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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

KaiserWilhelmI

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Very interesting! And indeed the regiment has been quite busy.
 

cm_spitfire

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Hello all. Well, a humble apology for failing to continue to post my story. I realise that it has been well over five months since my last post/update but life goes on and priorities (& time) changes. I'm currently overseas with work, have been for a little while now, and it occurred to me that I had left this epic far from complete. With no imminent return home scheduled, I figured I had plenty of time to get this posted and closed out.

As I noted in my OP, the story is all written and "published" in .pdf so it's very simple to actually go on and post it. So without further preamble, please enjoy the rest of the History of the Foot Grenadier Regiment of Normandy.
 

cm_spitfire

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Training began in earnest once winter had passed as new techniques and tactics, learnt during the recent war, were to be adopted. An amendment to the 1469 Regulations was subsequently released and once again, following a training period, the RÉGIMENT proved its capable understanding of the new doctrine under the eye of the Marechal de France and his staff. The RÉGIMENT was not found wanting in this regard.

A rise in tension was felt along France’s North-Eastern border as dissatisfied Dutch peasants chafed against the rule of their new overlords, the Austrians. Following a number of concerning demonstrations of force by the Austrian occupation forces the Corps was ordered to the border to ensure they did not overreach their authority. The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE was subsequently ordered to form a demi-Brigade with the 3rd Regiment of Horse and would then break down into Company groups to patrol sectors of the border. The 1st and 2nd Companies, commanded by Capitaine’s Succour and Clare made their way to Calais in May and would remain on post for two months before rotating with 3rd and 4th companies.

On the 3rd of July, 1479 the English declared war on our close ally, Scotland, who was at the time yet an independent Kingdom, with the intention of seizing the border province of Ayrshire. The Scottish Army was well renowned but the English had spent time since the Hundred Years’ War building and strengthening and hence had a quite formidable army. It would be a close run thing for the Scottish.

The Corps du Nord was ordered to make preparation for crossing “la Manche” and the companies were recalled from the border and instructed to meet the remainder of the RÉGIMENT in Calais. The Navy had begun to move ships into the waterway but on the 16th of July an English fleet caught and destroyed the French ships putting any chance of a crossing to the sword. The French Army would be stuck on the Continent and unable to assist.

In the meantime the Scottish had achieved two notable victories on land and through the skill of our diplomats, the English conceded to a white peace and a settlement of moneys December 1481. The failure of the French Navy was a national embarrassment and significant resources were spent to upgrade it once the war had concluded.

Colonel de Tosny finally succumbed to his wounds suffered in the 2nd Aragon War for Castilla la Vieja on the 21st of June, 1483. Indeed, the RÉGIMENT had been commanded by Commandant Ferrieres for much of the time post-War whilst de Tosny recovered but he never truly did so. Colonel Michel Langholme, Marquis de Langholme was appointed the new Commanding Officer; he was the brother-in-law of Marechal de Saint-Chamond and there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction amongst the RÉGIMENT’s officers at the perceived favouritism of the appointment.

In August 1484, the Corps du l’Ecossais was established for service in Scotland comprising 9,000 men from new regiments raised across the country. They embarked at Le Havre and arrived in Aberdeen a few months later with the intention of providing a deterrent to future English ambitions on Scottish land.

Marechal de Saint-Chamond passed away on the 31st of October, 1484 in what was a busy year for the Army. Marechal Jean Phillipe d’Ornano, the Duc de Toulouse, was appointed his replacement and instituted a vigorous training regime for all regiments in the Corps. Meanwhile the RÉGIMENT itself resumed its original border security tasks in the north-east.

A national month of mourning was held from the 23rd of March 1486 with the news that King Louis XI had died. His son, Charles VIII succeeded him and was crowned King on the 24th of April 1486 in Paris.

One of King Louis XI’s last administrative instructions before his death was for the continued integration of French vassal states and dukedoms and on the 4th of February 1487, Auvergne officially joined France. The 1e Régiment de Auvergne marched north to join the Corps du Nord whilst the 2e Régiment joined the Corps du Sud in Alencon. The inclusion of these two regiments brought each Corps’ strength up to 14,000 men under arms (combined Infantry and Horse) for a total Army size of 42,000 men and the largest in Europe.

The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE finally saw action again in May 1488 after the rebel upstart Charles Ypres declared King Charles VIII unfit to rule and proclaimed himself the rightful King of France. 6,000 followers joined him but his reign did not last long. The Corps du Nord was ordered to end this rebellion and they marched east to deal with them.

On the 4th of May, the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE was accompanying the 3rd Regiment of Horse forward of the Corps’ main body when they came across outlying defensive outposts of the rebels. The RÉGIMENT immediately formed into line of attack with the Horse providing flank security. Under a hail of poorly aimed arrows, the RÉGIMENT advanced but the enemy withdrew before they had a chance to engage. The Horse were released at once and managed to ride down most of the rebel force. As the RÉGIMENT began to reform and prepare to begin marching once again, scouts reported that the main rebel army was only a few short miles away and coming on.

The RÉGIMENT immediately re-formed and sent hurried messages back to the Marechal for assistance. It was the rebels that arrived first, however, and Ypres ordered his men forward against the hastily constructed RÉGIMENT lines. The rebels were no soldiers, rather farmhands, clerks and others of nonmilitary skill. Despite the overwhelming odds, the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE was impenetrable in its defence and the rebels continued to die at the hands of the steadfast Normans. Soon, the remainder of the Corps’ Horse arrived on the field and without hesitation, lowered their lances and charged the rebel army. The power and strength of the Knights on their warhorses was too much for the rebels whom turned and ran at the sight. It would not save them and a great number were slain as they ran.

The surviving rebel forces managed to establish a defensive position just outside Rethel and two days later the Corps arrived and stormed the position. No quarter was given and Marechal d’Ornano sent Ypres’ head to the King.

The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE had again proved its mettle in battle; their reputation as a professional and hardy force being reinforced. Following the return to Picardie, the RÉGIMENT was marched through a guard of honour from the remainder of the Corps.

More changes to the 1469 Regulations were announced in July 1490, this time with a logistic focus. Improvements were made in the ability to cure sick and injured soldiers and return them to their units faster than before. More money was made available to Commanding Officers for the purchase of provisions to feed the men and the rules on libations during duty hours were slackened. All this combined to improve the RÉGIMENT’s morale in a time where very little activity was occurring.

Marechal d’Ornano was found dead in his billet on the 23rd of September 1491 after only a few short years in command. Given the rather low-tempo of activity, no replacement commander was appointed; each of the regiments would receive their orders direct from the War Department in Paris.

England finally declared war on Scotland again on the 4th of December 1492 after a significant build-up of forces on the border. The Scottish Army moved south without waiting for support from the Corps du l’Ecossais and soon became decisively engaged in Northumberland. The French forces rushed south to assist and arrived just in time to turn the tide of battle against the English. It was an impressive victory and gave the defenders hope. Meanwhile, the English Navy had again blockaded the French Manche ports and, whilst no ships were lost, the French Navy was powerless to break out. The main French Army would be stuck once again.

