France uses the rank of brigade general. It formerly used the historic rank, until 1793, of brigadier des armées ("brigadier of the armies"). The rank contrasts with the French sub-officer rank of brigadier. As with all French general officers, a French brigade general is titled "general" (e.g., notably General Charles de Gaulle) without any implication that he is an army general.
Until 1793, a rank of brigadier des armées ("brigadier of the armies") existed in the French Army, which could be described as a senior colonel or junior brigade commander. The normal brigade command rank was field marshal (maréchal de camp) (which elsewhere is a more senior rank). A "brigadier of the armies" wore one star and a "field marshal" wore two stars. During the French Revolution, the revolutionaries' drive to rationalise the state led to a change in the system of ranks. The rank of "brigadier of the armies" was abolished and the normal brigade command rank, field marshal, was replaced by brigade general. The rank of brigade general inherited the two stars of the rank of field marshal, explaining the absence since 1793 of a French rank with only one star.
Nowadays, a French général de brigade generally commands a brigade, which is the biggest permanent formation in the French army. The rank can also be awarded in an honorary fashion to retiring colonels. The insignias are two stars, worn on the shoulder are at the sleeve of the uniform, depending on the dress. Two different kepis are issued : the service kepi sports the two starts, while the formal kepi features a large band of oak leaves (the kepi of a division general has two smaller such bands).
Charles de Gaulle held the rank of brigade general. He was given a temporary promotion to this rank in May 1940 as commander of the 4th Armoured Reserve Division (4ème division cuirassée de réserve). However his authority as head of the Free French really came not from his military rank, but from being the only cabinet member outside occupied France, as he was appointed Under Secretary of State for National Defence and War in June 1940. As a reminder of his war position, he refused any further promotion.
Rank insignia of French Army a général de brigade and French Air Force général de brigade aérienne
Brigade General Charles de Gaulle, wearing the formal kepi.
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