Skip to main content

Vive la Classe! - un deuxième coup d'oeil

It's been a while since we had an eye-candy post, so here's a selection of material connected with the call-up and the conseils de révision.

Conscription had been introduced during the Revolution, and over the years a number of customs had grown up around the event.

The most obvious custom was decorating the conscript's civilian clothing. The commonest decoration was the rosette, in tricoloured ribbons and gold thread, often bearing the motto Bon Pour La Service - 'Fit for Service'. Some even bore a specially minted 'medal' with the same motto and a figure representing the Republic. The canny seller of rosettes placed his stall near the steps of the Town Hall, so when the successful candidates emerged, their first stop would be to buy a rosette.

Some, like the young man from Cornouaille, the area around Quimper, on the left, added a hat as well. Around the crown are broad silken ribbons, decorated with flowers and mottos. Placed behind the ribbon is a small placard bearing Bon Pour La Service - 'Fit For Service'.



In contrast, this group from the alpine village of Champfromier (Ain) are dressed very modestly, with only small rosettes on what must be their Sunday suits. They do however, have a flag and two musicians.





This group of men from the Class of 1910 all come from the same school, the Académie du Torrein, in Roubaix (Nord). Their rosettes are even smaller than the previous group. This may be a regional variation, but in March 1918, Captain J.C. Dunn of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers noted, 'Going on leave, I saw in Steenwerck [(Nord, so the same département)] the latest class of French conscripts leaving home for their depots. Dressed in their Sunday best, beflowered, beribboned, beflagged, befuddled, they were calling at every friend's house and being given liquor. Poor boys.' So, it may just be something particular to this group.
The celebrations of which Dunn speaks were an integral part of the event, and could last for two or three days. These young men of the Class of 1920, from the southern village of Mandagout (Gard) have a more complicated costume, with rosettes and caps.

Another northern group, from Hantay (Nord), in 1933 or 1934, with ribbons, rosettes and flag. 

From photographic evidence, it certainly seems that the more elaborate costumes appear between the two world wars. These customs even lasted into the 1960s, even when the length of service was reduced to a year or eighteen months. It was finally abolished in 1996.
Two typical rosettes, sold to recruits as they emerged from the conseil.
 Another souvenir, in the form of a print. The official phrase 'Fit for service' - Bon pour le Service - was frequently followed by the unofficial 'Fit for the girls' - Bon pour les filles.


Some conscripts with some of those very Girls. From the fashions, this looks like a group from the 1920s. The location is unknown, but the berets suggest a southern village (nowadays we associate the beret with France generally, but in France itself at this period, it was more closely associated with the Pyrenees). The flag, with its Gallic cockerel, reads 'Honour to the Conscripts'.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kings of the Air: A Matter of Reputation

When dealing with the history of the development of the French Air Force before and during the Great War, you cannot go far without coming across the name of Charles Tricornet de Rose. A dragoons officer, he was the first man to get his military wings. He was immediately snapped up to work at Estienne's research establishment at Vincennes, where he worked on aircraft armament (even though the Minister of War thought it a waste of time), coming to the conclusion that the gun had to placed in the nose, firing forwards. The problem was the firing through the arc of the propellor, and, with Roland Garros, he was working on a synchronizer system when war broke out. 
Garros went his own way, towards the dead end that were his deflector plates. Meanwhile, de Rose, the commander of Fifth Army's aviation, created the first all-fighter squadron, MS12, and filled it with the best pilots he could lay his hands on, including Jean Navarre. Until a viable synchronizer system was worked out,…

Sources for French military history

In something of a mood for reviews after last week's post, I dipped my pen (? or should that be keyboard?) in critic's vitriol once again, and took a look at Milindex, a searchable bibliography newly mounted on the website of the French Ministry of Defence's Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi des Forces (CDEF).
The bibliography is the work of the CDEF's Research Centre, the Ecole Militaire's Documentation Centre and an un-named university. The database includes the following older titles:
Journal des Sciences militaires (1825-1914) (available on Gallica), Revue d’artillerie (1872-1939) (available on Gallica), Revue de cavalerie (available on Gallica 1905-25),  Revue d’infanterie (1887-1939) (available on Gallica), Revue des Sciences Politiques (1911-1936) (available on Gallica),
Revue des troupes coloniales (1902-1939) Revue du géniemilitaire (1887-1959) (available on Gallica), Revue du service de l’intendance militaire(1888-1959)
Revue militaire générale (1907-1973) (available…

Ceux de 14 - the critics speak!

With the first episodes of Ceux de 14 having been broadcast on France 3 earlier this week, the critics have now had their say.
Télé-Loisirs: 'a good reconstruction of war', but overall the cast 'was rather wooden'; on the other hand Théo Frilet, as Genevoix was 'convincing'. Overall: Very Good
Télé 2 Semaines: 'convincing casting', but also thought they were 'rather wooden'. Overall: Quite Good
Télé Z: 'we lived, suffered and wept with these soldiers serving during the Great War'. Overall: Excellent
Télé Poche: 'faithful to the original book'. Overall: Good
TV Grandes Chaines: 'a bold production' with 'convincing actors'. Overall: Very Good.
Télé 7 Jours: 'the series is a noteworthy tribute to a generation that was sacrificed', played by 'outstanding actors'. Overall: Good
Télé Star: Overall: Good
So ... 'could be better' by the sound of things; but likewise, could be a lot worse (and we've s…