France, 1940, in Detail

The French Musée de l’Armée just went live with a really well done online exposition, “Comme en 40…” detailing the effort by the Republic in the early days of WWII. While the Phony War transitioned to what is still a controversial six-week campaign that knocked France out of the conflict, at least for a while, it is often soft balled among English-speaking historians as a German walkover.

Which is not entirely correct.

No matter your opinion, check out the collection. It has lots of stuff you likely have never seen before– especially if you are a fan of French colonial uniforms– and adds a serious layer to the understanding of the 1940 campaign in France, at least from the view of the French Army.

The ashes of the banner of the 86e Régiment d’Infanterie (86e RI) of the France Army, with honors dating back to Lodi in 1796, burned in the Vosage on June 19, 1940, to keep it out of German hands. 

An abandoned Berthier M92 carbine buried in the backyard of a homeowner near Dunkirk in 1940, dug up in 1944, and put back to work

An SMLE recovered from the wreck of the HMS Crested Eagle in 1970. The paddlewheel steamer was sunk off Dunkirk in 1940.

Senegalese tirailleurs with anti-tank gun 1940 France

May 13, 1940: French B1 bis tank, 14th Infantry Division

4th Regiment of Moroccan Tirailleurs in France 1940

75mm gun in the Maginot line

3e Régiment de Spahis, Moroccan cavalry, winter 1939


  • A. Landmesser

    Wasn’t a walk over? The Poles put up a far stiffer fight with fewer resources. The French Army was a bad joke that had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

    • Well, the Germans suffered 156,000 casualties in the push through France in 1940, as opposed to 51,000 in the sweep through Poland. Granted, the Soviets stabbed the Poles in the back just two weeks into the campaign and the French had the help of some exiles and the BEF, but just the basic casualty figures greatly muddy the “walkover” talk. Any military campaign in history that suffered 150K casualties in 40 days is far from being an uncontested march through a summer field.

  • The Maginot Line has avoided invasion for about 1 year, meanwhile the german’s neighbors where all invaded as soon as the war was declared.
    Worst wall ever ??? Not sure at all
    The fact is that the HQG was inefficient, not the concrete neither the crew.

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