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1st Zouave Regiment - August 1914

Here is my very favorite uniform display from my collection. This uniform is extremely rare, both in terms of the fact that there were only four Zouave Regiments in the French Army in August of 1914 when the war started, but it is rarer still in that four key pieces out of five that are included in this uniform were retained together for all of these years! The cap (chechia), jacket (tombo), vest (sedria) and trousers (saroul) are original and were purchased as a uniform grouping from a long time collector in France. To cap it off, I have just recently acquired the one item that was lacking, an original pre WWI French Mle 1882 woolen waste sash.

When considering the rarity of this uniform, keep in mind that the French began changing their anachronistic uniforms before the end of 1914, with the Zouave uniforms reportedly altered within three months of going to war. Taking into account the number of soldiers in each Zouave Regiment combined with the total number of replacement uniforms that would have been available within the regimental depot in August of 1914 and the total number of these uniforms cannot have numbered much more than perhaps 3500 to 4000 uniforms per Regiment. The odds of finding four original pieces of one of these uniforms certainly do not favor the collector, let alone finding the fifth piece several years later! The newly acquired Mle 1882 long woolen sash is wrapped around the waste under the equipment belt and cartridge pouches. The sash is the ONLY piece of the uniform grouping that was originally missing. It's 9' long x 15 3/4" wide. I’m stoked to have found an original to replace the repro that I made to use with the original display.

The remainder of the accouterments are original period items with the exception of the boots (I won’t ruin original boots by drilling holes in them for mannequin stands).

This is a member of the 1st Regiment of Zouaves as they appeared in 1914 in the early stages of the war.

There were four Zouave Regts. in the French Army in August of 1914, the various units being differentiated by the color of the lozenge shaped section of braid on the lower right and left side of the short jacket.

Zouaves were French troops who served in the North African Colonies. They adopted a variation of the period French uniform, but based on the native dress of the North African tribes that were found in the French colony of Algeria. The uniforms date back to the II Empire right after the Napoleonic Wars and were little changed when Europe went to war in 1914.


The first item in the grouping is the "chechia", a soft cap similar in shape to a fez, however, it was worn collapsed over to the rear or one side rather than standing upright on top of the head. This example is unmarked and was missing the original blue tassel that was attached to the small tab on the crown of the cap. The current tassel is a reproduction I made myself which is lightly tack stitched to the original tassel “stem”.


The next item in the grouping is the short waste jacket, known as a "tombo". Each of the four Zouave regiments had colored braid on the "tombo", this particular example being that of the 1st Regiment. The red color is known as "garance" in the French Army of the period. The braid on the jacket was of a different color in each of the four regiments. The "tombo" does not have buttons as it was not closed at the front. Interestingly enough, the standard practice was to wear the straps of the equipment belt, water bottle and the bread bag UNDER the "tombo" with only the pack straps being worn over the jacket.

This example of the "tambo" was first issued in 1893 and then again in 1910 and is date stamped on the linen lining. It is also unit marked to the "1st Zes", which is an abbreviation for the 1st Regiment of Zouaves.

The next item in the group is the vest, which is known as the "sedria", a sleeve-less short affair that buttons up the right side. This particular example is dated "1910" in two locations as well. The bottom most section of braid on the red piping that runs down the center of the chest has been repaired. When this was done I don't know, but it won't show either way with the long woolen sash in place.

The last item in the uniform grouping is the large, extremely baggy trousers known in French as a "saroul". These pantaloons were produced with enough material to make three normal pair of trousers! They are also "garance" in color and have dark blue braid and piping on the front and sides.

This particular example of the "saroul" is date stamped "1898", "1905", and "1911". An interesting addition to the trousers are issue stamps that indicate that these trousers saw service in both China (Boxer Rebellion?) as well as in North Africa. Zuoaves were present in the expedition to lift the siege of Peking.

The white gaiters are period examples, but did not come as a part of this uniform grouping. Period photos show Zouaves Regiments wearing both black as well as white gaiters while some of the early wartime photos show short puttees being worn by some units.


 

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Moving on to the accouterments, the basic elements of the Zouave's leather equipment were at this point in time the M1903 equipment belt, the Mle 1892 Y braces, three Mle 1888 or Mle 1905 cartridge pouches and the M1888 bayonet frog, all manufactured from flesh-side out leather and dyed black. The front two ammunition pouches are readily visible, however the leather braces are hidden by the jacket while the bayonet frog is covered by the Mle 1892 haversack or bread bag. The Mle 1877 1-liter water bottle and drinking cup are slung over the haversack.

Completing the soldiers kit are the Mle 1893 pack with the shelter half and woolen blanket strapped to the top and sides pack and topped off with the Mle 1852 mess tin. This particular soldier is carrying his requisite piece of squad equipment in the form of the collapsible water bucket strapped to the back of the pack. Just below the pack can be seen the bottom edge of the third rear cartridge pouch.
 

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In closing, here are some period photos of Zouaves that were taken shortly before the war. These are original color photos, NOT colorized black and white photos. In many of these photos, the Zouaves shown are wearing the summer issue saroul or trousers, that are made from white cotton as opposed to the red winter issue woolen trousers.
 

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I hope you have enjoyed this presentation. There is more to come, although this display is indeed a tough act to follow! ENJOY!

Warmest regards,

JPS
Your collection is just Amazing!!Some of the kits you have put together
i have never seen.I really enjoyed looking at all you have too show.
Thanks for showing your collection!!
 

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Hello 20thmg,

First of all, welcome to Gunboards! It's always nice to have new members join us. And secondly, thank you very much for your kind words and the fact that your very first post on the Boards was in response to my collection.

Yes, there are a myriad of uniforms that few folks know about relative to WWI. The longer I study and the more research I do, the more I find that I don't know or have never seen before!

This is perhaps one of the finest benefits that have come our way via the gradual development and expansion of the internet, without which more than half of my collection would still be dispersed to the far corners of the globe! Makes one stop and wonder sometimes? Truly amazing!

Thank you again and please do join us regularly on this Forum and any of the others that catch your fancy.

Warmest regards,

JPS
 

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Hi JPS,
I have some ww1 french and german kits i have put together over the years.
Not a huge collection like yours but just a few things.There just basic at the front
impressions.Would you like too see some pics.I would be happy to show them.
Thanks,
20thmg
 
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