theme: invasion of france


As defeat begins to loom in mid-June, 1940, French soldiers began to flee over the border into Switzerland. Their stay was relatively brief, as the 30,000 or so French soldiers began to be repatriated to France in January, 1941.

(Motorbuch Verlag; Time-Life)

Franco-Polish Army, 1940

Rifleman, 4th ‘Warsaw’ Rifle Regiment, 2nd Rifle Division

During the Phoney War period Polish troops in France were provided with a motley collection fold horizon blue uniforms, 'bonnets de police’, képis and berets. Only with the formation of the 1st Grenadier and 2nd Rifle Divs. in spring 1940 did they begin to receive French 1935 khaki uniforms. Some Polish infantry received brown berets instead of the khaki 'bonnet de police’; all Poles retained their national eagle insignia, in metal, embroidery, or pressed rubber, and their own ranking. Some wore diamond-shaped French liar patches in Polish colors- e.g. dark blue with yellow piping at the upper edges for infantry - but without unit numbers. The units of the 2nd Rifle Div. wore 'bayonet’-shaped patches regimental colors. Cavalry and armor wore pennons on their collars; the 10th Mechanized Bde. wore standard French tankers’ clothing and equipment. French M1935 infantry helmets were worn with the Polish eagle painted or pinned to the front; in a few cases a proper helmet-plate was supplied.

This soldier of the 4th Rifles wears the brown beret with rubber national insignia, and the regimental collar patch repeated left of it. The patch - light green divided by dark blue - is worn on the tunic collar; there is no other decoration. Standard French field dress consists of the tunic, the 'golf’ trousers of 1938, puttees, and laced ankle boots. The 1939 cartridge pouch set is worn with Y-straps, modified 1934 knapsack with blanket roll, ANP.31 gas mask slung in a satchel on his left hip, and musette on his right: the 1935 canteen would be slung centrally on the back of the belt. He carries the 1916 Berthier rifle.

Lieutenant of Infantry, 1st Grenadier Div.

The officers wore the 'bonnet de police’ with the national eagle pinned to the front and rank stars below and to the left. The only other insignia are metal rank stars on the shoulder straps of the French greatcoat. He carries the slung gas-mask bag and is armed with a holstered M1935A automatic.

Rifleman, Independent Highland Rifle Bde.

The Highland units were intended to be equipped as the Chasseurs Alpins alongside whom they served, and received a varied collection of equipment. The helmet has a painted eagle insignia; normal cloth headgear was a khaki beret. The jacket is the windproof canvas 'motorcycle jacket’; like the slightly different 'armored car jacket’ it was in great demand for its warmth in this campaign, and is worn over the tunic. The traditional cape of the Polish Highland units is represented by a French artillery cape. The 'golf’ trousers and puttees are worn with over-socks. The leather equipment is the old 1915 pattern, although the rifle is the new MAS.36; the usual gas-mask bag is slung behind the hip.

(Richard Hook and Steven Zaloga)

German infantry advance during the initial push of August, 1914. The German war plan hoped for a knock out punch through Belgium, bypassing the direct route into France. The exacting timetables of the invasion plan soon met the realities of war, first with the stout Belgian resistance, and then the fighting retreat of the British following their delaying action at Mons. The German attack would be stopped at the Marne in early September, and further combat would stagnate into trench warfare, with the opposing lines extending out to the sea in a futile attempt to turn the flank.


A forlorn looking 4.7 cm Pak (f) anti tank fun stands impotently over a part of Omaha beach as US invasion forces stream ashore. This weapon was one of a number captured from the French army in 1940 and put to use by the Germans on the Atlantic Wall. It was an effective weapon in 1940 but was obsolete in 1944. However it would have been able to penetrate the hulls of landing craft with ease.

This one may not have been used on the day and in any case failed to prevent the landings that are happening all around it. Its breech is covered by what appears to be a German army greatcoat.

A pair of US Corps of Engineers Caterpillar D7 bulldozers can be seen on the beach as a Rhino Ferry unloads its cargo. A LCM on the left can be seen heading away from the beach.

In the background is just a part of the vast armada that made up the invasion force.

© IWM (C 1512) Sergeant G “Sammy” Allard of No. 85 Squadron RAF being congratulated on his return to Lille-Seclin in France on the evening of 10 May 1940, after shooting down the second of two Heinkel He 111s claimed by him that day. Behind him, ground crew are busy refuelling and rearming his Hawker Hurricane Mark I, N2319 ‘VY-P’.