On the 29th of May 1493, the Second Battle of Northumberland was won albeit with disastrous casualties within the Allied army. Subsequently, on the 10th of June, a second English army arrived and destroyed the remnants of the combined Franco-Scottish force. The Corps du l’Ecossais ceased to exist. It sent shockwaves through the entirety of France and a number of senior Army and State officials resigned from their positions. With no French or Scottish forces left, the English were free to capture the Scottish lands at will and on the 21st of August 1496, peace was reached with England taking a number of significant Scottish lands and forcing the Franco-Scottish Alliance to cease.

Changes were almost immediate. The War Department issued a number of edicts to change administrative and logistic functions within the Corps. These changes were seen as a vast improvement over previous procedures but it would still be a long time before the Army’s reputation would be restored. Further tactical and strategic changes were introduced at the turn of the century in 1500 including the development of a new weapon, the Cast Bronze Gun. Four Artillery regiments were ordered and these began arriving in the Corps du Nord and Sud later in the year. Whilst most effective during sieges, the power of these gunpowder weapons could turn the tide of battle like nothing had before.

Colonel Langholme departed the RÉGIMENT on the 18th of January 1488 and was appointed Commanding Officer of the 1e Régiment de Bourbonnais; at the time a far more prestigious unit within the Guarde. He was replaced by Colonel Luc de Bernieres, a Knight Companion of the King.
 

stnylan

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Crikey that is not good news. Does that defeat and destruction mean the regiment was involuntarily reformed? Or were they not involved in that disaster?
 

cm_spitfire

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Crikey that is not good news. Does that defeat and destruction mean the regiment was involuntarily reformed? Or were they not involved in that disaster?
No no, our heroes were not part of the expedition! The Regiment remained with the Corp du Nord in the north of France; they would have been part of the force sent to reinforce had the French fleet not been bottled up along the Channel coast.
 

KaiserWilhelmI

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I do love it when an AAR has setbacks. So many are simply about blobbing and victory after victory.
 

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In November 1500, following the First Italian War with Milan, significant lands were added to the French demesne. From these largely Francophone territories came thousands of recruits desperate to serve in the French Army (while they may not have been the most patriotic of French soldiers, they knew that service in the Army would protect their futures). In addition the Royal Court, recognising the significant security burden that came with increased land holdings, authorised the formation of two further Divisions of the Army. First the Corps de l’Est was established for service on the Eastern border with Milan, Savoy and Switzerland and was in similar makeup to the other existing Corps. Secondly, Les Reserves, a mixed body of infantry, horse and artillery would nominally protect the central areas of the country but also provide reinforcements to any other Corps as required. At the time of creation, Les Reserves was 12,000 men strong; 10 regiments of infantry and a single each of horse and artillery.

Colonel de Bernieres left the RÉGIMENT at this time, taking a position of the staff of the Corps de l’Est. Geoffroi de Tournai was appointed Colonel thus continuing the tradition of appointing Commanding Officers who had not previously served in the RÉGIMENT.

The following years saw very little activity for the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE and indeed the Army as a whole. Various training exercises occurred as well as the continuation of border security details in the north of the country. On the 1st of December 1506, the Army was put on half-pay and many of the RÉGIMENT’s men departed for their homes. The decision had been made by the War Department as a means of reallocating money into the French Navy and the colonial ambitions of the King.

Whilst spending on the upkeep of the existing forces was reduced, resources were still utilised to train and equip officers graduating from the various military academies around the country. This education was deemed critical as the Army could not rest on its laurels; educated and competent officers would ensure the future success of France’s military campaigns. Thus in late December 1506, a formal curriculum was published for the academies which would vastly improve the tactical competence of officers graduating each year.

At the same time, various new tactical doctrines, weapons and armour were introduced by the Swabian General George von Frundsberg and accepted by the War Department. The Landsknechten or Pike Square formation was adopted across all Corps’ for the foot soldiers and was seen an excellent defensive formation against the predominant Knight/Horse formations in wider-Europe.

And it was not long before these new techniques and formations were put into practice as the King ordered the occupation of Corsica on the 17th of September 1507; presently controlled by the Milanese. The invasion of Corsica would largely be the responsibility of the Corps du Sud however it was the size of the forces of Milan’s ally Hungary that gave French commanders pause. Indeed it was rumours of a large Hungarian army marching through Savoy that activated the Corps du Nord from Picardie and sent it dashing south to intercept. Initially the Corps was ordered for the province of Draguinan but as the Hungarian’s crossed the border it was evident that their target was Provence.

Shortly before the fall of Corsica however, King Charles VIII died suddenly and was succeeded by his infant son, Charles IX. Normally a week of mourning and various ceremonial parades would be conducted but with the majority of the Army on campaign, this was not possible.

Corsica fell to the Corps du Sud on the 16th of December but it would not be until February 1508 that the Corps, joined by the Guarde and elements of the southern militia, would meet the Hungarians in Provence. As general battle lines were drawn, the RÉGIMENT found itself to the left of centre and would very much be in the thick of the fighting. The Hungarian force was largely foot soldiers and was under-equipped in comparison to the brave Frenchmen. Battle was joined at approximately midday and a fierce engagement erupted with neither side willing to give way.

Despite their inferior weapons the Hungarians were fearless and repeatedly slammed themselves against the spears and shields of the RÉGIMENT. Many times were killed and wounded Normans pulled back from the front line and replaced by men from the rear ranks as still more Hungarians fell. Regiments from the Guarde took the honour of the day however; arriving late to the battlefield, they were able to outflank the Hungarians and cut a path through them that quickly caused panic. In a matter of minutes, the Hungarians were breaking and running for their lives. Pursuit was not possible however. The Corps needed time to rest and attend to the wounded and a large Milanese Army had just crossed into Bourgogne; the Guarde was about-faced and began marching north to deal with the new threat.

On the 9th of April, following a period of rest and recuperation beneath the walls of Provence Castle, the Corps du Nord was issued movement orders to reinforce the Guarde who had been forced-marched north to Bourgogne. The Milanese Army that had crossed the border in February had reportedly almost seized the province entirely.

Unfortunately, an opportunity to gain further glory and prestige was not forthcoming as the Guarde crushed the Milanese long before the Corps du Nord could arrive. As a result, the Corps was instructed to march on the city of Milan although this was changed quickly to Genoa; the Corps du Sud had the great trading city under siege following the fall of Corsica but had been repeatedly counter-attacked by Milanese, Hungarian and Pisan forces.

The Corps arrived on the 27th of August 1508 to an immense battle already underway. The Corps du Sud was arrayed in their siege lines to the North of the city walls but had been forced to concentrate and bare their backs to the city due to the threat of Hungarian knights and men-at-arms. The Hungarians had committed their troops without waiting for the Milanese, who had arrived at a similar time to the Corps du Nord. The Pisans, meanwhile, were threatening the right flank of the Corps du Sud but had been nothing more than a nuisance to that time. The remaining Milanese inside the walls of Genoa had not sallied although their entrance to the battle was shortly forthcoming.

