Army History

The French Army

The French Army is the largest section of French Armed Forces. Officially known as Armée de Terre, the French Army comprises of land army or land-based army. The French Army operates under the commandment of French government, just like the Marine Nationale, the Gendarmerie Nationale and Armée de l'Air. General Bertrand Ract-Madoux is the present Chief of Staff of French Army.

According to the figures presented in 2012, the French Army consists of 125141 military personnel and 16987 reservist personnel that make up the combined strength of 142148 personnel, excluding French Foreign Legion. After parliamentary voting suspended conscription in 1997, which became effective from the year 2001, all soldiers are currently considered professionals. Additionally 19345 civilian staff was working in alliance with Department of the Ministry of Defence.

History of French Army

The earliest permanent army to earn regular wages was set up under the rulership of the French king Charles VII. The French Revolutionary Army was in battle with the allies from 1792. While fighting the Napoleonic Wars under the command of Napoleon I, French Army occupied most of Europe. French Armed Forces consisted of 1300000 soldiers by August 1914. During World War I, French Armed Forces expanded to a size of 8300000 soldiers, among which nearly 300000 soldiers came from colonies. Around 1400000 soldiers lost their lives during the war, making it the most deadly battle in the French history. During the war, the main French generals were Ferdinand Foch, Joseph Joffre, Philippe Pétain, Franchet d'Esperey, Charles Mangin, Maurice Sarrail and Robert Nivelle.



The French Army Image

When the war began, the French Army wore the same uniform that they used during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. However, this uniform was not appropriate for the trenches and hence in 1915, this uniform was replaced with a new one where the Adrian helmet replaced the kepi. The new uniform had a bleu-horizon colored capote; the colonial soldiers wore a khaki colored uniform.

At the onset of the World War II, the French Army deployed 2240000 soldiers from Swiss border to North Sea. The soldiers were divided into 94 divisions, out of which 20 divisions were active and the rest 74 were reservists. France lost control of Algeria and Vietnam after the Algerian War in 1954-62 and First Indochina War in 1945-1954.

The French Army organized and planned the defence of the Western Europe during Cold War, even though they were not a part of the NATO military command structure. The French Army made a switch from the multi-brigade divisions to the smaller divisions of around 4 to 5 regiments/battalions each. The II Corps were placed in South Germany after 1977 that effectively created a reserve for the NATO or North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Central Army Group. The III Corps headquarters moved to Lille in 1980s and planning began for it to be used for the support of North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Northern Army Group. Five light divisions' Rapid Action Force was also meant to be used as NATO reinforcement force. A plan to create 14 reserve divisions of light infantry was formulated during late 1970s. This plan also included recreation of 109th Infantry Division. However, the plan was later considered too ambitious.