Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

They Called Them Poilu

The French term for their soldiers in the Great War (the equivalent of the British "Tommy" and the American "Doughboy") was Poilu which translates as "hairy one". Nothing quite sums up that nickname like this image.

In post-WW2 America, the military abilities of the French get a bad rap, but in the Great War the poilu lived up to the reputation of their Napoleonic forbears and made "they shall not pass" (Ils ne passeront pas) a byword for a generation.


Anonymous said...

I've read that the casualty rate (ie, killed or injured) for the French soldiers in WWI was 75%--mind-boggling.

Donald R. McClarey said...

They deserved better leaders than they got among most of the French generals in World War I. Their best was probably Petain, who after World War II I am sure often regretted that he had not died during World War I.

Darwin said...

I'm coming round to the idea that WW1 generals in general get a worse rap than they deserve, but there was certainly some early war thinking on the French side that was appallingly bad -- such as that elan could somehow make frontal attacks without sufficient artillery support work.

There's probably a pretty decent case to be made for Foch, as well as Petain, as being a general who finally figured out how modern warfare really worked and how to win it.

Anonymous said...

And never forget about Papa Joffre! Joffre dismissed a great deal of those ineffective French generals early on, promoted men like Petain and Foch, and led the Allies to victory at the Marne. He was very popular with the common 'poilu,' and was so popular that he was named 'Marshal of France!'

HGL said...

Btw, some Prussian administrationS in the clearest possible plural were pretty lousy against War Prisoners from the North, or so I have heard.

Just a coincidence this was - according to this video - 40 years or so since Haeckel went "all over Germany" with his Darwin propaganda?