Sunday 23 December 2012

Baron Alfred Van der Smissen and the Belgian Foreign Legion.

This week sees the release of some exciting new 28mm miniatures for our Maximilian Adventure range. Along with 7 new Republican Mexicans we have added the Belgian Foreign Legion to the range including their enigmatic commanding officer Baron Alfred Van der Smissen.

 Baron Alfred Baron Van der Smissen commanding officer of the Belgian Legion was born in Brussels on February 1, 1823. Enlisting in the Military in 1843 he was to see his first combat some eight years later in North Africa in 1851 fighting alongside French Troops in North Africa against rebellious Algerian tribesmen. It was here that Van der Smissen gained valuable experience on how to fight a war against revolutionary guerilla forces. This experience of fighting along side the French against irregular forces would see him given command of the Belgian troops sent to Mexico to aid in the suppression of the Mexican Republican Revolutionaries.

With typical paternal concern for the welfare of his daughter, the Empress Carlota, King Leopold III authorized the formation of the Belgian Foreign Legion . Consisting of two Battalions, one Grenadier and the other Jaeger, the Belgian Foreign Legion was deployed to Mexico in support of the Imperialist cause.

The Battalion consisted mainly of men in their early to mid twenties with little or no combat experience infact only Van der Smissen and his second in command, Major Tigdal, had ever experienced hostile fire.

Shortly after arriving in Mexico the Belgian Legion would be blooded in the battle of Tacambaro, when on April 11, 1865, just 300 Belgians would find themselves encircled by a Republican force of some 3000-3500 troops. Surrounded on all sides the Belgians held out for five hours, in the hope of reinforcements, but after losing over a third of their number, including their Officer in command, the veteran Major Tigdal and his adjutant Captains Chazal, did the surviving Legionnaires surrender. The hoped for reinforcements would arrive some four days later.

Just three months later on 11th July 1865 under the direct command of Baron Van der Smissen the Belgians would exact there revenge winning the Battle of La Loma de Tacámbaro. Van der Smissen and the Belgian Legion would continue to fight for the Imperialist cause until their eventual disbandment on December 6, 1866. When along with the majority of his men the Baron returned to his native Belgium.

Van der Smissen would go on to become commander of the Royal Guard, being promoted to Lieutenant General in 1879 he was given command of the Brussels Military district; where he ruthlessly suppressed a workers mutiny at Chaleroi in 1886.

He retired in 1889 and wrote his memoirs of his time in Mexico entitled “"Souvenirs de Mexique"” before committing suicide at the age of 72 on 16 June 1895.

To end we would like to wish all our customers and supporters a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.