A guide to berets.

From the originators of our most valued headwear:


I think they have little bobbles in the middle (like all berets should).
They do look as large as the old Tam O' Shanters, you're right.

They almost put the Swiss Guard to shame.

All that's missing from that photo are bicycles and strings of onions.

Are those berets multi function and intended to replace the 58 Poncho?...
Les Chasseurs Alpins, qui par tradition dormaient avec leurs pieds enveloppés dans leurs bérets ... donc un béret que la taille est normale!
Les Chasseurs Alpins, qui par tradition dormaient avec leurs pieds enveloppés dans leurs bérets ... donc un béret que la taille est normale!
Ca, je savais pas. Fantassin, c'est vrais?
Having pulled that up from the bowels of my military memory, I am now searching for a citation or reference. I'll take a flying punt and say it was in Geoffrey Keyes biography that this factoid was revealed. Keyes trained with the Chasseurs Alpins in the French alps during the phoney war, in ski and mountain warfare. Typical cavalry swan course - you or I would have been on Service Funds Accounting in Rhyll or at the Army School of Cess-pit Maintenance, Blyth.
Ok, now you made me look: "...un beret tres large, porte incline et bientot surnomme 'la tarte', qui permet de s'abriter du vent, de la neige ou du soleil." Chasseurs et Alpins, Eric Baschet, 1982
So it's to protect from wind, snow and sun and called la tarte. How apt.
I still liked your story better though.
Similar beret, the Chasseurs Ardennais, Belgian, huge green job with a boar's head in the front. Traded one on the march there.
And there's me thinking that they were a couple of Household Cavalry officers on attachment to the Ministère de la Défense.

Definitely cavalry officer type berets.

Speaking of nice Alpine courses, I was attached to the extremely well equipped Swiss Army for a couple of weeks. Their berets were almost as good as mine, and they really were terribly concerned about stray rounds in their very casually layed out ranges.
These bods look like entrants into the world famous Parachute Regiment ridiculous style beret competition.

In this ongoing competition, entrants have to shape their beret into the most ridiculous shape - with the badge over the left ear and the cloth curved over the face to form a horizontal peak to end up looking like a French Onion Seller.

An example of this can be found on page 106 of the current Soldier Magazine where LCpl Ryan Libby of 2 Para models his creation.
What you may not know is that these seemingly large berets are in fact a key piece of military survival equipment, designed in an easily portable and compact fashion. They were pioneered by the FFL in Central Africa who picked up the clever trick from the tribemen of the Masai Mara. The apparent head-wear is fashioned from the foreskin of elephants, skillfully hunted at night, trimmed from them with a blunt machete while their legs are held in place by young warriors undergoing a rite of passage. While this may seem a little ostentatious for a hat, and not a little foolhardy, rubbing it energetically on a cold dark night, will reveal that it transforms magically into a full size bivvie bag which is tough, durable and warm with IR properties to match the most modern of chemically treated textiles. In the morning the traditional practice of applying some cold water sees it shrink back down to head size in an instant. Pret a porter sur la marche.

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