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RAF_Louvert

French Air Service Tunic On A Budget

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Greetings All,

 

As I mentioned in Stiffy's thread about his RFC uniform I am beginning a similar winter's project of my own. As some of you know I've been assembling a small collection of original WWI medals, (the bulk of which are from France and Belgium), and I have been looking for a distinctive way to display them. The other day I hit upon how I am going to do just that. I will be recreating an example of the dark blue tunic that was worn by many of the Great War airmen who flew for France. Here is a photo of an original example of that tunic, (it is in fact George Guynemer's, sans ribbons and medals), and to the right of it is a late-WWII USMC tunic in Kersey wool that I've purchased as my starting point, (a first-rate example for the low cost of $40).

 

 

WWI_French_Air_Service_Tunic_Project_01.jpg

 

 

Since I won't be wearing this but instead am doing a static display I went for a size appropriate to a WWI airman. The tunic I purchased is a 36 long which is only slightly larger than the original tunic shown. I will be removing the red piping, adding the cuffs and appropriate rank chevrons, creating a taller collar with the Air Service flashes, and sewing up the correct arm band. I am also going to replace the USMC buttons with a set of French Foreign Legion brass. This will be in keeping as there are numerous examples of WWI French tunics sporting the buttons of the wearer's former service unit, and in fact Guynemer's has infantry buttons, (in my case I will be creating the tunic of an American volunteer who joined the Foreign Legion at the beginning of the War and shortly thereafter volunteered for the French Air Service). While it does not show well in the photo, the USMC tunic has the same oversized patch-style lower pockets and pleated breast pockets as the original making it nearly an exact match in design and cut.

 

I will keep you all posted as work progresses, and I look forward to the grande finale when I can hang the various honours and orders on the finished work.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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Got to admire you guys!..... But I can't help thinking you're all 'slightly loopy' :lol:

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I am amongst the ranks of the loopy too I think. This was my skirmishing outfit, sans the Knights Cross (couldn't risk a BB on that). Everything is repro except the helmet (steel shell only is original), boots, shirt and blouse (shirt and blouse are under the smock). The trousers are repro material but I made them myself (and busted the wife's sewing-machine in the process). The lapel-tape on the blouse was from a local heberdashery. The Knights Cross is about as authentic as a repro can be, it's a silver frame on an iron core (per the real ones) and made/assembled using actual WW2 jigs recovered after the war. I was told off, for being "a big intimidating nazi, and you'll offend our jewish members" (they didn't give a hoot actually). :grin:

 

ssgear.jpg

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Lou,

 

If you can find a USMC officer's blue tunic, you might be better off. That model doesn't have the red piping around the edges. And the lower pockets are larger, too. But you'll still have to deal with the buttons and the shape of the pocket flaps. Best of luck on your project.

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Greetings All,

 

As I mentioned in Stiffy's thread about his RFC uniform I am beginning a similar winter's project of my own. As some of you know I've been assembling a small collection of original WWI medals, (the bulk of which are from France and Belgium), and I have been looking for a distinctive way to display them. The other day I hit upon how I am going to do just that. I will be recreating an example of the dark blue tunic that was worn by many of the Great War airmen who flew for France. Here is a photo of an original example of that tunic, (it is in fact George Guynemer's, sans ribbons and medals), and to the right of it is a late-WWII USMC tunic in Kersey wool that I've purchased as my starting point, (a first-rate example for the low cost of $40).

 

 

WWI_French_Air_Service_Tunic_Project_01.jpg

 

 

Since I won't be wearing this but instead am doing a static display I went for a size appropriate to a WWI airman. The tunic I purchased is a 36 long which is only slightly larger than the original tunic shown. I will be removing the red piping, adding the cuffs and appropriate rank chevrons, creating a taller collar with the Air Service flashes, and sewing up the correct arm band. I am also going to replace the USMC buttons with a set of French Foreign Legion brass. This will be in keeping as there are numerous examples of WWI French tunics sporting the buttons of the wearer's former service unit, and in fact Guynemer's has infantry buttons, (in my case I will be creating the tunic of an American volunteer who joined the Foreign Legion at the beginning of the War and shortly thereafter volunteered for the French Air Service). While it does not show well in the photo, the USMC tunic has the same oversized patch-style lower pockets and pleated breast pockets as the original making it nearly an exact match in design and cut.