As soon as the Milanese army was spotted, the Corps du Nord immediately established battle formation and moved to engage. The RÉGIMENT was far on the right flank and were charged with maintaining a watchful eye on the Western gate of the walls of Genoa and to eventually provide a link with the Sud forces. Within an hour, the battle was general with the two French Corps decisively engaged with their opponent. The fighting was bloody and many times did the lines break only to be held by the courageous motivation of the French Officers and Serjeants. The RÉGIMENT itself had not yet swung a weapon in anger although this would shortly change. The Corps du Sud, now being assaulted from three directions
as the Genoan garrison became involved, started to weaken and fall back upon the flank of the Corps’ soldiers. Within moments the men of the RÉGIMENT into combat once again with the Hungarians.

The Hungarian blood lust was upon them and they were fearless as they charged upon their un-blooded foe but the Normans showed they were no pushover. Colonel de Tournai led his men forward and was probably the first of the 2E to fall that day when an arrow struck him down but the charge did not falter. A vicious, personal combat was underway and few orders were spoken as the ferocity of the fight left no room but for the parry and thrust of individual combat. Men fell regularly but were immediately replaced by those at the rear as each strained to be the man responsible for winning honour for the RÉGIMENT.

The two sides fought until dusk when trumpets rang out from the distance, recalling the Hungarian and Milanese armies. Many Frenchmen lay dead and dying on the battlefield but the confrontation was far from over. The RÉGIMENT had suffered many casualties and received praise from the Marechal that night as it was their stiff refusal to fall back that held the French flank in place.

The following morning saw a heavy fog settle on the fields outside the walls and a sense of tension was palpable amongst the French line as it waited for the sun to burn the fog away. The Hungarians and Milanese had other ideas though and shortly sprung through the fog, desperate to defeat the invading French. The RÉGIMENT was once again involved immediately, this time facing Pisan soldiers who were better armed and disciplined than the wild Hungarians. At approximately eleven o’clock, the Genoan garrison finally sallied forth and charged into the remaining Sud forces that were close by the RÉGIMENT.

The line staggered as the men’s heads turned to assess the new threat and the Pisans took advantage to push hard. Commandant Succour stood tall at this moment and echoed his now famous charge to the men from Normandie:

Normans! The blood of the Northmen runs in your veins! Think to your heritage and fear not these worthless Italians! Arm yourselves and show them the true power of Norman steel!

“Succor’s Charge” focused the RÉGIMENT and brought new vigour to their defence. The reserves pushed forward with such force that surprised the Pisans and soon it was the turn of the enemy to look to their rear and consider withdrawal. All along the line this hesitation was felt and soon the French were advancing, step by step. For every Frenchman that fell, four Hungarian, Milanese or Pisans fell and when, finally, the French Knights were released, the battle was over. The enemy was in general retreat across the field and the Knights rode down man after man. The RÉGIMENT had come to within an inch of destruction but had held their nerve and turned the tide of the battle.

Unfortunately, Commandant Succour was slain in the final moments of battle but his memory would live on and become an integral part of the RÉGIMENT’s prestigious history. Over 690 officers and men died in the two-day long battle with many more wounded and incapable of further action for some time. Capitaines Gorges, Clare, Ansgot, de Peppin, and Tirel were killed, as were Lieutenants Beaumont, Mortimer, de Umfraville, S. Robert, T. Robert, Hugues, d’Adreci and Pippin. 4th Company was shattered, losing all of their officers and 77 of the 100 men that paraded the morning of the battle.

The Lion of Leon, Capitaine de Champlain was promoted to Commandant and temporary Commander of the RÉGIMENT for the duration of the siege and would be granted further honour upon the RÉGIMENT’s return to Picardie in September 1509 with promotion to Colonel and confirmation in command of the RÉGIMENT. Meanwhile, the siege of Genoa was re-commenced but with little taste for further bloodshed, the Milanese surrendered on 9th of May 1509 and peace accords were settled.

The surviving members of the RÉGIMENT returned to Picardie on the 6th of September 1509 and went into a largely inactive role as only 318 men were capable of parading
 

stnylan

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Sounds like that sort of engagement that enters the military mythology
 

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Sounds like that sort of engagement that enters the military mythology
Yeah absolutely! The Regiment had a number of battle honours conferred upon them as a result of their gallantry and sacrifice (all honours are listed back on page 1) in this war.
 

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On the 1st of November 1509, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the RÉGIMENT was celebrated with a great feast in Amiens and was attended by soldiers past and present. The Marechal of France, Marechal Guillaume de Vauville was the guest of honour and was present to rededicate the Amiens Barracks the “Caserne de Succour” in honour of the former Commandant.

The period up until March 1513 was thus spent in recruiting and training new soldiers and the education of such in the distinction the RÉGIMENT had earned since its inception. Upon the five-year anniversary of the Battle for Genoa in May 1514, a great parade was held in Paris to honour the veterans of the campaign. A great mural was erected by the King to honour those that had not returned and the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE was one of 12 regiments the King chose for special attention at the ceremony. The King also awarded Battle Honours to those worthy units:

“I, Charles IX de Valois, King of France, have the honour and pleasure to command that the victories of the ‘Relief of Provence’ and ‘Genoa’ and the Campaign title “Occupation of Corsica” shall be inscribed on the colours of the…2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE…and the same will be recorded in the next issue of the King’s regulations…”

Meanwhile, tensions on the Spanish border had intensified in May that year which ultimately led to a declaration of war by the Spanish upon Navarra in June. This presented an opportunity to the King to expand the borders of France further by acquiring the Navarre territory of Bearn. A declaration was likely to upset the Spanish but Basque nobles in France had been calling for the integration of their homeland into France for some time; the King was easily persuaded. Thus the Liberation of Bearn was declared however it was a Corps du Sud engagement in the majority. Navarre forces had already been destroyed in Navarra by the Spanish in June, allowing the Corps du Sud to march-in unopposed. They made short work of siege; Bearn fell and the Navarrese capitulated in early August 1513.

For the next 15 years until March 1530, the RÉGIMENT maintained its peace-time establishment (where many of the soldiers were granted long-term leave to return to their families) whilst continuing to provide border security in the North of the country. France itself was active however with war against the Caliphate of Fez in 1516 (Occupation of Melilla) which saw the country gain a foothold on the African continent. This new theatre would present many challenges to the King in the future.

In 1520 regulations for the recruitment of soldiers were eased with the introduction of Designated Recruitment Regions. Regimental commanders were then able to recruit far more easily from their regional pools which were now far larger than they had ever been. French military power was on the rise. In 1524, after years of promotion, French Knights began taking up full-time commissions in the infantry and not just in the Horse formations. These units still existed but it had now become more common for these nobles to seek prestige and reputation simply by being known as an Officer of the Army, such was the reputation of the Army itself at the time.

Finally, in 1530, the RÉGIMENT’s security and protection details were cancelled and they were ordered to join the Armee de l’Afrique in the conquest of more North African territories. On the 29th of March 1530, the RÉGIMENT departed Amiens and arrived in Montpellier some three months later in June. It would be a long wait in Montpellier however as the ships identified to be utilised for the crossing had been swept away and destroyed in a fierce storm and new transports had to be built. Marechal Alphonse de Bercy arrived and took charge of the Corps du Nord on the 30th of March 1531 with the troops finally boarding the new transports the following day.

