Wednesday, 22 February 2017

France 1942 - Imperial Fortnight

The purpose of propaganda was to promote a cause, often political, by the use of biased or untrue information. This technique, by its very nature, was the perfect tool for use during times of war.

In 1942 the Vichy government in France used the propaganda tool in an attempt to foster support for the empire, the control of which had been on the decline since the armistice with Germany in 1940. This came in the form of the "Imperial Fortnight", which took place between 15-31 May. 
" the depths of her tragic misfortune, France turns to her Empire, looking for comfort and consolation, and most of all for a reason to be proud and to believe in the nation." (Blanchard, 2013, p308)
The primary aims of the Imperial Fortnight were to highlight the important part the colonies would play in the rebuilding of France. Indeed, Marshal Petain illustrates this in a brochure put out by the Secretary General of Information and Propaganda, which emphasized that it was thanks to the colonies that... 
"...the wounded homeland was able to regrow." (Blanchard)
Further, the Fortnight urged young people to consider living in the colonies to strengthen industry and to build relations with those outside mother France.

In order to spread the word during the Imperial Fortnight stands were set up in cities illustrating the value of retaining the colonies. In fact, France had used this form of propaganda before in colonial fairs. In these fairs people were actually brought to France from the colonies. They were then placed on display behind roped-off areas performing so-called everyday activities to...
"...create the atmosphere of a "real" native village." (Ginio, 2006, p18)
An Imperial Fortnight propaganda train also toured the country, packed with brochures, images, and other information illustrating what life was like in the wonderful colonies. 

While researching this topic I was also surprised and horrified to discover that propaganda stalls were set up in various prisoners of war camps detaining French soldiers!


On 18 May 1942 the Vichy government had a semi-postal stamp issued specifically for the Imperial Fortnight. The 8f 50 surcharge went straight to the Fortnight Commitee. This stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon.

This stamp design juxtaposes the simple colonial life with the benefits of industry, which is looming on the horizon. The mother and child in the foreground has been beautifully engraved. One almost wonders if the child, gazing at the approaching industry, is afraid for what their future may hold. An interesting stamp despite the blatant propaganda.

Until next time...



Blanchard, P., (2013), Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution, Indiana University Press.

Ginio, R., (2006), French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa, University of Nebraska Press.

Monday, 20 February 2017

France 1951 - Textile Exhibition

The heart of the textile industry in France was in the region of Lille. So what better place to host the 1951 International Textile Exhibition. The Exhibition was held at the Grand Palais de la Foire de Lille. This building was constructed in 1932. It was actually damaged quite badly during WWII, so the opportunity was taken to repair and renovate the building for the Exhibition.

The Exhibition opened on 28 April 1951 and it truly was an international affair with the textile industries of some 22 countries represented. The visitor could peruse textile exhibits from countries including Germany, Belgium, South Africa, Pakistan, Japan, New Zealand and Australia to name just a few. Each day boasted a different theme focusing on a particular material such as silk, nylon, rayon,wool, cotton and many others.

Perhaps the primary purpose of the Exhibition was to allow participating countries to present their own production methods, and the types of machinery and materials they utilized. For instance, Japan demonstrated how they manufacture cotton and rayon garments in a simple and cost-effective manner.

The Exhibition ran for three weeks, concluding on 20 May 1951. Judging by the number of visitors to the Grand Palais, it was a smashing success. It is said that over 1.5 million visitors attended the Expo from France and across the world.


On 7 April 1951 France issued a stamp to celebrate the International Textile Exhibition of 1951 in Lille. The stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.

This lovely design depicts a pair of hands proudly holding a weaving shuttle for us to admire. In the background we see the shuttle at home with numerous others of its kind in a weaving loom. So just what is a shuttle? Something used for flying into space? Well, not in this instance. A shuttle is basically a tool that is used in the process of weaving yarn called the "weft" horizontally through vertical strands of yarn called the "warp". See the image below. The title of the stamp has been written in such a way as to suggest that it has been woven from the thread stored within the shuttle. Very artistic!


While researching this subject I came across another rather cool stamp, presumably issued for the Exhibition as a label of some sort. It also features a shuttle. And I have been informed that this label was actually engraved by Pierre Gandon, one of my other primary collecting interests (thanks for the information, Adrian). You may like to check out my Pierre Gandon blog. Click HERE

Until next time...

Saturday, 11 February 2017

France 1956 - Colonel Driant

Émile Driant, born 11 September 1855, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the French army, a politician, and he was also a novelist. Quite an interesting combination. Especially the fact that he was a novelist, which I will discuss a bit later.

Driant was groomed for a military life from a young age. In 1877 he graduated from the Saint-Cyr military academy as an Army officer in the infantry. In 1886 he went to North Africa to join  the 4th Regiment of Zouaves. He was also promoted to the rank of Captain at this time. A successful military career seemed certain. In 1888 Driant married the daughter of nationalist General Boulanger. A decision which would come back to haunt him several years later. Between 1892–1896 he worked as an instructor at the Saint-Cyr military academy, the same academy from which he himself graduated, In 1899 he was given command of the 1st Battalion of Chasseurs. He held this position until 1905.

It was in 1906 that his decision to marry the daughter of nationalist General Boulangera caused him career problems. It seems due to this inappropriate connection he was banned from further promotion, so he resigned his commission in the army. Driant now turned to journalism and politics. It turns out he was well suited to politics. In 1910 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a representative of Nancy. Whilst in this role he dedicated his time to strengthening France's defences.

Then in 1914 after the outbreak of WWI he was pressed back into military service.  He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of two infantry battalions, the 56th and 59th chasseurs reservists battalions.

Even during this time he maintained his seat in the Chamber of Deputies, and with that his continued political stance of strengthening France's defences. In December 1915 he came into conflict with Marshal Joseph Joffre, the General in command of Western Front forces. Joffre ordered the removal of a substantial portion of the artillery and infantry from the fortifications at Verdun and Toul to strengthen over areas in the Western Front. Driant was vehemently opposed to this action. He believed this was a huge mistake and would lead to disaster. In what was perhaps an eerie foretelling of his own fate, Driant was, sadly, correct.

On 21 February 1916, German forces mounted an assault against the French in the Verdun sector. With 1200 men by his side Driant fought valiantly against the German onslaught for nearly two full days. Only when the situation was totally hopeless did he order a withdrawal of French troops. It was during this withdrawal that Driant lost his life. He was the first high-ranked casualty of the Battle of Verdun, and he was hailed as a hero among the French. And the efforts of he and his troops are commemorated every year on 21 February.

Driant was not only a soldier and politician. He also fancied himself as wordsmith. In 1888 under the pseudonym "Capitaine Danrit" he penned his first novel. The book comprised three "imaginery war" stories. In the stories the French win a series of sweeping victories over the Germans. He also wrote another epic tale of some 1200 pages, called "The Fatal War: France-England" in which the French won a great victory against the British.


On 21 February 1956, France issued a stamp commemorating Colonel Émile Driant. The stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.

This excellent composition reveals a brave and idealistic man. We may perhaps even see a hint of his artistic inclinations in his pensive gaze. In the background we see the stark reality of war represented by fortifications - presumably those at Verdun - and the skeletal trees reaching with vain hope toward the sky.

A marvellous stamp! And I'll also give this one extra credit for the superbly engraved moustache!

Until next time...