Uniforms and equipment of today's soldiers

Let's uncover the history of the French military uniform together

Did you know that military uniforms only came into use in the 17th century? Before that, soldiers fought wearing their everyday clothes: short trousers and blouses on the battlefield … 

The French army has come a long way since then!

Soldat français de la Task Force La Fayette (Afghanistan, vers 2009) (2017)Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides

At the end of the 19th century, an invention changed the face of war: smokeless powder. Before this, there was no need to hide because the smoke from gunshots quickly turned the battlefield into a mass of fog. As a result, bright colors were replaced with camouflage.

Although the French army didn't go from a colourful uniform—worn from the end of the 17th Century to the start of World War I—to camouflage in the blink of an eye, that would have been too simple! It was a long transition from light blue, to khaki then to camouflage.

Soldat français de la Task Force La Fayette (Afghanistan, vers 2009) (2017)Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides

In France, the first camouflage outfit was a creation of … a painter! The aim? To break up the silhouette and fully blend into the surrounding landscape.

An essential part of the soldier's outfit: the helmet. To make it less visible, it was covered with a camouflage helmet cover, always matt to avoid any reflections.

Intended to protect the chest, the bullet-proof vest was always worn under the clothes. Adjustable from head to toe, with various pouches for equipment and velcro for a patch indicating the soldier's blood group. 
A vest can sometimes weigh up to 22 pounds (10 kg)! 

The insignia is a symbolic mark that shows which military organization, or family, the soldier belongs to. This is Task Force La Fayette, a French unit deployed in Afghanistan.

Soldiers must be able to survive on their own for days, which means carrying any water, supplies, and anything that they want to wear or use for shelter, along with their ammunition. The weight of a haversack is close to half the weight of an adult man. Yes, that's right …

It was really challenging to ensure that soldiers were comfortable. In the end, though, the devil is in the details. The American army added a cigarette pouch to its soldiers' uniforms, while the French army added a corkscrew to its Swiss army knives following complaints from soldiers! How French!

Soldat français de la Task Force La Fayette (Afghanistan, vers 2009) (2017)Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides

Less cumbersome than some assault rifles and with a short muzzle, this FN Minimi Para machine gun can weigh up to 9kg when loaded. 

Soldat français de la Task Force La Fayette (Afghanistan, vers 2009) (2017)Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides

In order to adapt to the terrain as best as possible at all times, soldiers outfits were designed not to rip and to resist parasites such as mosquitoes (damn critters!). Knee and elbow pads were added to improve the soldier's comfort.

Fighting a war is not just about combat. Above all, it's about staying physically fit. You have to travel on foot, sometimes covering long distances with specialist equipment. Without this, you can say hello to blisters …

As a little anecdote, military boots known as broquelins did not come into use until 1881, when they replaced the less sturdy godillots, which were named after Alexis Godillot—military supplier for the French Army—to whom we owe the differentiation between the right foot and the left foot. 

Paire de brodequins de marche modèle 1917 Vue du dessous, From the collection of: Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
,
Paire de brodequins de marche modèle 1917 Vue générale, From the collection of: Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
Show lessRead more

Until the transition to rubber in 1952, all military shoes had studded soles and heels. Not exactly the most discreet!

Credits: Story

A story written and edited by the teams of the Army Museum.
© Musée de l’Armée

 https://www.musee-armee.fr/accueil.html

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps