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Is The French Army of WW1 and WW2 Underrated?


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#21 swerve

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 1851 PM

IMHO, there was nothing wrong with the French fighting man in either war. He was handicapped by bad generals and bad doctrine in WW1, and by atrocious political leadership and abominable planning between the wars and in the early days of WW1. They lacked the room and the time to recover from the handicaps in 1940.


Very well said indeed.
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#22 Mikel2

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 1940 PM

I could see France from my home in Irun, and my parents loved travelling through that area of the Pyrinees. That same thing always shocked me, that even the tiniest village lost in the mountains would have its monument to the fallen in the Great War, *always* dwarfing that of WWII. It is not hard to understand why the French were not looking exactly forward to another war in 1939.
Personally I find the entire "cheese eating surrender monkeys" theme, so prevalent in Amerian forums, quite disrespectful and simply unfair.


Even the most tiny French village usually has a monument over the fallen in the world wars, a huge number of names from WWI and a handful or two from WWII.

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#23 cdnsigop

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 2352 PM

[quote name='Colin Williams' date='Wed 27 Apr 2005 1627']
"The creeping barrages used during the later Verdun counterattacks were developed in parallel with British and German practice. Only perhaps with the advent of sudden, pre-registered barrages in late 1917 did the Germans and British move ahead of the French in artillery state of the art, but I believe that the French did not take long to catch up."


Not ot change the subject too much the first really succussful use of the creeping barrage was by the Canadians Under Gen. Currie in April 1917 at Vimy. Like the French in many ways the Canadian efforts in both wars are always over looked, and what makes it worst for Canadian efforts included under the blanket term of British colonials or comman wealth.

Getting back to the French, I'm always amazed at how American and British posters never given them much credit. But if look at the British proformance in 1940 it was no better than the French and in Britian hadn't of been an island it would of been defeated too. After the fall of France in 1940 Britian had 2500 bren guns.. that's it. Germany would of rolled over the UK just as fast.. if not for the water in between.

Edited by cdnsigop, 27 April 2005 - 2353 PM.

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#24 Van Owen

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0129 AM

I did see in a TV show dealing with the History of the 1st Infantry Division, a veteran talking about a landing in North Africa against Vichy troops that were mostly from the Foreign Legion, and who gave them quite a time of it, evidently. Certainly, the vets interviewed didn't think they were bad fighters! One of them said that afterwards, the legionaires showed them how they should have done the landing!
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#25 Ken Estes

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0254 AM

I did see in a TV show dealing with the History of the 1st Infantry Division, a veteran talking about a landing in North Africa against Vichy troops that were mostly from the Foreign Legion, and who gave them quite a time of it, evidently.  Certainly, the vets interviewed didn't think they were bad fighters!  One of them said that afterwards, the legionaires showed them how they should have done the landing!

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Atkinson's Army at Dawn has some excellent material on this point, among many. Some troops roughly handled in the Western Task force ended up surrendering to Vichy infantry, and they were not legionnaires. In Nov42 the way ahead was a long one, but by the end in Tunisia, a seasoned force was in the making.
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#26 black berret

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0457 AM

hi guys!
are we on tank-net? i can't believe some American posters are being fair...finaly! :P just kidding.

i'm from Normandie, i grew up with monuments in my villages,monuments on my beaches, bunkers covered with flower pots...and always 4 big flags floating in the center of every village/city: the french, canadian, american and british flags.

i apreciate that people know and remember that part of history. France has always been invaded...and we're still there, that resumes the personality of frenchmen,always grumpy about everything,specialy ourselves, but great lovers of their homeland.
we should mention people of the resistance, them giving a hard time to the invaders surely was decisiv to the turn of the war.
both of my grandfathers would tell you.

thanks for this topic!
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#27 black berret

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0504 AM

as for the history of my unit.
in the midle of the war,french soldiers, mostly tankers, got together and became the first tank company "autonome" (sorry i don't see how to translate) it wasn't commanded by any division...it was recieving its orders directly from London,from CDG.
it took part in the landing of Narvik, in the Norwayen campaign, fought alone in the African campaign ( bir hakeim, el alamain,...) and joined the Leclerc division, sticking up with the 501 RCC.
so american equipped...but always doing it the french way!
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#28 BillB

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0722 AM

At risk of dragging the thread off topic:

Not ot change the subject too much the first really succussful use of the creeping barrage was by the Canadians Under Gen. Currie in April 1917 at Vimy.  Like the French in many ways the Canadian efforts in both wars are always over looked, and what makes it worst for Canadian efforts included under the blanket term of British colonials or comman wealth.


Two points here. First, I think you will find that the first effective use of the creeping barrage was as part of the Nivelle "formula" employed in the closing stages at Verdun in late 1916. Also, (and I'm not being sarky here - that comes in a minute ;) ) how many of the *artillery* units providing the creeping barrage on Vimy Ridge were Canadian?

Second, ref the last bit, IMO this is an an example of the all too frequent tendency to view and label the past through the lens of the present. The Canadians who fought in WW1 did not do so as Canadians in the currently understood sense. They did so as the subject citizens of a British colony rallying to the Mother Country in a time of need, as they had done in the Boer War. The "blanket terms" of colonials or Commonwealth were not therefore an attempt to deflect due credit, there were an accurate reflection of the situation as it stood at the time and, perhaps more importantly, as those Canadians saw it themselves. Personally, I think the attachment of the Canadian attainment of nationhood to Vimy, like the similar tendency of the Aussies and New Zealanders to Gallipoli, rather curious, and I cannot escape the suspicion that it was a handy way for their domestic politicians to deflect blame for the results of their enthusiasm for involvement in the war.

