Originally set up for a raid on England, the unit saw all hope of it dashed with the Trafalgar disaster.
Nevertheless, this elite corps took part in the greatest battles such as Austerlitz, Jena, Eylau and Friedland. For although they were sailors in name, this elite unit had many other skills and could be infantrymen, artillerymen, and even engineers thanks to their experience in shipbuilding.
It must be said that their recruitment was selective :
– to be over 25 years old
– measure between 1m78 and 1m84
– be of sound health, conduct and moral character
– have completed at least three campaigns of the Wars of Freedom (revolutionary wars)
– to know how to read and write
Unfortunately, destiny twice saved them a cruel fate. The Battle of Bailén (1808) first destroyed a third of them, the rest were taken prisoner. The unit was thus reconstituted and had the opportunity to demonstrate its bravery in Wagram. Then, like a plethora of other units at the time, it was sent to Russia, another disaster from which only 85 of the more than 1100 soldiers who made up the Sailors of the Guard unit two years earlier returned. Reconstituted one last time, it followed the Emperor to Waterloo where it covered the French retreat. She was definitively dismissed on 15 August 1815.