Author Topic: The Foreign Legion in the South East  (Read 2347 times)

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Offline John

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The Foreign Legion in the South East
« on: January 18, 2012, 09:39:03 am »
I know what you're thinking - kepis, camels, desert outposts and sun-bronzed Legionaires trying to forget, err... whatever it is they joined up to forget. Wrong I'm afraid  :D
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

Offline John

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2012, 16:44:53 pm »
Issues with foreign troops at Dover, 1855..
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

Offline John

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2012, 18:54:20 pm »
Some more official letters regarding the Swiss and German troops at Dover and Shorncliffe - unfortunately some only have the first pages, but they are quite interesting even so..
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

Offline John

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2012, 18:44:27 pm »
For anyone interested in the subject there is a five page article titled 'The British German Legion at Shorncliffe', written by Ann and Ralph Nevill, that appears in Volume 2, Number 1 of Bygone Kent.
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

Offline John

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2015, 16:18:50 pm »
Brighton Gazette - Thursday 22 February 1855

THE FOREIGN LEGION.

When, early in December last year, ministers announced to the astonished nation that a German Foreign Legion was their "only resource," that it must be raised without a moment’s delay, &c., &c.; and when a general and just cry of indignation found vent against such insult to the patriotism of this country, we ventured to assert that ministers did not know where to raise such a legion, and moreover that, in the then state of Europe, they could not raise it. So it has turned out. It has been proved to be a bubble and an imposition. We said so then; and now, at the latter end of February, it is admitted that what we said was true. Every man, who had it in charge in Germany, &c., to enlist recruits, has now thrown up his commission.

Ministers were then sure of their immediate and only resource; now, they say that the language held by Parliament and the press has so disgusted these wonderful mercenaries that they will not enlist with us. We knew, and said, that when each nation demanded its best men; when the obligations of federal compacts were enforced, that we could not obtain troops of the character we could trust, from such sources; and now the foreign legion, for which a Parliamentary vote is taken, is to consist of Turks - a wise measure which ought to have been adopted long since.

One word more, however, in respect to this Foreign Legion. Who gave Lord Aberdeen and his co-ministers the idea? What temptations - refused to British soldiers - were to be offered to these anticipated legionaries? Why, when Parliament decided that 15,000 foreign legionaries were not to remain in garrison in England, was the whole affair turned from with aversion? Is this another reason for stifling enquiry which might follow Mr Roebuck’s motion? Let not those in high places imagine that their secrets are opaque. Much more is known to the press than it thinks proper yet to publish.
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

Offline John

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2015, 16:23:15 pm »
Kentish Gazette - Tuesday 28 August 1855

THE FOREIGN LEGION.

The accounts of the progress which is being made in the enrolment and formation of the Foreign Legion are most satisfactory. Recruits are arriving in considerable numbers at the depot at Heligoland. Upwards of 100 fine young men arrived there from the north of Germany the week before last, and last week another body, amounting to 136, landed on the island and reported themselves to the commanding officer. Colonel von Steinbach is quite adored by the troops, who speak of him with the warmest enthusiasm. The number of recruits already sent to England amounts to 1,750, so that the second thousand will now complete.

The first division of the German Legion, forming the Rifle battalion, numbering upwards of 1,000, are under orders of readiness for the Crimea, and according to present arrangements will leave Shorncliff to-day for embarkation. The first division of the Swiss Legion is also expected to leave Dover for the seat of war this week.
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

Offline John

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2015, 16:52:51 pm »
Hampshire Telegraph - Saturday 01 November 1856

THE BRITISH FOREIGN LEGION.

