It was on January 16, 1919, that the "Ligue des Combattants Volontaires de la Grande Guerre-Fraternité d'Armes" (League of the Great War Volunteer Servicemen – Military Service Brotherhood) was declared at the prefecture of La Seine. Its headquarters was located at 53 bis, Boulevard Suchet, Paris. This league wasn't as successful as expected, given that some servicemen had distinguished war titles, such as JAY or HUTIN-DESGREES, hardly associated with volunteers whose military engagement was limited to background services.
Following the "Etats généraux de la France Meurtrie" (Assembly on battered France), which held at Versailles in 1927, a call was made aimed at bringing together "true" volunteer servicemen. This appeal witnessed an overwhelming response, which resulted on December 22, 1928, in the transformation of the previous association into the "Fédération Nationale des Combattants Volontaires de la Grande Guerre" (National Federation of the Great War volunteer servicemen), and the headquarters was moved to 7, Rue de la Pépinière, Paris. In May 1933, the headquarters was moved again to 28, boulevard de Strasbourg.
On December 14, 1935, the Federation's name became "Fédération Nationale des Engagés et Combattants Volontaires de la Grande Guerre" (National Federation of the Great War volunteers and volunteer servicemens), which, in March 1936, merged with Fédération Nationale des Unions d'Engagés Volontaires (National Federation of military volunteers' unions) for the duration of the war.
The headquarters was then move to 9, rue Mazagran
Two years later, in September 1938, the Federation merged with la Fédération Nationale des Engagés Volontaires (National Federation of Volunteers) and became known as "Fédération Nationale des Volontaires de Guerre" (National Federation of War Volunteers).
On October 16, 1941, the Vichy government ratified a decision that had been taken on August 14, 1941, to dissolve our Federation, in favor of the "Légion Française des Combattants" (French Legion of Servicemen), the only association authorized by Vichy to bring together all ex-servicemen, whatever they were.
As soon as French territory was liberated, our Federation resurrected with the name "Fédération Nationale des Volontaires de Guerre 1914-1918 et 1939-1945" (National Federation of First and Second World Wars Volunteers).
On November 1, 1944, Eugene WEISSMAN, then the federal President, received a letter from General DE GAULLE intimating that while waiting for a new law, which will define other categories of volunteer servicemen to be added to the existing ones of the First and Second World Wars, he was okay with the idea of considering as volunteer servicemen all F.F.L. (Free French Forces) and all Resistance forces as well as F.F.I (Internal French Forces) who fought before the provisional government of the Republic returned to the metropolis. This letter makes us the very first association to have been able to bring together under its banner all volunteer servicemen of the Resistance.
June 1996 : The Name F.N.C.V. Adopted
In a bid to consolidate its new status, our Federation in September 1945 became known as "Fédération Nationale des Combattants Volontaires des guerres 14/18, 39/45 et des Forces de la Résistance" ( National Federation of Volunteer Servicemen of the First /Second World Wars and the Resistance), which in May 1947 became "Fédération Nationale des Combattants Volontaires des Guerres 14/18, 39/45, des T.O.E. et des Forces de la Résistance" (National Federation of volunteer servicemen of the First/Second World Wars, the T.O.E. and the Resistance), a name it sported all through till June 5, 1996, when the extraordinary general assembly, which held at Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, Vienne, voted for a change of name to:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF VOLUNTEER SERVICEMEN First World War, Second World War, Resistance, T.O.E., A.F.N. and Overseas Campaigns
This long history would not be complete without mentioning that on March 29, 1960, a decree signed by Michel DEBRE, conferred on us the privilege of featuring among associations recognized to be politically useful, a rather rare event.
One might wonder why a Federation, the only association with the official latitude to bring together all Free French Forces and all Resistance Forces, at the time it received General DE GAULLE's letter, on November 1, 1944, was unable to enjoy the unanimous support of volunteer servicemen. The reason, I believe, resides in the fact that our heroic veterans of the First World War, who were the backbone of our Federation, failed to immediately offer a considerable number of duty posts to the "kids" we were then; "kids", who having just gone through the absolutely strange experience of a war, perhaps the bloodiest in history, and who swelled with the pride of the immeasurable sacrifices they made to reconquer the liberty and honor of their fatherland, wanted to create associations they could call theirs, in which they would be the super-bosses.
It is up to us, we of the second fire generation, now older than what our great veterans of the First World War were in 1945, to avoid committing the same error with respect to our young buddies. We need to given them posts of responsibilities, including the office of the president, in our Federation and sections as well as in affiliated associations so that they can gradually and smoothly take over the baton from the current leaders. That is the only way to guarantee the survival of our Association. It is our fervent wish that no other conflict occurs that would undermine our membership. Our associations therefore are doomed to disappear.
