British & Commonwealth Orders of Battle

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Czechoslovak flag

Following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, small numbers of ex-Czechoslovakian officers and soldiers began slipping out of the country to prepare for the fight against Nazism, or simply to avoid incarceration. Several hundred enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and another 850 assembled in Poland to join the nascent Czechoslovak Legion.

When Germany invaded Poland, the French government released Czechoslovak nationals from the Foreign Legion and assembled them outside Marseilles where the 1st Infantry Division began forming. They were joined by Czechs and Slovaks resident in France and elsewhere, including several hundred men who had fought for the losing side in the Spanish Civil War. Meanwhile, most of the troops of the unformed Czechoslovak Legion in Poland were interned in the Soviet Union and later shipped to the Levant or to Marseilles, many joining 1st Division before the invasion of France.

While most of the Czechoslovak division was extricated from the grasp of the advancing German Army and assembled in the port of Sete in June, less than 50% of the division's manpower elected to accept evacuation to the UK for continuing the fight. Once in the UK, ranks were further thinned by a communist-inspired near-mutiny over the British decision to recognise Eduard Benes as leader of the provisional Czechoslovak government-in-exile. In August the remaining forces were reorganised as Czechoslovak 1st Infantry Brigade. The 1st Brigade converted to armour in September 1943, moved back to the continent in September 1944, arrived at Dunkirk in October, and spent the remainder of the war besieging the German fortress there.  

A contingent of the brigade was detached at the end of April 1945 to participate in the liberation of Czechoslovakia.  Most o fthe brigade arrived in time to participate in the Prague victory parade on May 30th 1945.


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