We learned from previous articles in the series that one of the consequences of the French conquest of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco was the emergence in France of new and unusual military formations. We already managed to tell about zuavs, tyrallers, spag and gumery. Now let's talk about other combat units, which had never before been in the French army.
Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère)
The French Foreign Legion was formed at about the same time as the Algerian spag formations: King Louis Philippe signed a decree on its creation on March 9, 1831.
Horace Vernet. King louis-philippe i
It is believed that the idea of creating this military formation belongs to the Belgian baron de Begard, who at that time served in the French army. Veterans of Napoleon’s army were supposed to be officers in the legion, ordinary people from other European countries and the French, who wanted to “zero out” their problems with the law. Marshal Soult, Minister of War of France, endorsed this initiative, saying:
“Do they want to fight? We will give them the opportunity to bleed and knead mountains of sand in North Africa! ”
And King Louis-Philippe in this proposal probably liked the phrase that the Foreign Legion should obey only one person - himself. 189 years have passed, but this provision in the charter of the legion has not changed: it is still subordinate only to the head of state - the president of the French Republic.
Since the first volunteers of the Legion, and the French, and the foreign citizens who entered the service, did not always differ in a respectable disposition, there was a tradition not to ask for real names of recruits: as they introduced themselves during registration for the service, they will call them that.
A soldier of the French Foreign Legion, who let go of his long beard to change his appearance. 1919 year
Even in our time, a rookie of the legion can, if he wishes, get a new name, however, in connection with the spread of terrorism, candidates are now being checked through Interpol.
Realizing what rabble could be in parts of the Foreign Legion, it was decided to place them outside of continental France, banning the use in the metropolis. Algeria was supposed to be its place of deployment.
At first, no one even thought that the Foreign Legion could become an elite unit. He was equated with a regiment, received equipment according to the residual principle, and even had an incomplete non-combat team: three shoemakers and tailors instead of five, four gunsmiths instead of five, and only three doctors (1st grade, 2nd grade and junior doctor).
Unlike zuavs, tyrallers and spag, legionnaires dressed in the usual military uniform of linear infantry. Their uniforms differed from the uniform of other French infantrymen only in the color of their collars, epaulettes and buttons.
Legionnaires, form 1831-1856
The form of legionnaires from 1848 to 1880
It is because desert Algeria became the place of deployment of the legion that its parts march at a speed of only 88 steps per minute (other French compounds - at a speed of 120 steps per minute), because it is difficult to walk quickly on sand.
Before the outbreak of World War I, immigrants from Switzerland, Germany, Spain, and Belgium entered the Foreign Legion. In the future, the list of countries supplying France with “cannon fodder” expanded significantly: they say that 138 nationalities were serving in it.
The first recruits who entered the Legion, as a rule, were renegades who broke all ties with their home and homeland and therefore the motto of this military unit was the words: Legio Patria Nostra (“Legion is our country”), and its colors are red and green, symbolizing respectively blood and France. According to a long tradition, when units of the legion carry out combat missions, its flag is hung upside down.
Banner of the French Foreign Legion
It is believed that from the moment of its foundation the Foreign Legion participated in thirty major wars (not counting minor conflicts), more than 600 thousand people passed through it, at least 36 thousand of whom died during the hostilities.
Having received at their disposal a military unit consisting of unreliable Napoleonic officers and suspicious thugs and adventurers of all stripes, the rulers of France did not pity him, and immediately threw him into battle.
Battle Path of the French Foreign Legion
The monarchy in France was replaced by a republic, the empire replaced it to fall in 1870, and the legionnaires still fought for the interests of a state alien to them.
Soldier of the French Foreign Legion in Algeria, 1847. Castellum miniatures figurine
Military campaigns followed one after another. At first, the legion fought with the rebellious "natives" of Algeria, where its soldiers were immediately famous for their rigidity and looting. According to contemporaries, in captured cities and villages, legionnaires often declared rebels and killed civilians, whose appearance allowed us to hope for rich prey. And to bear the head of an Arab on his bayonet, among the first legionnaires was considered "the highest chic."
Looking ahead a bit, let us say that contempt for the “natives” was characteristic of legionnaires even in the first half of the twentieth century. According to the testimony of Russian emigrant officer Nikolai Matin, who served in the Foreign Legion for 6 years (since December 1920 - in Algeria, Tunisia and Syria), the bandits were called locals by the word "legionary". He assures us that shortly before his arrival, when the trumpeter of the legion announced the end of combat training (after which the legionnaires could go out into the city), the streets and markets were empty, the shops and houses of local residents were closed tightly.
