Navy troops came into existence in 1622 when the Cardinal of Richelieu created ship-borne companies aimed at participating in boarding.
Navy artillery, created in 1692, comprised on-board gunners and others in charge of defending ports and naval dockyards.
Thereafter, real navy companies could be seen participating in the defence of French colonies. In 1792, they became organized into colonial infantry regiments.
The 19th century witnessed the confirmation of the distinction between soldiers of the navy infantry, « marsouins » and those of the navy artillery, « bigors ».
Thanks to their bravery at the Bazeilles battle during the 1870 War, navy troops became so famous.
The appellation «colonial troops» or «colonial» in brief, was given in 1900 to army detachments in charge of defending French overseas territories.
Colonial army corps were mobilized during the First World War and fought at the borders, in Champagne , on the Somme , at the Aisne , at St-Mihiel, at the Dardanelles , in Montenegro , and at many other fronts.
During the Second World War, the contribution of colonial troops to the reconquest of the national territory was so essential. Coming from England and Africa , they joined the Resistance and the French Free Forces within the framework of the 2 nd Armoured Division (2 e DB), the 1 st Division of Free France (1 e DFL), and the 9th Colonial Infantry Division (9 e DIC), just to name a few.
The Colonial troops subsequently served in Indochina from 1949 to 1954, in North Africa from 1954 to 1962, in Egypt in 1956…
In 1958, within the context of decolonization, the colonial troops sloughed off this appellation and once more became navy troops, as was in the beginning. And that is how General Bigeard, the French army officer with the highest number of decorations, had the privilege of commanding in Algeria, while still a colonel, the 3 rd colonial parachutists regiment (3 e RPC), rechristened the 3 rd navy infantry parachutists regiment (3 e RPIMa).
In 1967, these troops, comprising all the artillery and infantry units of the navy, became a branch of the armed services. It should also be stated that navy troops are honoured to have amongst their prestigious units, a series of parachutists regiments and the navy tanks infantry regiment (R.I.C.M.), which is the regiment of the French armed forces with the highest number of decorations.
High-flying soldiers with a glorious past, bigors and marsouins, an essential component of the army, today participate with much efficiency in all humanitarian overseas operations (OPEX) and others aimed at protecting the civilian population (the Gulf War, Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda…), be it within the framework of multinational intervention or under the French flag.