A demi-brigade (English: Half-brigade) is a military formation used by the French Army since the French Revolutionary Wars. The Demi-brigade amalgamated the various infantry organizations of the French Revolutionary infantry into a single unit. Each one was headed by a chef de brigade.

The term "Demi-brigade" was chosen to avoid the feudal ancien régime connotations of the term "Régiment". Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the term to be abandoned in 1803, and the demi-brigades were renamed "régiments". The term was reused by certain later units in the French Army, such as the 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade, the only permanent demi-brigade in the modern French Army.

General, Officer d'Legere, Soldat d'Ligne
Officer and Soldiers of a Demi-Brigade


The French Legislative Assembly voted to declare war on Austria on 20 April 1792, and Prussia joined the war against France. 1792 ended well for France, having conquered the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) and parts of Germany. However, by early 1793, having guillotined Louis XVI of France on 21 January, France found itself at war with a coalition including Great Britain, the German States, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, and Spain in addition to Austria and Prussia.

By mid-1793, France had lost all the conquests of 1792, was fighting on multiple fronts, and threatened with invasion. In an effort to reverse the setbacks, France took a number of measures. In late August 1793, instigated by Lazare Carnot, France introduced the levée en masse, a mass conscription of young unmarried men. Also in late August, a law was passed to amalgamate the infantry, which saw the formation of Demi-brigades.

Organized in 1794 as part of the French Revolutionary Armies. One division was made up of three brigades and one brigade was made up of 3 battalions.


The main problem faced by the French Revolution infantry was a lack of unity. The Army included three main types of infantry, all with different uniforms, organizations, equipment, and rates of pay:

  1. regular infantry inherited from the old Royal regiments of the King, relatively well trained and equipped, dressed in white uniforms and wearing tarleton helmets
  2. national guard units, less well-trained or equipped, with blue uniforms
  3. fédéré volunteer battalions, poorly trained and equipped, with no uniform other than a red phrygian cap and a tricolour cockade

The variations between units created logistical problems, and animosity (due to different rates of pay) among units.

The purpose of the Demi-brigade was to blend all three formations into a single unit, with identical equipment, organization, pay, and uniforms. A Demi-brigade consisted of three infantry battalions: one battalion of regulars (from old Royal regiments), and two battalions of either volunteers or national guards. Each battalion had the same organization of one company of grenadiers (heavy infantry) and eight companies of fusiliers (regular infantry). On paper, a Demi-brigade would have 2,437 men and four six-pounder cannons.

The levée en masse had swelled the ranks of the French army, so by August 1794 over a million men (1,075,000) were under arms.[1] The Demi-brigade created a streamlined and simple method of organizing the infantry. Due to the current war situation, Demi-brigades were not formed until early 1794. Separate Demi-brigades were organised as line infantry (Demi-brigade de Bataille, 1792–96 and Demi-brigade d'Infanterie de Ligne, 1796–1803 ) and light infantry (Demi-brigade d'Infanterie Légère); all lacked uniformity in either weapons or equipment. As the French Revolutionary Wars progressed, demi-brigades were issued with specific coloured uniform jackets.

By late 1794, France had completed the re-conquest of the Austrian Netherlands and Rhineland of Germany. The Demi-brigade survived the transition of the French government to the French Directory in 1795, the ending of the First Coalition in 1797 after Napoleon's successful campaigns in Italy, renewed conflict with a Second Coalition, and Napoleon seizing power in 1799 to create the French Consulate.

End of the Revolutionary Demi-brigades

Peace was restored under the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, and Napoleon ordered the reinstatement of the historic term "régiment" in 1803. The Demi-brigades were renamed as regiments.

The term has been revived for various French Army units since the Napoleonic period. Perhaps the most famous unit to be termed a Demi-Brigade is the 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade, the only permanent demi-brigade in the modern French Army.

Demi-brigades in Poland

In the Second Polish Republic, demi-brigades (Polish: Półbrygady) were organized in the ranks of Border Protection Corps (in 1927) and National Defence units (from 1937).