The crossing to Bejaia was swift and acclimatisation activities commenced immediately for the men were unfamiliar with operating in the extreme temperatures they would face. Unfortunately, this process was not without issues. A number of soldiers collapsed and indeed some died as well as a number of the RÉGIMENT’s pack mules and cattle. Regular marches at Regiment and Company level were conducted into the countryside which escalated the acclimatisation process as well as improved the security situation. These patrols were not without incident: on the 18th of June, four soldiers of 6th Company were killed in an ambush by Islamic guerrillas and again on the 4th of July, another two were killed in a similar incident. This uncertain security environment would epitomise the RÉGIMENT’s deployment during the war.

On the 4th August 1531, the RÉGIMENT was finally ordered to the front lines with the remainder of the Corps with instructions to occupy the fortress of El Kef. The march to El Kef was punctuated by further violence from the guerrillas as a number of regiments suffered casualties along the way. Additional sentries were posted once in night locations and the Horse regiments were regularly called upon to chase away suspicious movements by the local inhabitants. The RÉGIMENT eventually reached El Kef on the 6th of September and immediately invested the imposing fortress which contained a garrison of over 4000 Caliphate soldiers.

On the 15th of December, while El Kef was under siege, the single-worst French military debacle occurred in the waters off Tunis resulting in the loss of 15,000 soldiers. The Corps du Sud, having completed their own acclimatisation activities was ordered to conduct a marine landing on the North-West side of El Kef (which was, as yet, still under Caliphate control) in order to complete the siege lines. In the early hours of the 15th, while small boats were transporting soldiers to the shoreline, a great Ottoman fleet appeared and destroyed the poorly defended French transports and landing craft. A mere few hundred French soldiers made it to the shoreline but were shortly killed or captured by the enemy sallying forth from the fortress.

The Ottoman fleet was chased off by the arrival of the French Mediterranean Fleet some hours later but the damage was done. A deep divide between French Army and Naval powers would last for centuries as commanders in both services lost their positions (and blamed each other). The King proclaimed a national week of mourning and was said to have openly wept when presented with news of the disaster. “Remember the 15th” would become a rallying cry for future generations of French soldiers.

The disaster aside, El Kef remained besieged by the Armee de l’Afrique and would eventually surrender on the 4th of May 1532. The RÉGIMENT suffered only minor casualties; most of these being related to disease as opposed to enemy action. With a small garrison left behind, the Corps du Nord then marched further east to the famed former Carthaginian capital, Tunis; the city falling swiftly after a brief siege on the 4th of December. The RÉGIMENT once again only suffered a few casualties given the lack of direct contact with Caliphate troops.

With their primary Mediterranean cities occupied or razed by French troops, the Fez Caliph was quick to seek peace once Tunis had fallen. In March 1533, the Caliph signed terms that ceded a number of provinces to the East of Melilla, further expanding France’s North African holdings.

As a result of the Corps du Sud’s destruction, the deployment of the Corps du Nord to North Africa and the need for a regional security force in the newly captured provinces, a reorganisation of the Army was required. The Armee de l’Afrique was established as a full-time organisation, comprised mostly of Corps du Nord regiments (excluding the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE), converted local North African militia units (predominantly cavalry formations) and fresh regiments raised from the south of the mainland. The RÉGIMENT itself would return to Picardie and resume its northern security details whilst the Corps itself commenced recruiting and establishing new regiments to replace those lost to Africa. The Guarde continued their ceremonial duties (they had not deployed to North Africa) and a new, albeit smaller, Corps du Sud was established in Montpellier to resume southern security duties.

In September 1535, while recruitment was in full swing, the matchlock musket or ‘arquebus’ was introduced to infantry formations and immediately made obsolete the tactics of the previous war. Military minds across the country debated and trialled numerous methods to best utilise this new weapon that would radically alter the French soldiers’ effectiveness on the battlefield.

Before the true capabilities of this new weapon could be realised, Colonel de Champlain retired from service at the age of 64 on the 12th of July 1541. He was succeeded by Colonel Hugues Blouet who had previously served on the RÉGIMENT staff but had recently been seconded to Paris for duties at the War Department.
 

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The regiment keeps dodging military disasters :)
 

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Following observance of the wars between Castile and the Emirate of Granada in 1548, ‘Spanish Squares’ became a popular tactical concept. This idea, formed by the great Spanish general Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, saw the combination of pike and arquebus soldiers into a lethal organisation that was near impossible to destroy by enemy cavalry but which also had the “tactical reach” to engage the enemy from range. The RÉGIMENT was issued with their arquebuses in January 1549 (one of the last to receive them) and was considered fully operational almost 12 months later in early 1550 following a series of training activities and manoeuvres. However, these tactics had not yet been tested, by the French at least, in combat.

Such a test would soon arise for the Corps du Nord and the RÉGIMENT though as on the 10th of March 1550, Jean Huerriell, a minor Flemish noble in Calais, raised the province in revolution seeking to establish Calais as an independent principality. The RÉGIMENT was quickly concentrated and joined other Corps’ regiments on the march with both forces arrayed before each other on the night of the 14th of March. In the early hours of the following day, the Corps surged forward from their lines aiming to catch the poorly equipped and under-skilled rebels off-guard but the Marechal had not counted on Huerriell’s leadership nor the esprit de Corps for which the rebels held.

The RÉGIMENT was deployed on the far right flank of the battle and had a small rise to climb before engaging with the rebels. This meant that the arquebusiers would be firing uphill which made accuracy difficult, particularly given the limited light offered by the still-rising sun at the time. As such, all the firing achieved was to alert the rebels that the RÉGIMENT was near and gave them enough time to stand-to and prepare. The leading pikemen of 1st through 4th Companies crashed into the semi-prepared rebel line and a general battle was formed.

To the surprise of Colonel Blouet, the rebel line failed to give way and he quickly found more and more of the RÉGIMENT’s men returning to the rear wounded. Reports of similar experiences were received at the Marechal’s headquarters but were treated largely with contempt and ignored. Soon enough, the unit to the left of RÉGIMENT began falling back which exposed the RÉGIMENT to flanking assaults from the rebel line. In an instant, the Corps’ line was in retreat as regiment after regiment reacted to their neighbour’s departure; the 2E was amongst those forced to withdraw. The rebels, perhaps surprised by the unexpected result, hesitated to pursue which allowed most of the Corps to reform in their original starting positions. The safety of this position would not remain as rebel horse began threatening the Corps’ flanks. More soldiers would die here before the Marechal was able to affect a proper withdrawal to the safety of the fortress at Ardres.

While the Corps du Nord was occupied, the Guarde had also deployed and was able to catch up and force battle with the rebels on the 4th of July. In a few hours work, the rebels were comprehensively defeated, Huerriell being slain on the field. Despite overall success, the failure on the 15th of March did not bode well for the Corps du Nord’s Marechal. He was swiftly replaced as were a number of Colonels; Colonel Blouet was found innocent of incompetence and remained in command. To finalise the punishment, the Corps was ordered to commence preparation for deployment back to North Africa and to conduct a relief-in-place with the Armee de l’Afrique. To many this was far from desirable but others saw the opportunity to restore the previous good name of the RÉGIMENT and the Corps.