Thanks to our young volunteer servicemen of the 3rd and 4th fire generations, F.N.C.V. will live on and serve as a forum for all volunteer servicemen, who will be the last survivors of their association.
Three lofty missions of the F.N.C.V.
At this point, I would like to refresh your memory on some great moments that have marked the life of our Federation. These can be classified under three main headings:
Defending the rights of volunteer servicemen,
Socially-oriented activities of the Federation,
Activities of the Federation on the international scene.
Our Federation is the brain child behind the law that was unanimously voted in both houses on April 6, 1930, instituting the volunteer servicemen status and attributing the first contingent of the Legion of Honor in their favor. The contingent was subsequently extended several times. Article one of the law provides an excellent definition of a volunteer serviceman. A volunteer serviceman/woman, according to it, is a veteran, holder of a serviceman card, who opted voluntarily to serve in any capacity within an armed unit at the Front, when he/she was not obliged by any legal provision to do so. It is upon our request that a 1936 decision granted the volunteer servicemen cross to volunteer servicemen of 1870-1871, who were holders of a serviceman card. As from 1946, our federal bureau single-handedly took initiatives at the level of the army commission to have instruments which had been submitted to it serve as the basis for the draft bill instituting the Second World War volunteer servicemen’s cross. This draft bill was voted without any opposition on February 4, 1953.
Our Federation did not relent its efforts. It subsequently obtained the institution of the volunteer servicemen cross for Indochina, for Korea and, finally, for North Africa with much support from our friends of the Front uni des Combattants d'Afrique du Nord (North African United Front of Servicemen). In 1941, when the so called "Vichy government" took a decision to grant the volunteer servicemen cross to L.V.F. volunteers, President WEISMANN had a petition submitted to the head of State stipulating the Federation’s opposition to such an initiative and call on all First World War volunteer servicemen to lay their crosses on the gravestone of the unknown soldier. The government retracted and postponed the decision.
As for the activities of our Federation in the social domain, I will briefly mention the organization in 1929 of a charity sale week in favor of war blinds, the lunching of a campaign in 1930 on children dental care by our Seine section (an initiative taken up by the Paris city council and which culminated in the creation of the EASTMAN Foundation), the creation in 1932 of the first blood transfusion center, with no donors other than volunteer servicemen of our Seine-et-Oise section, and the creation of the "Mont-Dore treatment home for gas victims", funded by a national day that witnessed the participation of all sections of our Federation. This foundation experienced enormous difficulties during the occupation so much so that, in 1952, the Federation decided to offer the institution to the Ministry of the Armed Forces for its welfare activities. In 1955, during the national congress held in Oran, participants unanimously agreed to be organizing a yearly vacation camp for the interest of young Muslims, war orphans, whose parents died for France. Thus came the creation of the "Cigognes" vacation camp in Saint-Amarin, near Mulhouse, which has since been closed down.
I would equally like to mention an anecdote symbolizing President WEISMANN's spirit of generosity. Invited in 1948 and 1949 by the American Legion, WEISMANN enjoyed much sympathy from the Americans. He met with President TRUMANN on several occasions and build solid friendly ties with American sponsors, who donated him some 5 million francs for the activities of French veterans. With the consent of the federal bureau, he gave the totality of these funds to three associations of disabled ex-servicemen and veterans, without keeping a dime for his Federation of Volunteer Servicemen.
The Federation equally plays an active role on the international scene. The Vice-President of our association, Doctor CELLES de Bordeaux, was, in 1929, assigned a mission in Yugoslavia by the Ministry of External Affairs. The success of this mission was such that, in 1930, he was entrusted a similar mission in Italy. Within the same period, the Federation had a monument erected at Chalade, Argonne, in memory of the GARIBALDI brothers and others, who lost their lives there in 1915. On many occasions, our Federation has always responded substantially to appeals for assistance in the advent of major disasters in the world. In 1948, our Northern Section organized, in Lille, an international congress of joint allied volunteer servicemen, which witnessed the participation of delegations from England, the United States, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway. In July 1950, following this congress, came the creation of the Joint Allied Federation of Volunteer Servicemen, with headquarters at 9, rue de Mazagran, which, unfortunately, no longer exists today.
If I have taken much time, perhaps too much time you may say, to expound on our history, it is to let you see how great our Federation was both on the national and international scenes, and also how much humility is required of us if we compare ourselves with our Great Veterans.
Henri EUGENE, National President of the Federation from 1980 to 1992