Dissolution of French Regiments, 1916-1918

Le Blant

In the face of ever-increasing casualties, the French army's ability to refill the ranks of all of its regiments became impossible. This attrition was however coupled with the structural reorganization of the infantry, with an gradual rise in firepower within the squad and section. In total, 187 units are dissolved during the war, the vast majority of which are reserve regiments. The most significant milestone in the dissolution of these units was a direct result of the appalling losses suffered in the first half of the Battle of Verdun in 1916: 43% of the 51 units disbanded in the summer of 1916 had just come from the Verdun sector prior to their disbandment.

The remaining men of the units were typically transferred to other regiments to continue out the rest of the war. In the first year of the war, only a few units would have this fate. The 145 line regiment and its reserve sister unit, the 345, were the first to be dissolved. In September 1914, these two units occupied the fortified place of Maubeuge. After suffering significant losses during the siege from the German artillery bombardment, the two units surrendered on 7 September and effectively ceased to exist. These regiments were never subsequently reformed.

The next dissolution would not occur until June 1915, when the survivors of two heavily exhausted reserve regiments (301 and 357 RI) were mustered out, followed by another two in December 1915 (280 and 284 RI). The remaining men would be transferred en masse to other units. These dissolutions also signaled the change in organization of large formations in the French army. For example, the 301 RI, after suffering serious casualties at Eparges was dissolved on 12 June 1915. The 5th Battalion was transferred to the 317 RI to act as its new third battalion, while the 6th Battalion to act as the third battalion of the 315 RI (both being designated as the 4th Battalion).

The year 1916 would see a great many more units disbanded, 51 regiments in total, all reserve units save one active regiment (111 RI, after being overwhelmed at Verdun). Again, ever-increasing casualties and a lack of replacements to fill the gaps were a primary factor. This attrition was however coupled with the structural reorganization of the infantry, with an gradual rise in firepower within the squad and section. The change began in 1915 with the increasing incorporation of hand grenades into combat tactics, followed soon after by the trench mortar, rifle-machine gun, and rifle-grenade. Thus, greater firepower and more autonomy with less men. In 1916, the composition of French divisions are gradually reduced from four regiments to three, and then by the dissolution of the brigade.

While some reserve regiments were broken up to bring all infantry regiments up to the three-battalion composition, others were turned into divisional infantry units. Another 35 reserve regiments were dissolved in 1917 and finally, 32 more following the massive losses incurred during the spring German offensives. In closing, it should also be noted that a majority of territorial regiments were disbanded between August 1917 and August 1918. Typically, the battalions were kept in tact and converted to pioneer battalions bearing the same regimental designation. These were either assigned to a designated infantry division or in some cases remained autonomous. Alternately, the men might be transferred to other units (line regiments or other territorial units). In the case of the machine-gun companies, these were often converted into "positional" machine-gun companies assigned to a specific sector or fortress.

The following is a listing of all active and reserve infantry regiments dissolved during the war. Owing to large number of territorial units dissolved and converted primarily in 1918, a sampling of units has been provided. Following the unit designation is the date of dissolution/conversion followed by a descriptor.