 

I will keep you all posted as work progresses, and I look forward to the grande finale when I can hang the various honours and orders on the finished work.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

 

 

Fantastic! now all we need is a german and an america.... oh and some planes!

 

Had to change pockets from square to scalloped on a uniform once, was a pain. Changing from scalloped to square should be much easier . Do you know what you're going to do with the bottom pockets? looks like th marine pockets are stitched flat against the uniform where the ww1 tunic has concertina pockets and a pleat on the front... If you could get a good match for your fabric you could add the extra cloth in. what colour where the breeches on french uniform... blue or red?

Edited by Stiffy

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.

 

WM, yes, we are a bit loopy, but in a good way. smile.gif

 

 

Siggi, outstanding repro uniform Sir! Kudos to you, and you are definitely in the ranks of "we the loopy".

 

 

NS13Jarhead, thanks for the encouragement and the advice Sir. I did look at the officer tunics for that very lack of piping you pointed out but every example I found had the smoother fabric. I choose this particular one because it has not only very large lower pockets but the Kersey wool, which looks nearly identical to the old WWI tunics I have studied on. Here is a close-up of the fabric texture:

 

WWI_French_Air_Service_Tunic_Project_02.jpg

 

 

 

Stiffy, thanks Sir, right back at you on your top-notch project, and we do need the Germans and Yanks represented next in this. You are correct about changing the pocket flaps, it will be pretty straightforward to go to a square cut. As to adding the expansion pleats to the lower pockets, that will be a bit more tedious but I've done similar work in the past on other uniforms, and matching the fabric won't be an issue. Because these are patch pockets there is a very large swatch of the exact cloth I'll need under each one which I can get to by taking back the lining, carefully cutting out the needed fabric, and replacing it with another to keep the shape of the garment intact. Once the lining is sewn back down the swap will never show.

 

BTW, you may already be aware of this source Stiffy, but here is a link to an outfitter who makes a very nice, reasonably priced Sam Browne belt in that beautiful British russet brown color:

 

International Military Antiques

 

 

OK, I'm off on the road for the day to run business calls. Later all.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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He's Knicked a Tommy Gun!...bloody pretend Jerries!! :lol:

 

Battlefield booty, Ardennes xmas of '44. :cool:

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.

 

 

BTW, you may already be aware of this source Stiffy, but here is a link to an outfitter who makes a very nice, reasonably priced Sam Browne belt in that beautiful British russet brown color:

 

International Military Antiques

 

 

 

They do look good, like the look of their lanyard and holsters too... I'll bear them in mind if i cant find anything cheaper over here. They want $70 postage though so may not be an option.

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And found your breeches! (asuming you need red not blue...)

 

Scroll down to their Red Steampunk Santa Breeches! very good match for french red officers breeches.

 

http://www.twinrosesdesigns.com/Mens%20Clothing%20for%20Sale.html

 

I'll keep an eye our for blue in case thats what you want... not up on french uniforms so dont know which you need...

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Thanks for the links Stiffy. I have not decided on the breeches yet, but red is one of the choices, as is blue, and also a bleached tan/off white with either a red or blue stripe up the side. What is interesting about the French uniforms is the variety worn by members of the same service. Lots of custom tailored outfits as well as mixing of articles from different branches of the French military.

 

BTW, there are several Sam Browne belts listed on eBay right now starting at less than 10 quid. Good luck nabbing one of them Stiffy.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

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Speaking of nabbing a bargain on eBay, I just purchased this beautiful reproduction 1916-style French pilot's badge for my tunic project.