On the 31st of March 1555, the RÉGIMENT commenced the march to Narbonne and on the 15th of July they sailed with a full complement of 1000 officers and soldiers. The fleet arrived in Mostaganem on the 23rd of August and, just as they had some 20 years earlier, commenced acclimatisation activities ahead of the handover of command ceremony on the 30th.

Perhaps as a test of the resolve of the new French forces in the country, Tunisian separatists rose-up in rebellion in the province of Oran on the 4th of September. The RÉGIMENT, accompanied by the 3e Alencon, 3e Roussillon and 4e Berry regiments quickly combined and moved to engage these separatists before they had time to organise. With the memories of the defeat in earlier in the year fresh in the mind of Colonel Blouet, careful appreciation of the enemy’s ability and deployment were made before committing troops to battle. Thus despite a slow, cautious engagement, victory was assured on the 17th as the separatists were swept away through not just a combination of superior tactics and firepower but the desire of the men of the RÉGIMENT to eliminate any memories of that previous battle. Following the battle, the RÉGIMENT was permanently stationed in Oran to provide security for the French provincial government. They would remain in North Africa, in large part, until September 1612.

It is rather fortuitous now that the RÉGIMENT is in Africa as much and more can be learned of their operations and activities. This is in large part due to a culture of record keeping present amongst the noble native North Africans. Many served as secretaries and notaries for the French Governor and as such, many despatches, reports and other official correspondence were archived in the library of Oran. We learn first of the RÉGIMENT’s troop dispositions in the province through Colonel Blouet’s orders to his company commanders:

“In accordance with the direction provided to me by the Corps Commander, the 2E Régiment de Normandie will secure the province of Oran through a dispersal of forces to key nodes. Companies will be responsible to ensure peace and stability within their Areas of Operation and are given liberty towards the execution of those duties. Regimental Headquarters will be quartered in Oran-proper with Nos. 3 and 10 Companies responsible for security. Capitaine Marchessault will command.

Nos. 1 and 2 Companies will be based to the South-West in the village of Beni Saf, commanded by Capitaine de Ros. Companies 4 and 5 will be located in the far south of the province at Sidi Bel Abbes; Capitaine Longchamp commanding. Companies 6 and 7, under the command of Capitaine Verney, will control the vital crossroads at Zaghloul. Lastly, Nos. 8 and 9 Companies shall be responsible for the township of Mascara, led by Capitaine l’Ivry.”

The province of Oran is large and those dispositions would see the Companies substantially isolated from each other as well as from the headquarters. For instance, Beni Saf was 98 kilometres from Oran; a travel time of over 20 hours. The Companies were expected to liaise directly with local village chiefs or elders to ensure that the King’s peace was maintained and to put down, with force if necessary, any riots or guerrilla activity. A report from Capitaine Longchamp in Sidi Bel Abbes highlighted some of the difficulties the RÉGIMENT had in engaging with the local population:

“…at once, I directed the men to release their captive and, through the interpreter, sought to ascertain why the man had been lingering outside the compound. I believe the interpreter misinterpreted my question as at once the man fell to his knees, crying, hands clasped as in prayer and appeared to be asking for my mercy. He believed that I had just ordered him killed!”

Companies 8 and 9 were particularly busy in Mascara with a number of minor uprisings occurring, largely as a result of the significantly hostile Bedouin population in the area. Only three days after their arrival in Mascara, Capitaine l’Ivry reported on a brief engagement a platoon had been involved in:

“5 Platoon had been patrolling the Eastern outskirts of the township at approximately one o’clock upon which they received a brief flurry of shots from the dunes. Lieutenant de Lisieux immediately ordered the platoon to find cover while he searched for the source of the musketry. While no trace of the assailants was identified, the platoon did identify a number of Bedouin observing them from a distant sand dune. No casualties were sustained.”

And again, a week later on the 30th of September:

“Upon reaching the crest of the dune, I observed a camp of approximately 50 Bedouin men, women and children with countless tents, camels and accoutrements set about in haphazard formation. I ordered the men into line and had intended to sweep down slowly upon the camp to inspect for weapons however we were soon sighted and a great cry went up amongst them. Swiftly, the tents were pulled down, camels loaded up and the camp began to disappear. A number of Bedouin men were seen with weapons thus I ordered the men forward intent on capturing these fellows. Alas, we were too slow and they escaped. I suspect this is not the last we shall see of this Bedouin tribe.”

He was not wrong. Three days later on the 3rd of October during an extended range patrol to Froha, the company came across the same Bedouin tribe encamped outside the township. The element of surprise was with the Normans this time and they wasted little time in moving upon the Bedouin to capture those with weapons. As soon as the troops entered the ring of tents, shots from Bedouin sentries rang out although they were far too late to warn the tribesmen who had not immediately seen the troops. Men, women, children and animals scattered in all directions although at least 12 men of “fighting age” were detained and escorted back to the Company position for questioning. More arrests were made subsequent to the actions of the 3rd of October but more importantly, weapons and ammunition were seized and confiscated.

Capitaine l’Ivry would go on to make many reports on the actions of his command particularly in regards to the actions of the local Bedouin. The Companies would suffer 12 casualties related to enemy action between them; a number of reports also noted deaths from climatic and other “exotic” conditions.

In Sidi Bel Abbes, Companies 4 and 5 had a far more tumultuous deployment with a number of open engagements against formed bodies of rebels. Second only to Oran, Sidi Bel Abbes was a major township with a population of well over 2000. Capitaine Longchamp was met with challenges from the outset as he arrived outside the town; a low wall of rubbish and burned out wagons had been dragged across the road while an envoy of village elders awaited them some few hundred metres from the blockage. Capitaine Longchamp reported:

“A most peculiar Gentleman stood apart from the rest, a brightly coloured yellow turban adorning his head and a long white unkempt beard running down to his navel. He held his hand aloft as if to make us stop, which I duly ordered, before I approached along with the CSM and the interpreter. This fellow, he gave his name as Mohammed al Razak, told us in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome or required that his “brothers” were keeping the peace. I believed him to be disingenuous so wheeled my horse around, ordered the Detachment into extended line by fours and sent them forward towards the debris.”

As the two Companies came forward, the envoys turned and darted back towards their comrades that soon became visible from behind the wall/blockage. Shots rang out yet the distance was still too great for them to have any effect although it certainly saw to alerting Capitaine Longchamp that he was in for a hot afternoon.

“Their attempt was futile and the detachment kept stolidly marching on. I kept two platoons back on the flanks to keep a ware eye on any movement that might threaten the formation. A few more shots came from the debris as we came within 100 yards but they were poorly aimed and flew high, as is the norm with irregular forces. At 75yds, I halted all but the three middle platoons that proceeded another 25yds forward, halted, aimed and fired in volley at the debris. The effect was instantaneous as 15 or 20 rebels burst from the debris and followed the envoys back into the town-proper.”

Longchamp had the Companies pull down the blockage and put out a series of fires that had been lit and which had been pouring a thick black smoke across the town. The force then moved forward in skirmish order to commence clearance of the town and return French order, supported by the local leaders. Shots rang out at irregular intervals as the troops drew near and did little but to inform where the enemy were hiding in ambush. Once the edge of the town had been breached, Longchamp dispersed the platoons to various sectors in order to clear each dwelling or building, circling around until they would reform at the town centre where Longchamp himself would meet with the elders once more.

