"corps expéditionnaire français en Scandinavie" (french expeditionary corps in Scandinavia)

Contrary to what appears to be the case for the british army (from what Indy said in this week episode), this is a very elite group of french (and one polish) units composed of mountain troops (chasseur alpin) and foreign legion (légion étrangère).

They were first assembled to go to Finland (at least that had been part of a plan one day). Some of them had received the latest version of the french equipments/uniforms (contrary to other french troops in France who would never receive them due to the german attack)

It’d be interesting to note that elements of the czech and polish armies had fled to France and were given a chance to fight again against the germans (pilots/tanks/infantery) with french equipements. This is why a polish brigade ended up in Norway under french command.
(and it explained why they later end up in England, fleeing France after the battle of France).

Also there were 500,000 spanish republicans refugees (and their families) in France in 1940, and they were trained also to fight against the germans. There were a lot of them in the “légion étrangère” troops in Norway.

It’s true that there were a lot of logistics problems, the skis of the mountain troops were in one boat and the binding in another. The boats had been loaded with haste and basic logistic rules not followed.

The french legion unit in Norway is the 13th brigade. They’ll be very famous later in the war, especially for holding Bir Hakeim in 1942.
Among them in Norway, Commandant Marie-Pierre Koenig, future hero of Bir Hakeim, later commander of the Free French Forces and french minister of defense after the war.


Very interesting stuff


Thanks. I try to put some french perspective.

It’s hard to find english sources on what was going on in France at the time.

But I think you cannot explain why the czech and polish suddenly appear in England in 1940 if you don’t know they were trained in France first (and participated in the battle of France for some of them). And that France was facing a huge refugee crisis (and other countries just didn’t want any foreign jew or spanish refugees. There were 500,000 spanish refugees and maybe 200,000 foreign jew refugees).

France and Poland were already working on the enigma code decyphering for decades in 1940 and some polish researchers would continue to work in France and then in England. French researchers too would continue working on it even after 1940, in the Vichy free area (and were communicating between the english and french team with … enigma cyphered messages…).

Also, for the french navy, if the french navy is never mentioned how do you understand Mers-El-Kebir and the threat Churchill saw in the french navy?


General Antoine BETHOUART, head of the 1st light division of high mountain troops (chasseurs alpins)

After his participation in WW1, he was sent to Finland as an army advisor in 1919/1920.

In 1940, he was given the order to form a brigade to be sent to Scandinavia, with Finland in mind but it’d later be changed to Norway.

After landing in Norway, on the 28th May his men took Narvik, pushing back the German battalions of General Dietl to the border, a feat which would earn him promotion to the dignity of Commander of the Légion d’honneur.

After the Armistice, he would stay in the vichy army and be appointed in Morocco.
From 1942, he would prepare the allied landing there and switch to the free french army.
He would make a trip in the US to negociate the help of the US to the free french army.
He will be part of the free french landing in Provence in 1944 and command an army corps during the liberation of France.



Fascinating story of the French war contribution


General Raoul MAGRIN-VERNEREY (later known as MONTCLAR in the free french army), head of the 13th demi-brigade of the foreign legion in Norway

He fought in WW1 from 1914 to 1918. Exhibiting extraordinary bravery, he was gassed, wounded six times and cited 11 times, including seven times to the Order of the Army. Despite having 90% disability, he was promoted captain on 24 June 1916 with the 260th IR and received the Legion of Honour.

On 23 February 1940, he quit the post of commander of the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment in Morocco to take the helm of two marching battalions of the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion, a contingent of the expedition to Norway. On 5 May he landed in Ballangen, freed Bjervik and Narvik, liberated 60 allied prisoners and captured 590 Germans.

After the armistice, he would join the free french army in England under the name “Montclar”. He would then start to fight in Africa against the axis and liberating african vichy french colonies but would always refuse to fight other french troops. This would lead to his appointment in Great-Britain then the Levant and Syria.

After WW2, appointed to general of the army corps on 20 February 1950, and having almost reached the age limit, rather than retire Monclar volunteered to join the command of the French Battalion of Korea which he commanded until 1951 against the communist troops in North Korea.


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General Zygmunt BOHUSZ-SZYSZKO, head of the Polish Independent Highland Brigade of Podhale

The polish brigade was created in France in 1940 with 5,000 exiled polish soldiers.
They received french equipment, paid by money sent before the war to France by the polish government.
Their organisation was the same as the french mountaineer (chasseur alpin) units.
They would land in Narvik and fight alongside the french and the british under french command.
After the evacuation of Norway, they would land in Brittanny the 8 June, and be sent again to fight the germans.
After the armistice, part of the brigate managed to flee to England, and others would be part of the polish network of the french resistance in the free zone of France (alongside other french military that’d form a “secret army” to fight the germans).

General Bohusz-Szyszko, after fleeing to Britain was sent to USSR in 1941 to supervise the creation of the Anders polish army.
He would be chief of staff of the Polish army in USSR until 1943, then commander of the 5th Infantry Division of Poland and fight in Italy.

As far as I know he stayed in the polish military after the war.

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