Home Forums WWI Alternate late war French platoon organisation

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #196544
    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    So everything I’ve been able to find, including a translation of a French field manual, suggests that the late war French platoon is along the lines of one automatic rifle squad, one bombing squad and two “voltigeur” squads with rifles, grenades and rifle grenades.

    All except one US war time document (which I unfortunately can’t find again) which suggested that instead a French organisation was used which had automatic rifle squad, a combined bombing and rifle grenade squad and two rifle squads.

    Now I am aware that all manner of things may be the case (divisions organising things differently, misunderstanding, the particular alignment of Saturn at the time of typing)

    Does this ring a bell for anyone?

    Avatar photoMartinR

    Both are potentially correct, depending on the mission and available manpower. The 1918 British Army in theory had a similar organisation,  but in fact the section and platoon groupings were at the discretion of the company commander,  although they would try and keep some consistency to maintain cohesion. JC Dunn in “The War the Infantry Knew” describes companies operating with a strength of 20 men during the 100 days, so obviously the standard orgs went out of the window.

    The first French organisation is the one I’ve most commonly seen, but maybe keep the second as an option?

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoPatrice

    If I’m not mistaken the platoon you describe first is from mid-1916. I believe in late 1917 the number of fusils-mitrailleurs and lance-grenades increased. At the end everyone was very probably trained to use any of these infantry weapons if needed and available.

    Also, in any time in modern history the French tendancy to not apply regulations has often been as strong as the will of the French administration to write more regulations 😉 and there certainly was a large ammount of “système D” (that means people must “se débrouiller” or in slang “se démerder”) and of the fictional “article 22” (a favourite of my grandfather) “Article 22: on se démerde comme on peut”.



    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    My source for the following is the “Manuel du Chef de Section d’Infanterie” (Infantry platoon commander’s manual), Edition de Janvier 1918, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris.

    You can read the thing yourself at https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6556416w.texteImage

    Organization of a French rifle platoon, 1918:

    Chef de Section
    Sergent serre-files

    1re demi-section de combat
    ___1 Sergent chef de demi-section
    ___1re escouade
    ______1 Caporal grenadier-voltigeur
    ______6-8 grenadiers-voltigeurs (2 throwers)
    ___2e escouade
    ______1 Caporal fusilier
    ______1-2 fusiliers-tireurs
    ______2 pourvoyeurs
    ______3-4 grenadiers VB
    2e demi-section de combat
    ___1 Sergent chef de demi-section
    ___3e escouade
    ______1 Caporal fusilier
    ______1 fusilier-tireur
    ______2-4 pourvoyeurs
    ______3 grenadiers VB
    ___4e escouade
    ______1 Caporal grenadier-voltigeur
    ______6-8 grenadiers-voltigeurs (2 throwers)

    The minimum number of men is supposed to be one corporal and six men per squad. Adding the sergeants leading the demi-sections and the file-closer sergeant (sergent serre-files) gives a total of 31 men under the platoon commander (chef de section). Additional to this supposed minimum are two men per squad, shown above by the range of possible numbers for a troop type, e.g. 6-8 grenadiers-voltigeurs. There would also be additional “hors rang” men from the company (tradesmen, runners, pigeon-handlers, musicians, cooks and so on) who would be shared out among the rifle platoons, at full strength maybe 9 or 10 additional blokes per platoon. So, even before we have people fiddling with the official guidance, the platoon could be anywhere from about 30 to about 50 strong.

    There were allocated 16 VB launchers, 16 self-loading rifles (FA 17), and 8 FMs per rifle company.

    That gives an allocation of 4 VB grenade launchers, 4 self-loading rifles, and 2 FMs (Fusils-Mitrailleurs, the CSRG or “Chauchat”) per platoon (section). The manual confirms the numbers for the FMs and VB launchers.

    All the best,


Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.