Osprey - World War II Vichy French Security Troops
Osprey's newest book on Vichy security troops is an excellent addition to the literature on WW2. In 48 pages, author Steven Cullen provides detailed descriptions of the organization, uniforms and equipment of units whose history is not all that widely known.
Cullen starts with some excellent background on French political divisions left over since the revolution; touches the religious and geographic aspects of the French political 'right' & 'left' without getting too deep into it; and has an excellent understanding of interwar French politics. This is essential to understanding what came next, yet the author doesn't bury the reader in politics - he gives us just enough to follow along.
Beginning with the fall of France in 1940, and the creation of the Vichy regime in its wake there was a bit of a 'honeymoon period' for the Vichy regime before people realized how pro-Nazi they were. The longstanding political divisions of France then came into play as regions and communities aligned themselves with one side or the other.
The bulk of the book is made up of detailed descriptions of each of the major paramilitary organizations of Vichy, with full summaries of their purpose, uniforms and equipment.
The existing national police force (the gendarmerie) continued to exist, but was considered insufficiently loyal to the new regime. The Gendarmerie is largely not dealt with for the rest of the book, which is appropriate as the author is focused on Vichy organizations.
The author is to be commended for not shying away from the unpleasant facts regarding the fascist aspects of the Vichy regime and its police forces. For example, the infamous repression of French jewish citizens, who were rounded up and shipped to death camps on the initiative of French, not German leaders. One of the sad facts (of a sad century) is that jewish citizens of Italy were more likely to escape death than jewish citizens of France. The author also does a great job comparing these organizations to their counterparts such as the Northern Irish Royal Ulster Constabulary or the Spanish Guardia Civile.
Individual chapters describe the various organizations: the Groupes Mobile de Reserve, the Paris 'Ultras', Milice, etc. Their uniforms, insignia and equipment were generally derived from pre-war French Army and police material, but with some changes to reflect their less 'republican' and much more 'fascist' character. There were some obvious nazi-ish elements to their insignia and some of their practices. Organization varied depending on the missions of the units, with some well-equipped with light vehicles such as motorcycles and cars, while others were much more lightly equipped and essentially immobile. These units were more heavily armed than traditional police organizations. In this regard, France was merely larger but not fundamentally different from many other European nations in the fascist and wartime eras.
Pros: Excellent, very accessible writing style; very good research; good balance of political, military and other content; great coverage of uniforms, equipment, and the fate of these units. Very nice color plates and maps.
Cons: None really. If it were twice as long I would have enjoyed it twice as much.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Osprey for this review sample.
Reviewed by Danny Egan
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