  1. ^ Blanning. p.120-121. Desertion was a problem; the active strength is estimated at 800,000


  • Blanning, T. C. W., The French Revolutionary Wars, 1787-1802. Arnold, 1996.
  • Connelly, Owen. The Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, 1792-1815. Routledge, 2006.
  • Crowdy, Terry. French Revolutionary Infantry, 1789–1802. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2004. ISBN 1-84176-660-7
13th Demi-Brigade of Foreign Legion

The 13th Demi-Brigade of Foreign Legion (French: 13e Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère, 13e DBLE), was created in 1940 and was the main unit of the 1st Free French Division, Free French Forces (FFL). From the coast of Norway to Bir Hakeim, to Africa then the Alsace, while passing by Syria and Italy, the 13th Demi-Brigade would be part of most of the major campaigns of the armed forces of France during the Second World War.

After having been engaged in Indochina from 1946 to 1954, the 13e DBLE joined the Algerian War, and left in 1962. The 13e DBLE was based until 2011 at Quartier-Général Monclar in Djibouti, in virtue of an accord between France and the Republic of Djibouti in 1977. During 2011, the unit moved to the United Arab Emirates. In 2016, the unit returned to France, based at the same camp where it was first formed (and took its designation on March 27, 1940) – Camp du Larzac.

4th Foreign Regiment (France)

The 4th Foreign Regiment (French: 4e Régiment étranger, 4e RE) is the unit currently responsible for training the French Foreign Legion. Prior to assuming the main responsibility of training Foreign Legion recruits, the 4th Foreign Regiment was an infantry unit which participated in campaigns in Morocco, Levant, French Indochina, and Algeria.

Army of the Moselle

The Army of the Moselle (Armée de la Moselle) was a French Revolutionary Army from 1791 through 1795. It was first known as the Army of the Centre and it fought at Valmy. In October 1792 it was renamed and subsequently fought at Trier, First Arlon, Biesingen, Kaiserslautern, Froeschwiller and Second Wissembourg. In the spring of 1794 the left wing was detached and fought at Second Arlon, Lambusart and Fleurus before being absorbed by the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse. In late 1794, the army captured Trier and initiated the Siege of Luxembourg. During the siege, the army was discontinued and its divisions were assigned to other armies.

Army of the Rhine and Moselle

The Army of the Rhine and Moselle (French: Armée de Rhin-et-Moselle) was one of the field units of the French Revolutionary Army. It was formed on 20 April 1795 by the merger of elements of the Army of the Rhine and the Army of the Moselle.

The Army of the Rhine and Moselle participated in two principal campaigns in the War of the First Coalition. Military planners in Paris formed armies based on specific strategic tasks, and the task of this Army was to secure the French frontier at the Rhine and to penetrate the German states, potentially threatening Vienna. The unsuccessful 1795 campaign concluded with the removal of General Jean-Charles Pichegru from command. In 1796, under the command of General Jean Victor Marie Moreau, the Army was more successful. After crushing the Reichsarmee's elements at Kehl, the Army advanced into southwestern Germany.

Its success depended on the cooperation with France's Army of the Sambre and Meuse, commanded by Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. In 1796, the jealousies between Jourdan and Moreau, and among the subcommanders, complicated the efficient operations of both armies. After a summer of maneuver in which the Coalition force enticed the French deeper and deeper into German territory, the Habsburg commander Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen drubbed the French at Wurzburg and at second Wetzlar, and then defeated Jourdan's army at the Limburg-Altenkirchen. These battles destroyed any chance that Jourdan's force and Moreau's Army of the Rhine and Moselle could merge. Once Jourdan withdrew to the west bank of the Rhine, Charles could focus his attention on Moreau. By October they were fighting on the western slope of the Black Forest, and by December Charles had the French forces under siege at the principal river crossings of Kehl and Hüningen. By early 1797 the French had relinquished control of the bridgeheads over the Rhine. After an abbreviated German campaign in 1797, the French and Austrians agreed to the Treaty of Campo Formio and, on 29 September 1797, the Army of the Rhine and Moselle merged with the Army of the Sambre and Meuse to form the Army of Germany.

The Army of the Rhine and Moselle campaigns provided experience for a cadre of young officers. In his five-volume analysis of the Revolutionary Armies, Ramsey Weston Phipps called the Army of the Rhine and Moselle a "school for marshals", to emphasize the importance of experience under these conditions in training the future leadership of Napoleon's army.

