First member of La Légion des Mille (The Thousand Legion)
Désiré Bianco was born April 4, 1902 in Marseille.
In 1914, when the First World War broke out, he was at a primary school Menpenti, in the 10th district.
Burning with the desire to fight for France, Désiré Bianco sought every means to find himself at the front. At Marseille were the barracks of the 6th Hussars Regiment from which detachments were regularly sent to the Meuse. Désiré attempted twice, in January and in March 1915, to stealthily fit himself among the soldiers. On both occasions, he was discovered and sent back to his family.
But that did not deter him nor dampen his enthusiasm to serve as a volunteer. At the port of Toulon, he finally succeeded to fit himself among troops of the 58th Colonial Infantry Regiment as they boarded the “La France” liner for the Dardanelles campaign.
The ship was in high sea when the soldier Louis Nicolas discovered it from where he was hiding. Since he had not yet reached the minimum age enabling him to be enlisted officially, the kid became the regiment’s mascot. He was offered a gun and a marine’s uniform. Upon landing, on May 6, at the Gallipoli coast, Désiré Bianco, like his comrades, realized that they were under Turk machinegun fire.
The following day, the regiment, which went to attack a fort build on a crest, suffered significant losses and found itself immobilised a hundred metres away from the enemy’s position. The order was given to go on with the attack.
He's only 13 years!
The rest of his saga was narrated by one of his buddies, Private Pechamat of the 58th Colonial Infantry Regiment.
“Désiré Bianco landed with us, experienced our lifestyle and participated in all confrontations in which our regiment took part.
Prior to the general attack of May 8, 1915, Lieutenant Asquier, the company commander, took Bianco’s gun and bayonet and handed him his sword, asking him to stay behind in the trench.
As we left, the kid could not contain the urge to fight. He jumped out and rushed to the front of the company, brandishing the lieutenant’s sword and shouting ‘En avant, à la baïonnette!’ (Here we go, with our bayonets).
Shot by several bullets, Désiré Bianco died a few metres away from the enemy fort.”
On August 30, 1916, General Cordonnier, commander of the East French army, awarded him, with the approval of General Joffre, a commendation in the army order, while paying him tribute for his glorious end.
The body of the little Marseilles hero was never found. It was in 1935, when Légion des Mille, an honorary institution which brought together the mille youngest volunteer servicemen of the First World War that Désiré Bianco was recognized as the first of them.
There is street in Marseille bearing his name and a stele was erected in his memory, at the 4th RIMA square, Toulon. The President of the Republic Gaston Doumergue had this to say about him "The name of this child could be inscribed in the Hall of Fame of great Frenchmen". According to the keeper of the Fréjus Navy troops’ museum, Lieutenant - Colonel Champeaux, "his story, full of courage and devotion, needed to be narrated in schools".
More than his final sacrifice, it was perseverance and the will to serve of this child - soldier which command admiration.
Thanks to this spirit of abnegation, Désiré Bianco was granted the first place in La Légion des Mille (The Thousand Legion).