|1er Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins
On November 3rd 1916, the General Headquarters, by Order nr.294, decided to transform the Military Skiing School Bucharest into a „Mountain Corps”, totalling 2000 men, composed of 3 battalions, each with 3 companies. This decision had proven highly necessary during the fights that the Romanian Army had had in autumn 1916; an elite corps with special mountain warfare training, with increased autonomy and initiative at battalion level had proven indispensable for success. As of that day, mountain troops began gathering at the baracks of the 4th Rosiori (cavalry) Regiment in Bucharest; they were recruited, exclusively among those able to read, from many infantry units, including the 2nd Venatori (rifles) Battalion „Queen Elisabeth”.
In WWI., the Mountain Corps participated in the defence of the province Moldova. They were organized, depending on their missions, into 3-4 battalions plus 1 machinegun company. On December 3rd 1916, they began their long march, 500 km, towards the garrison of Targu-Neamt. They reached their objective on January 3rd 1917, receiving, upon arrival, a joyful welcome from the local population. On January 9th 1917, by order of the GHQ, the mounatin troops were reorganized in a single battalion with 5 rifle companies, 2 machinegun companies and 1 communications section. The time-span January-July 1917 was dedicated mainly to intensive training in special warfare in mountaineous and woody terrain.
As by the battle order of August 8th 1917, commanded by Major Virgil Badulescu, the Mountain Corps saw action, startin with August 11th 1917, in Ciresoaia si Cosna. The baptism of fire of the Mountain Corps was crowned by glorious victories. During WWI., the Mountain Corps proved their valour in the battles of Târgu Ocna, Cosna, Ciresoaia, Vrânceanu and Oituz. Renamed „9th Mountain Regiment”, the unit participated in the Tisa river crossing and in the 1919 campaign against the Hungarian Red Army. Then they took part in the efficient administration of the city of Budapest up to the peaceful retreat from Hungary, finalized on March 30th 1920.
Sixteen of the mountain troops were awarded the highest romanian military order „Michael the Brave”: Crownprince Carol II, cpt.Băgulescu Gheorghe, cpt.Basta Constantin, Lt.Cârlan Dumitru, Slt.Nanu Roger, Cpt.Pălăngeanu Emil, Lt.Rădulescu Florea, Mjr.Strat Nicolae, Mjr.Stoenescu Calistrat, Cpt.Tenescu Constantin, Cpt.Cerchez Traian, Mr.Bădulescu Virgil, Cpt.Pantazi Constantin (future Ministry of Defense, during WWII),, Cpt.Ionescu Sinaia Gheorghe, Cpt.Radu Teodor, Cpt.Vrânceanu Dumitru.
The regimental flag was awarded in WWI. the order „Michael the Brave” 3rd class, on 2 aprilie 1919 in Targu-Neamt, by Royal Decree 323/22 January 1919 „for the exceptional courage and momentum with which officers, NCOs and soldiers of the battalion have attacked and defeated the enemy on July 30th 1917. By repulsing the enemy off the hill Vranceanu-Magura, they captured 17 officers, 400 soldiers, 4 machine-guns, 150 fire-arms and large quantities of military equipment. On August 6th 1917, the montain troops, piercing through a barrage of fire, have stormed and conquered the enemy position at level 64, that had been previously lost by another unit. On August 8th 1917, the battalion arrives at Cosna at the exact moment when another unit lost its position; the mountain troops launch a furious counterattack and in 30 minutes drives the enemy back on the whole sector. This heroic battalion distinguished itself by displaying the same military virtues during the fierce battles that ensued on the days August 27th-29th 1917 in Paraul Fundul-Bogata.” (quote from the document for the order „Michael the Brave”).
The impressive mausoleum-monument of the mountain troops was erected in Targu-Neamt.
Distinctive characteristics (elements)
– Troops: dark green textile firtree branch in form of capital letters VM on cap and epaulettes / Officers: same, surrounded by a hunter’s horn, but embroidered in gold and silk – Royal Decree nr.1868 din 14.05.1919
– Dark green piping on cap and epaulettes, dark green collar patches
> History of the 1st Mountain Battalion „King Carol II.”:
The experiences of WWI. were put to good use in the afterwar years, by increasing the interest for the training of special troops for combat in mountaineous and woody terrain. In the year 1923 appeared the first Mountain Divisions in Brasov and Bistrita and by 1939 there had been formed 4 Mixed Mountain Brigades. Their position inside the Romanian armed forces was strengthened; the specific training was improved and organized according to new and unitary norms, regulations and principles.
The 1st Mountain Battalion was created by Royal Decree nr.1674 / August 1st 1923, its backbone built by officers and NCOs from the only previously existing such unit. It was based in Sinaia, the summer residence of the Romanian Kings. Thus, the battalion had also ceremonial and guard duties at the Peles Castle. By Royal Decree nr.333 / 5 Feb.1932, the battalion was bestowed with the name of the one who had been the commander of the Mountain Brigade in WWI., „King Carol II.”. This is the unit were the future King Michael I. served up to the rank of 2nd lieutenant, and where he swore allegiance to the flag on October 25th 1937. His birthday, October 25th, has remained, uninterruptedly till today, the Day of the Romanian Armed Forces.
