ACTIVITIES OF THE FRENCH ARMY RE-ENACTMENT GROUP (FARG)
The French Army Re-enactment Group (FARG) was formed early in 2009 in response to a lack of representation of the French Army by re enactment groups in the UK.
The French Army has actually been one of the most successful armies in conflict in its history as a recognized unified body – but more recently in the late half of the 20th century the French have been engaged in some particularly challenging conflicts culminating with great losses in the Second World War and postwar conflicts of Algeria and Indo China.
The FARG mission is to educate and represent French military conflicts of the latter half of the 20th Century to the public. Special focus is given to the Indo-china War (1946 – 54) and the Algerian civil War (1954-62), both conflicts resulted in French casualties of over quarter of a million French Soldiers. Both conflicts were fought under extremely difficult circumstances against mainly guerilla forces, and are overshadowed by the later Vietnam War and the falling of the French Fourth Republic.
The FARG acknowledge the existence of historic antagonists e.g. the Viet Cong, FLN and laterally the OAS, but only seek to represent the French military forces in their activities – also the FARG in no way support the political views or interrogation methods used during such conflicts.
The FARG meet on a regular basis and attempt to re –enact the day to day life of the conscript or professional soldier in the field (1946 – 1960’s). The Group has a number of ex French military ‘advisors’ who have helped shape and develop an authentic representation of activities and equipment used. The FARG intend to expand its membership enabling representation at all major ‘living history’ events in the UK.
All equipment used by the members of the FARG is original and has been sourced across the UK and France. The French army uniform post WW2 was based closely on the American model, but with many interesting historical references e.g. leather webbing and quirky side arms. Webbing and uniforms are easily sourced and make this period of history interesting to collect – the greater challenge is actual equipment and side arms as these were mostly stockpiled or destroyed by the French army in recent years.
The French side arms of the military were developments of the MAS rifle – whose roots can be traced back well before the Second World War. The MAS 36 was the mainstay of the French army until the late 60’s, and its antiquated design of bolt action and ‘stick’ bayonet was only replaced when a redesign of the rifle included gas operation and grenade launching capability (MAS 44). The final incarnation of the MAS before the FAMAS ‘bullpup’ design of the 70’s was the MAS 45/56 – a carbine version, reducing the weight and adopting sophisticated bayonet and night sight systems. You should see all these weapons carried amongst the group.
Machine gun development was based on a Bren gun design the MAC 24/29 but soon moved to the NATO GPMG design, but again with the French influence (AA52).
Sub machine development was slower with the development of the MAT series, culminating in the MAT49 a very versatile and robust gun. Again there were experiments such as the fully folding Hotchkiss 9mm, and you may see some of these weapons being used in their displays.
The stalwart of the French army in the postwar period was ex-american stock especially Willys and Ford jeeps. Once these became unserviceable the French government flirted with home grown designs and constructions (e.g. the Delahaye VLR) but returned to the Willys jeep design, being manufactured in France by the Hotchkiss Car Company under licence from Willys. Other struggling French companies were supported through military contracts and we see Lorries by SIMCA and amour by PANHARD in this period. The French army also used Land Rover series and Ferret armored cars in conflict zones, although the mainstay of larger equipment was American based e.g. Sherman/ Chaffee based tank variants, GMC and Dodge support trucks. It is a well know fact that many vehicles of second world war ‘American’ origin, owe their existence to the fact they were supported/ rebuilt and maintained by the French army well into the 90’s !!
In the display here you may well see an early 60’s Hotchkiss M201, other possible jeeps variants and a larger support vehicle – SUMB or Dodge truck. This would be quite normal during the 50’s until the 80’s as was the mish mash of weaponry and mix of personal equipment/ uniforms. Only with NATO membership and a growing budget for arms we see an emergent easily identifiable ‘French’ military model.
If you are interested in this period of history, or fancy joining us – feel free to discuss this with any members of the FARG. We welcome any vehicle with a French military history, and can help source vehicles or equipment to suit any budget.
All new members are welcomed and can be given advice guidance and support to help us expand our group. If you have any particular questions please email the founder ‘Baz’
end of briefing..