The Arabs, in turn, did not spare the legionnaires. So, in 1836, after an unsuccessful siege by the French of Constantine, the Algerian prisoners solemnly threw the iron rods from the city walls onto the carefully laid down rods on which they later died for several hours.
Constantine was nevertheless taken in 1837 by the French troops, which included legionnaires and zouaves. And in 1839, the legionnaires stormed the Gigli fortress, which was under Muslim control since the time of its conquest by the famous Hyreddin Barbarossa (it was described in the article Islamic pirates of the Mediterranean).
But the legionnaires not only fought: in between, they built a road between the cities of Duero and Bufarik - for a long time it was called the “Legion Highway”. And the Legionnaires of the Second Regiment, commanded by Colonel Carbucius (a Corsican who began serving in the Legion at the age of 19), accidentally discovered the ruins of the city of Lambesis, the capital of the Roman province of Numidia, built by soldiers of the Third Legion of Rome under Emperor Hadrian between 123 and 129. n e.
In the years 1835-1838. parts of the legion fought in Spain during the Carlist War, in which the French supported supporters of the infant infant Isabella, who opposed her uncle Carlos. It was assumed that the Spaniards would provide all the necessary legionnaires, but they did not fulfill their obligations. The French also left them to their fate. As a result, on December 8, 1838, this detachment was disbanded. Some of the soldiers went to serve as mercenaries to other masters, others returned to France, where they were enrolled in new parts of the legion.
In 1854, during the Crimean War, military units of the Foreign Legion first appeared in Europe. The Russian soldiers received the nickname "leather bellies" - for large ammunition pouches, fortified in front.
Foreign Legion Officer and Bugler during the Crimean Campaign
Foreign Legion Grenadier Sergeant
Edward Detaya. "Legionnaire in the trench during the Crimean War"
It was the “Foreign Brigade” under the command of General Carbucius, consisting of the First and Second Regiments of the Legion. The legionnaires suffered their first losses from cholera - even before arriving in Crimea: one general (Karbuchiya) killed five officers (including one lieutenant colonel), 175 soldiers and sergeants.
The first clash of the battalion of legionnaires with the Russians occurred on September 20, 1854. The "African forces" (units of the legion, zouaves and tyrael) played a huge role in the victory of the Allies at Alma. The loss of legionnaires in that battle amounted to 60 people killed and wounded (including 5 officers). After that, the Foreign Brigade, which entered the 5th French Division, stood in the depths of Strelets Bay.
On November 5, when the main forces of the opposing sides fought at Inkerman, Russian troops attacked the regiments of legionnaires who stood at the quarantine trenches, but were driven back in a fierce battle.
On November 14, a terrible hurricane sank many ships of the Anglo-French squadron, literally devastated the Chersonesos plateau and inflicted great damage to the camp of legionnaires. After this, several months of “trench warfare” begin. On the night of January 20, 1855, the legionnaires repelled a large sortie of the Russians; later, smaller actions of this kind were undertaken by both parties - without much success.
Active hostilities resumed at the end of April 1855. On the night of May 1, Russian troops were thrown back from their positions to the Schwartz redoubt - a third of French losses fell to the legionnaires: 18 of the 14 officers of the First Regiment were killed, including its commander, Colonel Vieno. The barracks of the First Regiment, stationed in Sidi Bel Abbes, were named in his honor, and after the evacuation from Algeria, the barracks of this regiment in Aubagne.
In June 1854, Pierre Bonaparte, the nephew of the emperor, who had previously commanded the Second Regiment of the Legion, became the commander of the Foreign Brigade.
In the assault on the Malakhov Kurgan, military units of the legion did not take part - with the exception of 100 First Regiment volunteers who went in the front ranks of the attackers.
It was the soldiers of the Foreign Brigade who were the first to enter Sevastopol left by the Russians - and immediately began to plunder the wine depots, as well as other "interesting places", reminding everyone of the peculiarities of the contingent of legion formations.
As a result, during this campaign, the losses of the legion were higher than in 23 years in Algeria.
After the end of the Crimean War, all legionnaires who wished to continue their service received French citizenship, as well as Turkish orders of Medzhidiye.
Established in 1852, the Ottoman Order of Medgidius
Returning to Algeria, the legionnaires suppressed the rebellion of the Kabile tribes. After the battle of Ischederen, a certain Corporal Mori was presented for awarding the Legion of Honor. From the less significant awards that they were going to give him during the Crimean campaign, he refused, so as not to reveal his real name. But he did not refuse to be awarded such a valuable order. It turned out that under the name Mori was a representative of the Italian princely family Ubaldini. He continued serving in the legion, having retired as captain.
