The Milice française (French Militia), generally called la Milice (French pronunciation: ​[milis]), was a political paramilitary organization created on 30 January 1943 by the Vichy regime (with German aid) to help fight against the French Resistance during World War II. The Milice's formal head was Prime Minister Pierre Laval, although its Chief of operations and de facto leader was Secretary General Joseph Darnand. It participated in summary executions and assassinations, helping to round up Jews and résistants in France for deportation. It was the successor to Darnand's Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL) militia. The Milice was the Vichy regime's most extreme manifestation of fascism. Ultimately, Darnand envisaged the Milice as a fascist single party political movement for the French state.[1]

Milice française
Flag of the collaborationist French Militia.svg
Flag of the Milice
Active30 January 1943 (1943-01-30)–15 August 1944 (1944-08-15)
Country Vichy France
Allegiance Nazi Germany
TypeParamilitary militia
RoleAnti-partisan duties in Axis-controlled France
MarchLe Chant des Cohortes
Ceremonial chiefPierre Laval
CommanderJoseph Darnand
Black-and-white photo of men in uniform with guns
Members of the Milice, armed with captured British FM 24/29 Light Machine Gun and No. 4 Lee–Enfield rifles

The Milice frequently used torture to extract information or confessions from those whom they interrogated. The French Resistance considered the Milice more dangerous than the Gestapo and SS because they were native Frenchmen who understood local dialects fluently, had extensive knowledge of the towns and countryside, and knew local people and informants.[2]


Resistance members captured by the Milice, July 1944. One of the miliciens is armed with a captured British Sten gun.

Early Milice volunteers included members of France's pre-war far-right parties (such as the Action Française) and working-class men convinced of the benefits of the Vichy government's politics. In addition to ideology, incentives for joining the Milice included employment, regular pay and rations. (The latter became particularly important as the war continued, and civilian rations dwindled to near-starvation levels.) Some joined because members of their families had been killed or injured in Allied bombing raids or had been threatened, extorted or attacked by French Resistance groups. Still others joined for more mundane reasons: petty criminals were recruited by being told their sentences would be commuted if they joined the organization, and Milice volunteers were exempt from transportation to Germany as forced labour.[3] It is estimated by several historians (including Julian T. Jackson) that the Milice's membership reached 25,000–30,000 by 1944, although official figures are difficult to obtain. The majority of members were not full-time militiamen, but devoted only a few hours per week to their Milice activities.[4] The Milice had a section for full-time members, the Franc-Garde, who were permanently mobilized and lived in barracks.[4]

The Milice also had youth sections for boys and girls, called the Avant-Garde.[4]

Symbols and materialsEdit


Propaganda poster for the Milice, advertising its first national congress.

The chosen emblem for the Milice carried the Greek letter γ (gamma), the symbol of the Aries astrological sign in the Zodiac, ostensibly representing rejuvenation, and replenishment of energy. The color scheme chosen was silver in blue background within a red circle for ordinary miliciens, white in black background for the arm-carrying militants, and white in red background for the active combatants.


Their march was Le Chant des Cohortes.[5]


Milice member guarding Resistance PoWs wearing a German Army Wound Badge (indicating previous service with a German Army unit) and armed with a Spanish copy of the Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver, chambered in 8mm French Ordnance.

Milice troops (known as miliciens) wore a blue uniform jacket and trousers, a brown shirt and a wide blue beret. (During active paramilitary-style operations, an Adrian helmet was used, which commonly featured the emblem, either painted on or as a badge) Its newspaper was Combats (not to be confused with the underground Resistance newspaper, Combat). The Milice's armed forces were officially known as the Franc-Garde. Contemporary photographs show the Milice armed with a variety of weapons captured from Allied forces.