 

WWI_French_Air_Service_Tunic_Project_03.jpg

 

It even has the correct lugs and split pin mounting. Cost: $25, which is less than half of the next closest price I have seen for these. Originals are going for about $600 to $800 when you can find them, and there is one now on eBay for the "Buy Now" price of $895. OUCH! I believe these will serve me just fine. smile.gif

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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Good Day All,

 

Thought I would give you an update on my project. The USMC tunic arrived and it is a beauty, plus the lower pockets already have the expansion pleats which saves me a lot of extra work. I also have a full set of original "Legion Etrangere" buttons on the way, and they will look like this:

 

legion_etrangere_bouton_01.jpg

 

 

As I have dug deeper into researching this outfit I've discovered that my job is going to be considerably easier than I first thought. The sheer diversity of the French Air Service uniforms that were worn allows for a whole lot of leeway when it comes to the little style features. Here are a few pictures to illustrate that point.

 

lafayette_esc_pilots_01.jpg

 

lafayette_esc_pilots_02.jpg

 

lufbery_01.jpg

 

 

Many of these uniforms had been custom made by local tailors so there was very little regularity to them. Add to that the fact that many French aviators started out in other branches of the service before transferring over, and in so doing brought items of those uniforms with them, having them "converted" for wear in the escadrilles.

 

I will post a few pictures soon once I have made some headway on the tunic.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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Another brief update on my project.

 

It took some digging but I've finally sorted out what type of trim was used on the lower sleeves for the rank chevrons on the French tunics. This photo of Georges gives a good example of what I am referring to:

 

Georges_Guynemer_1917_sm.jpg

 

The trim is called "soutache" and it is same kind of banding as that used on the officer's kepi, (also seen in the above photo). I was lucky enough to run across an eBay vendor in Amsterdam who had a spool of some vintage, French-made gold soutache in a 6.5mm width which looks to be about a perfect match. Here it is:

 

soutache_french_rank_braid.jpg

 

Since I am doing the tunic of a Sous-lieutenant there will only be a single line of trim rather than the three you see on Capitaine Guynemer's outfit.

 

Meanwhile, I have taken care of the piping on the tunic and reworked the epaulets, and am cuffing the sleeves. Also, after further research, I've figured out the correct color and purpose of the small chevrons seen on the upper sleeves of some French tunics. When worn on the upper right sleeve they denote time in combat duty, roughly nine months for each stripe, (although the formula used to calculate the actual time in a combat zone was quite complicated). When the same chevron is worn on the upper left sleeve it indicates the number of times wounded in battle. On the dark blue/black infantry uniforms the chevrons were made out of a muted yellow felt and were usually sewn to a black felt background, while on the dark artillery uniforms they were a silver color. Since "mon bravez l'aviateur" was formerly an infantryman in the Foreign Legion I will be doing the yellow version.

 

Once the buttons and soutache arrive and I have them fitted to the tunic I will post a few pictures.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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Greetings All,

 

With no flying the last few days in the current DiD campaign due to dud weather I've had some time to work on my WWI French tunic project. Here is a photo showing the new buttons, sous-lieutenant stripes on the sleeves, new cuffs with beading, and the reworked lower pockets.

WWI_French_Tunic_Project_02.jpg

 

 

And how sharp do those French aviator's wings look against that dark blue? I am now working on the wound stripes and tour of duty stripes as well as trying to come up with the proper collar flashes. Hand and Lock will make a pair in gold bullion to match the originals for about $65 and this may be the way I end up going as I have yet to find any other less-expensive option at this time. Also, I located a very nice old Sam Browne for $26 that should be arriving from England in the next few days.

 

I'll post another photo soon as things progress.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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Another quick update: I got home yesterday from work and a little envelope from France was waiting for me containing an original WWI fourragere in the colors of the Croix de Guerre, (which I snapped up a while back on eBay for five dollars including shipping). For those of you who may not know what this is, it's the braided cord worn draped across the left side of the tunic and over the shoulder, (as seen in the photo of Guynemer's kit back in my first post). The one I found has the two additional cords which denote that the wearer served in the unit during the battles in which it was cited. After a little minor repair work I now have this bit of trim looking good as new and fitted to my project.