This clearance process took the majority of the afternoon. A number of rebels were shot and captured; three soldiers were also unfortunately killed before the town was declared as back under control. Longchamp reported a sense of uneasiness amongst his troops though, particularly with night falling and was wary of a counter-attack.

“Sergeant-Chef Maillieu noted the queasiness of the men as they loitered in the plaza; they stood or sat, fingering their weapons and peering through the deepening darkness at the huts surrounding us. I called in the Platoon Commanders, assigned sectors for their control and ordered them to keep a watch through the night. The men would rest indoors; another sweep would be conducted at dawn.”

Fortunately, the troops’ nerves were unfounded and the night passed without incident. The second sweep of the town was conducted at dawn with another number of rebels captured as they slept. Capitaine Longchamp impressed upon the town elders the need for peace and submission to French command and would impress hardships upon the populace should they not comply. It would take many months and multiple deaths before Sidi Bel Abbes was truly under control.

It is a similar story for the experiences of the other Companies with little to note regarding particular deeds or casualties save the death of Capitaine Verney in Zaghloul in 1570. Verney was commanding a detachment of soldiers at a food distribution point when a small riot broke out. He was hit in the side of the head by a rock and fell dead instantly.
 

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How prosaic a way for someone to die, being hit by a rock during a bread riot (or similar).
 

Cromwell

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I'm looking forward to seeing what adventures the regiment are involved in next. They have had a varied service so far.
 

cm_spitfire

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How prosaic a way for someone to die, being hit by a rock during a bread riot (or similar).
Perhaps it was rock-hard bread?!

I'm looking forward to seeing what adventures the regiment are involved in next. They have had a varied service so far.
Hey, thank you for reading and commenting! Many many more adventures to come for the heroes of Normandy!
 

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You're welcome. I don't think I've encountered an AAR quite like this one before. It's a great idea.
 
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cm_spitfire

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In January 1565 General de Griffe produced a pamphlet entitled Sur la Bataille avec les Forces Irregulieres (On Battle with Irregular Forces) which principally identified the various tactics available to commanders. It was distributed widely across the Kingdom, particularly in North Africa where members of the 2E RÉGIMENT regularly mention its application in their despatches.

In July 1565 the RÉGIMENT concluded its security responsibilities and marched to Dahra; in the spring of 1567 it preceded to Jufra, and in 1568 it was removed to Hodna. Further rotation through the province occurred in 1569, 1570 and 1571 where the RÉGIMENT was removed to Tiheri, Annaba and back to Dahra respectively.

It was in Dahra on the 29th of December 1573 that news reached the RÉGIMENT of the King’s passing and the assumptive control of Royal Affairs by Regency under the control of the Dauphine’s mother. The Lady Clarice shortly asserted to relinquish the responsibilities of the Foreign Department and hence no further aggressive action would be taken against other North African nations until the Dauphine had come of age. As such, despite preparations to the contrary, the RÉGIMENT was recalled to France in March 1574 where it entered cantonment in Auvergne.

On the 15th of January 1577, following completion of his courtly education, the Dauphine ascended to the throne as King Louis XII and immediately commissioned a full review of France’s military forces. Such review carried out by the distinguished William, Prince of Orange and of Nassau, saw the popularisation and modernisation of Roman tactics with an emphasis placed on the supporting concepts of engineering, logistics and economics. These supporting concepts greatly increased both the professionalism and esprit de Corps of the French forces enabling a far more effective fighting force. These concepts, dubbed “Nassauan Infantry” were received and implemented in the RÉGIMENT in April 1578.

Following the Nassau Review, the RÉGIMENT was immediately marched to Nice where it embarked once more for North Africa, arriving in Oran in September 1578. The RÉGIMENT then immediately marched to Laghouat to quell tensions along the border with the Caliphate of Tunis. Such tensions were felt up and down the border and drew the increasing ire of the King who, having found opportunity to test the capabilities of the Army he had trained declared a Crusade upon the Caliphate and ordered French forces across the border in July 1580.

The 2E RÉGIMENT, along with the 2e Berry and 4e Picardie regiments, was immediately directed to the nearby Tunisian town of Touggourt which it placed under siege on the 27th of July. Local Tunisian forces were swept back and enveloped into the town which held out until surrender on the 11th of March 1581. Unfortunately, on the night of the 13th of February, a snake entered Colonel de Bosc-Normand’s tent and bit him while he slept. No alarm was raised and his servant found him dead the following morning. Colonel Jean de Perci, who had been on the Brigade staff, was quickly appointed to the Colonelcy of the RÉGIMENT and saw out the remainder of the siege.

A Tunisian relief force, unaware of Touggourt’s surrender was ambushed and defeated at Ouargla on the 22nd of March before the Brigade advanced unopposed and captured Aures on the 24th of May, Gafsa on the 26th of June and Ghadames on the 28th of September. The RÉGIMENT had a number of men killed and injured although notably the predominant causes of casualties were related to disease and other environmental effects.

Following a period of rest near Ghadames, the RÉGIMENT joined the bulk of the Army occupied in the Siege of Tripoli, arriving on the 12th of January 1582 but did not enter the trenches. Having arrived at Tripoli, a strong castle, called Al Hamidiya, standing on an eminence on the coast of the ocean, being garrisoned by a thousand men, well provided with every means of defence, held out against the French arms, and the RÉGIMENT was selected to commence operations against this place. The approach was hazardous beyond description; one arch of a bridge was blown up, and the batteries raked the bridge from one end to the other. A few daring Norman arquebusiers, however, passed around the bridge on the 5th of March, and, leaping from the moat in the face of a sharp fire, were soon warmly engaged. A plank had, in the meantime, been laid across the broken arch of the bridge, and a number of veteran Normans running across one after another, joined their companions in the fight, and a lodgement was effected beyond the moat, and some advantage gained. The castle was afterwards taken by storm; and this having been deemed an impregnable fortress, it was found well stored with corn, wine, ammunition and treasure; and small arms were found for seven thousand men.

On the 10th of June, having heard of a Tunisian force of very superior numbers attempting to cut off the communication of the Army at Tripoli with those besieging Sirte, the troops struck their tents near Al Hamidiya, and by a forced march during the night arrived within a few miles of Jufra as the Tunisians approached. Some sharp fighting occurred, in which the French Corps in the rear-guard evinced great gallantry, and the enemy affected its retreat in a disorganised fashion.

The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE was then dispatched north, with other Corps’ to the harbour city of Bizerte as the final few bastions of Tunisian holdouts began to crumble. The RÉGIMENT arrived shortly after Christmas 1582 and placed the township under a general siege; the gallant Normans capturing first a number of small redoubts surrounding the town-proper. Before the defenders capitulated though, on the 5th of July 1583, the Tunisian Caliphate surrendered and a number of provinces were passed under French control. The RÉGIMENT remained in Bizerte until September from where they boarded vessels and returned to the French mainland, landing on the 18th of October. The RÉGIMENT proceeded directly from Marseille to Amiens, arriving to the approbation of the Norman citizens who had not witnessed their gallant heroes for many years, on the 31st of October 1583.