Insignia Rank Translation
No insignia Sécretaire général

(Joseph Darnand)

Secretary general
No insignia Sécretaire général adjoint

(Francis Bout de l'An [fr])

Assistant secretary general
  Délégué général de la milice en Zone nord

(Max Knipping [fr])

General delegate in the Northern Zone
  Chef régional Regional commander
  Chef régional adjoint Assistant regional commander
  Chef départemental Department commander
  Chef départemental adjoint Assistant department commander
  Chef de centre Commander of a center (regiment)
  Chef de centre adjoint Assistant commander of a center
  Chef de cohorte Battalion commander
  Chef de cohorte adjoint Assistant battalion commander
  Chef de centaine Company commander
  Chef de centaine adjoint Assistant company commander
  Chef de trentaine Platoon leader
  Chef de trentaine adjoint Assistant platoon leader
  Chef de groupe (cohorte) Section leader (battalion)
  Chef de groupe (centaine) Section leader (company)
  Chef de dizaine Squad leader
  Chef de dizaine adjoint Assistant squad leader
  Chef de main Team leader
  Chef de main adjoint Assistant team leader
  Franc-garde Franc guard



The Resistance targeted individual miliciens for assassination, often in public areas such as cafés and streets. On 24 April 1943 they shot and killed Paul de Gassovski, a milicien in Marseilles. By late November, Combat reported that 25 miliciens had been killed and 27 wounded in Resistance attacks.


The most prominent person killed by the Resistance was Philippe Henriot, the Vichy regime's Minister of Information and Propaganda, who was known as "the French Goebbels". He was killed in his apartment in the Ministry of Information on the rue Solferino in the predawn hours of 28 June 1944 by résistants dressed as miliciens. His wife, who was in the same room, was spared. The Milice retaliated for this by killing several well-known anti-Nazi politicians and intellectuals (such as Victor Basch) and prewar conservative leader Georges Mandel.

The Milice initially operated in the former Zone libre of France under the control of the Vichy regime. In January 1944, the radicalized Milice moved into what had been the zone occupée of France (including Paris). They established their headquarters in the old Communist Party headquarters at 44 rue Le Peletier and at 61 rue Monceau. (The house was formerly owned by the Menier family, makers of France's best-known chocolates.) The Lycée Louis-Le-Grand was occupied as a barracks, and an officer candidate school was established in the Auteuil synagogue.

Notable actionsEdit

Perhaps the largest and best-known operation undertaken by the Milice was the Battle of Glières, its attempt in March 1944 to suppress the Resistance in the département of Haute-Savoie (in southeastern France, near the Swiss border).[9] The Milice could not overcome the Resistance, and had to call in German troops to complete the operation. On Bastille Day, 14 July 1944, the Franc-Garde suppressed a revolt started by prisoners at Paris prison La Santé, as a result 34 prisoners were killed.[10]

The legal standing of the Milice was never clarified by the Vichy government; it operated parallel to (but separate from) the Groupe mobile de réserve and other Vichy French police forces. The Milice operated outside civilian law, and its actions were not subject to judicial review or control.[citation needed]

End of the warEdit

In August 1944, as the tide of war was shifting and fearing he would be held accountable for the operations of the Milice, Marshal Philippe Pétain sought to distance himself from the organization by writing a harsh letter rebuking Darnand for the organization's "excesses."[citation needed] Darnand's response suggested that Pétain ought to have voiced his objections sooner.[citation needed]

Historians[which?] have debated the strength of the organization, but it was probably between 25,000 and 35,000 (including part-time members and non-combatants) by the time of the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.[citation needed] The membership began melting away rapidly thereafter.[when?] Following the Liberation of France, members who failed to flee to Germany (where they were impressed[citation needed] into the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen-SS) or elsewhere, generally faced imprisonment for treason, execution following courts-martial or murder by vengeful résistants and civilians. During a period of unofficial reprisals immediately following on the German retreat, large numbers of miliciens were executed, either individually or in groups.[citation needed] Milice offices throughout France were ransacked with agents often being brutally beaten and then thrown from office windows, or into rivers before being taken to prison.[citation needed] At Le Grand-Bornand 76 captured members of the Milice were executed by French Forces of the Interior on 24 August 1944.[11]


An unknown number of miliciens managed to escape prison or execution, either by going underground or fleeing abroad. A few were later prosecuted. The most notable of these was Paul Touvier, the former commander of the Milice in Lyon. In 1994, he was convicted of ordering the retaliatory execution of seven Jews at Rillieux-la-Pape. He died in prison two years later.

