Founding the Veterans' Association↑
The Union Nationale des Combattants (UNC) was founded in Paris on 11 November 1918 on the initiative of Catholic veterans led by Father Daniel Brottier (1876-1936). General Léon Durand (1846-1925) became the UNC’s first president and, with Brottier, formulated the UNC’s motto: “United as at the Front.” The association founded a national weekly newspaper called La Voix du Combattant. With the support of the Church, the army and conservative business interests, the UNC became the largest right-wing veterans’ association in France, with 900,000 members by 1939. Throughout the interwar years, the UNC campaigned tirelessly for the improvement of veterans’ pensions and for the involvement of ex-servicemen in government. The UNC was a founding member of the Fédération interallié des anciens combattants, an international body for former allied veterans that was suspicious of rapprochement with Germany.
The UNC in the 1930s↑
During the 1930s, under the leadership of Parisian councillor Georges Lebecq (1883-1956) and parliamentary deputy Jean Goy (1892-1944), the UNC became increasingly involved in politics. On 6 February 1934 the association rioted with nationalist paramilitary groups in Paris against the left-wing government. Following the riot, the UNC grew close to extreme right-wing and fascist groups. Increasingly disillusioned with the democratic Third Republic, in 1938 the association (along with the Union fédérale) demanded an authoritarian regime of veterans under the leadership of a “national personality” such as Marshal Philippe Pétain (1856-1951). The UNC was subsumed into Vichy France’s Légion française des combattants in August 1940.
Chris Millington, Swansea University
Section Editor: Emmanuelle Cronier
- Millington, Chris: The French veterans and the Republic. The Union nationale des combattants and the Union federale, 1934-1938, in: European History Quarterly 42/1, 2012, pp. 50-70.
- Millington, Chris: From victory to Vichy. Veterans in inter-war France, Manchester 2012: Manchester University Press.
- Prost, Antoine: Les anciens combattants et la société française, 1914-1939, 3 volumes, Paris 1977: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques.
- Prost, Antoine: In the wake of war. 'Les ancien combattants' and French society, Oxford 1992: Berg.