Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Were there mercenaries or notable vigilante type groups around for World War One? Particularly Europeans? I was wondering if all nations were strict about their militaries and whether civilians would have been permitted to pick up a rifle and help out in any circumstances.

I do mean mercenaries as organized private companies. But also, was there anything stopping other individuals from fighting alongside? I guess what I'm getting at is, was the war fought by people other than those under a government military, regular or militia?

share|improve this question
3  
Are you asking about mercenaries or militias? You seem to be confusing them. –  Jeroen K Mar 16 at 11:22
    
Please clarify vigilante is specific to law enforcement. Do you want to know about vigilantes, militia, Partisans, or individuals who pick up a gun but are not part of an organized force. (who in WWII are generally called "corpses") –  Mark C. Wallace Mar 16 at 11:44
    
Sorry, I do mean mercenaries as organized private companies. But also, was there anything stopping other individuals from fighting alongside? I guess what I'm getting at is, was the war fought by people other than those under a government military, regular or militia? –  Duncan Mar 16 at 12:18
    
Mercenaries take money for their service and serve whoever pays best. You mean volunteers.... –  Felix Goldberg Mar 16 at 18:08
    
I meant two separate things, mate. Forgive me if that's too confusing for one question –  Duncan Mar 17 at 11:15
add comment

1 Answer 1

Yes, there certainly foreign volunteers fighting in both World Wars. Examples include the Lafayette Escadrille of American Fighter pilots in World War One and the Flying Tigers and Eagle Squadrons flying for the Chinese and Royal Air Forces respectively during World War Two.

Article 1 of the Annex to the Hague Convention (II) on the Laws and Customs of War on Land:

The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps, fulfilling the following conditions:

To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;

To carry arms openly; and

To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

In countries where militia or volunteer corps constitute the army, or form part of it, they are included under the denomination "army."

The Hague Convention (1899) II - With Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex, largely based on the Lieber Code adopted by the Union Army in 1863, was the equivalent to today's Geneva Conventon in effect during World War One. The difficulty that volunteer mercenaries encountered in attempting to , and proving compliance with, the requirements of Article 1 above had the effect of forcing these militias to seek and obtain commissioning from appropriate authorities for nations involved in the conflict.

My answer to the question on the Customs/Consensus Regarding Irregular Combatants in the 19th Century provides additional background.

share|improve this answer
    
the question is about mercenaries, I can misunderstand but Lafayette Escadrille were not mercenaries –  Emilio Gort Mar 17 at 16:25
1  
@EmilioGort: re the definition in your quote: "A mercenary[1] is a person who takes part in an armed conflict, who is not a national or a party to the conflict and is "motivated to take part in the hostilities by the desire for private gain." By this definition the Lafayette Escadrille most definitely were mercenaries. –  Pieter Geerkens Mar 17 at 21:13
    
you're right, the problem I have in my mind the negative connotation –  Emilio Gort Mar 17 at 21:22
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.