French Foreign Legion in Italy
Then the legionnaires fought in Italy (Austro-Italian-French war, 1859). During the battle of Magenta (June 4), they were the first to cross the Ticino River and overturn one of the Austrian columns, but, during the pursuit of the retreating enemy, they "stumbled" on the city of Magenta, which they began to rob, allowing the Austrians to retreat in an organized manner.
In this battle, Colonel de Chabriere, who commanded the Second Legion Regiment since the time of the Crimean War, died, the barracks of this regiment, located in Nimes, now bear his name.
On June 24 of that year, the Foreign Legion participated in the Battle of Solferino, which ended in the defeat of the Austrians. Following the results of that war, France received Nice and Savoy.
War in mexico
From 1863 to 1868 Legionnaires fought in Mexico, from which Great Britain, France and Spain tried to get rid of debts, and at the same time - to put on the throne of this country the brother of the Austrian emperor - Maximilian.
For “Maximilian of Habsburg, calling himself Emperor of Mexico,” it all ended very badly: in March 1867, France withdrew its expeditionary force, and on June 19, 1867, despite the protests of US President Andrew Johnson, Victor Hugo and even Giuseppe Garibaldi, he was shot on the hill of Las Campanas.
Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Maximilian, emperor of Mexico
And the legionnaires in that war “earned” a holiday for themselves, which is still celebrated as Foreign Legion Day.
On April 30, 1863, in the Cameron farm area, superior forces of the Mexicans surrounded the incomplete Third Company of the First Battalion of the Legion, which was allocated to guard the convoy going to the city of Puebla. In a fierce battle, 3 officers were killed, 62 privates and corporals (and despite the fact that the total loss of the legion killed in Mexico amounted to 90 people), 12 people were captured, where four of them died. Captivity escaped one man - drummer Lai.
Legionnaires defend Hacienda at Cameron
Mexicans capture wounded legionaries at Cameron, XNUMXth century drawing
The loss of Mexicans amounted to 300 people killed and 300 wounded. Their commander, Colonel Milan, ordered the buried legionnaires to be buried with military honors and to take care of the wounded. But the Mexicans did not pay attention to the convoy itself, and he calmly reached the destination.
This company was commanded by Captain Jean Danjou, a veteran who continued to serve even after losing his left hand during one of the battles in Algeria.
A wooden denture, Danju, bought three years later on the market from one of the peons, is now stored in the Museum of the Foreign Legion in Aubagne and is considered one of its most valuable relics.
Prosthesis of the left hand of Jean Danju
Oddly enough, it was the date of this defeat (and not some victory) that became the main holiday of the legionnaires.
The first armored cavalry regiment of the legion at the festival dedicated to the Battle of Cameron, Roman theater, the city of Orange, province of Vaucluse
Parade of parts of the Foreign Legion dedicated to the anniversary of the Battle of Cameron, Aubagne, 2006
The subordinate of Jean Danju was Victor Vitalis - a native of one of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire, a veteran of the legion, who began his service in Algeria in 1844, went through the Crimean campaign (was wounded near Sevastopol). After returning from Mexico (1867), he received French citizenship, continued to serve in the Zouave formations, rising to the rank of major. In 1874 he ended up in Turkey, first becoming the division commander, and then - governor of Eastern Rumelia, and received the title of Vitalis Pasha.
The legion also participated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871. Then it included Lieutenant Petr Karageorgievich, the future king of Serbia.
King of Serbia Peter I Karageorgievich, former officer of the French Foreign Legion
The Foreign Legion did not have any particular achievements on the battlefield in that war, but its troops were "famous" for participating in the suppression of the uprising in Paris (Paris Commune).
After that, the legion was returned to Algeria. At that time, it consisted of 4 battalions, each of which consisted of 4 companies. The total number of its military personnel in 1881 was 2750, of which 66 were officers, 147 were non-commissioned officers, 223 were 1st-class soldiers. There were 66 non-combatants.
With the beginning of the Second Algerian campaign (in South Oran - 1882), the number of soldiers in the Legion increased to 2846 (officers - 73).
Legionnaires in marching African uniform worn in Algeria and Morocco
In 1883, the number of battalions was brought to 6, the total number of soldiers and officers - up to 4042 people.
Since 1883, units of the legion have been fighting in Southeast Asia - the Tonkin Campaign and the Franco-Chinese War.