We are sorry to say that serious disturbances have taken place among the British Foreign Legion stationed at Browndown. These disturbaces have not been confined to themselves, but have been inflicted on the inhabitants of Gosport. On the 20th the Camp at Browndown was in a state of great excitement, and events occurred of which the following is an authentic and official account:-

Between nine and ten o'clock on that night Police Serjearnt Stannard hearing a noise outside the Station, opened the door, when a number of men of the British German Legion rushed in, having their bayonets fixed to their guns. The rooms, yard, passages, cells, &c., were soon filled, as also the parlour and bedroom of the the police officer in charge of the station. Several of the rioters had swords drawn, and others, who had no guns, had their bayonets in their hands. Their talk was of the most vehement character, it being impossible to understand what they said.

Two men got hold of the Sergeant of Police, and another held a drawn sword to his breast. A German officer was present, and the Police Serjeant said to him "for God's sake what is this about - this is very disgraceful conduct." The officer replied in English that one of their men was in custody, and his comrades were determined to release him. The Serjeant told the officer that he had no man of the German Legion in custody, and that he would open every cell if the men would be quiet. The officer explained this to the men, and they were quiet for a time whilst the examination we being made but before it was completed the intruders rushed forward again, filling every passage and room in the building, and uttering the most dreadful yells. The German officer then went away, saying he could do nothing with them. The men, however, remained, and retained possession of the Police-station for nearly an hour. There were only two Police Constables at the Station at the time, and they could not get out, and other Police Constables who were outside could not get in.

Ultimately, owing to information given to Colonel Commandant Graham, of the Royal Marines, 400 men of that corps were turned out ready for "action," and 200 at once marched to the Police-station. The Germans had, however, on their approach fled, but they left one man to see what might the take place. The officer in charge of the Marine Detachment summarily sent him off. The Police agree that the German officer above referred to did everything in his power to quell the riot, and that the men were very violent towards him even. It was noticed, however, that several serjeants took a prominent part in the riot.

So far as the affray of that day was concerned, it must be confessed that it has produced a painful sensation in the minds of the inhabitants of Gosport and of the troops stationed there. On the part of the inhabitants, we are justified in thanking the Commander-in-Chief for the prompt measures he has taken to prevent a recurrence of such proceedings. General Breton lost not a moment in writing to the Gosport Bench of Magistrates to express his regret at what had occurred, and to assure them that it would be made impossible for such an affray to occur again. With regard to the troops on the Gosport side, we know well, from private sources, that a deep, though silent, feeling of ill-will has been evoked by the proceedings to which we refer. It is too much to expect that an officer or a soldier of the troops at Gosport (the 22nd Regt. and the Royal Marines) would allow the town in which they are quartered to be in the hands of a band of foreigners for five minutes.

The disturbance, we are sorry to say, is not the only one that occurred last week. On Thursday the troops in Gosport and around were kept under arms, owing to information of the proceedings and conduct of some of the Legion. Again, on Saturday the Marine Corps, in going on their weekly march to Stubbington, were ordered to carry ten rounds of ammunition each.
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2023, 11:13:48 am »
The British Foreign Legion is already computed at 10,000 Germans and 3,000 Swiss, which are to be made up to 15,000 at Heligoland, and at Shorncliffe, in Kent, of drilled and seasoned troops ready to take the field. Every available ship and soldier is to be cleared out of England before the month is over, and employed in active and daring deeds which we must hope will silence all discontent.

North Wales Chronicle 26 May 1855
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Online Pete

