French Dragoons question

Hosted by Francois Gousse this discussion group is dedicated to AFV's of the First World War from all countries as well as tank development during the 1920s and 1930s.

French Dragoons question

Peter Adams
Peter Adams

September 27th, 2004, 5:41 pm #1

Me again. The guy that asked the Curassiers question.

I finally found the 'juxtapose' i was looking for. I saw a picture of French Dragoons, dismounted and manning a Hotchkiss machine gun. Perfect.

The only problem is that they don't seem to be wearing the nice shiney breast plate that the Curassiers wear. Did the dragoons ever wear such armour or was that strictly a Curassier item?

Conversely, did the Curassier ever fight dismounted in WWI and if so could they have manned a machine gun position?

I like the shiney breast plates and would like to encorporate them in my piece.
Quote
Share

Tom Sime
Tom Sime

September 27th, 2004, 11:59 pm #2

French Cuirassiers are heavy cavalry who’s name is derived from their distinctive breastplate the “cuirass”. By 1914 the only French Cavalry units wearing the Cuirass would be the Cuirassiers. Sorry to say but the Dragoons would not be dressed in cuirass, in fact I don’t recall them ever wearing a Cuirass, but they did wear a magnificent Cuirassiers style crested helmet! Due to the extensive trench-to-trench fighting in WWI Cavalry where nowhere near as effective as they had been in previous wars therefore there where times when they would be used dismounted. Cuirassiers, being heavy cavalry, are “shock troops”, therefore it would therefore seem most unlikely to me that Cuirassiers would be using machine guns as they required a "heavy horse" just to transport themselves and where not equipped with a means of transporting all the paraphernalia associated with machine guns under battle conditions.

I am basing some of this on actual conversations with a former “Scots Grey” cavalryman who participated in the “Great War” and was kind enough to share some of his experiences with me. I am by no means an expert in the cavalry of the period (but they are fascinating!)and stand ready to be corrected.

Tom

Quote
Share

Joined: March 15th, 2004, 2:16 am

September 28th, 2004, 1:03 am #3

It is likely your photo depicts a 8mm Mle 1907 St. Etienne MG, and not a Hotchkiss. The former gun was the standard MG for all French units in 1914, with the later being introduced months later.
Dragoons wore no body armour,... and that worn by the Cuirassier were covered in light brown canvas to avoid gleaming in the sun. In 1914, French Cuirassier continued to be large men, and they rode the powerful Percherons, carried the heavy sword supplimented with a revolver and carbine. (All other French cavalry carried lances, and were mounted on smaller horses.)
At the outbreak of war, there were 90 cavalry regiments;12 Cuirassier, 32 Dragoon, 21 Chasseur a' chevel, and 14 Hussar (in Metropolitan France).
A Cavalry Division was composed of 5000 sabres, with 250 officers.This included 3 horse brigades, a horse artillery groupe of 12 75mm Mle1897 field guns, an MG platoon of 2 guns,and various platoon sized sapper, telegraph, medical,and service troops. Additonally the French attached a Chasseur Groupe of 328 cyclists.
Quote
Like
Share

Tom Sime
Tom Sime

September 28th, 2004, 6:09 am #4


Very informative Emil thank you.

Could you clear up a couple of points for me?

You say “……there were 90 cavalry regiments;12 Cuirassier, 32 Dragoon, 21 Chasseur a' chevel, and 14 Hussar…” This totals 79 do you know what where the other 11 Regiments where-lancers/scouts perhaps?

“A Cavalry Division was composed of 5000 sabres, with 250 officers.This included 3 horse brigades, a horse artillery groupe of 12 75mm Mle1897 field guns, an MG platoon of 2 guns,and various platoon sized sapper, telegraph, medical,and service troops. Additonally the French attached a Chasseur Groupe of 328 cyclists.”

I interpret this as meaning that a Cavalry Division would be composed of elements from each of the various types of horse Regiments with a mix of light medium and heavy cavalry? With elements such as the horse artillery troop, MG platoon of, sapper, telegraph, medical and service troops being attached/seconded from their various specialized Regiments? Therefore the Cuirassiers would not have, or for that matter need to have, their own MG platoons?

Tom
Quote
Share

Joined: March 15th, 2004, 2:16 am

September 29th, 2004, 12:01 am #5

Tom - All your suppositions are correct, except specialist platoon elements were indeed cavalry personnel; excepting the cyclists.
The remaining regiments I did not mention were stationed in Nord Afrika( Chasseurs de'afrigue, and Spahis).
Each metropolitan regiment was composed of a HQ element, and 3 squadrons, with a total strength of 32 officers, 650 men, and 671 horses.
To build a division required 3 brigades with 2 regiments per brigade, plue the attached elements previously mentioned.
Like the German composition, each divison was mixed with light and heavy elements. However, the attached Jaeger battalion gave the German divisions a decided advantage.
(I can provide combat examples if interested.)
Quote
Like
Share

Tom Sime
Tom Sime

September 29th, 2004, 7:45 am #6


Hi Eric,

Re “The remaining regiments I did not mention were stationed in Nord Afrika ( Chasseurs de'afrigue, and Spahis). I feel such a fool, should have been on the ball on it being the very colourful “colonial” cavalry!

Re “…However, the attached Jaeger battalion gave the German divisions a decided advantage…I can provide combat examples if interested…” As a matter of fact I am rather fond of cavalry whether they be "on meat (horses) or in cans (tanks)” and I’m always interested in them regardless of their nationality. If you are inclined I’d like to know more or if it is going to result in you becoming a hunchback from leanings over a keyboard then a list of “recommended reading” or some Internet links would be a good start for me.

I must admit I really would love to sculpt some British cavalry (Scots Geys?) in 1/72nd scale in non combat posses. I’d kill for some of the old 30mm “Willie (Suren)” WW1 cavalry figures, OK I’d have to kill I probably couldn’t afford whatever outlandish price collectors are paying!
Tom
Quote
Share

Henri Despot
Henri Despot

October 5th, 2004, 3:25 pm #7

Me again. The guy that asked the Curassiers question.

I finally found the 'juxtapose' i was looking for. I saw a picture of French Dragoons, dismounted and manning a Hotchkiss machine gun. Perfect.

The only problem is that they don't seem to be wearing the nice shiney breast plate that the Curassiers wear. Did the dragoons ever wear such armour or was that strictly a Curassier item?

Conversely, did the Curassier ever fight dismounted in WWI and if so could they have manned a machine gun position?

I like the shiney breast plates and would like to encorporate them in my piece.
Cuirassiers could have been seen operating a machine gun during the war. The French realized, even before the war, that the day of the cavalry was coming to an end and trained all of their cavalry units in the skills of fighting dismounted, which included the use of heavy machine guns.

I have seen a pre-war photo of Cuirassiers operating such a machine gun and still wearing their full armour. I will try to find this picture in my library and post.

It would seem to me quite possible (although undocumented so far as I know) that in the chaos and panic in the early part of WWI that the Cuirassiers could have fought dismounted and as such manned machine gun positions.

As I said there is no documentation I know of to support this opinion but since they were trained for it and since in war anything is possible I would say it is not unreasonable that it could have happened.

I hope this helps.
Quote
Share