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WW1 French General/Marshal sleeve rank stars


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A simple question: Were the sleeve stars on WW1 French General's and Marshal's horizon blue uniforms silver or gilt?  The references often say gilt but many/most portraits and colorized photos look silver. There are few photos of displays and these are tarnished so much it's hard to tell. So, which were they?

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Thanks Glenn. That's the conundrum. The regs say gilt stars but why do the paintings and the few specimens to be seen on this site and online seem to show silver stars on the horizon blue uniforms? This leads to the question whether silver stars were worn, despite regs. Are there any good museum or private collection displays of these uniforms?  Not many online. Even the few general's horizon blue uniforms in this forum are not clear because the stars have tarnished so much.

Edited by filfoster
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Can anyone supply a clear photo of a WW1 French general/marshal's horizon blue uniform with gilt sleeve stars?

I confess I can't find one online after hours of looking, including the three uniforms, one each for Petain, Foch and Joffre at the Invalides. The photos are not conclusive and look like silver to me.

The photo of Foch above, appears to be a tint and therefore, no real evidence. Painted portraits are of little help either, as a nice portrait of Foch shows silver sleeve stars but also incorrect silver tunic buttons.

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Filfoster, I suggests you to enter into : museedesetoiles. fr  if you dont read French ,with the help of a dictionary you could find some of interest there

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Bayern: Thank you. I did. I scrolled through all 66 pages of the generals and found on page 64 a 'grand tenue' with silver sleeve stars; at page 60, a 'petit tenue' with gold sleeve stars. Other examples in the first dozen pages or so were inconclusive but seemed to show silver stars on horizon blue coats.  Mon dieu!

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...so we must hope some visitor or member of this site will favor us with some further information/photos.

It was disappointing in the extreme that the official French museum of the army, generals in particular, did not have clear examples of horizon blue, WW1-era uniform specimens displayed online, save this sample of inconclusive ones:

(NOTE: See below as I discovered the text that accompanied each photo when enlarged on the site. The dates for the silver stars of 1915-1930 were found).

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Edited by filfoster
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...maybe the mystery is solved. Something changed in 1915, to or from the gilt stars. The museum of the stars link that Bayern provided, included this in the description of an horizon blue General of Division color photo, on page 59:

Note the 3 silver stars indicating the wearing of this tunic at the beginning of 1915. The central buttonholes are hidden and all the buttons are horizon blue. The tunic has two decorative reminders: Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor and 

Another exhibit mentions this about a cap:

C

his cap is of the 1915 model in horizon blue color with 2 silver stars and a third gold colored star. The General therefore wore this cap before 1915 since the color of the stars of the Generals of Arms was changed in 1915
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another exhibit picture of a 3 star Kepi, at page 40, has this which, absent further posts here from experts, settles it for me:

"Note the 3 silver stars which correspond to the period 1915-1930."

Thank you, Bayern.

Edited by filfoster
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I came across this picture of General Victor d' Urbal's horizon blue helmet cover. The stars appear very much gold to me.

Regards

Glenn

 

 

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Yes. Unknown when it was made? In the online pictures from the museum site, there were horizon blue uniforms and also helmets with some gold stars, and also with silver stars (see my posts above, eg, citing a picture at page 60).

There are also photographs of generals during the war that reference gold and silver sleeve stars. No help. 

I couldn't find a reference on the site to the specific date of the regulations which specified the silver stars, which were also used on the pre-war black generals' dolman or variuse.

Maybe I should, against hope, email the museum for clarification.

Edited by filfoster
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8 hours ago, Glenn J said:

I came across this picture of General Victor d' Urbal's horizon blue helmet cover. The stars appear very much gold to me.

Regards

Glenn

 

 

Urbal_casque.JPG

A possible reason is the following .the stars are braided in silver thread ,once aged it yellowishes .

The stars on the Pre War Generals uniforms and on Horizon Blue were ever silver .

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Hi chaps,

I can't explain any silver stars during the war on the horizon blue uniform but I can only point to the regulations that are available to me: Those from 9 December 1914 incorporating the amendments to 28 May 1915 and the post-war edition of 30 May 1919 amended to 1 May 1923. They were certainly changed to silver sometime after that.

