French Indochina side caps "CALOT"

The French Side caps "Bonnet de Police " or also called "Calot" traced its origins to the Napoleonic wars 
when it was worn by the Grenadiers and Dragoons as a garrison hat. 
It became very bland by WWI adopting the colour of the field uniform. 
But its original colourfull aspect started to re-appear during the later part of  WWII with NCO and Officers from 
the Free French Forces obtaining private issue side caps to differentiate themselves from the sea of Allied OD uniforms, the side cap adopted the colour of tradition of  the branch of the military they served with. 
These were not officially approved until  the 13 November 1946 when the standard issue Model 46 was distributed.
This side cap soon became a "Coiffure de Tradition" and was used as a garrison, duty and also 
as part of the dress uniform during the Indochina war. 
Its shape was altered officially in 1947 and then again in 1957.
By the end of 1962 it was replaced by the beret. 

 The study will consist of the most encountered models in Indochina, 
the plain tan or kaki types were also used in Indochina but are not illustrated in that small article.

The M57 is only shown for reference 
and for comparison with the taylor made/private issue ones 
which were popular with cadres during the Indochina War and often resemble what will become the M57.


e top "calot" is a "Private Issue"  and the type that a lot of cadres had made by tailors from WWII to 1962. 
As you can see they both have the fashionable "Banana shape"  which does vary in profile from one maker to another,
so making the private issue ones difficult to date accurately unless they have a makers label. 
This one was probably made during the Algerian war looking at the Label and the construction. (see below).

*** For your information, the M57 is the last model manufactured and is representative of the Algerian war, 
despite the fact the M46 and M47 was still in use right up to 1962.

Another taylor made this time during the Indochina war as this came from 
the estate of an NCO from the 61st CCR, this company only served in Indochina, 
No makers tag, so unknow as where it was manufactured, this came with his shoulder company patch.
Unfortunately I missed his photo album who was purchased by another collector who did very kindly supplied me 
with copies of his photos. 

The man who the above side cap belong to 
here with the Rank of  Marechal des Logis - Chef, 
Photo taken at Tan Son Nhut in 1952

An identifying list of  
"calot" colours 
"BO 14 November 1946"

Branch Body Top Turn up Piping
Infantry (metropolitain) dark blue red red
Infantry  (colonial) dark blue dark blue red
Legion Etrangere Infantry green red green
Legion Etrangere Cavalry from June 1947 on green red  black
Tirailleurs Marocain light blue  green green
Tirailleurs  Algeriens and Tunisiens from Sep 1947 light blue yellow light blue
Tirailleurs Tunisiens up to Sep 1947 light blue  green light blue
Goum dark blue light blue dark blue
Hussards - (with Hungarian embroidery on front) dark blue light blue dark blue
Dragons dark blue white dark blue
Cuirassiers dark blue red dark blue
Chasseur a Cheval  dark blue  green dark blue
Chasseur d'Afrique dark blue yellow dark blue
Spahis Marocains except the 1e RSM red green red
Spahis Algeriens, Alger and the 1e RSM red red red
Spahis Algeriens, Oran red  white red
Spahis Algeriens, Constantine red yellow red
Spahis Tunisiens red light blue red
Artillerie Metropolitaine from Aug 1947 black  red red
Artillerie Coloniale from  Jan 1949 black black red
Transmition dark blue light blue light blue
Train dark blue  green green
Materiel dark blue  dark grey dark blue
Intendance dark blue  light grey  light grey
Gendarmerie Mobile from March 1947 dark blue medium blue red
Services des Essences  dark blue  red green
Zouaves (did not served in Indochina) red dark blue  red


Two members of Rolling Thunder, wearing the M46 "Calot" of the Train. 

The Corps of Transport "Train" was issued from the cavalry and officers and NCO often wore
 two little buttons on the front of their cap seen on the "calot" of the NCO on the left (silver for the cavalry). 
The single silver bar is his "locally made" NCO rank of "Marechal des Logis" "Sergeant".

Photo taken by Sean Vatcher  at War and Peace Revival show in July 2015

The information published is to my/our best knowledge and may be altered if new information is uncovered. 
 Article written by JLD from Rolling Thunder, The Vietnam Experience, February 2019

All photos are from our collection unless stated and nothing should be re-use without our prior consent! 


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