111 RI – July 1916 – the unit was overwhelmed at Verdun along with the 258 RI, men transferred to multiple units
203 RI – July 1918 – men transferred to the 22, 61, 125 DI
207 RI – 17 May 1917 – men transferred to 9, 11, 20 RI
209 RI – May 1917
211 RI – 16 April 1916 – one battalion transferred to 214 RI and the other to 220 RI to become the 3 Bat.
212 RI – Dec. 1917 – men transferred to multiple regiments
213 RI – Sept. 1917 – some men transferred to 113 RI
214 RI – 12 June 1918 – one battalion transfers to 137 RI, the second (and the CHR) to 64 RI, the third to the 93 RI
215 RI – Sept. 1918 – a portion is transferred to 339 RI
216 RI – Aug. 1918 – one battalion transferred to 201 RI
218 RI – May 1918 – one battalion transferred to 18 RI and the other to 34 RI
220 RI – Dec. 1917 – men transferred to 283 and 288 RI
222 RI – 23 Dec. 1917 – men transferred to 299 RI
223 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 230 and 333 RI
228 RI – 7 Dec. 1917
229 RI – Nov. 1917
231 RI – 29 May 1916 – men transferred to 246 and 276 RI
235 RI – 1 Nov. 1916 – men transferred to 242 and 260 RI
236 RI – July 1918 – men transferred to 205 and 319 RI
237 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 279 and 360 RI
238 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 216, 298, and 305 RI
239 RI – Nov. 1917 – men transferred to multiple regiments
240 RI – 1 Jan. 1917 – men transferred to multiple units with the older men being sent to the territorials
241 RI – 22 May 1917 – men transferred to 7, 14, and 41 RI
242 RI – 1 Oct. 1917
243 RI – 1 June 1916, one battalion transferred to 233 RI and the other to the 327 RI to become the 4 Bat., CHR split among 233 and 327 RI
244 RI – Oct. 1916 – men transferred to 371 and 372 RI to become the 3 Bat.
245 RI – 14 Oct. 1917 – men transferred to 320 and 348 RI
246 RI – Sept. 1918
247 RI – Aug. 1917 – men transferred to 29 RI
249 RI – Oct. 1917 – men transferred to multiple units including chasseur units
250 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 307 and 308 RI to become the 3 Bat.
252 RI – June 1918
253 RI – Sept. 1917
254 RI – 11 June 1916 – men transferred to 251 and 267 RI
255 RI – 24 Oct. 1917 – one battalion is transferred to 334 RI
256 RI – June 1918 – men transferred to 76, 113, and 131 RI
257 RI – 20 June 1916 – men transferred to 212 and 344 RI to become the 3 Bat.
258 RI – 28 March 1916 – the unit was overwhelmed at Verdun along with the 111 RI
259 RI – April 1916 – men transferred to 283 and 288 RI to become the 3 Bat.
263 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 278 and 338 RI to become the 3 Bat.
266 RI – 21 April 1916 – men transferred to 277 and 335 RI to become the 3 Bat.
268 RI – June 1918 – some men transferred to 219, 41, and 416 RI
269 RI – Jan. 1918 – some men transferred to 226 RI
270 RI – June 1917 – men transferred to 71 RI
271 RI – 10 June 1916 – men transferred to 247 and 248 RI to become the 3 Bat.
273 RI – Aug. 1918
274 RI – Dec. 1917
275 RI – 1 June 1916 – men transferred to 240 and 261 RI to become the 3 Bat.
276 RI – 17 Sept. 1917 – men transferred to multiple regiments
277 RI – Sept. 1918 – one battalion transferred to 232 RI
278 RI – Jan. 1918
280 RI – Dec. 1915 – one battalion transferred to 281 RI and the other to 296 RI (then to 248 RI at end of 1917)
281 RI – June 1918
282 RI – 1 June 1916 – men transferred to 204 and 289 RI to become the 3 Bat.
284 RI – Sept. 1917 – men transferred to 45, 84, 260 RI, and 58 BCP to become the 3 Bat.
285 RI – Dec. 1915 – on battalion transferred to 256 RI and the other to 295 RI to become the 3 Bat.
286 RI – 1 June 1916 – men transferred to 252 and 339 RI to become the 3 Bat.
290 RI – 4 June 1918 – men transferred to multiple regiments
291 RI – 22 June 1916 – men transferred to 245 and 348 RI
292 RI – 28 June 1916 – men transferred to 298 and 305 RI to become the 3 Bat.
