Nuno Pereira surprised me by explaining that Belgium contributed four battalions – the Belgian Corps – to the Liberal Wars.
All details from De Belgische Militaire Expeditie te Portugal.
Belgium gained independence from Holland in 1831 in a brief revolt supported by France (Alzamiento Belga 1830-1831). The next year the new Belgian government decided to rid itself of its unruly foreign battalion, and as Dom Pedro of Brazil and Portugal was looking for troops to fight his brother in the Liberal Wars, the Belgians took the opportunity to offer him their unwanted soldiers. The foreign battalion was officially removed from Belgian service on 8 Sep 1832 and transferred complete to that of the queen of Portugal (Pedro’s daughter). In Oct 1832 the first contingent sailed for Portugal. A second battalion was recruited from penal companies and the occupants of the Aalst military prison. In Portuguese service this later battalion was called, perhaps humorously, the Walloon Guards (Waalse Gardes). From the end of 1832 to early 1833 Belgium sent 1,100 men to Portugal.
Dom Pedro recruited two more Belgian battalions in late 1833. Between Oct 1833 and Apr 1834 another 1,100 man were sent to Portugal. The first battalion was recruited from regulars, particularly the foreign depot, the volunteer corps, the penal companies, and Alost military prison. The second battalion, called the Riflemen of Portugal (Tirailleurs van Portugal), was raised by its commander Major Le Charlier. Le Charlier had been the commander of the Riflemen of the Meuse (Tirailleurs van de Maas) and was in 1832 the commander of the Bruges Civil Guard. His new unit was recruited from old acquaintances with deserters to round out the numbers.
The Portuguese Queen presented the Belgian Corps with their standard on 23 Jan 1834. They fought for approximately 4 months from 10 March 1834, and won praise for their contribution during the following actions:
- ?? 1834: Siege of Serpa
- 24 Apr 1834: Skirmish at Saint-Bartholomי de Mecine
- 5 May 1834: Skirmish at Faro
- 9 May: Skirmish at Alhao,
Upon Dom Pedro’s victory in 1835, those Belgians who wished it were repatriated. In contrast most of the mercenaries moved to Spain to participate in the First Carlist War.
The uniform was similar in the style to that of the Volunteers of Capiaumont (Partizanen van Capiaumont), but in brown (De Belgische Militaire Expeditie te Portugal). The illustration is Kannik (1968) Fig. 278 Belgiums: Partisans of Capiaumont, Senior N.C.O., 1831; it has been edited slightly by Alzamiento Belga 1830-1831 to cut out a superimposed figure.
The initial Belgian Corps of 1832 contained two battalions, the second of which was the the Walloon Guards (Waalse Gardes) (De Belgische Militaire Expeditie te Portugal). There were 1,100 men split between the two units.
The later Belgian Corps of 1833 also contained two battalions, the second of which was the Riflemen of Portugal (Tirailleurs van Portugal) (De Belgische Militaire Expeditie te Portugal). There were 1,100 men split between the two units. They shared 8 companies including a grenadier company and an artillery company, although I’m not sure how these were divided between the two battalions.
Alzamiento Belga 1830-1831 [Spanish]
This is where I found the version of the Kannik (1968) illustration that I used for the Volunteers of Capiaumont.
De Belgische Militaire Expeditie te Portugal [Flemish or Dutch]
Thanks to Nuno Pereira for bringing the Belgian Corps to my attention, and for helping with translating this article.
Kannik, P. (1968). Military Uniforms in Colour. London: Blandford.