 

As a point of interest, the imagined "aviateur Américaine" I am building this project around served with Escadrille 67 during the Battle of Verdun, along side French ace Jean Navarre. By the end of July 1916 this unit had three times been mentioned in dispatches for its actions at Verdun and was presented the "Fourragère aux couleurs du ruban de la Croix de Guerre", so I was quite happy when I ran across the actual vintage award.

 

Once the Sam Browne arrives I will post another photo showing both of the new additions.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

.

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I was interested to see the picture of Guynemer wearing a French version of the Sam Browne belt, so I googled it and found this interesting Wikipedia article which includes a picture of the man himself. (for those who know all about it, don't bother to look :grin:)

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Browne_belt

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Outstanding!... really think this would look fantastic over some red breeches..... but that is a matter of personal taste!

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TKS Gents, it is coming along. Stiffy, red pants rather like the ones shown here:

 

Esc_Amereicaine_Uniforms.jpg

 

 

I am watching two listings right now for a pair of the 1914 red officer's pants with blue stripes, (infantry not cavalry). And I might also be able to nab a neat old pair of lace-up, above the calf, aviator-style boots too. We shall see.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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This is a very interesting project indeed. May I ask, Lou, as you seem to have created a persona for your static display, which medals will be adorning the tunic and what their imagined (and real, if you'd care to share) provenance might be?

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Thanks for your comment and question Dej. This idea first started as a way to display the original WWI French and Belgian medals I currently have collected together, which are: the Legion of Honour, Chevalier's class; the Order of Leopold, Chevalier's class; the Medaille Militaire; the French Croix de Guerre with palms; and the Belgian Croix de Guerre with palm. However, the whole affair has begun to take on a life of it's own, as is often the case with my projects. As to the provenance, the medals themselves have none that I know of, which as I mentioned in another thread a while ago is one of the motivating factors in collecting these, (so they don't become ultimately lost to history). In regards to the "created" provenance surrounding this whole work, that goes something like this:

 

A 20-year-old American living in Paris at the outbreak of hosilities joins up with the French Foreign Legion, (a not unusual situation at the time), and takes part in the first major blood-lettings of the War. It is his actions during these initial months that earns him the Medaille Militaire, (a French honour reserved for enlisted men), as well as the Belgian Croix de Guerre with palm. By the early summer of 1915 he decides he's seen enough of life in the trenches and applies for a transfer to the French Air Service, which is granted due to his record and his willingness to learn to fly. After several months of training at Avord he is passed and breveted on October 1, 1915. He is assigned immediately to Escadrille 67, (eventually serving with the French ace Jean Navarre). The Champagne Offensive proves to be the young American's aerial baptism by fire, followed by Verdun, and he emerges from both alive and with the French Croix de Guerre with palms now among his awards.

 

From here on I am still filling in the bits and pieces, but he goes on and his exploits earn him both France's and Belgium's highest honours.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

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Quick update on my project.

 

The Sam Browne has not yet arrived from England, but then it is the holiday season so the post is busier than normal. In the meantime I did nab the following little beauty on eBay France from a woman who had it listed in the jewelry section:

 

cigogne_esc_pin_01.jpg

 

 

She stated that it's from the early part of the last century and is a silver-plated cigogne brooch, and she is correct as far as that goes. However it is, to be more precise, one of the many escadrille stork pins worn at that time by French pilots above the upper left pocket of their tunics. This is one of the more generic types and not specific to any given escadrille as some are. Now, if this were one of the recent museum-quality reproductions available it would sell for $60, and if it is in fact the "real deal" from the Great War it is worth considerably more than that. I have a hunch it is an original when you compare it to this picture of the replica available from the Weingarten Gallery:

 

cigogne_esc_pin_repro.jpg

 

 

I am anxiously waiting for it to arrive so I can check it over to see just which it is. Either way it was a fantastic deal and I am a bit embarrassed to say that I paid only $10 for it, including shipping.

 

I will post an updated picture of my project as soon as the belt arrives.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

.

Edited by RAF_Louvert

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All these uniform projects are just too cool. What a wonderful acquisition the Stork pin is. Let us know what you determine about it.

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