The Mountain Corps participated, during WWII., in both the east and the west campaigns. It was organized in 4 Divisions, each composed of: 6 Mountain Battalions.; 2 Ski Battalions; 2 Mountain Artillery units; 1 Mountain Howitzers unit; 1 Communications Section; 1 Mounted Sqadron; 1 Antitank Company; 1 Military Police Company; 1 Antiaircraft Company. The 1st Mountain Battalion belonged to the 1st Mountain Division. Their participation to WWII., in the east, as well as in the west, was a hard test. They have covered by foot, in combat, over 3000 km, crossing 7 foreign countries, always in front, from Romania to the Kuban and back all the way to Tchekoslovakia. From June22nd 1941 till May 12th 1945, 74.208 mountain troops fell, their graves scattered over a huge area: Bessarabia, Ukraine, Crimea (where most men of the 1st Mountain Battalion were left behind to cover the evacuation, by the Royal Romanian Navy, of 60.000 German and Romanian troops that had been hoplessly encircled), Caucasus, Moldova, Transsylvania, Hungary and Tchekoslovakia, gaining the respect of allies and foes, as elite troops of the Romanian army.
Eleven men of the 1st Mountain Battalion received the order „Michael the Brave”: slt.(r)Aldică Gheorghe, slt(r)Checiu Ioan, lt.Crăciun Dumitru, cpt.Curteanu Marin, lt(r)Drăgănescu Ioan, lt.col.Ionescu Constantin, cpt.Mihăescu Constantin, slt.Simionescu Nicolae, slt(r)State Aurelian, slt(r)Stoenescu Stefan, lt(r)Tănăsescu Dumitru.
The 1.Mountain Battalion was awarded the order „Michael the Brave” 2nd class by Royal Decree nr.1160 / April 21st 1942.
After WWII., the confrontation with the resentment of the Soviet „ally” ensued. They disbanded these elite troops, starting with the 1.Mountain Battalion, in October 1944. The survivors were redistributed to other units, that took part in the campaign in the west, in Hungary and Tchekoslovakia. However, starting with October 14th 1964, after the evacuation of the Red Army from Romania, the reinstatement of the mountain troops units was started, by order of the Ministry of Defense.
Distinctive characteristics (elements)
– crowned metal firtree branch in form of letters VM on headcover (beret, cap) and epaulettes
– Ceremonial badge, with green enameled silver cipher of King Carol II.
– Seniority badge: golden roman number representing time spent in the mountain troops (X / XV / XX / XXV) over silver firtree branch in form of capital letters VM
– 7 years regimental badge: crowned silver firtree branch in form of capital letters VM on a dark green enamelled ,silver, romanian cross
– baptism cross in the form of the „Michael the Brave” order, gilt metal, bearing the VM firtree branch and the cipher and birthdate of the heir to the throne, Prince Michael – awarded to those members of the unit that participated in the guard of honour at the Princes’ baptism
– Medal „Memory of King Carol II.”, awarded only between 1934-1940 and, with silver crowned metal firtree branch in form of letters VM on the ribbon, only to members of the 1.Mountain Battalion
> Uniform of a Mountain Trooper – 1916:
Uniforms worn by the Romanian mountain troops during WW1 were similar to those worn by the infantry, that had been introduced in 1912 and modified in 1916. They were composed of the following items:
- Grey field cap “Capela” with dark green piping, having in front the overlapping letters VM, or the firtree branch in the form of the letters VM, in dark green cloth;
- “Adrian” helmet with the cipher of King Ferdinand I;
- It had 4 rectangular pocket flaps, 2 on the breast and 2 on the hips. The collar was rolled off, piped dark green, adorned with dark green pointed collar patches. Shoulder boards in grey cloth, piped dark green, adorned by the regimental number, in dark green cloth.
- Breeches in grey cloth with dark green piping;
- Greatcoat was in grey cloth, doublebreasted, with two rows of visible 4 black metallic buttons. It had 2 side pockets with rectangular flaps. The collar and cuffs were rolled off. The collar was piped dark green, with dark green pointed collar patches and the shoulder boards were piped dark green, adorned by the regimental number, in dark green cloth. At the rear, the greatcoat had two vertical false pocket flaps, piped dark green, with two metallic buttons, and a rear-belt piped dark green;
- Puttees in grey cloth or leggings in black or natural leather;
- Laced boots in black or natural leather;
- Black or natural leather waist-belt, fastened with a buckle or plain belt plate;
- Two cartridge pouches, made in black or natural leather, fixed on the waist-belt, framing the belt plate;
- “Linemann” shovel spade holster, made in black or natural leather, carried on the left hip, below the bayonet holster, fastening with its lower strap the bayonet scabbard;
- Bread bag in drab canvas, with a lateral outer pocket for the canteen, carried diagonally, on the left hip;
- Canteen, made in enameled metal, carried in the bread-bag’s outer pocket. Optionally, other WW1 canteens of German, Russian or Austro-Hungarian origin, could also be used;
- Romanian gas mask (M.1916), French (M-2), or Russian (Zelinsky-Cumant);
The rank insignia consisted of lace braid stripes, made in yellow cotton (1 large for “Fruntas”, 2 large for “Caporal”) or gold lace (1 large for “Sergent”, 1 large and 1 narrow for “Sergent-major”, 2 large for “Plutonier”, 2 large and 1 narrow for “Plutonier-major”, 3 large for “Plutonier-adjutant”), edged dark green, displayed on the shoulder boards of the tunic and greatcoat.