Monday, 6 August 2012

Re-establishing the Guard


On 1st May 1854 the Emperor Napoleon III re-established the Imperial Guard.

The Imperial Guard was destined to have several functions:

Draw the army closer to the new Empire.
Reward meritorious Officers and Other Ranks
Act as a training school
Be the finale battle-field reserve (although the Guard was more often used as shock/storm troopers leading attacks).

The Guard conisted of

Foot Guard
2 Regiments of Grenadiers
2 Regiments of Voltigeurs
1 Battalion of Chassuers  a Pied

Horse Guard
1 Regiment of Cuirassiers
1 Regiment of Guides

1 Regiment Artillerie a Cheval

Article 7 of the formation decree stated that the Guard was to recruit from active soldiers (soldats en activite) who were in the last year of their conscription and had good conduct and were willing to renew their conscription ( rengagement);NCOs would lose their rank (galons) unless they had the Legion d'Honneur or the Medaille Militaire.

Recruits had to be aged under 35 but soldiers over 35 could volunteer to join the Guard for a period of three years - for which they had to pay!

Article 8. Cuirassiers, Grenadiers and Artillerie a Cheval were to be taller than  1m 76 (5' 10")

Guides and Genie were to be taller than 1m 68 (5' 7")

There was no minimum  height for Voltigeurs or Chasseurs or the Bandsmen (Musiciens).

Every Line Regiment was to send 20 Grenadiers and  10 Voltigeurs to the Guard Each regiment of Chasseurs was to send 20 1st Class Chasseurs and the Dragoons, Cuirassiers and Carabiniers were to send 20 men each to form the Cuirassiers of the Guard. The Guides of the Guard had been formed in 1852 from the Guides de l'Etat Major.

However, there was some difficulty in getting men tall enough! There was considerable shuffling about of men of the requisite height to form the new Regiments, so that a tall Artilleryman might find himself  a Cruiassier (for example) and the Cuirassiers and Carabiniers actually furnished 20 men each for the Grenadiers a Pied who met the minimum height.

By  the Imperial Decree of 20 December 1855 the Imperial Guard was massively expanded from a mixed Division to a self-contained Amry Corps. It was now to consist of

Foot Guard
3 Regiments of Grenadiers
4 Regiments of Voltigeurs
1 Regiment of Zouaves (Created 24 December 1854)
1 Battalion of Chassuers a Pied

Horse Guard
2 Regiments of Cuirassiers
1 Regiment of Dragoons
1 Regiment of Lancers
1 Regiment of Guides
1 Regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval

1 Regiment of Artillerie a Cheval
1 Regiment of Artillerie a Pied
1 Division (2 companies) Sapeurs du Genie
1 Squadron Train des Equipages (Created 17 February 1855)

Not Brigaded
1 Regiment of Gendarmes a Pied
1 Squadron Gendarmes d'Elite.

In 1857 the minimum height and service requirements for the Guard were altered. The Imperial Decree of 17th June stated that potential recruits for the Guard had to have served for four years and have at least two years of good conduct.

The height for the Grenadiers was redcued to 1m 68cm (5' 7")
Voltigeurs and Chasseurs a Pied were to be taller than 1m 56cm (5' 1")

The Cuirassiers of the Guard  were 1m 76cm (5' 10")
Guides and Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard 1m 68 (5' 7")
Dragoons and Lancers 1m 70 cm  (5' 8")
Artillery 1m 70cm (5' 10")

Drummers, Trumpeters, Buglers, Bandsmen were all exempt from the minimum height requirement, as were volunteers to the Guard. Volunteers were either soldiers over 35 who wanted to enlist, and were willing to do so for a period of 3 years minimum (with no exception) and were of good military character and morals. Civilians volunteers could also enlist, so long as they were from a good family, had a military virtue and could pay for the privilege!

NCOs who wished to be admitted into the Guard had to have spent at least one year in their rank and meet the minimum height requirement; the only NCO not to have to meet that requirement was the Sergent Instructeur de Tir.

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