French M-15 Adrian of the FFI
This helmet belonged to a soldier who fought in the French Forces of the Interior, a unified resistance group that battled the German occupation and Vichy Regime during World War II. It is painted black and features the Free French Cross of Lorraine and “V” for victory on the front.
h3. Brief History of the French Resistance against the German Occupation and Vichy Regime Once the German occupation and the oppressive Vichy regime were established after the armistice France was split into zones. the conditions for those loyal to the Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres_) were grim. The eventual leader of the Free French, Gen. Charles de Gaulle, fled to London, and the resistance forces that were established in the early days of occupation were minor at best. Progress was not made until the French Communist Party and its paramilitary sect, the FTP (_Franc-Tireurs et Partisans), began disrupting the German war effort around the time Russia was invaded in June 1941.1 Soon, small resistance groups and organizations began to crop up in the occupied and "free" (Vichy) zones. Men that dodged the labor draft fled to the wilderness regions of the south and formed small bands of fugitives known as the Maquis. French patriots disrupted and harassed the Germans and the Vichy. They helped Jews, POWs, and downed Allied airmen escape the country as well as engaging in full fledged armed resistance.2 However, it was not until General de Gaulle began to establish himself as the leader of all the resistance forces and that unity formed and the Free French became a distinctive fighting unit. About the time of the Allied Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, the French armed resistance forces had grown tremendously to around 100,0003 and were soon unified under de Gaulle’s leadership. He named the organization the Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (French Forces of the Interior – FFI) and placed them under the command of Gen. Marie-Pierre Koenig. The FFI became subordinate to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and played an integral role for the Allies as they began the fight to liberate France. Finally, on August 25, 1944, Paris was free. Soon, many FFI units were placed in the regular French Army and were allowed to continue fighting with the main force well into German territory.4 On July 17, 1944, a Time article described General Eisenhower’s communiqués praise for the FFI and their actions during the Normandy campaign. The article reported that the FFI had done serious damage to Nazi communications and even “fought Nazi divisions in skirmishes and pitched battles; they were keeping ten of them tied down in the interior of France.” The communiqués went on to say this: bq. The arm of French Forces of the Interior has with its British and American comrades played its assigned role in the battle of liberation…Systematic disorganization of enemy transport by the FFI, has contributed directly to the success of Allied operations in Normandy.5
Croix de Lorraine
The Croix de Lorraine double traverse cross, also known as the Cross of Anjou or the de Gaulle Cross, was adopted by the Free French Forces in 1940 and was used as a symbol to rival the Nazi Swastika during World War II. The history of the cross began almost 500 years earlier when on January 5, 1477, the Duke of Lorraine, Rene II, defeated Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy, at the Battle of Nancy. Rene II chose the double traverse cross as a badge to help distinguish his men from Charles the Bolds’ who wore the St. Andrew’s Cross. The Battle of Nancy is an important moment in French and European history. Rene II’s victory secured French unification under King Louis XI and gave Lorraine its independence. As a result, the Cross of Lorraine became the “Lorraine National Emblem” and is seen as a symbol of freedom and unity.1
|France||World War II|
|Infantry Helmet||1915 — 1922|