Late(r) war French?

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Viso
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Viso »

A bit tangential to the original post, but I'm building a French SAS unit. There were 5 different SAS squadrons, 2 British, 2 French, and 1 Belgian. The French squadrons were divided into former Vichy and former Free French, meaning that the two probably hated each other almost as much as they hated the Germans!

And let's not forget that the C/O of one of the French squadrons was missing an arm!

Otherwise, it's basically a British SAS unit except with black berets instead of maroon (at least from June - August 1944). Lots of interesting stories of French SAS parachuting behind enemy lines into Brittany and then getting discovered by the Germans when the soldiers began frequenting local restaurants.

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Emilio
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Emilio »

I found more info!!

I found in a folder several photocopies from an old Steel Masters magazine. It shows the Zouaves Portes organization. The Zouaves Portes Regiment was the armoured infantry regiment of the 1st French Armoured Divison. Squad composition is as follow (copied directly from the magazine):


Composition theoriques des groupes et equipages:

- Groupe (squad) de mitralleurs-voltigeurs.
Sous-officier chef de groupe fusil
Caporal adjoint indigene fusil
Tireur mitrallause de .30 & PA
Chargeur indigene fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Conducteur fusil
Aide de conducteur indigene fusil
bazooka
mitrallause de .30 sur le vehicle

- Groupe de voltigeurs
Sous-officier chef de groupe indigene PM
Caporal adjoint fusil
Voltigeur PM
Voltigeur PM
Voltigeur fusil
Voltigeur indigene PM
Voltigeur indigene fusil
Voltigeur indigene fusil
Conducteur fusil
bazooka
mitrallause de .30 sur le vehicle

- Groupe antichar
Sous-officier chef de groupe fusil
Caporal pointeur fusil
Chargeur mitrallause de .30 & PA
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Voltigeur-revitailleur PM
Voltigeur-revitailleur indigene fusil
Voltigeur-revitailleur indigene fusil
Conducteur fusil
Aide conducteur indigene fusil
canon de 57 antichar
bazooka
mitralleuse de .50 sur le vehicle
mitralleuse de .30 sur le vehicle

- Groupe de mortier
Sous officier chef de groupe fusil
Tireur mortier de 60 mm & PA
Artificier mitralleuse de .30 & PA
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Conducteur fusil
Aide conducteur indigene fusil
bazooka
mitralleuse de .30 sur le vehicle



Sadly, it don´t shows de paltoon HQ. This is "section de combat", that is, a platoon. See that the groupe de mitralleuses is show only one time. There are two in the platoon, for a total of five groupes and five halftracks. The HQ, at least in the 2nd armoured companies, travels with the mortair group. I think that the chargeur in the groupe antichar and the artificier in the groupe mortier man the vehicle MG´s. In theory, the squad had only two MG´s for dismounted combat. I think that this weapon is the water cooled one.

Opinions?

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Arlequín
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Arlequín »

That is actually very informative on a lot of levels.

Firstly I have found that sometimes officers were held on the 'company strength' and not that of the platoon, so they do not always appear. So the platoon HQ might be simply an officer, or senior NCO, with or without a 'servant'/orderly.

Sous-officer is a very vague term for anyone over the rank of corporal, but who is not an officer. Typically very senior NCOs would be mentioned by their rank, e.g. 'marechal de logis chef', but everyone else was a 'sous-officer'.

'Indigene' is a non-white/non-European soldier, you will note they are not allowed/trained to shoot the support weapons. This was standard practice in most colonial units in most colonial forces. Drivers (conducteurs) are also non-indigenes, but where they have an assistant, he is.

PM is 'pistolet mitrailleuse' - SMG and PA 'pistolet automatique'. Anyone with 'PA' is a machine gunner here, or is firing/carrying the mortar. Fusil is obviously 'rifle'.

Bazookas are carried in each vehicle, but no crew is allocated for them. I would not like to say that the indigenes were not trained to use them, but given their roles elsewhere in the platoon I imagine they were not. I have a suspicion that if a Bazooka was needed, the driver and his assistant had that job. I vaguely recall that being the deal in U.S. units (correct me if I am wrong please).

I would be surprised if the machine guns were water-cooled, as this is supposed to be a tactically flexible unit. Fifty kilos or so of machine gun does not really sit well with that role. It is more likely that they were M1919 with the 'light tripod', weighing in at 14 kilos. I am surprised at how many 'pourvoyeurs' there are, that is a lot of ammo being carried!

So we have two machine gun squads, whose personnel are dedicated solely to keeping it firing and fed with ammunition. There are enough guys to move it quickly where it needs to be. The weapon is the one mounted on the vehicle, so it is either on that, or dismounted with the team. I am fairly certain that the 'Caporal adjoint' (assistant) was there to keep the pourvoyeurs moving, while the squad leader directed the gunner to his targets.

The voltigeurs have the only non-European 'sous-officer'. The squad is split half and half with rifles and SMGs, so I think there's no doubt that this is the 'manoeuvre group'. This is where I would expect to find the platoon leader!

