segunda-feira, 5 de setembro de 2011

Le pantalon rouge c'est la France!

Some weeks ago, I started to read Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. It is a very good book, and deserving his Pullitzer Prize.

Below, I highlight a passage about the colors of the French army.

Messimy having fervently stamped out Michel's heresy of the defensive, did his best, as War Minister, to equip the army to fight a successful offensive but was in his turn frustated in his most-cherished prospect - the need to reform the French uniform. The British had adopted khaki after the Boer War, and the Germans were about to make the change from Prussian blue to field-gray. But in 1912 French soldiers still wore the same blue coats, red kepi, and red trousers they had worn in 1830 when rifle fire carried only two hundred paces and when armies, fighting at these close quarters, had no need for concealment. Visiting the Balkan front in 1912, Messimy saw the advantages gained by the dull-colored Bulgarians and came home determined to make the French soldier less visible. His project to clothe him in gray-blue or gray-green raised a howl of protest. Army pride was as intransigent about about giving up its red trousers as it was about adopting heavy guns. Army prestige was once again felt to be at stake. To clothe the French soldier in some muddy, inglorious color, declared the army's champions, would be to realize the fondest hopes of Dreyfusards and Freemansons. To banish "all that is colorful, all that gives the soldier his vivid aspect", wrote the Echo de Paris, "is to go contrary both to French taste and military function." Messimy pointed out that the two might no longer be synonymous, but his opponents proved immovable. At a parliamentary hearing a former War Minister, M. Etienne, spoke for the France.
"Eliminate the red trousers?" he cried, "Never! Le pantalon rouge c'est la France!"
"That blind and imbecile attachment to the most visible of all colors," wrote Messimy afterward, "was to have cruel consequences."

Just remembering, the button's of Napoleonic uniforms are cited as one of the causes of the failure on the Russian campaign in 1812: the buttons that equipped almost every uniform on this time, had small buttons made with tin, and when the temperatures drop below 52° F, tin crumbles into powder!

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