We are a reenacting organization dedicated to portraying the French soldier, or "Poilu," of La Grande Guerre (the Great War of 1914-1918). Our impression is of the Poilu who held the line and they were all that stood between the Kaiser's Army and its entry into Paris. The 151 RI along with our sister unit the 8BCP, comprise the French reenacting community and are all members of the Great War Association (the GWA), an organization dedicated to honoring, preserving and keeping alive the sacrifices of the soldiers of the Great War through Living History. The GWA owns its own WWI battlefield outside Newville, Pennsylvania where it holds 2-3 events a year. These events are 24 hour a day living history events, not public events, but instead, for the purpose of doing living history.
The Poilu and His War
The French soldiers were a vital part of the "face" of the Great War and while often portrayed by many in the United States as poor fighters, which they were not! The Poilu was a brave soldier and these generalizations are simply not true -- the Poilu has always suffered under poor leadership, both in his military and from (and particularly so) his civilian government. With good leaders, the French soldier was more than capable! These Iron Men fought, and won, on such hellish battlefields as Verdun, a place where conditions were SO horrible that they simply could not be imagined -- even today! The battlefield of the Great War was truly hellish -- like nothing ever seen before, or since. Among the horrors, were poison gas and the near-constant, and massive artillery barrages which often lasted for days. During these barrages, hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of shells were fired in huge massive barrages and tens of thousands of men were killed, their shredded bodies then being buried by the next shell, which also uncovered other bodies from earlier shellings. The result was a grisley mix of bodies, body parts and gore all over the battlefield with rats, disease and horror being the enemy for both sides. The Great War was different from other wars and they say that the stench of the battlefield was truly horrible... It was in this environment that Death stalked the trenches, reaping a constant harvest of the souls he found there.
What We Do
What we are doing in reenacting, is to try and experience a small part of these men's lives and what they went through and perhaps gain a better insight in to ourselves in the process. We do this by wearing exact reproduction uniforms--just like theirs, eating what they ate and sleeping in underground bunkers like they did, all of this at the GWA's WWI battlefield located near Newville, Pennsylvania. At the WWI events, you can practicaly go the entire weekend without seeing anything modern. The only thing missing from our reenactments is real death--otherwise, one can truly "feel" that you're there during the 24 hour scenarios!