In popular cultureEdit

  • Since the war, the term milice has acquired a derogatory meaning in France.
  • The French hard rock ensemble Trust had a hit named "Police Milice", where its frontman Bernard Bonvoisin compared modern-day police officers to the Milice.
  • Louis Malle's films Lacombe, Lucien and Au revoir les enfants include the Milice as part of the plot.
  • The 2003 drama The Statement, directed by Norman Jewison and starring Michael Caine, was adapted from the 1996 novel by the same name by Brian Moore. He shaped it from the story of Paul Touvier, a Vichy French Milice official who hid for years (often sheltered by the Catholic Church) and was indicted in 1991 for war crimes. Both he and the film character had supervised a mass murder of Jews.
  • The film Female Agents (French: Les Femmes de l'ombre), set during World War II, has a scene where two of the female agents walk past a recruitment poster for the Milice which says "Against Communism / French Militia / Secretary-General Joseph Darnand".
  • In the Doctor Who audio story Resistance, the Doctor and Polly have to evade the Milice in 1944.
  • They feature prominently in the popular French TV series Un Village Français which covers the whole period of the occupation and liberation and was broadcast in France and extensively internationally.[1]
  • They are enemies in Medal of Honor: Underground.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Martin Blinkhorn, 2003, Fascists and Conservatives: The Radical Right and the Establishment in Twentieth-Century Europe, p. 193, ISBN 1134997124
  2. ^ "SAS - Rogue Heroes", page 229 - Ben MacIntyre - 2016 - Penguin Books - ISBN 979-0-241-42342-4
  3. ^ Paul Jankowski, "In Defense of Fiction: Resistance, Collaboration, and Lacombe, Lucien". The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Sep., 1991), pp. 462
  4. ^ a b c Matthew Feldman, 2004, Fascism: The 'fascist epoch', p. 243, ISBN 0415290198
  5. ^ Michel Germain (1997). La Fontaine de Siloé (ed.). Histoire de la milice et des forces du maintien de l'ordre en Haute-Savoie 1940-1945 – Guerre civile en Haute-Savoie. Les Marches. p. 482 of 507. ISBN 978-2-84206-041-1. Retrieved 30 June 2017..
  6. ^ Littlejohn, David (1987). Foreign Legions of the Third Reich. Vol. 1: Norway, Denmark, France. San Jose, California: R. James Bender Publishing. pp. 179–180. ISBN 0-912138-17-3. |volume= has extra text (help)
  7. ^ Littlejohn, David (1994). Foreign Legions of the Third Reich. R. James Bender Publishing, vol. 1, pp. 179-181.
  8. ^ "Vichy French Milice (1943 - 44)." International Encyclopedia of Uniform Insignia Forum. Retrieved 2019-07-18.
  9. ^ "Battle of Glieres", World at War
  10. ^ "Paris (XIVe arr.), prison de la Santé, 1941-1944". Maitron (in French).
  11. ^ "The lost cemetery of Le Grand-Bornand". 23 August 2013.

Further readingEdit

  • Cullen, Stephen M., Stacey, Mark, (2018) World War II Vichy French Security Troops, Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1472827753
  • "Cullen, Stephen (2010) "Collaborationists in Arms: The Uniforms and Equipment of the Vichy Milice Francaise". The Armourer Militaria Magazine (100): 24–28. July–August 2010.
  • Cullen, Stephen (2008). Cohort of the Damned: Armed Collaboration in Wartime France – the Milice Francaise, 1943–45. Warwick: Allotment Hut Booklets.
  • Cullen, Stephen (March 2008). "Legion of the Damned: The Milice Francaise, 1943–45". Military Illustrated.
  • Pryce-Jones, David (1981). Paris in the Third Reich: A History of the German Occupation. London: Collins.
  • "Resistance in France". After the Battle (105). 1999.