Questions on France's colonial troops

Discussions on all aspects of France during the Inter-War era and Second World War.
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Texas Jäger
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Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by Texas Jäger » 15 Apr 2020 16:43

1. Are there any statistics on which regions they came from and in what numbers respectively, and the number of casualties they took?
2. What are some recommended books on the subject?
3. I'm confused on their general appearance. I know the Senegalese wore a Fez, and the Goumiers wore djellabas with either a Brody helmet or Adrian helmet. But what about the regular Tirailleurs? I've seen photos where they look like US Infantry, others where they look like normal French Infantry, and still other photos that claim to be Tunisian/Algerian/Moroccan Tirailleurs and they are dressed the same as Goumiers.(Though in the case of the latter that might just be the error of the photo description) Did it differ from unit to unit?
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Rare photographs would also be appreciated.

OldBill
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Re: Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by OldBill » 01 May 2020 20:38

AFAIK the French Colonial Troops wore a mixture of French and US gear. This was because France was no longer able to provide the equipment needed, whereas US gear and equipment could be provided and supported. Some units and individuals were able to use what they originally were equipped with, (especially their helmets) but the industrial advantage that US supply had made it hard for the French to provide, especially as the country was ravaged by the war. HTH, Bill

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Texas Jäger
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Re: Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by Texas Jäger » 01 May 2020 23:19

OldBill wrote:
01 May 2020 20:38
AFAIK the French Colonial Troops wore a mixture of French and US gear. This was because France was no longer able to provide the equipment needed, whereas US gear and equipment could be provided and supported. Some units and individuals were able to use what they originally were equipped with, (especially their helmets) but the industrial advantage that US supply had made it hard for the French to provide, especially as the country was ravaged by the war. HTH, Bill
Did this apply to the last 8 months of the war after the major metropolitan areas of France were liberated, or were they able to produce their own equipment in sufficient numbers again?

wwilson
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Re: Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by wwilson » 02 May 2020 19:57

It varied from unit to unit. Some units, like the 1st Para Regiment, were IIRC outfitted with U.S. uniforms and weapons. The 1st Army had U.S. major items of equipment with some older French gear mixed in. Their uniforms were, as OldBill wrote, a mixture of French and U.S. gear.

The forces organized after the Liberation were -not- standard in uniforms, equipment, or armament. French industry was capable of producing some items needed by the army, but after years of occupation, removal of equipment from factories, and the disruptions caused to the labor force by the war in general and the occupation in particular ... there were many shortfalls.

The French Army did not regain commonality of uniforms and equipment until the army downsized after the war ended.

OldBill
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Re: Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by OldBill » 03 May 2020 23:51

Exactly as wwilson said above. France was devastated by the war, and its a tribute to their fortitude and bravery they managed to put the number of troops into the field as they did. You have to remember that after France fell in 1940, development of their gear essentially STOPPED. Everyone elses kept advancing at breakneck speed. The Germans for example, started out in 1939 using MkI and MkII tanks, and ended with Tiger II's. So while some of their gear could be used, and some in the correct circumstances, the fact they had equipment that old, with their industry shattered, they really couldn't use a lot of what was left. That's why the US/UK equipped them. Remember that immediately postwar they were using Panthers in some of their armored units. It'd be years before the military and industry recovered enough to field their own modern equipment.

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Re: Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 04 May 2020 01:12

OldBill wrote:
03 May 2020 23:51
... You have to remember that after France fell in 1940, development of their gear essentially STOPPED. Everyone elses kept advancing at breakneck speed. ...
On paper development did continue in a sort of half life fashion. Petains government continued assorted secret projects. Below are the results of two

First is the ARL 44. When the new government trawled through the arms factories and drafting tables in latter 1944 they found plans for that on the table and lacking much else continued development. Perhaps this was more of a way to get the arms industry going again. Sort of practicing scales after a hiatus from a musical instrument? If I am reading the text correctly sixty vehicles were built from 1945. Originally designed with with a 75mm gun productions was made wi a 90mm gun. Im unsure what the antecedents of that weapon were. There had been a 90mm tank gun project underway in 1938-1940. But I'm unsure if this connects.
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Second were some paper deigns to mount 75mm guns on assorted chassis. AFAIK no production of prototypes was effected. Heres one of several notions proposed in 1945. The salient innovation of these was the long 75mm gun. As with the 90mm gun the was a project underway in 1939-1940 for a high powered 75mm caliber tank cannon. All the proposals utilized R35 or S35 chassis. Its unclear to me if these might be salvaged vehicles or new production. irrelevant I guess since none were built
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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 04 May 2020 01:58

OldBill wrote:
03 May 2020 23:51
... Remember that immediately postwar they were using Panthers in some of their armored units. It'd be years before the military and industry recovered enough to field their own modern equipment.
Sometime in 1945 or 46 those were consolidated in a single regiment IIRC. Parts were scrounged in France and Germany & the unit lasted til circa 1950.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Questions on France's colonial troops

Post by Sid Guttridge » 04 May 2020 12:18

Hi Guys,

The Free French initially had whatever the British could spare, plus whatever they picked up in their conquered French colonies. I think there was only one division in the field in North Africa in early November 1942 and a second in preparation in the UK.

The gaining of French North Africa made available around half a dozen colonial divisions equipped to pre-war French standards.

From memory, in 1943 the USA agreed to fully equip eight French divisions with US gear, most of which were from North Africa.

However, the Free French wanted as big an army as they could get, and so spread the US equipment around some 11 divisions, with much older French and some British gear making up the difference.

When France was liberated, the USA contributed more equipment for newly reraised metropolitan divisions, though older French (and German) quipment continued in service on the Atlantic and Alpine Fronts.

As I day, this is from memory and deserves checking.

Loic?

Cheers,

Sid.

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