The RÉGIMENT remained in Normandie for three years, conducting various ceremonial and civil duties as well as opportune training exercises. In March 1586, orders were received sending the RÉGIMENT back to North Africa with the march commencing a month later on the 12th of April. By the 20th of April they had arrived in Marseille to board the ships and arrived once more in Oran three days later. Now at full-strength of 1,000 men once more, the RÉGIMENT was dispatched to Annaba to reinforce the local magistrate and Gendarmes but were unable to prevent an uprising occurring in that state in September 1587. A number of Gendarmes were ambushed by the mob and killed before the RÉGIMENT could deploy. When the mob refused to disperse, Colonel de Perci ordered them fired upon which achieved the desired result.

The death of the Gendarmes and an unknown quantity of the mob did little to quell the tension and the RÉGIMENT were subsequently relocated to Al-Djazair where they arrived on the 6th of August 1588. On the 24th of November 1589, Colonel de Perci was succeeded by Colonel Richard de Meulan, Comte d’Amiens, by a commission dated the 25th of November 1589. Various guard and ceremonial duties were imposed upon the RÉGIMENT during this period however orders were received in February 1593 to commence work-up training and recruitment in anticipation of a second conflict with the Caliphate of Tunis. Indeed on the 1st of September 1593, King Louis XII, with the support of his Most Serene Holiness Pope Clement VIII, declared the 2nd French Crusade for Tunis. The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE formed part of the army under His Royal Highness the Duc de Touraine which advanced from Oran, on the 12th of September, towards the fortress at El Kef, when the Caliphate troops made a precipitate retreat. The French forces followed in pursuit but were diverted to besiege said fortress, vice following the enemy.

The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE formed part of the advanced-guard as the Corps constructed the various tools of siege warfare and shortly took their place in the trenches from the 15th of October. Much of the fighting was further south in the Caliphate lands and as such the siege of El Kef was a predominantly static affair. The famished occupants of the great fortress surrendered on the 12th of July 1594 and the RÉGIMENT was immediately dispatched with other Corps to the province of Constantine which was subsequently razed and the population subdued on the 30th of October.

France’s long-time rival in the North African theatre, the Ottomans, joined the war in September that same year and immediately deployed their Janissaries into Tunisia. A far more urgent attention was given to these forces and the 2E RÉGIMENT shortly found itself marching rearwards to the provinces of TiHeri (10th of January 1595) and Hodna (27th of February 1595) to release them from Ottoman occupation. On the 15th of March, the Army crossed into Aures and were engaged with an Ottoman force of similar size near Yarous. The RÉGIMENT was posted on the left of the front line of the army. After a sharp cannonade, several Janissary regiments sprang forward, and with shouts and dismal yells attacked the French forces sword in hand. The RÉGIMENT had to bear the brunt of the furious onset of the Ottomans: for a moment it was disordered by the weight of the attacking column, and the men staggered; but only for a moment as two supporting regiments advanced to sustain them, and recovering, they rushed upon their adversaries with a resolution and valour which proved they were not unworthy of their distinguished reputation. A furious conflict ensued; the Janissaries with their Yatagan swords were unable to withstand the ruthless charge of the French army; the carnage was dreadful, and the ground was literally covered with slaughtered Turks. A decisive victory was gained; and the Ottomans quickly removed towards Bizerte.

Duc de Touraine’s official correspondence to the King singled out the courage and sacrifice of the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE:

“Comte d’Amiens’ Régiment (the 2E NORMANDIE) gained the greatest reputation imaginable at the engagement, the best of the Turks having made their strongest efforts to break them, but without effect; for the Normans bravely repulsed those boasters with a dreadful slaughter…”

The Duc’s report notes that a total of 416 soldiers were killed in the battle although the statistic does not differentiate by regiment.

On the 10th of May the RÉGIMENT released Annaba from Ottoman occupation and on the 24th of July they released Mzab from the same. A peace accord was reached on the 2nd of October 1595 with France seizing more Caliphate territory from the Tunisians and financial reparations from the Ottomans as dispensation for their involvement in the war. The RÉGIMENT was assigned, with the Army headquarters, to security duties at the fortress of El Kef for which they had become very familiar with in the past years.

In December that same year, the new Pope, Leo XI, excommunicated France’s rightful and pious King Louis XII, despite the lands he had secured for Christendom, causing a great rift among the major European powers. As the Pope had formerly held the office of Bishop of Cadiz, the noble houses of France suspected the Spanish crown as the cause of this offence. Tensions between the great Catholic nations grew but stopped short of further provocative actions.
 

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In March 1596 a great parade was held in Paris to celebrate the success of the Crusade, despite the excommunication, and representatives from the North African regiments, including the 2E, attended. The King presented his gratitude to the Duc de Tournaine for the swift and decisive actions for which he was responsible and conferred upon those regiments present various titles and honours for which they had won. As such, the RÉGIMENT would hence display the word “Yarous” signifying their involvement in the Battle of the same.

In August 1598, Tunisian separatists won a small but politically important engagement when they ambushed a French supply column between Gafsa and El Kef. The significance of the action encouraged the general Tunisian population to rise up and brigade themselves under the banner of Sheikh Mahmoud Dahoud who subsequently conducted a series of small raids on Gendarme and Army facilities in the province. The 2E was ordered to disperse and kill or capture the rebels and sallied forth from the fortress on the 15th of August, catching up with the van of Dahoud’s peasants near the Oued El Fekka river, north-east of Gafsa. The rebels were quickly broken after a single volley and charge; the escorting French horse pursuing and killing many more.

The RÉGIMENT was hence ordered to the province of Constantine in January 1599 and in June were force-marched to Bizerte to put down a Sunni rising against the garrison. Whilst these rebels were also put down, the RÉGIMENT suffered a horrific number of casualties; as many as 406 men were killed or wounded in the engagement. In September 1601 the RÉGIMENT was relocated to Dhara where they would remain until January 1607 before returning to El Kef once more. The occupation and garrisoning of Dahra would be the Comte d’Amiens’ final involvement with the RÉGIMENT as he was recalled to the mainland; Colonel Roger de Pistres, Marquis de Flamanville, was appointed Commanding Officer with a commission date of the 11th of October 1601.

War was declared for the third time on Tunisia, on this occasion without the Pope’s blessing, on the 29th of June 1607 with the King’s brave legions pointed directly at Tunis and its lucrative trade establishment. The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE marched immediately, crossing into Tunis on the 10th of July and clashing with a largely ill-organised and technically inferior Tunisian army on the 15th of July. The 2E was held in reserve for this particular engagement but found itself amongst the action three days later when Tunis itself was invested. The great city was comprehensively defended by the Caliphate’s soldiers but also a series of fortifications and strong points that would prove costly to overcome for the French army. It took almost a full calendar year but eventually the garrison surrendered; French troops marched-in and occupied the famed and magnificent city on the 16th of June 1608.

