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24 July 2014 - Vive La Différence! French Insignes de Tradition in Indochina.

posted 15 Jul 2014, 00:49 by John Leighton   [ updated 30 Jul 2014, 19:56 ]

Vive La Différence!

French Insignes de Tradition in Indochina.

A talk for

The Orders And Medals Research Society (Hong Kong Branch)


Thursday 24th July 2014


Gerard Prime and Peter Hunt

7.30 p.m. for 8.00 p.m.

History Room, Police Officers Club, Causeway Bay


            In the bedroom, the kitchen, and on the football pitch the French do things differently, and many, including the French, would say better. It should come as no surprise then that when it comes to building esprit de corps the French military have their own unique way of displaying unit identity: the insignes de tradition. These badges, (often known a “Drago Badges” after one of their major manufacturers,) identify units from company size up to armies. They fulfil the same function in French military team building as a combination of a distinctive cap badge; a shoulder title; and a brigade, division or army flash would do for a British soldier.


Although insignies de tradition were, and are, issued in relatively large numbers, the passage of time and specific historical context makes them eminently collectable. Whilst the origin of some badges can be traced for a hundred years to their lineal unit descendants still serving in the French army today, many insignia were created for ephemeral units that only existed for a short time in specific theatres or campaigns, which gives them added collectability. But sadly, as with all collectables, rarity value also promotes a thriving trade in forgeries.


Whilst the study and collection of insignies de tradition offers an interesting sidelight on any French campaign since the First World War, the Corps Expéditionnaire Français en Extrême-Orient (CEFEO) in Indochina between 1945 and 1955 used some of the most colourful and eclectic badges as French, Foreign Legion, Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Senegalese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Lao units of all sizes sought to demonstrate their military and ethnic identity.

In this talk Peter Hunt will describe the various types of insignies de tradition and how they were supposed to be regulated; and the nature of the CEFEO that spawned so many unique designs. Gerard Prime will introduce members to part of his extensive collection of badges and discuss the thorny issues of sources, prices and forgeries.