Getting back to the French, I'm always amazed at how American and British posters never given them much credit.  But if look at the British proformance in 1940 it was no better than the French and in Britian hadn't of been an island it would of been defeated too. After the fall of France in 1940 Britian had 2500 bren guns.. that's it.  Germany would of rolled over the UK just as fast.. if not for the water in between.

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Fair point ref the post-Dunkirk bit, altho I think the Germans would have found it a bit more difficult than you suggest. Ref the first part, I don't think it's a matter of giving or more accurately denying credit, it is a matter of language. How many books aimed at the general reader about the French in WW1, or the French Army generally have been published in English? AFAIK there are not very many - de la Gorce's The French Army, Clayton's Paths of Glory, Porch's March to the Marne (IIRC), Ousby's The Road to Verdun, Horne's The Paris Commmune, The Price of Glory and To Lose a Battle, Brown's Verdun 1916, a couple of Osprey titles - and I suspect the situation is the same in reverse and to a lesser xtent with regard to Germany too. I suspect the problem lies with publishers, who in my experience are leary of straying off the beaten track when it comes to publishing. Which is why we keep getting the same old stuff recycled endlessly every few years with the same errors and misconceptions (sorry if I'm sounding a bit jaded, but I've just had the misfortune to see a pre-release copy of yet another "startling and groundbreaking" new TV docu about Arnhem and my eyes are bleeding with a mixture of rage and despair... :( )

all the best

BillB
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#29 BillB

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0733 AM

Right, while I'm in pouring petrol on the flames mode... :D

I agree with the general sentiments expressed thus far, but it strikes me the thread has drifted away from its original topic. Colin's question was "Is the French Army of WW1 and WW2 underrated?", and we are now avidly discussing the fighting quality of the French soldier, which is not quite the same thing. Consequently, King is quite right to point out that there was not a lot wrong with the French poilu, but given the parameters of the topic we can't really separate that from the bad generals and bad doctrine he also refers to, can we? :)

all the best

BillB
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#30 Durandal

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0752 AM

BillB Is it Murph second nickname? always wasting the cool threads.... well at least about French :lol: ;)
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#31 BillB

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 0850 AM

BillB Is it Murph second nickname? always wasting the cool threads.... well at least about French  :lol:  ;)

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I resent that slur about wasting cool threads, Durandal. :D Perhaps you'd be happier if we just subscribed to the comfortable fiction that makes up large chunks of French military history, like the way France liberated herself in 1944 and so forth... ;) :P :P :D

Bill "The False Ecossais" B
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#32 Durandal

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1008 AM

I resent that slur about wasting cool threads, Durandal.  :D  Perhaps you'd be happier if we just subscribed to the comfortable fiction that makes up large chunks of French military history, like the way France liberated herself in 1944 and so forth...  ;) :P  :P  :D

Bill "The False Ecossais" B

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Argh! :o
WAR!! :angry:
I will have to invade England again one day, one French is needed for such an easy task! B)
Wait we should rather fill the channel once and for all or sink this island. :P :lol:
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#33 Durandal

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1009 AM

And i have more post than you anyway. another easy victory over a Brit! B)
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#34 Colin Williams

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1034 AM

At risk of dragging the thread off topic:
Two points here. First, I think you will find that the first effective use of the creeping barrage was as part of the Nivelle "formula" employed in the closing stages at Verdun in late 1916. Also, (and I'm not being sarky here - that comes in a minute ;) ) how many of the *artillery* units providing the creeping barrage on Vimy Ridge were Canadian?


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UberBrit Alan Brooke was the Artillery Chief of Staff for the Canadian Corps in 1917 and wrote the fire plan for the attack on Vimy Ridge. Nothing like succeeds like raw colonial enthusiasm wedded to superior British intellect! :)
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#35 Colin Williams

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1044 AM

hi guys!
are we on tank-net? i can't believe some American posters are being fair...finaly! :P  just kidding.

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Just for balance read this! - http://63.99.108.76/...?showtopic=9643

:D
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#36 BillB

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1045 AM

And i have more post than you anyway. another easy victory over a Brit!  B)

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Another? When was the first one then? Anyway, you'll change your tune when we come to reclaim the lost territories down Gascony way. we already own Calais and environs, and our undercover second home owners are undermining your society as we speak... ;) :P :lol:

BillB
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#37 black berret

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1055 AM

Another? When was the first one then? Anyway, you'll change your tune when we come to reclaim the lost territories down Gascony way. we already own Calais and environs, and our undercover second home owners are undermining your society as we speak...  ;)  :P  :lol:

BillB

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com'on, we all know that GB belongs to the Normands! ;)
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#38 Durandal

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1106 AM

Just for balance read this! - http://63.99.108.76/...?showtopic=9643

:D

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I can't blame you last time with Stevely; he was the one drinking whine, i was the one drinking Coca cola. :lol:
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#39 Durandal

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1112 AM

Another? When was the first one then? Anyway, you'll change your tune when we come to reclaim the lost territories down Gascony way. we already own Calais and environs, and our undercover second home owners are undermining your society as we speak...  ;)  :P  :lol:

BillB

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Your football teams are still invaded by French coachs and players.
Especially by a squad of Tirailleurs Sénégalais!
Another victory! :P

Rugby where is the English team again? B)
(you sucked a bit more than us ;) )
but this is still a victory. B)
Do you want more?

Edit: Sorry for this disturbance in this is great thread but this is all because of BillB
as usual. :)

Edited by Durandal, 28 April 2005 - 1113 AM.

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#40 Durandal

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 1114 AM

com'on, we all know that GB belongs to the Normands! ;)

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This time i agree with BB <_< ;)
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