Friday, August 7, 2015
The Brown Basque Beret of the Maginot Line
The Maginot Line was a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles, and weapons installations that France constructed just before the border with Switzerland and the borders with Germany and Luxembourg during the 1930s.
The Line did not extend through to the English Channel because the French military did not want to compromise Belgium's neutrality. The line was a response to France's experience in World War I and was constructed during the run-up to World War II.
French military experts extolled the Maginot Line as a work of genius, believing it would prevent any further invasions from the east.
While the fortification system did prevent a direct attack, it was strategically ineffective, as the Germans invaded through Belgium, going around the Maginot Line. The German army came through the Ardennes forest and the Low Countries, completely sweeping by the line, causing the French army to surrender and conquering France in about six weeks.
The Maginot Line was impervious to most forms of attack (including aerial bombings and tank fire), and had state-of-the-art living conditions for garrisoned troops, air conditioning, comfortable eating areas and underground railways. However, it proved costly to maintain and subsequently led to parts of the French Armed Forces being underfunded and not provided with the troops, equipment and communications needed for the war.
More interesting for boineros and beret aficionados is that the beret worn by the Maginot troops was typically a Basque beret (with the cabiliou in place) in the brown of the Fortification Troops.