At various times in the 19th and 20th centuries France has been invaded, and on those occasions foreign volunteers have stepped forth to assist her regular conscript forces in repelling the invader. As a UK-based living history group we think it most appropriate for us to represent, as far as is possible, troops such as these when depicting French forces.
The three main conflicts which we aim to depict are as follows:
- The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-81. This was the first use of the Foreign Legion in France herself, both experienced legionnaires from Africa and also the 5th battalion of the Régiment Étranger (as the Legion then was), raised on the orders of the Empress specifically for the defence of France.
- The First World War, 1914-18. Within a month of the outbreak of war the first and second foreign regiments of the Legion had been formed to accommodate the many volunteers who turned up in France, keen to repel the invader. These units mixed veterans and new recruits, and after heavy losses and battle experience became the RMLE.
- The Second World War, 1939-45. In addition to the regular legionnaires there were a considerable number of volunteers from occupied Europe, plus others opposed to the Nazis. These were formed into RMVE units which fought bravely but were overwhelmed in the fall of France.
We are not currently able to field impressions for all these periods; for the moment, we are concentrating on WW1. But, we hope to expand our range in due time and continue to acquire the necessary means to expand.
Of course, living history groups representing French troops of these periods are not very often found in the UK, and they tend to be fairly small. We are keen to work with other groups representing the appropriate periods in order to increase the visibility of French units at UK events.