world wars |20th century

The department devoted to the two World Wars tells the story of the French Army from 1871 to 1945 and that of the two great conflicts of the 20th century.


The contemporary department tells the story of the French Army from 1871 to 1945, and the two great conflicts of the 20th century.

The Two World Wars, 1871 – 1945

Those rooms go over the military history of France from 1871 to 1945, and more generally that of the two great world conflicts of the 20th century. This presentation relies on a thousand objects showing the diversity of the collections : French and foreign uniforms, including some having belonged to illustrious military leaders (Foch, Joffre, de Lattre, Leclerc, etc.) objects used by soldiers in daily life, prestige pieces (marshal's batons and ceremonial swords), etc. Emblems, paintings and elements from personal archives (letters, postcards, etc.) enrich the collections, along with documentary films, photographs, maps and architectural models, which complete this dynamic and educational itinerary.

Alsace – Lorraine room

Following the defeat of 1871, the army reorganized itself, general conscription was gradually introduced and close ties were forged between the army and the nation, in spite of a few crises.

The first World War, 1914-1918

Joffre room

The visit continues with the French colonial expansion in Africa and Indo-China and the important role of the Army of Africa and the colonial army. In Europe, two alliance systems were in conflict. In August 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria sparked off a war which all belligerents believed would be short.

Poilus room

1915 - 1917, the war dragged on and the armies were stuck in the trenches. The attempts made to break through the front and win the victory failed. The heavy losses in men they led to caused crises of confidence in the armies in 1917. The Allies became aware of the need to combine technological and moral factors to win on all fronts.

Foch room

The year 1918 was marked by the failure of the German offensives and the final offensive of the Allied forces, before the armistice was signed on 11 November. After a painful victory, during the interwar years, France asserted its influence across the world and the power of its colonial empire. However, just before the Second World War, it withdrew behind the Maginot Line and the modernization of its army came too late.

The second World War, 1939-1945

Leclerc room

The years 1939-1942 were the "black years", the defeat of 1940, the Battle of Britain, the occupation of part of France, the Vichy government, the success of German forces in Russia and North Africa and the start of the engagement of the Free French Forces alongside General Charles de Gaulle.

Juin room

The years 1942 - 1944 were the "grey years". They saw the first victories of the Allied armies, which regained the initiative on all fronts, the collections of the French Resistance movements being repressed increasingly fiercely by the occupying troops, and lastly the rebirth, alongside the Allies, of the French army in North Africa.

De Lattre room

1944 - 1945, the "light years", saw the landings of the Allies in Normandy and Provence, and then the liberation of the French territory, the offensives of the Allied armies against Berlin, the discovery of the concentration and extermination camps and the end of the Pacific War.

Berlin and the Cold War

Following the capitulation of Germany, the Cold War began and led to the partition of the former capital until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

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[Modified access] The access to the Museum will only be on Place Vauban, on Thursday, October 6th all day long, and on Tuesday, October 11th until 11.30 am. We apologize for the inconvenience caused.