Chasseurs d'Afrique
The Chasseurs d'Afrique (literally Huntsmen of Africa) were a light cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 in the French Armée d'Afrique
Army of Africa (France)
The Army of Africa was an unofficial but commonly used term for those portions of the French Army recruited from or normally stationed in French North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962.-Composition:...

 (Army of Africa). First raised in the 1830s from regular French cavalry posted to Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, they numbered five regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s by World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. For most of their history they were recruited from either French volunteers or French settlers in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 doing their military service. As such they were the mounted equivalent of the French Zouave
Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962. The name was also adopted during the 19th century by units in other armies, especially volunteer regiments raised for service in the American Civil War...

 infantry. The other major cavalry element in the Armee d'Afrique were the Spahi
Spahis were light cavalry regiments of the French army recruited primarily from the indigenous populations of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The modern French Army retains one regiment of Spahis as an armoured unit, with personnel now recruited in mainland France...

s—recruited from the indigenous peoples of Algeria, Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, and Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 with mostly French officers.


In addition to numerous campaigns in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, these colorful regiments also served in the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

, France's invasion of Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and both world war
World war
A world war is a war affecting the majority of the world's most powerful and populous nations. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters....

s. The Chass. d'Af. distinguished themselves by securing the flank of Lord Cardigan
James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan
Lieutenant General James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, KCB , was an officer in the British Army who commanded the Light Brigade during the Crimean War...

 during the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade
Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. The charge was the result of a miscommunication in such a way that the brigade attempted a much more difficult objective...

. On this and other occasions they used their characteristic African tactic of advancing rapidly in open order, in contrast to the rigid lines of the Light Brigade.

World War I

At the outbreak of WWI in 1914, six regiments of Chasseurs d'Afrique were in existence. The 1er and 2e RCA had detached squadrons on active service in eastern Morocco while the four remaining regiments were on garrison duty in Algeria and Tunisia. Seven regiments of Chasseurs d'Afrique (including three regiments de marche or active service units created for a particular campaign) were transferred to France between 1914 and 1918. The 1er and 4e RCA ended the war in the Middle East fighting against the Turks, while the 5e RCA detached squadrons to serve in the Balkans.


In 1933 the regiments de chasseurs d'Afrique (RCA) began the process of conversion to mechanised
Armoured warfare
Armoured warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war....

 units. The first vehicles adopted were White TBC armoured cars, followed by White-Laffly 50 AMs. Both models were obsolete for European warfare but suitable for colonial
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 campaigning. Other vehicles were provided for individual squadrons and in 1939 Hotchkiss H35 and H39
Hotchkiss H35
The Hotchkiss H35 or Char léger modèle 1935 H was a French light tank developed prior to World War II.Despite having been designed from 1933 as a rather slow but well-armoured light infantry support tank, the type was initially rejected by the French Infantry because it proved difficult to steer...

 light tanks were received by the 1er RCA.

On the outbreak of World War II (September 1939) regiments of chasseurs d'Afrique were deployed as follows:

1er RCA in Morocco;

2e, 3e, and 5e RCA in Algeria ;

4e RCA in Tunisia;

6e and 7e RCA in the Levant, that is in Syria and the Lebanon.

Only the 1er and 4e RCA were fully mechanised at this date, the other regiments comprising a mix of mounted and mechanised squadrons. In the course of WWII the process of mechanisation was completed. The 3e and 5e RCA were equipped with M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

 and M5 light tanks. The 5e RCA notably landed in Provence
Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up...

 in August 1944, and was one of the first units to be fully operational for combat. It was engaged in several battles during the taking of Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

, in the Rhone
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

 valley, through Burgundy, Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

, and in the Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

. The regiment earned the Rhine and Danube badge. The 6e and 7e RCA, involved in heavy fighting against Allied forces in 1941 Operation Exporter, were equipped with 90 tanks (mostly Renault R-35 with a few Renault FT-17
Renault FT-17
The Renault FT, frequently referred to in post-WWI literature as the "FT-17" or "FT17" , was a French light tank; it is among the most revolutionary and influential tank designs in history...

) and a similar number of armoured cars.

Modern regiment

Algerian independence
Nationalism and resistance in Algeria
-Algerian nationalism:A new generation of Muslim leadership emerged in Algeria at the time of World War I and grew to maturity during the 1920s and 1930s. It consisted of a small but influential class of évolués, other Algerians whose perception of themselves and their country had been shaped by...

 brought an end to the corps through a series of disbandments and transfers between 1962 and 1964, after over a century of service. However one regiment (1er Regiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique) was re-raised in 1998 to preserve the traditions of this famous cavalry. The modern regiment is one of the mechanised units of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

. It is divided into one instruction squadron and three combat squadrons and is equipped with approximately 45 armoured vehicles
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....



The Chasseurs d'Afrique were until 1914 clothed in light blue tunics tucked into a red sash and red breeches. Their normal headdress was the taconnet—a light blue and red shako
A shako is a tall, cylindrical military cap, usually with a peak or visor and sometimes tapered at the top...

, similar in shape to that worn by the equivalent light cavalry regiments (hussars and chasseurs à cheval) of the metropolitan army, but worn with a white or light khaki cover. Prior to 1873 the casquette d'Afrique
Casquette d'Afrique
The casquette d'Afrique is the term used to describe a range of lightweight military headgear used by the French metropolitan and colonial armies generally from the early 1830s to the 1860s.-Background:...

 had been worn. The traditional fez and sash were worn off duty or when in barracks until World War II. The light blue tunics had yellow facings and reportedly earned the Chasseurs d'Afrique the nickname of "Blue Butchers" amongst some of their opponents.

The khaki uniforms worn by the Chasseurs d'Afrique from 1915 onwards were distinguished by dark blue collar patches with yellow braiding and regimental numbers. The modern armoured regiment does not retain any of its historical distinctions but wears the light blue and red kepi of the French cavalry.

US Civil War Chasseurs d'Afrique

The name was also applied to the first all African-American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 regiment formed by the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 in New Orleans in 1862.

See Also

  • French colonial flags
    French colonial flags
    Some of the colonies, protectorates and mandates of the French Colonial Empire used distinctive colonial flags. These most commonly had a French Tricolour in the canton....

  • French Colonial Empire
    French colonial empire
    The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

  • List of French possessions and colonies

External sources

  • Gazette des Uniformes, Juillet-août 2005.
  • R. Huré. L'Armée d'Afrique 1830–1962. Paris: Charles-Lavauzelle, 1977.
  • Sicard, Jacques and François Vauvillier. Les Chasseurs d'Afrique. Paris: Histoire et collections, 1999. ISBN 2-908182-87-4.
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