Saturday, 15 August 2020

Musee de l'Armee, Paris

On 24th February 1670, the French king, Louis XIV founded the Hotel des Invalides as a hostel for his war veterans. The elaborate building provided accommodation, employment and medical services for destitute or disabled soldiers. Inevitably, a collection of uniforms and militaria began to accumulate as veterans passed away, leaving their often meagre possessions to the institution. The Invalides still performs this function today.

Louis XIV spared no expense on the Invalides as part of his renovation of Paris.

Grand entrance way

View into the courtyard.

15th century armour

Royal armory display

Rearing destrier

Gilt edged armour

Uniform collection from the Napoleonic War era.

S├ębastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1 May 1633 – 30 March 1707) was a French military par excellence. He was responsible for building fortifications for strategic towns, ports and cities across the country. 

High quality relief models were constructed in the 17th century so that the layout of these important fortifications could be understood by the royal court. These models were later abandoned in an attic until stumbled over. They have since been fully restored and are on display in the Vauban exhibition.

Star shaped fortresses were developed in response to the advent of artillery and musketry.

The collection has it's own webpage here:

Great War Renault FT light tank.

All the combatants started the war wearing turn of the century uniforms that were more practical for parades than actual combat.

More uniforms from 1914.

German helmets and head wear at the start of the war.

The famous Renault taxis of Paris that were pressed into service to rush troops to the Battle of the Marne in 1914.

Custom German trench armor

French and German helmets

French uniforms from 1915

The Second World War - Nazi Germany and Vichy France as partners

Nazi party member uniform

Panzer II turret. France's unexpected collapse in 1940 led to the creation of a number of myths to explain the loss. One of those myths was that Germany's Panzer forces were far superior to French and British forces, smashing through their lines like an armoured fist. This was only partly true. The majority of German Panzer forces were virtually obsolete Panzer I and IIs scouting tanks. The French and British forces were defeated because they used outdated tactics and did not react quickly enough to the rapidly changing battlefield. 

French Renault tank turret with a short barrelled 35mm cannon.

Photograph from the French surrender in 1940

The division of the spoils. Germany re-annexed Alsace and Lorraine. Paris and the coastal regions were occupied by German troops. Italy seized some of the border region in Savoy. Central France, including the Mediterranean coast was fully under the control of the Vichy government.

Renault light gun carrier.

German PAK artillery piece

The V1 Buzzbomb. Effectively the world's first cruise missile. These flying drones were launched at Britain from specially built facilities constructed in northern France.

Goliath tracked mine.

Parachute dropped Wellbike in its cannister

France suffered terribly under Allied bombing.

The Russian Front

Replica of the 'Little Boy' atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima

The inner courtyard. Not only is the Invalides is a museum, it still houses veterans.

The Invalides chapel was converted into Napoleon's tomb in 1840.

Joseph Bonaparte's tomb

Vauban's memorial

Napoleon Bonaparte's sarcophagus. The British returned Napoleon's ashes to France in 1848.
Hero of France, Marshal Ferdinand Foch.

The altar

Marshall Lyautey, governor of Morocco.

Napoleon's tomb

Napoleon Bonaparte

The chapel dome

Hotel des Invalides is in central Paris and worth several hours.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Zeppelin Museum, Meersburg, Germany

Meersburg is a beautiful small town on the shores of Lake Constance in Germany. The medieval town centre is charming and it is well worth a visit.

Looming over the walls of the old town is Meersburg castle and a baroque era palace. There is a museum in the castle and escorted tours (in German).

Whether you speak German or not, the tour is worth it.

Near to the water mill is the Zeppelin Museum, a small collection of airship related memorabilia and artifacts.

Zeppelin stein and statuette

Paul Jaray's pioneering masterpiece, the LZ120 Bodensee of 1919. Although the airship was only in German hands for less than a year, it made more than 1000 flights between Fredrichshafen and Berlin, and some voyages further afield, such as a 17 hour flight from Berlin to Stockholm. In 1921 she was seized as war reparations and transferred to Italy.

Zeppelin themed beer steins.

A marvelous model of the LZ127 Graf Zeppelin.

Crockery setting from the LZ129 

Guests on the Graf Zeppelin's record breaking round the world voyage in 1929 dined in luxury

The real genius behind the Zeppelin company was Dr Hugo Eckener. He joined the company in 1908 as a part time publicist. He soon began piloting airships (not successful in the first instance) before eventually taking a hand in every aspect of the company.

Zeppelin artifacts

The museum is only small but its collection is extensive and interesting. We would have stayed longer but we had a Zeppelin flight booked and had limited time. It is well worth checking out if you're passing by. Also, Meersburg is a good place to stay, rather than Constance, as it's a pretty location with good facilities, good hotels and dining options and close to many lakeside tourist attractions.