed, however the idea was that all troops would wear a single type of uniform, with distinctive features to separate service components. 

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Here is the WW1 Era French M1886 Bayonet for the Lebel rifle, which could also be used on the Berthier rifles. It has a cruciform shape and is quite long, which led to issues of breakage, and some models were shortened accordingly. 

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Here is a nice pair of 1918 dated French wire cutters made by Peugeot. 

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Here is a WW1 era French gas mask tin, this is one of the later models, the ARS17 mask of 1918. These tins were painted a grey-green color and used canvas straps for the user to position as needed. 

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I've had several of these bayonets over the years, also the M.86/93 and the Berthier 1915 rifles, which I unfortunately parted with about 20 years ago.

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1915 Lebel-Berthier and 1886/93 Lebel with their respective bayonets.

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A Lee Enfield No. I Mk.III and a 1916 Berthier carbine, both with their bayonets.


I also had a Berthier 1916 carbine and bayonet a partly complete horizon blue tunic and trousers, an artillery and an infantry helmet and a coloured 1914 infantry képi, an officers képi of 1er Regiment d' Infanterie, another for a capitaine, 14. Husars and a "bonnet de police" of either Belgian or French origin.
I still have some items, which I will post at a later stage.

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A horizon blue Engineer helmet, which has been overpainted in greygreen for use in WW2

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From the collections of the Musée de l'Armee, Paris. This was the standard textbook appearance of the infantry in 1914 and later 1915/16, although there were a few slight variations with the new uniform.

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Nice items Fritz, WW1 French items are hard to come by here is the US. Here are some more of the French Bayonets I have. Full sized and the cut down version. 

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The cut-down version was used in WW2, along with the older types. Otherwise the French MAS 36 rifle with integrated bayonet was available, but not in sufficient numbers. The lebel with the shorter bayonet was still in use after WW2. Also the Berthier carbine was widely issued, and was also used to a small extent by the Wehrmacht in the final days of the war.

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Here are some of my Chauchat accessories as well. 

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I have read that the cut down versions were used in WW2, the cruciform bayonet style was elegant, but not well suited to the realities of warfare at the time. it is interesting how many WW1 weapons got re-used in the second conflict. 

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Very good. The paintwork looks like WW2 issue/application. The cruciform bayonet was probably more effective than the knife bayonet, the Russians used also a similar blade. And the blade was not likely to break or snap, unlike other blades, especially the 98 long, which production was ceased and was  withdrawn from frontline around November 1914.

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Yes, after the war, the French sold a lot of the Chauchat's and accessories to other countries. In this case Finland, they are marked "Sk.y"

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Here is another of my WW1 French Uniforms, this one is dated 1916. The trousers are a straight leg type, with about 2-3 inches hemmed inside at the bottom of the leg, they are marked Belle Jardiniere, Paris. The trousers do not have any piping colors as well. 

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Here is another of my WW1 French uniforms, similar to the last one posted, but small sized and the wool is much more coarse, very rough. It does have the internal liner, which was removed at some point. It has red collar tabs with black soutaches and metal numerals applied.  The side cap was in one of the pockets of this tunic, no idea if it is native to this tunic or not. 

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Red was normally artillery, yellow infantry, etc. the yellow was later discontinued on the collar, but still remained on the trouser piping, until this was dispensed with around 1918.

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  • 2 months later...

I did pick up a Berthier Carbine bayonet recently, matching numbers on the bayonet and scabbard.

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The last tunic looks modified, see patch pockets and cuffs and with the metal numbers, probably for an NCO, however, red collar patches were for Artillery, the buttons however, are the infantry pattern.  Infantry collar patches were horizon blue with dark blue numbers and two soutache Winkel to each rear edge.  The long trousers would not have been worn with puttees, possibly with boots, or shoes for walking out dress.  Could this have been re-badged, possibly by a film company? Lots of these uniforms were used to make WW1 films. The artillery buttons should have crossed canons with a grenade. The Berthier bayonet is nice, there is also an older pattern with a full hooked quillion, these are rarer. Unusual to see matching numbering on these pieces, they had a very long service life, till after WW2.
One tunic has a handwritten "Williams" in the lining, not a very French name.

"Belle Jardinière" was probably a private outfitter in Paris.

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I don't know Fritz, you could be right, I have seen several French uniforms with Hollywood stamps, this could be one or something a collector made up. Without more information, probably will never know. I am not an authority on French uniforms unfortunately. I just wanted a few to have in the collection is all. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

The "UCI" marks are from a California costume company, now long closed. Many WWI era French, German, British items were sold off and are found in collections all over the world. All items are marked "UCI" United Costume Inc.

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  • 1 month later...

Here are some WW1 French specialist patches, first is for a musician, second is for tank personnel. The tank patch was also worn by some US troops in WW1 as well. 

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  • 7 months later...

Anyone help me out with a WW! French tunic or greatcoat please I know they are not cheap or in fact that easy to find! But its the last bit of kit for the Mannequin!  Kind regards Chris

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There are several militaria websites that may bear fruit, UK and mainland Europe especially. The WW1 French uniforms and field gear are getting harder to find, especially in good condition. 

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  • 6 months later...

Here is another uniform accessory, the Serpe or billhook. This device was mainly used by engineers and machine gunners but was also used by other branches. This was considered a tool, and not listed officially as a weapon. Additionally, this was the only item that could not be worn on the wearers belt. When not in use, it was placed inside its leather carrier and attached to the pack. There were many variants of this tool made during the war. I am still hunting for the carrier. WW1 French field gear items are quite scarce in the US.

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Uniform colour plates by Fred & Liliane Funcken, Les Uniformes et les Armes des Soldats de la Grande Guerre, 14-18

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The colourfull uniforms at the outbreak of war, 1914

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Equipment and special insignia

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Uniform changes, 1915

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