On the 16th of July, the RÉGIMENT formed part of the force that invested the city of Zuwarah, before being called away to reinforce those Corps currently besieging Tripoli; arriving in that area on the 24th of August. The RÉGIMENT’s stay was again short-lived as new orders on the 26th of October 1608 sent the RÉGIMENT north to Juffra which had recently been occupied and scorched by the Ottoman Turk. Juffra was cleared by mid-November but the RÉGIMENT remained in the province in order to secure vital communication lines between the forces in north and south. In May 1609, the RÉGIMENT re-joined the Army and commenced the siege of the fortress at Sirte.

The fortress walls surrounded the city in its entirety with only the sea-side free from significant defences. The French Army, now commanded by Duc de Roannais, was disposed across the length of the walls; the RÉGIMENT taking post in the trenches on the Western flank. French batteries were established within a week and commenced a bombardment to weaken the both the defences and defenders determination to hold out. The bombardment failed to dislodge the defenders resolve and a monotonous period of time passed for the attackers as they took turns in the trenches at various points during the following months.

A breach being made in the wall, and the approaches carried to the foot of the glacis, the Duc de Roannais ordered a general assault to be made, on the 27th of September, by half of the army, to capture the covered way and two towers near the breach: the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE was one of the Corps selected for this service. The assault was made with great gallantry; but, owing to some misapprehension of orders, the attack failed, and the several regiments engaged were forced to retire to the trenches, with the loss of five hundred officers and soldiers killed and upwards of a further five hundred wounded.

The RÉGIMENT had six officers killed and eight wounded and near one hundred soldiers killed and wounded.

The failure of this attack, with the approach of unfavourable weather, occasioned the Duc to raise the siege, when the RÉGIMENT marched with several others, under Marquis de Courbons, towards Dahra; but afterwards proceeded to the relief of El Kef which was besieged by a body of the enemy where they arrived on the 4th of July 1610. Much like the previous battle the RÉGIMENT had engaged in against the Ottoman Turk, French firepower, élan and esprit de Corps proved far too much for the enemy and they were swept from the battlefield without a single Norman casualty.

Grave news was received later that month on the passing of King Louis XII and the ascension of his son King Louis XIII, who had spent time with the Army de l’Afrique earlier in the campaign. Commemorations were subdued as the Army was again on the march this time to Gafsa where they encountered a second Ottoman army on the 23rd of September. The following day a general engagement took place, in which the Ottoman forces were overpowered and driven from the field with severe loss, including General Ramazan Ozcan, who was killed by a cannon ball. On this occasion the RÉGIMENT formed part of the brigade under Marquis de Courbons again: it faced the brunt of the Ottoman assault and suffered 112 officers and soldiers killed and wounded.

Following this victory, the army turned and marched back to El Kef where the remains of the earlier defeated Ottoman forces had assembled, and appeared determined to make a resolute stand, in the hope of being reinforced by Tunisian rebels from Tunis. The RÉGIMENT had the honour of the centre of the line on this occasion and won further recognition and fame for its conduct in this battle. Despite suffering a further 200 casualties, including Marquis de Flamanville, the RÉGIMENT held firm upon the first Ottoman assault and then led the counter-charge with great ferocity and bravery. On this occasion, the surviving Ottoman troops surrendered and owing to the casualties sustained in the recent battles, the RÉGIMENT remained in El Kef for a period of time to rest and guard those prisoners. Colonel Roger le Blond, Marquis de Vouilly was appointed commanding officer with a commission dated the 25th of October 1610.

In March 1611, the RÉGIMENT marched again, having received a number of reinforcements, and arrived in Tunis on the 2nd of April in order to relieve the city from rebel control. Marquis de Vouilly had been given charge of the expedition containing the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE and three other Corps; he ordered a sudden advance towards the city, to surprise two thousand armed Tunisian peasantry, who had taken post near that place. At daybreak on the following morning the Brigade approached the post, and the enemy formed for battle, but soon fled, and the soldiers pursued and killed about fifty fugitives.

While the Brigade was pursuing the peasantry, a second irregular force arrived and seized the city; and when word reached the Marquis, he turned his force around and marched once more to Tunis. The brigade arrived in the afternoon of the 27th of April and the following morning advanced towards the city where these new rebels had established hasty defences. Despite the lack of cannon, the French forces advanced bravely and, after receiving an ill-timed volley of fire from the rebels, gave their own fire and charged forward, sweeping away the cowardly defenders. The charge took the brigade into the city itself which proved a hindrance in locating and capturing the surviving rebels. By mid-June the city was declared free with the local Governor and gendarmes resuming control but the brigade had more imminent dangers to face.

A third Ottoman army had landed and seized Bizerte in the past month and now this much larger force had designs on capturing Tunis. Marquis de Vouilly dispatched riders to call for assistance from the main army but they themselves were occupied with a rejuvenated Tunisian army near Tripoli. On the 19th of June the Ottoman force, containing infantry, cavalry and 12 cannon, arrived to the north of Tunis and sharp cannonade was opened against the remaining fortifications and positions. The Marquis de Vouilly had the brigade established in a short line facing the enemy but it was clear that any engagement here would be nothing more than a delaying action. And so it was. As the bombardment began landing amongst the RÉGIMENT and other Corps, the enemy infantry advanced stopping within musket range
and opening fire upon the line. Return fire was given before a mine was detonated close to the Ottoman line which served to give them pause and enable the brigade to commence a withdrawal.

The RÉGIMENT suffered 53 casualties, officers and soldiers, in the brief engagement and a number of other would fall in the subsequent pursuit by the Turk’s cavalry over the proceeding weeks. Eventually, the brigade would join up with other detached brigades and were able to affect a defensive stand near Mitidja. The French force now numbered some 15,000 men albeit from regiments, including the 2E, which had suffered casualties in the previous few months. On the 16th of November the Ottoman force, bolstered by surviving Tunisian rebels, arrived at the position and a general engagement took place.

The Ottomans commenced their advance upon the line the following morning at three o’clock, and about two o’clock in the afternoon the French developed their counter-attack against the Ottoman forces posted in the village of Batna; the 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE formed part of this manoeuvre. Owing to the overwhelming strength of the enemy and the exhaustion of the French troops, the attack failed and the men were thrown back from Batna time and again until they could not be lifted to charge once more. The RÉGIMENT suffered greatly and as night fell, they were withdrawn to the rear of the line and the following morning led the march back towards Setif. The victorious Ottomans did not pursue but rather marched south to engage the remaining forces of the Army de l’Afrique near Tripoli. Further loss of life was prevented though when the King’s counsellors negotiated a ceasefire and an end to hostilities four days following the defeat at Batna. The RÉGIMENT had been reduced to 334 officers and soldiers over the course of the previous months’ engagements and while reinforcements would arrive from the mainland, its ability as a fighting force was greatly reduced. Subsequent to arriving at Setif, the RÉGIMENT marched north to Bejaia where they boarded ships to return to the French mainland. The 2E RÉGIMENT DE NORMANDIE had finally concluded a near-unbroken eighty-one years on duty in North Africa; a deployment that saw them win countless battles and achieve great honour from their commanders and respect from their enemies.
 

stnylan

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The regiment is getting rather used to North Africa. 81 years - that is one hell of a time, and they did - at times - endure hell :)