French Soldier

In the thirties the French Army was only the shadow of its former self. The losses of the Great War greatly marked French society, empowering pacifism and a defensive doctrine centred around the Maginot Line. Compulsory military service time was reduced to one year, with soldiers divided into active units and class A and B reservist units. The modernisation of the army would only begin in 1935, spurred on by the rapid German re-armament.

However, the huge modernisation effort could not save the French army from its backward-looking high-command. Unable and unwilling to go on the offensive it would be beaten by the Blitzkrieg through the Ardennes. From the 2.7 million french soldiers fighting in the campaign around 100000 soldiers would be killed and 600000 captured, with 1,2 million more captured after Petain’s call to stop the fighting.



Chasseurs are the standard light infantry units of the French Army, tasked with recon duties and special operations to disrupt enemy activity. The corps, full of traditions like the dark blue color or the hunting horn emblem, found its modern origins in the late 18th Century. The Chasseurs become famous notably during the First World War, gaining the nickname schwarze Teufel (translated as Diables bleus or Blue Devils) from their German adversaries in reference to their dark blue uniforms and their ferocity.

In 1940, three types of Chasseurs could be found in the French Army: Chasseurs à Pied, on foot or motorized like the regular infantry units; Chasseurs Alpins, experts in mountain warfare; and Chasseurs Portés, specially motorized with armoured carriers. The latter were formed in 1937 to follow the newly formed Divisions Cuirassées de Réserve (DCR).

The 5e Bataillon de Chasseurs Portés of 1940 was one of the various iterations of the 5e Bataillon de Chasseurs, a unit that was formed and dissolved multiple times between 1815 and 1962. As a part of the 1e DCR, it was engaged in the Dyle-Breda maneuver and took part in the battle of Flavion. Suffering heavy casualties, the 1e DCR would be reformed on May 31st and continue to fight during Fall Rot. Avoiding capture, the unit was demobilized after the armistice.


GRDI Soldier

In 1923 Recon Groups were created from active squadrons from cavalry units and attached to regular infantry divisions (GRDI) or army corps (GRCA). Equipped with machineguns and antitank guns, some of those would also receive trucks, motorbikes, side-cars, and even armored cars. These groups would be tasked with recon duties, skirmishes, and reinforcement. Elite and reliable units, they can be distinguished from the regular infantry by their motorized type uniforms.

The 6e GRDI was one of the few units equipped with armored cars and was attached to the 3e Motorized Infantry Division (DIM). The unit would take part in skirmishes around the Maginot Line and some of its armored cars would be send to the fighting in Norway. After the breakthrough at Sedan, they would hold Stonne on the first day of the battle and fought continuously after, finally being captured with the rest of the 3e DIM on June 18th.



Spahis were initially Algerian cavalrymen formed in the 16th century. They were integrated into the French Army during the conquest of Algeria, alongside similar units formed in other part of the empire. Easily identifiable with their traditional uniforms during parades, spahis in war time wore more common looking khaki uniforms with chèche and sarouel. Despite their gear being designed for cavalrymen (gaiters, bandoliers) spahis were expected to dismount and fight on foot.

At the beginning of World War Two, 3 brigades of Morrocan, Algerian and Tunisian spahis were stationned in France. The 3rd Spahi Brigade, composed of the 2nd Algerian and 2nd Morrocan Spahi regiments, would have its most famous fight at La Horgne, where it withstood the entire 1st Panzer Division for a full day. The unit would reorganise and keep fighting until ordered to surrender on 23rd June.


Colonial Infantry

Colonial troops, known as "La Coloniale", are descended from the Marines created in 1622 by Richelieu. When they were renamed and moved from the ministry of Marine to the ministry of War in 1900 they became a specific infantry and artillery corps tasked with the defence of the French colonies. They were a mix of metropolitan French serving overseas and indigenous soldiers, with metropolitan French officers, serving under the insignia of a golden anchor.

In 1939 France would call soldiers from its empire to fight on the mainland. After the Fall of France, many colonial regiments would be disbanded, with some remaining in the Armée d'Armistice while others followed De Gaulle. With the progressive rallying and liberation of the colonies by the Aliies, their numbers would increase again. The colonial troops would continue to serve until the liberation of France, though a lot of the units would see their black African soldiers replaced by French resistance fighters.

The 43e Régiment d'Infanterie Coloniale was recreated in 1939 after its dissolution in 1919. It fought notable delaying actions in June 1940 and was kept in the Armée d'Armistice as a reserve unit in Tunisia. After the Operation Torch landings on November 19th 1942, the 3rd company of the 43e RIC was engaged against the Germans at Medjez El Bab, while the rest of the regiment was disarmed and sent back to France by the Italians in December.


Tirailleurs Marocains

The Tirailleurs Marocains were formed from auxiliary troops that had been formed in 1912 after the establishment of the French protectorate of Morocco. Their regular infantry units composed between 70 to 75% Moroccan soldiers. The various regiments would acquire some fame for their actions in the First World War and would also take part in various operations in the interwar period: the occupation of Rhenania, the Rif War and peace operations in Syria and Lebanon.

In 1940, 1er Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains fought at Gembloux and was caught in the Lille pocket, helping delay German forces from destroying the Dunkirk pocket. Reconstituted in June 1940, it would be a part of the Armée d'Armistice and fought against the Allied intervention in Syria and resisted the Allied landings during Operation Torch at Port-Lyautey. After the rearmament of the French forces in North Africa by the Allies, it would liberate Corsica in September 1943, breakthrough the Gustav Line in Italy then would join the fight in Alsace in late 1944 before taking part in the encirclement of the Black Forest and the campaign for Austria in 1945.