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2023, 11:22:57 am »
THE FOREIGN LEGION. The progress hitherto made in getting together a Foreign Legion has encountered such opposition abroad as well as at home, that probably it may be interesting to show the extent to which the organization of the corps has proceeded and the prospects held out thereby. There are now encamped at Shorncliffe, above Sandgate, upwards of 1,500 men chiefly Germans and Holsteiners, who may be described as likely to prove effective troops and already in a tolerably advanced state of discipline. They are formed into two regiments—one of light infantry, the other of rifles and not only in discipline but in physique they at least equal, if they do not surpass, our best militia levies. Most of them are soldiers who have completed their training, and a good number appear by the medals on their breasts to have already smelt gunpowder. A few are young and raw, but with an evident taste for the service and with frames which substantial rations and exercise in the open air will soon develop. The Rifles appear for the present to be more advanced in discipline, and they claim to have the advantage of being more purely German than the light infantry, regiment, which includes Belgians and other foreigners. The latter corps, however,  are making rapid progress also, and our service might take a lesson from the vigour and constancy with which both are drilled by their officers. Three times a-day they are taken out upon parade and put through their exercises. The parade ground is admirably adapted for the purpose, being smooth enough for cricket-playing, and of sufficient extent to manoeuvre 5,000 men-the number the camp has been fitted up to contain. The Prussians system of drill is that used, with the important exception that the line is formed two deep, instead of three. The great majority of the officers are Germans, like the men, and that language is used in giving the word of command and in issuing orders. English officers belonging to this portion of the Legion are required to speak German fluently. Colonel  Woolwrich is the brigadier in command at Shorncliffe, and has succeeded in getting his men hutted in a manner vastly superior to even the Guards at Aldershot. The huts are not only built on a plan which admits of proper ventilation, but every fifth or sixth is of corrugated iron, to secure some break in case of fire. The cook-houses are of the same materials, but their internal flitting up is hardly so good as that of the new ones constructing at Aldershot. Instead of having the huts disposed in long streets of parallel blocks, they are arranged in three sides of a square, having in the centre the whole area of the down-land, at that point, available for parade exercise. Nothing can well be finer than the position of the camp, with the pretty little village of Sandgate nestled beneath it, the expanse of Romney-marsh stretching westward, the Channel southward, alive with shipping, and to the north-east an agreeable diversity of prospect, in which chalk cliffs and martello towers figure prominently. As far as a short visit enables one to judge on such a point, the men seem very happy and well satisfied with the service into which they have entered. They follow the custom of the continental camps, singing in chorus when the work of the day is over and night closing in. It is not without its peculiar effect to hear German music thus chanted by soldiers wearing the English uniform. The Rifles are said by the people of Sandgate to conduct themselves with great propriety, but the men of the light infantry regiment, being a more mixed lot, are less favourably spoken of. Probably this is as much due to the spending of bounty money as to any other cause, and at least thus far there are no very serious grounds of complaint. The arrivals to join the Legion are now taking place at the rate of 70 a-day: and, slow as its progress has been hitherto, there can be no doubt that it will soon show in respectable strength, and be a highly disciplined and effective force. Besides the infantry regiments at Shorncliffe, there is one of cavalry in process of formation. Two hundred men have been collected, but the horses for them have not yet made their appearance. Close to the camp there is an Artillery barrack, in which we have at present a field battery stationed, so that shortly ample materials will exist for that degree of concerted training which is now considered so valuable as an introduction to active service. Besides the 1,500 Germans collected near Sandgate, there are also about 1,000 Swiss at Dover, so that the Foreign Legion now musters a force of 2,500, in a very respectable state of discipline.

The Welshman 27 July 1855

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Re: The Foreign Legion in the South East
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2023, 11:38:51 am »
 The departure of the German Legion for the Crimea has been marked by a romantic circumstance. On Monday night one of the privates was discovered to be a woman, handsome and young, French, the wife of a soldier of the regiment, who is a Swiss. This gallant wife regularly enlisted, and passed muster, it would appear, afterwards. On the discovery of her sex the fact was reported to the colonel, who ordered her to be landed, but she begged so hard, and her appeal was so heartily and generally supported by the comrades of her husband, that she has been allowed to accompany him in her capacity as a soldier, pro tem., as she expressed her determination to fight and die in the same service as her husband. The enthusiasm of the regiment is universal at this unlooked for episode in the outset of their martial career. So pleased were a number of visitors to the ship, officers and men, with her spirit and prepossessing appearance, that a subscription was  speedily raised of upwards of £ 20 for her. She shoulders her rifle and has performed her military evolutions admirably

The Welshman 2 November 1855
Sussex Bonfire - a way of life, not just for Nov 5th