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France: Flags used during the First World War (1914-1918)

Last modified: 2005-02-26 by
Keywords: ambulance | cross (red) | first world war | signal pennant |
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Use of signal pennants

In a series of extremely well documented books, the French historian Pierre Miquel recently analyzed the course of the operations on the French-German front from 1914 to 1918.
The lack of preparation and an obsolete tactic, aggravated by the lack of clue of the generals and politicians, caused the sheeer butchery. The human loss for France only was 1,400,000, and 8,000,000 for the whole of Europe. Several French attacks had not the least chance of success since the infantry troops were sent against the German lines without any artillery preparation. Moreover, the infantry lacked signal pennants which were used at that time to signal the conquered trenches and positions. The soil and air observers, who were in a very unsufficent number and badly equiped, could not indicate precisely the targets to the artillery. In some cases, the artillery was misleadingly ordered to shoot randomly or even on the French infantry.

Ivan Sache, 11 November 2002


Ambulance flag

[Ambulance flag]by Ivan Sache

The Army Museum in Paris shows a red cross flag used by French ambulances during the 1914-1918 war (about 8,000,000 victims).
Apart from the historical context, the flag is interesting because the red cross does not have its usual proportions.

The real flag preserved in the Museum is made of 12 red equal squares stitched over the white background (as four rows of 2:4:4:2 squares, so the cross is thicker than an usual Swiss cross, made of three rows of 1:3:1 squares.

Ivan Sache, 20 August 2000

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