French Gendarme with Germans, c. 1940-44.

My first guess was that this photograph would be from the summer or fall of 1944, and shows a French gendarme with German prisoners. In that case the gendarme has a right to appear to be the most satisfied of a generally happy bunch who know that for them the war is over. But a close look at the varied headgear (French army helmet, French fireman's helmet, obsolete French light cavalry shako last used in 1914) makes me think these soldiers have somehow uncovered a stash of old items and are just clowning around. It was pointed out to me that a number of the Germans have identical slip-on covers on the ends of their shoulder straps, which is something they might do during a training course of some kind. In that case, this picture could date from anywhere between 1942 and 1944. It's hard for me to think of what kind of course would attract such a diverse and somewhat scruffy lot, or what the relationship with the gendarme would be.

Page by Mark Conrad, 2011.