8e Division markings


The post-war structure of the French army and the organisation of regiments within it evolved over time. The 1959 plan based on large multi-brigade tactical units was not fully achieved until 1964 and resulted in the 1st, 3rd, 7th and 8th divisions together with the specialised 11th parachute and 27th alpine divisions.

The 8th Division (HQ at Compiègne) comprised:   2e brigade mécanisée -  Saint Germain
    10e brigade mécanisée - Reims
    14e brigade mécanisée - Laon
    Eléments organiques divisionnaires

The overall structure was revised again in 1967 to create two army corps, one of which included a newly created 4th Division. The  principal of large multi-brigade divisions was still retained though, and would remain in place until the next major review of 1977. The 10th Mechanised Brigade was moved from the 8th to became part of the newly created 4th Division and was replaced in the 8th Division by the 4th Mechanised Brigade (diagram below). Some regiments within the 8th Division brigades also changed as a result of this reorganisation.

During the 1960s and 70s brigades and regiments frequently used their own symbols and emblems on vehicles which were painted under the windshield, and / or on the bumpers, and sometimes on the sides of jeeps. Symbols on the side of the jeep often indicated the Company and Squadron. The symbol for the brigades of the 8th Division was the 'lion des Flandres' in black on a coloured background as follows:

8eme division mécanisée (Compiègne) from 1967


2e brigade
mécanisée
(St Germain)


4e brigade
mécanisée
(Beauvais)


14e brigade
mécanisée
(Laon)


Elements organic
divisionaires
(Compiègne)

example needed here
- can you help?
1983
501e RCC: Rambouillet
4e RD: Olivet
RMT: Montlhéry
1e RAMa: Melun
402e BCS: St Germain
7e RCh: Arras
67e RI: Soissons
51e RI: Amiens
3e RAMa : Vernon
404e BCS: Beauvais

6e RC: Laon
16e RD: Noyon
21e RIMa: Sissonne
41e RAMa: La Fére
414e BCS: Laon


71e RG: Rouen
58e RT: Compiégne
GALDIV8: Compiégne
88e RS: Sissonne
3e RA: Caen
58e RA: Douai

These iconic symbols started to disappear from 8th Division vehicles with the introduction of the  NATO / OTAN tactical marking which would become the universal army standard. Exactly when the change began is unclear but the new system of marking started appearing on 8th Division jeeps as they came up for repainting during the latter part of the 1970s.

The extract from a photo (right) shows a 16e RD (14e Brigade) jeep at Noyon in 1972 - note the  panel painted to the right of the lion on which convoy details would have been chalked. In the clip below the work is only half finished, the sign writer has yet to add the lion and borders on the convoy panel. In those days vinyl stickers were not available, emblems were painted by hand!

 

The final extract (right) is of a 67e RI jeep taken in 1978 shows that by this time the NATO / OTAN tactical markings were being applied to jeeps as and when they were repainted. To the left of the infantry cross the numbers 4 above 67 signifying 4th company of the 67th infantry regiment.

 

A dramatic restructuring of the French army announced in 1977 resulted in the multi-brigade divisions of the 60s and 70s being replaced by smaller divisions of about four to five battalions or regiments each. By 1980 the 8th had lost its armoured status to become an Infantry Division consisting of just seven regiments and two Genie companies and the HQ relocated to Amiens. The 8th Division markings from the 1960s had finally become completely redundant and disappeared from any vehicles that they had remained on.

By now the major jeep rebuilding programme carried out by ERGM at La Maltournee had ended in 1978 and the army started trials of the jeep's replacement, the Peugeot P4, in the same year. An an order for the first P4s was placed in 1982 and with the army shrinking in size increasing numbers of jeeps were sold off at auctions organised by Domaines.  The late 70s and early 80s offered a final opportunity  to acquire jeeps with the traditional markings on them; where jeeps remained in service the earlier markings would become covered by subsequent layers of paint.

In the period up to the 1977 reorganisation  reconnaissance for the brigades was provided by jeep based infantry units as CEB (Compagnies d'éclairage de Brigade) including 106 SR and RASURA. The following 8th Division / 14th Brigade markings were uncovered during the restoration of my 106 SR. Research of the regiments suggests that it was the 21e RIMa who had 106 SR jeeps based at Laon as part of the 2eme section d'éclairage de brigade. The lion (below the windshield) and marking on the side of the jeep above the wheel arch are shown below.

 

Both the lion and the 'R' markings had been painted on the original factory finish and again after a first repaint indicating that the jeep was probably first issued to the brigade in 1971 and probably remained with them until the late 1970s. The 'R' had been partially lost when the army rubbed down the paintwork for later coats of paint and was particularly difficult to uncover and decipher.  The 'R' would I think have signified 'reconnaisance'. The jeep was rebuilt in 1971 so the markings would certainly relate to the period between  1971 and 1980 when the 21e RIMa left the 8e Division to become part of the Rapid Deployment Forces in Fréjus as part of 1977 reorganisation.

Another example of a 14th Mechanised Brigade marking on the side of a jeep can be seen below. The jeep has the same 'lion des Flandres' on yellow background on the panel below the windshield but a different marking on the side.


photo: Pat Ware

I strongly suspect that the zero on its side represents mechanized but can anyone help with this type of 8th Division side marking?

And now a final (for now) lion des Flandres puzzle. The Lion in the photo below was uncovered on the panel below the windshield during the restoration of another jeep. Ignore the blue paint that was used to cover it over with another insignia.

 

The lion appears to have been painted onto the standard army green, i.e. there was no background colour. Does this have a special significance or was it just a lazy way of painting the 4th Brigade insignia which would normally have had a green background? Again can anyone help with this?