France invited World War I re-enactment groups from across the world to attend the 2014 Bastille Day celebrations, as Paris marks the 100th anniversary of the Great War.
Parisians and tourists alike were greeted with the surprising sight of ‘soldiers’ in vintage army uniforms from Czarist Russia, Imperial Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy and France roaming around the capital on France’s national holiday.
The base camp for these World War I re-enactors? The capital’s popular Tuileries Garden (le Jardin des Tuileries), next to the world-famous Louvre Museum.
“We are here to honour and remember the soldiers who fought in World War I”, says Bastien Lepine, who travelled to Paris from the southern French town of Albi with the re-enactment association “Histoire et Passions”.
“We put on our uniforms as soon as we arrived last night to get into the spirit. I even slept here”, says Lepine, pointing to a large white tent 20 metres away from the German encampment. “We heard them celebrating their World Cup victory” he added with a laugh, referring to the German World Cup Victory.
Michael Pfahlar, a member of a German re-enactment association Alte DSM from Karlsruhe, said he was particularly honoured to have been invited by the French presidency.
“It’s important to have contacts with French groups who share our interest in history”, says Pfahler. “We also met people from Romania and Italy… But last night we ended up talking more about football than World War I!”
In pictures: France marks WWI on Bastille Day
A man wearing a 1915 French army uniform stands near a field gun, France’s main artillery piece during the Great War. (Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24)
A re-enactor shows how to load a 1886 Lebel rifle, which was standard issue in the French military during the First World War.(Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24)
A German re-enactor wearing the traditional Prussian spike helmet talks about a military map showing the positions of French and German troops during the Great War.(Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24)
A few re-enactors came wearing civilian clothes popular at the turn of the XXe century, a period known in French as “Belle Epoque” (beautiful era.(Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24)
A re-enactor wears a 1914 French army uniform, famous for its red trousers. (Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24)
Laurent Rinderknech, a collector of 20th century US militaria, says that he was surprised to meet so many French people who were not aware that the US fought alongside France in the Great War. (Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24)
Re-enactors wearing Great War uniforms. From left to right: Czarist Russia, France, imperial Germany, Italy, Zouave (French North African troops), and Austria-Hungary. (Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24)
Date created : 2014-07-14