by Ed Hahn
Hong Kong, China
September 18, 2005
The entire east side of the complex is devoted to the French Army. Its exhibits cover the development of the French Army through its long history up to 1871 when the Prussians captured Paris in the Franco-Prussian War. Next to Napoleon’s retreat from Russia and Hitler’s Blitzkrieg it is one of the worst defeats the French have ever endured. The collections include arms and armor from the middle ages, small arms and rifle developments from the first use of gunpowder in the 16th century, the political and military history of France, medals and emblems, battlefield painting and early battlefield photography, artillery through the ages and a huge display of uniforms from different periods of French History.
The Museum of Relief Maps is on the fifth floor of the east wing. It features superb scale models of French strongholds from 1668 to 1870 including Mont Ste Michelle and a dozen others. These scale-models of fortified sites provided an accurate representation of towns and the surrounding countryside within artillery range. Thus they made it possible to plan changes to military fortifications or to simulate sieges. I spend far too much time here but it is a fascinating exhibit.
The West side has exhibits covering both World Wars. I want to see the WW I covering the Allied campaigns on the Western Front, which ravaged the French countryside but I get confused and end up in the WW II exhibit. It has been re-furbished recently and is very well done. My only complaint is all the attention given to Charles DeGaulle. I never do get to the WW I exhibit, giving me another excuse to return to Paris. In the Northwest corner there is an expanded and very large collection of medieval armor and weapons, which I also pass on seeing.
To be honest, my energy is flagging badly so I head for the museum restaurant and beers and baguettes. The restaurant is very roomy and the food is a step above most museum food, I’ve had elsewhere. Tom soon joins me, and we take a well-deserved break.
The museum is closed on the first Monday of the month. The entire Les Invalides complex ticket costs about 10 euros but you’re better off purchasing a Museum and Monuments Pass. Photography is allowed.
From journal Ah, Paris!!!