293 RI – Nov. 1917
294 RI – Oct. 1918 – half the effective is used to constitute 17 Tirailleurs
295 RI – June 1918 – men transferred to multiple units
296 RI – Nov. 1917 – men transferred to 202, 225 and 248 RI
300 RI – 17 Nov. 1917 – some men transferred to 23 RIC
301 RI – 12 June 1915 – one battalion transferred to 315 RI and the other to 317 RI to become the 3 Bat.
302 RI – 1 June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 311 RI and the other to 312 RI to become the 3 Bat.
303 RI – end of Jan. 1918 – men transferred to multiple regiments, incl. 5 and 11 Tirailleurs de Marche
304 RI – end of June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 203 RI and the other to 341 RI to become the 3 Bat.
305 RI – 13 Aug. 1918 – men transferred to multiple regiments
306 RI – 15 June 1916 – men transferred to 251, 287, 332 RI
308 RI – end of Jan. 1918
309 RI – 1 June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 217 RI and the other to 221 RI to become the 3 Bat.
310 RI – June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 208 RI and the other to 273 RI to become the 3 Bat.
311 RI – July 1918
312 RI – 21 Jan. 1918
313 RI – Dec. 1917
314 RI – 21 April 1916 – one battalion transferred to 232 RI and the other to 325 RI to become the 3 Bat.
315 RI – 5 Dec. 1917
316 RI – 15 June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 264 RI and the other to 265 RI to become the 3 Bat.
317 RI – July 1918
318 RI – June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 219 RI and the other to 262 RI to become the 3 Bat.
322 RI – Aug. 1916
323 RI – June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 216 RI and the other to 234 RI to become the 3 Bat.
324 RI – July 1918 – men transferred to 164 and 365 RI
326 RI – 20 June 1916 – men transferred primarily to 300 RI
330 RI – Sept. 1918 – men transferred to multiple regiments
331 RI – Aug. 1917
334 RI – April to June 1918 – men transferred to multiple regiments
336 RI – June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 202 RI and the other to 225 RI to become the 3 Bat.
337 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 293 RI
341 RI – May 1918 – men transferred to 71 RI
342 RI – May 1917 – men transferred to 35 and 60 RI
343 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 215 and 253 RI
345 RI – 7 Sept. 1914 – entire regiment captured
347 RI – 22 June 1916 – becomes 4 Bat. of 348 RI
348 RI – May 1918 – men transferred to 99 RI
349 RI – June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 358 RI and the other to 370 RI to become the 3 Bat.
351 RI – 22 May 1917
352 RI – April 1917
353 RI – June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 346 RI and the other to 356 RI to become the 3 Bat.
354 RI – April 1917
353 RI – June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 294 RI and the other to 355 RI to become the 3 Bat.
357 RI – June 1915 – men transferred to 297 and 359 RI to become the 3 Bat.
359 RI – Oct. 1918
361 RI – June 1916 – some men transferred to 350 RI
362 RI – 31 Jan. 1917 – one battalion transferred to 324 RI and the other to 365 RI to become the 3 Bat.
364 RI – 24 Aug. 1916 – one battalion transferred to 303 RI and the other to 330 RI to become the 3 Bat.
368 RI – 5 June 1916 – one battalion transferred to 367 RI and the other to 369 RI to become the 3 Bat.
370 RI – Nov. 1917 – some men transferred to 7 and 115 BCP
373 RI – June 1916 – men transferred to 229 and 363 RI to become the 3 Bat.
402 RI – April 1916 – some men transferred to 164 and 165 RI, remainder to 111 RI then to 216 RI
405 RI – July 1916
406 RI – Aug. 1916
417 RI – Oct. 1917 – one battalion transferred to 167 RI and the other to 168 RI
419 RI – Aug. 1916 – men transferred to 236 and 319 RI to become the 3 Bat.
420 RI – Aug. 1916 – men transferred to 329 RI to become the 3 Bat.
421 RI – Aug. 1916