The anti-tank squad has its squad leader picking targets, with a corporal-gunner, but I am confused as to why the loader is termed a 'machine gun loader', unless he is supposed to be a chargeur/mitrailleur, in which case he's the vehicle .30 machine gunner when they are on the move. 'Ravitilleurs' are the guys humping shells for the gun from the half-track. I would think that the corporal-gunner was also the man trained for the vehicle .50, although that's a guess.

The mortar squad has an 'artificier', who is an 'armourer' as I understand it. He is the one who chooses the rounds, sets the fuses and drops the round down the tube. From this he also seems to be the man who crews the vehicle .30. Once again the squad leader gives the orders (probably carries the sights too) and the gunner and artificer carry the tube, bipod and baseplate. Two ravitilleurs for the ammunition seems a bit light considering there are so many for the machine guns, but I imagine the mortar would not be too far away from the half-track.

So potentially a lot of fire-power here, but you cannot use it all at the same time, it's an either/or in terms of the AT Gun or .50, or the mortar and it's vehicle's .30. I believe each .50 would have a tripod in the vehicle, so it could probably be dismounted for use instead of using the AT gun.

Well that's my take on the information, based on a little knowledge (which I admit is both dangerous and open to error). ;)

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Emilio
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Emilio »

Very good Jim!!

A couple of questions (or more).

The platoon HQ at least in the 9th company TCHAD regiment had an officer (a leutenant or sous leutenant) and an adjudant (sous officier, a sergeant chef may be), plus a number of soldiers I don´t know.
I have somewhere the info on who used the bazooka in a halftrack crew, and I think that it was not the driver.
I said that the MG was water cooled because in the article there is a pic of a water cooled MG from that unit. Educated guess...
The two men listed as machine gunners, I believe that man the vehicles MG in mounted action. Curiosly, in Capitain Dronne memories, he says that the vehicle MG was manned by a sergeant or a caporal.

Well, very interesting, indeed.

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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Morgan »

Lots of information, gentlemen. Thank you!
Use the Consolidated Arsenal! It's here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... E/htmlview

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pedivere
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by pedivere »

not very divergent from what was said before, here is my take on it (and THX again for this interesting piece of information):
In general I would say that this is not far from how dragons portes were organized in french motorized/mechanized infantry units, all adapted to vehicle carrying capacity (of which the french used to have a wide variety). What is obvious is the upgunning to the 60mm US mortar (well known by the french and originally a company asset), as well as the AT gun, the hand-down from the company level. Two LMG used to be standard per vehicle, as well as the grouping of the mortar squad (composed from the former VB grenadiers) with the HQ squad. I am missing the messenger motorbiker or radioman and the command asset, again obviously these are the three empty seats in the mortar halftrack (as well as the one in the voltigeur halftrack). Is there a possibility that the mortar was shooting from the halftrack?

Composition theoriques des groupes et equipages:

- Groupe (squad) de mitralleurs-voltigeurs.
Sous-officier chef de groupe fusil
Caporal adjoint indigene fusil
Tireur (fires the dismounted MMG) mitrallause de .30 & PA
Chargeur indigene (MMG loader) fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Porvoyeur indigene fusil
Conducteur (driver, fires the vehicle MMG in support situations when the infantry has dismounted) fusil
Aide de conducteur indigene fusil
bazooka (I would asssume the squad leader and assistant were trained to handle the bazooka, the vehicle crew was not supposed to dismount)
mitrallause de .30 sur le vehicle

- Groupe de voltigeurs
Sous-officier chef de groupe indigene PM
Caporal adjoint fusil
Voltigeur PM
Voltigeur PM
Voltigeur fusil
Voltigeur indigene PM
Voltigeur indigene fusil
Voltigeur indigene fusil
Conducteur fusil
bazooka
mitrallause de .30 sur le vehicle
(same as above with the MMG support role and the bazooka)

- Groupe antichar
Sous-officier chef de groupe fusil
Caporal pointeur fusil
Chargeur mitrallause de .30 & PA
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Voltigeur-revitailleur PM
Voltigeur-revitailleur indigene fusil
Voltigeur-revitailleur indigene fusil
Conducteur fusil
Aide conducteur indigene fusil
canon de 57 antichar
bazooka
mitralleuse de .50 sur le vehicle
mitralleuse de .30 sur le vehicle
(not clear to me why the gun loader is also a MMG firer, probably a secondary or tertiary role, probably the 50 cal is meant to provide light AT support on the move, fired by the gun crew)

- Groupe de mortier
Sous officier chef de groupe fusil
Tireur mortier de 60 mm & PA
Artificier mitralleuse de .30 & PA
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Pourvoyeur indigene fusil
Conducteur fusil
Aide conducteur indigene fusil
bazooka
mitralleuse de .30 sur le vehicle
(same as above with the MMG support role)

the vehicle mounted MMG could well have been the watercooled version, but not the mobile one, as said before
I would not exclude that the command group had a liaison vehicle of their own (jeep?), to facilitate mobility and recon duties, probably with one of the MG borrowed

