“Poilu” (“hairy one”), the nickname for a French army infantryman, dates back to Napoleonic times, but it is most often used to refer to a French soldier who fought during World War I. From August 1914 until November 1918, poilus bore the brunt of Allied fighting in brutal trench warfare on the Western Front. Throughout the war, they held all but about 100 miles of the 400-mile-long front line.
Yet a much grimmer benchmark revealed the true extent of the combat burden borne by poilus: Nearly 70 percent of the 8.3 million French infantrymen who served in the war became casualties. The 1.4 million of them who died constituted 25 percent of all Allied military deaths. Adding the 4.2 million who were wounded, French soldiers accounted for over 30 percent of Allied casualties during World War I.
Poilus entered the war wearing the same type of brightly colored uniforms French infantrymen had worn over four decades earlier in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War. However, their dark blue coats and bright red pants made them easily seen targets, and their wool kepis (caps) provided no protection against the torrents of bursting artillery shells that made head wounds the most common injuries of trench warfare.
This is a 2″ tall, velcro-backed patch.
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