French Armenian Legion

French Armenian Legion

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Armenian Legion

caption=Armenian Volunteers joining
country= France
size= 4,124 [Hamelin to Defense, document 53/G-11 of 12 January 1919, A.VA]
nickname=La Légion d'Orient
battles=Battle of Arara (Sinai and Palestine Campaign), Franco-Turkish War
ceremonial_chief=Boghos Nubar
The Armenian Legion, established with the French-Armenian Agreement (1916), was a foreign legion unit within French Army. The Armenian legion was established under the goals of the Armenian national liberation movement and was an armed unit besides the Armenian volunteer units and Armenian militia during World War I which fought against the Ottoman Empire. The initial name of the legion was "La Légion d'Orient" (The Eastern Legion). [] It was renamed as "La Légion Arménienne" (The Armenian Legion) in February 1st, 1919. The soldiers in this legion were referred to informally among the Armenians as "Gamavor" (Volunteer).

Initial Plans

Signed in Paris by General Roques, Minister of War, and General Lacaze, Minister of Navy, the official decision regarding the establishment of the Armenian Legion dates November 15th, 1916 in Paris.

According to this initial decision,
* The Eastern Legion was to be stationed in Cyprus
* Armenians and Syrians of Ottoman nationality would be volunteer conscripts
* The Legion would be commanded by French officers
* The conscripts would have an equivalent status compared to French soldiers and would be under responsibility of French War Ministry
* Infantry commander Romieu would be supervising the establishment of the Legion
* The Legion was to be deployed in Cilicia, now known as Çukurova, on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) [ [ La Legion D'Orient_(Suite) ] ]
* 10,000 Francs were to be allocated from the war budget of French Navy in Syria to use in establishment of camps
* The volunteers were to be organized by local Armenian committees and sent to Bordeaux and Marseille. The committees were to be reimbursed by French government for travel expenses.


The Legion was established officially in Cairo, Egypt in November 1916, with the accord of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an Armenian delegation. Several Armenian organizations pledged contribution to form several battalions under the planned Armenian Legion.

Negotiations of Boghos Nubar with French political and military authorities culminated in the formation of the French Armenian Legion. Ninety-five percent Armenian in composition, the Legion included Ottoman Armenian refugees, former prisoners of war, and permanent residents of Egypt, America, and Europe. Under the command of General Edmund Allenby, the Legion, fighting in Palestine, Syria, and finally Cilicia, won the plaudits of Clemenceau’s government and its Entente allies." [Richard G. Hovannisian, Armenia on the Road to Independence,' 1967]

The majority of the the soldiers were said to be recruits from the Armenian-American community or embittered survivors of the battle of Musa Dagh who were living in refugee camps in Port Said, Egypt, at the time.

The parties agreed to the following:

* The aim of creating the Legion was to allow Armenians' contribution to the liberation of Cilicia region in Ottoman Empire and help them to realize their national aspirations of creating a state in that region.
* The Legion was to fight only Turks and only in Clicia.
* The Legion was to become the core of a planned future Armenian Army.

The number of volunteers was an equivalent of 6 battalions, each containing 800 volunteers, and another 6 battalions was planned to be formed. Armenian committees were organizing the conscription process to recruit these soldiers in France and United States.


After the initial training in Cyprus, the Armenian Legion was first deployed in Palestine, to help French and British armies against Ottoman and German armies.

Following this campaign, they were deployed in Anatolia (Asia Minor) according to the initial decisions. They were active in the cities of Adana and Mersin. []

In May 1919, the Armenians declared an independent state in Cilicia. However this state was short lived as France disbanded the Armenian Legion and recognized Turkey's sovereignty over the region in 1920. [ [ The Armenian Weekly Online: August/September 2001 ] ] [ [ Armenian Homeland ] ]

cquote|Nearly all the able-bodied Armenians in France, between 1000 and 1500 strong, joined the French Foreign Legion quite early in the war. Some Armenians came from the United States to fight for France. Only some 250 have survived, I understand, most of whom are proud possessors of the Military Cross. [ Armenia and the War: An Armenian's Point of View with an Appeal to Britain ... - Page 80 by Avetoon Pesak Hacobian]

See also

*Armenian Legion
*Franco-Armenian relations


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