I personally do not see a very big difference from the US armoured platoon (neither tactically nor organizational), and I am also not very keen to game those as a unit, since they would look basically american with badges. Marking the french would unnecessarily restrict the gaming to certain scenarios, but I am not into US equipment anyway.
I have seen one prolific BA gamer who has started doing a french "army" with US equipment though, might switch my mood.
The goumiers are interesting as a collection theme, and the four Artizan packs are easily extendable with Empress and Northstar moros in djellaba and possibly headswap. It is very probable that moro veterans from the SCW were enrolled in theses units, since the regulares were usually recruited from the french protectorate. Same as with the republicans fighting in the legion units.
From a collector perspective, a unit of moroccan irregulars provides far more opportunities for gaming - colonial engagements with France, Rif War, SCW and WW2, provided one does the appropriate headswaps.

Still, the above organization is a very useful tool for approximating free french/ fighting french units in Northafrica earlier.

As to the "marocchinate" - truly an important historical fact of awareness, but hardly a wargaming theme, same as the countless atrocities comitted by german nazis or soviet soldiers under orders - this is war we are gaming, and it is important to be informed. But I do not see the war crime context keeping any "german elite unit" collectors from gaming them....

Last but not least: the regrouped free french division in Italy appears to have been still outfitted with british material, so quite probably there is some continuity in appearance from the NA theatre, right?
So I might have opportunities to fight a bit in Italy too...

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Emilio
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Emilio »

Pedivere, the mortar was not shot from the halftrack.

In fact is different from US armoured infantry platoons, because these ones had two riflemen squads and one MG squad with two weapons. So the use must be different. In the 9th company at least, the number of .50 MG was not the same in all platoons. One platoon had two .50 MG equiped halftracks. Most times these were used from the vehicle, as fire support for the dismounted squad.
There were not integral liason vehicles in the platoons. There were a jeep for each company commander, and several Dodges. The 9th used a couple of captured cars for liason.

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Arlequín
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Arlequín »

I have no answers to those questions and to try would be pure guesswork. If the BZP were in the 1st Armoured and the RMT in the 2nd, there could well be discrepancies and differences in equipment, depending on when that equipment was issued and when the unit was formed.

Additional .50 machine guns would not be difficult to source though. While they were not exactly lying around, a wrecked truck or other vehicle would have theirs removed and would be redeployed as desired.

Certainly The list Emilio provided is quite detailed and provides all the weapons for the platoon and the jobs of the personnel, so there is no reason to suspect anything is missing.

I found this video: http://www.ecpad.fr/les-gars-de-leclerc/

Noteworthy is that not one M1 Garand features, the 'fusils' are all M1 Carbines and there is a M3 Grease Gun and even a MP40! All the .30s that feature are air-cooled too.

A search for 2e Division Blindee on ECPAD produced these files: http://www.ecpad.fr/?s=2e+division+blin ... &x=16&y=26

The photos are a mix with about half in each being useful, but well worth a look all the same. There is also a video of the arrival of French units in Paris... and at one point them coming under fire: http://archives.ecpad.fr/tag/fonds/

I also found this description of the methods of the BZP on Wikipedia of all places: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/1re_divis ... _.28BZP.29

Colonel Anderhuber described them as;

"Everyone knows these (M)5 half-track, front wheels, caterpillars in the back. Armament variable, machine gun, mortar or 57 anti-tank gun. So how does it work in combat? Well, it works in close symbiosis between the tanks and sections of Zouaves, with varying configurations depending on the circumstances. The increase was effected by alternating tanks and half-tracks. Often a HT carried forward to scout, but a tank was always close to support if possible. Once contact was made, the Zouaves were dismounting with their machine guns, heavy to handle, and destroying the resistance with tank fire support".

From that description it does sound like the BZP's weapons were water-cooled, while the photos of the RMT show air-cooled .30s all over.

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Emilio
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Emilio »

Jim, following Dronne´s memories, these are the weapons that 9th company theorically had (in spanish, sorry):

Armamento de los vehículos:
- 5 ametralladoras pesadas del 50
- 17 ametralladoras ligeras del 30
Otro armamento:
- 3 cañones anticarros de 57 mm.
- 3 morteros de 60
- 6 ametralladoras del 30
- 13 rocket-guns (bazookas)
- 60 fusiles automáticos (M1 Garand)
- 70 carabinas
- 25 metralletas Thomson (sic)
- 15 pistolas automáticas
- 14 lanzagranadas
- 3 lanza cabos

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Seret
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Re: Late(r) war French?

Post by Seret »

Arlequín wrote: Additional .50 machine guns would not be difficult to source though. While they were not exactly lying around, a wrecked truck or other vehicle would have theirs removed and would be redeployed as desired.
Indeed, extra .50cals were quite common. Often taken from wrecked tanks, adding them (and .30cals) to Bren gun carriers was popular. Belt fed MGs were rarely discarded, they'd be put to use even if it meant welding them to something.

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