Legions in the western front

The spontaneous formation of the voluntary units in France was assisted especially by Czech and Slovak compatriots who in August 1914 formed the Company Nazdar, which became a part of the French Foreign Legion. In the spring of 1915 the company took part in the critical operation at Arras. After a heavy fight on May 9th, when the volunteers took the offensive as the very first, the company ceased to exist as a consequence of heavy casualties and the remaining soldiers were dispatched into various units, in which they fought till spring 1918.

The reason why the volunteers didn’t grow in number was the so called Bérenger’s Law, which forbade recruiting foreigners from the states fighting against France – meaning also Czech and Slovak volunteers, citizens of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

A new period began in summer 1917 when the autonomous Czechoslovak army was founded. On the territory of France 10 000 men were gathered to serve in the Alsatian front at Mylhúz in Vogézy, in the village of Terron near Vouziers and in the village of Chestres on the River Aisne where they were to resist repeated German assaults.

Legions in France

The year of 1918 also brought the establishment of Czechoslovak units in Italy, where the situation at that time was not in favor of the Czechoslovak resistance. A compatriotic colony small in number, initial neutrality in war and other factors negatively affected the options of the resistance agents. However, thanks to the activities of Czech captives, the Czechoslovak Voluntary Corps was founded in January 1917. The Italians changed their attitude only in the fall of 1917 after they had suffered a crushing defeat in Caporetto.

In April 1918 the Czechoslovak National Committee and the Italian government signed a contract enabling to build regular Czechoslovak military units. Straight after that the Czechoslovak Division was formed, made up of two shooting brigades (more than 14 000 men). Some of the units were sent into action for the first time in June 1918 on Piava, particularly in extreme mountainous areas of the Alps front, where in September 1918 they underwent the heaviest fight in Doss’ Alto. At the end of the war Czechoslovak legions presented a military corps comprising 20 000 men divided into six shooting regiments, artillery and other formations.

Legions in Italy