Battle of Bassignana (1799)

The Battle of Bassignana (12 May 1799) saw an Imperial Russian corps led by Andrei Grigorevich Rosenberg attempt to establish a bridgehead on the south bank of the Po River in the presence of a Republican French army under Jean Victor Marie Moreau. The French rapidly massed superior strength and attacked. After several hours of hard fighting, the Russians abandoned their foothold with serious losses. This War of the Second Coalition action occurred near the town of Bassignana, located in the angle between the Po and Tanaro Rivers, about 19 kilometres (12 mi) northeast of Alessandria, Italy.

A string of Austrian and Russian victories in the spring of 1799 evicted the French armies from north and northeast Italy. The leader of the combined Austro-Russian armies, Alexander Suvorov prepared to drive the French armies from the rest of Italy. Suvorov ordered his lieutenant Rosenberg to join him on the south bank of the Po below its confluence with the Tanaro. Probably overruled by the Tsar's son Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia, Rosenberg unwisely crossed above the confluence with the Tanaro. Two of Moreau's divisions under Paul Grenier and Claude Victor-Perrin soon counterattacked and defeated the Russians. The Bassignana action was only a minor setback for the Allies. A few days later, Moreau launched a reconnaissance that resulted in the First Battle of Marengo.

Battle of Montebello (1800)

The Battle of Montebello was fought on 9 June 1800 near Montebello in Lombardy. During the lead-up to the Battle of Marengo, the vanguard of the French army in Italy engaged and defeated an Austrian force in a "glorious victory".

Carpathian Half-Brigade of National Defence

Carpathian Half-Brigade of National Defence (Polish: Karpacka Półbrygada Obrony Narodowej) was a unit of the Polish Army in the interbellum period that took part in the Polish September Campaign. It was formed in July 1937 in Stanisławów. Originally, it consisted of two battalions, but in May 1939 it was expanded to four battalions. In the summer of 1939 it became part of the Karpaty Army. Its battalions were:

Battalion Stryj,

Battalion Stanislawow,

Battalion Huculski I,

Battalion Huculski II.

Combat Training Center at Arta Beach

The Combat Training Center at Arta Beach (CECAP), or Centre d'entraînement au combat d'Arta Plage, is a French Army training facility located in Arta, Djibouti. The Combat Training Center is run by the members of the French Foreign Legion and is part of the headquarters company of 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion.

Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion in Indochina

The Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion, (French: Demi-brigade de Légion étrangère) existed briefly in Indochina while regrouping the ensemble of the Battalion Forming Corps (French: « bataillon formant corps », BFC) issued from the 1st Foreign Infantry Regiment 1er REI. The Demi-Brigade would become on September 1, 1930, the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment (French: 5e Régiment étranger d’infanterie).

First Battle of Marengo (1799)

The First Battle of Marengo or Battle of San Giuliano (16 May 1799) saw Republican French soldiers under General of Division Jean Victor Marie Moreau launch a reconnaissance in force against a larger force of Habsburg Austrian and Imperial Russian troops led by Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov. The French enjoyed initial success, pressing back their opponents. However, large Austrian and Russian reinforcements soon arrived, causing the French to withdraw into Alessandria. This War of the Second Coalition action occurred near the town of Spinetta Marengo, located just east of Alessandria in northwest Italy.

A series of Austrian and Russian victories in the spring of 1799 drove the French armies from north and northeast Italy. The commander of the combined Austro-Russian armies, Suvorov massed his forces opposite the fortress city of Alessandria. After a Russian force received a costly repulse in the Battle of Bassignana, Moreau sent General of Division Claude Perrin Victor's division to discover the Austro-Russian positions. After the action, Moreau sent half of his army into Genoa while taking the other half to the west. Meanwhile, Suvorov marched his troops up the north bank of the Po River to capture Turin.

Hohenlinden Order of Battle

In the Battle of Hohenlinden on 3 December 1800, a French army commanded by Jean Victor Marie Moreau decisively defeated the army of Habsburg Austria led by Archduke John. The first action of the campaign was the Battle of Ampfing, two days earlier. After Hohenlinden there was a series of rearguard clashes beginning on 9 December at Rosenheim and continuing from the 14th through the 20th at Salzburg, Neumarkt am Wallersee, Frankenmarkt, Schwanenstadt, Vöcklabruck, Lambach, and Kremsmünster. During the retreat, the Austrian army began a process of disintegration and an armistice was concluded a few days later.For an explanation of the types of forces, see Types of military forces in the Napoleonic Wars.