In the XVII century, missionaries from France entered the territory of Vietnam. The first was a certain Alexander de Rod. Later, during the peasant unrest that entered historylike the Taishon revolt (1777), the French missionary Pinho de Bein granted refuge to the last offspring of the Nguyen dynasty - the 15-year-old Nguyen Phuc Anyu. It was he who later (in 1784) turned to France through de Bein for help, promising in return for the cession of territories, the right to monopoly trade and the supply, if necessary, of soldiers and food. The terms of this “Versailles” treaty were not fulfilled by France because of the revolution that soon began, but the French did not forget about this agreement and later constantly referred to it. And the reason for the invasion of Vietnam was the anti-Christian laws, the first of which was the decree of Emperor Min Mang to ban the preaching of Christianity (1835).
After the conclusion of peace with China in 1858, Napoleon III ordered the liberation of troops to be transferred to Vietnam. They were also joined by units located in the Philippines. The Vietnamese army was quickly defeated, Saigon fell in March 1859, and an agreement was signed in 1862, according to which the emperor ceded the three provinces to the French, but hostilities continued until 1867, when the Vietnamese had to agree to even more difficult conditions. In the same year, France and Siam divided Cambodia. And, of course, parts of the French Foreign Legion took an active part in all these events. In 1885, two companies of legionnaires remained surrounded for almost half a year at the Tuan-Kuang post - far in the jungle, but, nevertheless, they waited for help and reinforcements.
In addition to the Vietnam War, in 1885 the legion participated in the invasion of Taiwan (Formosa campaign).
As a result, Vietnam was divided into a colony of Kokhinhin (controlled by the Ministry of Trade and the Colonies) and protectorates Annam and Tonkin, relations with them were carried out through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
After 20 years, on October 17, 1887, all French possessions in Indochina were united into the so-called Indochinese Union, which, in addition to the Vietnamese possessions, included part of Laos and Cambodia. In 1904, two areas of Siam were annexed to it.
In one of the following articles, we continue the story of the French Indochina, and the hostilities that the Foreign Legion waged on its territory in 1946-1954.
Foreign Legion in the late XIX - early XX centuries.
From 1892 to 1894 Legionnaires also fought in the kingdom of Dahomey (now the territory of Benin and Togo) and in Sudan, in 1895-1901. - in Madagascar (in 1897 the island was declared a French colony).
Soldiers of the 1900st Regiment of the French Foreign Legion, Algeria. XNUMX
The French Foreign Legion on the march in Algeria before 1914
From 1903 to 1914 the legion was transferred to Morocco, the fighting here was very fierce, as a result of its loss of legionnaires were more than for all the years of existence.
Legionnaires against the Moroccans, 1908
And then the First World War began. The fighting of the Foreign Legion on the fronts of this war will be described in one of the following articles.
Postcard "Soldier of the Foreign Legion." The beginning of the twentieth century
"Father of the Legion"
In the first half of the 91th century, the legend of the Foreign Legion was Paul Frederic Rollet, a graduate of the Saint-Cyr military school, who, at his urgent request, was transferred from the usual 18 line infantry regiment to the First Foreign Regiment. He served in Algeria and Madagascar, and with the outbreak of World War I volunteered for the Western Front. On May 1917, 1917, Rolle was appointed commander of the new marching regiment of the Foreign Legion, who, under his leadership, was the first to break the Hindenburg line in September XNUMX. All soldiers of this regiment received red axelbands - this is the color of the Cross for military merit. Currently, this regiment is called the Third Foreign, its place of deployment is French Guiana.
After the war ended, Rolle at the head of this regiment fought in Morocco, and in 1925 he was appointed commander of the most prestigious infantry regiment - the First, in which he began his service in the legion.
On April 1, 1931 he becomes an inspector of the Foreign Legion - now this position is called "Commander of all units of the Foreign Legion."
General Paul-Frederic Rollet, the first inspector of the Foreign Legion
At this post, Rolle created the foundation of the entire internal organization of the legion, making it a closed structure similar to a medieval knightly order. These principles of organizing the Foreign Legion remain unshakable to this day. He also created his own security service, hospitals and motels for legionnaires, and even the Kepi Blanc Magazine’s internal journal.
Kepi Blanc Magazine, May 2015
He retired in 1935, after 33 years of service. He had to die in Paris occupied by the Germans (in April 1941), having seen with his own eyes how the virtually perfect, seemingly perfect war machine of the legion he had created could not protect the country.
In the next article we will talk about Russian volunteers of the Foreign Legion.