Sample of territorial units
1 RIT – 7 Sept. 1914 – surrendered at Maubeuge, never reconstituted
2 RIT – 7 Sept. 1914 – surrendered at Maubeuge, never reconstituted
3 RIT – 7 Sept. 1914 – surrendered at Maubeuge, never reconstituted
4 RIT – 7 Sept. 1914 – surrendered at Maubeuge, never reconstituted
5 RIT – 15 Aug. 1918 – some elements form 34 Bat. Territorial de Mitrailleuse, while 1 and 2 Bats. of Pioneers are assigned to 6 and 165 DI
6 RIT – 21 Feb. 1918 – one battalion becomes 4 Bat. and the other the 5th Bat. of 111 RIT
7 RIT – 15 Aug. 1918 – unit split up with the two battalions assigned as pioneer battalions to the 22 and 151 DI
7 RIT – 15 Aug. 1918 – unit split up with the two battalions assigned as pioneer battalions to the 14 and 27 DI
9 RIT – 16 June 1918
14 RIT – Jan. 1918 – 1st Bat. only transferred to 29 DI as divisional reserve infantry
15 RIT – Feb. 1918 – some men transferred to 38 and 67 RIT
16 RIT – 5 Nov. 1917 – men transferred to multiple territorial units
17 RIT – 2 Aug. 1917 – 2nd and 3rd Bats. transferred to 45 DI as pioneers battalion and divisional reserve infantry, respectively; 1st Bat. becomes a workers battalion
18 RIT – 10 Aug. 1918 – 1st Bat. becomes 1st Bat. de Pionniers of the 18 RIT (attached to 10 DI), 2nd Bat. becomes 2nd Bat. de Pionniers / 18 RIT (attached to 15 DI), a final element becomes 18 Bat. de Mitrailleuse (reserve of 2 CAC)
20 RIT – Aug. 1918 – some men transferred to 286 RIT
22 RIT – June 1918 – 1st Bat. transferred to 7 and 90 RIt, 2 Bat. and CHR transferred to 73 RIT
23 RIT – 10 Aug. 1918 – an element becomes 38 Bat. de Mitrailleuse / 23 RIT, 1st Bat. becomes 1st Bat. de Pionniers / 23 RIT (assigned to 71 DI), 2nd Bat. becomes 2nd Bat. de Pionniers / 23 RIT (assigned to 74 DI)
25 RIT – Aug. 1918 – two battalions become pioneer battalions attached to 33 CA, another element forms a machine-gun company and is attached to 1 US ID.
26 RIT – Aug. 1918
27 RIT – Dec. 1917
28 RIT – 15 Aug. 1918 – three battalions become pioneer battalions
29 RIT – Aug. 1918 – three battalions become pioneer battalions attached to 10 and 20 DI
30 RIT – 10 March 1918 – three battalions become pioneer battalions
31 RIT – Aug. 1918 – two battalions become a pioneer battalion and machine-gun battalion, respectively, assigned to 72 and 132 DI
34 RIT – 2 Aug. 918 – three battalions become pioneer battalions assigned to 7 and 8 DI
35 RIT – 2 Aug. 1918 – three battalions become pioneer battalions assigned to 31 and 32 DI, the two machine-gun companies become a machine-gun company assigned to 16 CA
37 RIT – Feb. 1918 – some men transferred to 38 and 67 RIT
38 RIT – Aug. 1918 – both battalions become pioneer battalions assigned to 3 and 152 DI
39 RIT – 20 Aug. 1917 – men transferred to multiple territorial regiments
41 RIT – 5 March 1918 – men transferred to multiple territorial regiments
42 RIT – Aug. 1918 – battalions transferred to 56 and 126 DI, one battalion becomes a pioneer battalion and another a machine-gun battalion
44 RIT – March 1918 – some men transferred to multiple territorial regiments
47 RIT – 5 March 1918 – three battalions dissolved, some men transferred to 93 and 111 RIT, 4 and 5 Bats. remain active
48 RIT – 4 March 1918 – one battalion becomes a pioneer battalion