Regards

Glenn

 

 

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Glenn: Thanks for that. The regs are what they are, but how can the museum exhibits, and the portraits painted from life all be wrong?  A tour through the 64 online 'pages' of the museum shows mostly -not all- silver stars on the sleeves and kepis and overseas hats.

I hope the Musee desetoile will respond but they haven't yet and my experience with museum responses is '0'.

My own tentative conclusion is that silver stars were often worn, in contravention of the regs, whether by personal choice or expedience (it's what the tailors had).

All this is frankly what makes this question so interesting.

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Well, a little further digging just now led me to a further conclusion! It appears from this extract from June 1916 that the December 1914 regulations stipulated gold stars  and then states that the May 1915 regulations say silver (although that is not the case as seen from the extract above). However it then goes on to say that Generals could wear either silver or gold (on campaign dress)!! From the confusing sequence below, an order of October 1915  mentioned or introduced gold stars (which were already in use from December 1914). However a further order of 20 October 1917, once again confirms the stars as gold! I think that the situation was therefore Gold from December 1914 to either May or October 1915 and then officially silver or gold (if in possession of them and only on campaign dress). Gold again from October 1917. 

Frankly, I think they probably wore what they liked!!

Best wishes

Glenn

 

 

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Grad Oct15.jpg

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Thanks!  I think I'll keep the silver stars on the replica rigs I have. I have the gilt stars too but it's a lot of work to switch them out. The loops at the end of each star point are impressed through the fabric, then sewn to a pentagonal wool backing piece, all after the sleeve lining is undone. An alternative method is even more time-consuming, working thread loops around the star tip loops on the surface of the sleeve cloth. Mon dieu!

Ironic, that the French appear to have spent even more time than the famously anally retentive Germans did on this small matter of uniform insignia!!

Edited by filfoster
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filfoster, Putting apart your commentary about Germans I want to say you that if any thinks that the Germans were an are obsessive with minor details the French were and are more Byzantines. a heritage of the times of both Napoleons and the passion for the Menus Travaux ,that were inserted in the Bureaucracy of wich the Army was no small component . A colour detail . In 1914 Philip Petain was a aged Colonel freezed for his unorthodox points of view. At the outbreak of WW1 was recalled and sent assume a High Command. he marched to the front and was ascended to General . petty problem , no stars were available .an old woman of the House were Petain was lodged solved the problem. She took the stars of the uniform of her father a retired and dead General and carefully sewn it on the sleeves of Petains vareuse

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The question of gold or silver stars and when the regs changed has plagued me for decades. Some french collectors have told me it was the generals choice while others have told me the color changed to gold post ww1.

ive seem tunics and helmets with gold stars that I felt likely were ww1 period.

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ccj:  Does it seem to you that the majority of general's uniforms, campaign dress, used the silver stars?

13 hours ago, Bayern said:

filfoster, Putting apart your commentary about Germans I want to say you that if any thinks that the Germans were an are obsessive with minor details the French were and are more Byzantines. a heritage of the times of both Napoleons and the passion for the Menus Travaux ,that were inserted in the Bureaucracy of wich the Army was no small component . A colour detail . In 1914 Philip Petain was a aged Colonel freezed for his unorthodox points of view. At the outbreak of WW1 was recalled and sent assume a High Command. he marched to the front and was ascended to General . petty problem , no stars were available .an old woman of the House were Petain was lodged solved the problem. She took the stars of the uniform of her father a retired and dead General and carefully sewn it on the sleeves of Petains vareuse

Bayern: Great story! Thank you. No offense intended for the Germans, who, after all, had fine uniforms in all periods past.

2 hours ago, ccj said:

The question of gold or silver stars and when the regs changed has plagued me for decades. Some french collectors have told me it was the generals choice while others have told me the color changed to gold post ww1.

ive seem tunics and helmets with gold stars that I felt likely were ww1 period.

Would you think that the majority of WW1 generals favored the silver sleeve stars?

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I think it’s more likely that one would encounter silver stars on generals uniforms, especially early war. I would assume available stocks were silver and many generals would have used pre-war stars or stars from their personal uniforms and possessions.

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