Vichy and the "heroes of French history": Bournazel

Vichy and the

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Title: Henri de Bournazel.

Creation date : 1943

Date shown: 1943

Dimensions: Height 57.2 - Width 45.1

Technique and other indications: Handcoloured lithograph. Propaganda poster of the Vichy government, from a series celebrating the Heroes of the History of France

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo Army Museum

Picture reference: 06-522041 / 2006.1.110

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo Army Museum

Publication date: February 2012

Historical context

1943 and the series of posters celebrating the "Heroes of the History of France"

Placed under the responsibility of the General Secretariat for Information, the dissemination of posters is, along with the radio, one of the main means of propaganda used by the Vichy regime. Intended to promote its policy and its actions, this widely disseminated imagery intends to shape consciousnesses and representations.

While some campaigns are strongly suggested by the Nazi occupier, the government also enjoys relative independence, carrying out and placarding (under control) its own messages. By its theme and by the choice of the personalities in the spotlight, the series “Heroes of the History of France”, launched during the year 1943 and from which is extracted “de Bournazel (1898-1933)” published in November, seems to be a Franco-French company.

By appropriating the figures of these illustrious figures and the values ​​they symbolize, the regime exalts national grandeur and pride - which it also seeks to guarantee in the present and promote in the future.

Image Analysis

The figure of the hero

This colored lithograph depicts Henri de Bournazel as he launches an offensive in the desert. The young soldier wears his officer dress from the 8e Moroccan spahis regiment (red jacket and blue pants). Wrapped in a white cape, it stands out clearly against a cloudless sky. Whip in hand, he abandoned his mount to lead his troops on foot. Highly stylized, the young, slender and determined face expresses courage, as well as a certain exalted assurance of conquest.

In the background, the troops that make up this colonial cavalry unit recruited from among the "natives" (see their type and characteristic uniforms) give the charge on horseback, rifle in hand.

Very bright and quite colorful, the image suggests both exoticism (the desert, which seems endless) and an unstoppable movement.


An astonishing patriotic cult

Model of the young intrepid and invincible officer, Henri de Bournazel was the object of a patriotic cult from the mid-1930s. Nicknamed "the Red Man" or the "Red Cavalier" (because of his uniform), he signaled by exceptional feats of arms during several battles in Morocco (such as that of El Mers in May 1923 and that of Jebel Saghro in 1933, where he was killed).

Unlike most of the heroes put in the spotlight by this series of propaganda posters (Joan of Arc or Bayard, for example), de Bournazel is a fairly recent and still very popular "historical" figure. The Vichy regime is therefore content to recover on its own a legend that is still alive.

Through its symbolism and dynamism, the image promotes the idea of ​​a courageous, victorious and conquering France, whose power precisely wants to recall the existence in these times of defeat and humiliation. The hero's youth, for its part, refers to the future, to the next generation, to the recovery carried out by future generations, precisely trained and exalted by Vichy.

But the figure chosen here is astonishing when we consider that the colonies of North Africa and almost the entire empire gradually came under Allied control from the summer of 1943 and that the National Liberation Committee sits in Algiers. With this poster, the regime tries to reaffirm the full membership of North Africa to Vichy France (excluding "Free France").

  • propaganda
  • Vichy regime
  • War of 39-45
  • Occupation
  • poster
  • nationalism


AZEMA, Jean-Pierre, From Munich to the Liberation, 1938-1944, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1979.

AZEMA, Jean-Pierre and Wieviorka, Olivier, Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Perrin, 1997.

BORDEAUX, Henri, Henry de Bournazel, The Red Cavalier or The Moroccan Epic, Paris, Plon, 1935.

SIRINELLI (dir.), Jean-François, French rights. From the Revolution to the present day, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Folio History", 1992.

PAXTON, Robert, The France of Vichy, 1940-44, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1973.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Vichy and the" heroes of the history of France ": Bournazel"

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