49 RIT – 12 March 1918 – becomes a pioneer battalion
50 RIT – Jan. 1918
51 RIT – Jan. 1918 – some men transferred to active regiments, then 12 June 1918: remainder transferred to other units, incl. territorial and chasseur units
52 RIT – 5 Sept. 1917
53 RIT – 5 March 1918 – some men transferred to other territorial regiments and 9 Dragoons
54 RIT – Aug. 1918 – 1st and 2nd Bats/ become Bat. de Pionniers / 54 RIT, some elements become 7 Bat. de Mitrailleuse / 54 RIT
52 RIT – 5 Sept. 1917
53 RIT – 5 March 1918 – some men transferred to other territorial regiments and 9 Dragoons
54 RIT – Aug. 1918 – 1 and 2 Bats. become Bat. de Pionniers / 54 RIT, some elements become 7 Bat. de Mitrailleuse / 54 RIT
55 RIT – March 1918 - three youngest classes transferred to active regiments, remaining elements become 1 Bat. de Pionniers / 55 RIT, two companies become positional 79 and 80 Cos. de Mitrailleuses / 500 RIT.
56 RIT – 19 March 1918 - some men transferred to 143 RIT, two companies become positional 81, 82, 83 Co. de Mitrailleuses / 500 RIT
57 RIT – Sept. 1918 - men transferred to multiple infantry divisions
59 RIT – end of Aug. 1918 - some men transferred to 49 RIT
60 RIT – 25 Feb. 1918 - 1 Bat. dissolved, 3 Bat. becomes Bat. de Pionniers
63 RIT – 12 Aug. 1918 - 1 and 2 Bats. become Bats. de Pionniers, Cos. de Mitrailleuses incorporated into other positional mitrailleuse cos.
64 RIT – 15 Aug. 1918 - 1 and 2 Bats. become Bats. de Pionniers, assigned to 58 and 153 DIs
65 RIT – Jan. 1918 - 1 Bat. transferred to 1 DCP, 2 Bat. to 63 DI.
66 RIT – 25 June 1918
67 RIT – 6 March 1918 - two youngest classes transferred to 114 RI, remaining elements become Bats. de Pionniers, Cos. de Mitrailleuses incorporated into other positional mitrailleuse cos. in 54 RIT
68 RIT – June 1918 - following heavy losses
69 RIT – 26 Aug. 1918 - 1 and 2 Bats. become Bats. de Pionniers assigned to 121 and 169 DIs
70 RIT – 15 Aug. 1918 - 1 and 2 Bats. become Bats. de Pionniers assigned to 26 and 157 DIs
71 RIT – 12 Aug. 1918 - following heavy losses 1 and 2 Bats. become Bats. de Pionniers assigned to 18 and 19 DIs, Cos. de Mitrailleuses incorporated into other positional mitrailleuse cos. 97 RIT
72 RIT – Aug. 1918 - and 2 Bats. become Bats. de Pionniers assigned to 2 and 162 DIs
75 RIT – July-Aug. 1917 - two youngest classes transferred to active regiments, one bat. dissolved in Sept. 1917, regt. dissolved March 1918
76 RIT – Jan. 1918 - some elements transferred to 80 RIT, all men under 40 yrs of age transferred to active regiments
77 RIT – 21 Nov. 1917 - some elements dissolved, only 5 Bat. remains
78 RIT – Aug. 1917 - some elements become Bats. de Pionniers assigned to 48 DI
79 RIT – 15 Aug. 1918 - some men transferred to 90 RIT
86 RIT – Aug. 1918 - become Bats. de Pionniers assigned to 69 and 127 DIs
88 RIT - 11 Feb. 1916 - 3 and 4 Bats. become 288 RIT, 16 Aug. 1918 - 1 and 2 Bats. become Bats. de Pionniers assigned to 2 and 3 DICs, Cos. de Mitrailleuses incorporated into other positional mitrailleuse cos. 1 CAC

Sources:
http://www.chtimiste.com/regiments/regiments2.htm
"Le Fin de l'Armιe des 173 Rιgiments d'Infanterie." Michaλl Bourlet. 14-18 Magazine. aoϋt-septembre-octobre 2010. No. 50.

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