List of French Foreign Legion units

This article lists the principal units of the French Foreign Legion created since 1831.

Legion units are only cited once, based on their respective dates of creation. A dissolved Legion unit which is recreated under the same designation will only appear once.

The last section of the list re-summarizes actual Legion units in service.

List of French paratrooper units

The history of French airborne units began in the Interwar period when the French Armed Forces formed specialized paratroopers units. First formed in the French Air Force, they were rapidly integrated into the French Army, French Navy, National Gendarmerie and from the British Armed Forces. They were then dispersed in forming the developing components of the Armed Forces of France.

Messkirch 1800 Order of Battle

The Battle of Messkirch on 5 May 1800 was the second major engagement of the Rhine Campaign of 1800. It followed the Battle of Stockach on 3 May. The campaign began on 25 April when a French force emerged from the Kehl bridgehead. This marked the start of the offensive of Jean Victor Marie Moreau's Army of the Rhine against Paul Kray's army of Habsburg Austria and its Bavarian, Württemberg and other German allies.

Montenotte 1796 Campaign Order of Battle

In the Montenotte Campaign between 10 and 28 April 1796 General Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army of Italy broke the link between Feldzeugmeister Johann Peter Beaulieu's Austrian army and Feldmarschallleutnant Michelangelo Alessandro Colli-Marchi's Sardinian army. In subsequent engagements, the French defeated the Austrians, pursued Colli to the west, and forced the Sardinians to withdraw from the First Coalition against France. Actions were fought at Voltri (now a suburb of Genoa) on 10 April, Monte Negino (Legino) on 11 April, Montenotte on 12 April, Millesimo on 13 April, Dego on 14–15 April, Ceva on 16 April, San Michele Mondovi on 19 April, and Mondovì on 21 April.

Order of battle of the Armée d'Orient (1798)

The Armée d'Orient (English: Army of the Orient) was the French military force gathered by the French Directory to send on the expedition to Egypt in 1798. The expedition had the intention of barring Great Britain's route to its colonies in India and was put under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. Also known as Battle of Orient.

Ouvrage Croupe du Reservoir

Ouvrage Croupe du Réservoir is a lesser work (petit ouvrage) of the Maginot Line's Alpine extension, the Alpine Line. Located on the heights of Roquebrune at an elevation of 139 meters, the ouvrage consists of one entry block and one observation block facing Italy and covering the Grande Corniche road. The fortification was manned by 60 troops of the 58th Demi-Brigade Alpin de Forteresse (DBAF) under the command of sous-lieutenant Roman.

Rivoli 1797 Campaign Order of Battle

In the Battle of Rivoli on 14 and 15 January 1797, the French Army of Italy led by Napoleon Bonaparte crushed the main Austrian army led by Jozsef Alvinczi. The battle occurred during the fourth Austrian attempt to relieve the Siege of Mantua. After crippling Alvinczi's army on the 14th, Bonaparte left Barthélemy Joubert and Gabriel Rey to finish off the Austrians and raced south with André Masséna to deal with a relief column led by Giovanni di Provera. On 16 January, Masséna, Pierre Augereau, and Jean Sérurier trapped Provera near the Mantua siege lines and forced his surrender.

XI Corps (Grande Armée)

The XI Corps of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military unit that existed during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1809 during the War of the Fifth Coalition, General of Division Auguste Marmont's Army of Dalmatia was renamed the XI Corps. Emperor Napoleon I held it in reserve at the Battle of Wagram. In 1812, the unit was reconstituted during the invasion of Russia and placed under Marshal Pierre Augereau. It did not fight in any battles and instead served a collection point for reserves. In spring 1813, it was reorganized and placed under the command of Marshal Jacques MacDonald. The corps fought at Lutzen, Bautzen, the Katzbach, Leipzig, and Hanau in 1813. Still under MacDonald, the unit fought at Bar-sur-Aube and several minor actions in 1814.

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