The Corps History

The Carabinieri Corps was created on July 13, 1814, by resolution of Vittorio Emanuele I which established a Corps, known as Carabinieri Reali, of mounted or foot soldiers rigorously selected "... for their distinguished good conduct and judiciouness" whose task was "to contribute to the necessary happiness of the State, which cannot be separated from protection and defense of all good subjects". These particularly sensitive functions, specified in the Regie Patenti (Royal Licenses), the official document comprising the aforementioned resolution, underlined the importance attributed to the personal skills required of the selected soldiers, as well as their dual military and civil task. From the very beginning the Carabinieri, by means of their heartfelt sense of duty and top level conduct, gained people's respect and devotion.

Why "Carabinieri" ?

The new Corps, created to perform both military and civil functions, was called the Carabinieri not only to avoid any comparison with the former napoleonic "Gendarmerie" but mainly because, like all elite units of those years, it was equipped with carbines .

The first uniforms

The details of the dress uniform had been worked on, since the establishment of the Corps, with the aim of restoring full solemnity to the image of the sovereign state. The special features include : two-cornered hat with silk braid, small V-shaped cape, cockade and button (or plume for the dress uniform), deep blue dress-coat with short red bordered tails, epaulettes (silver or light-blue for mounted or foot Carabinieri, respectively) and nine silver buttons, high, stiff light-blue collar with braiding and white buffalo-skin bandoleer.

The "Lucerna"
These uniforms remained unchanged until 1848 and, with just minor changes (white shoulder-strings, red-blue plume and white-red-green cockade on the hat, red banded trousers) are still in use.

A brief summary

First Corps Commander-in-Chief : General Giuseppe Thaon di Revel di Sant'Andrea.

On January 24, 1861 the Corps was awarded the title of First Corps of the new national Army.

Carabinieri Corps in the battlefields

The Carabinieri have seen action in all of the battles fought by the Italian armies .

Their very first action under fire was in Grenoble on July 5, 1815 : a mounted Carabinieri squad rushed into the middle of of the frontline where Piedmontese and French armies were facing each other. The storm shattered the French resistance and led our Colours to victory.

During the Risorgimento, they proved their valour in many events. The most remarkable were :
  • Pastrengo (April 30, 1848), where 280 Carabinieri belonging to the royal escort, under the command of Major Negri di Sanfront, saved, with an impetuous charge, King Carlo Alberto from a surprise attack of the Austrians. For this action the Carabinieri Colours were awarded the first Silver Medal for Military Valour.
  • Verona (May 6, 1848). For this action the Carabinieri Colours were awarded the first Bronze Medal for Military Valour.
  • Custoza, Staffalo, Sommacampagna, Valleggio, Milan, Peschiera (from July 24 to August 4 , 1848). For these actions the Carabinieri Colours were awarded the second Bronze Medal for Military Valour.
  • Perugia, Garigliano, Mola di Gaeta (from September 14 to November 4, 1860).
  • Monzambano, Villafranca, Custoza (June 24, 1866).
  • Rome (September 20, 1870), where the Carabinieri fought side by side with the Bersaglieri Corps for the taking of the future Capital.
  • Sciara Sciat and Two Palms (Italian-Turkish War, 1911-1912) where the Corps Colours were awarded a Silver Medal for Military Valour.
  • War World I(1915-1918). The Carabinieri Corps paid a dramatic toll (1,423 dead and 5,245 wounded) for their heroism on various battles of the Great War: Podgora, Isonzo, Carso, Piave, Sabotino, San Michele . For the bravery, self-sacrifice spirit and commitment to the duty demonstrated, on June 5, 1920, a milestone in the Corps history, the Carabinieri Colours were awarded the first Gold Medal for Military Valour.
  • Podgora (July 19, 1915). Here the Carabinieri, acting as Infantry soldiers, bathed the soil with their blood in a bayonet attack against predominant forces. Here below is an image of this event.

    (by A.Beltrame)
  • Eastern Africa War (1935-1936). For the valour demonstrated during this campaign, the Corps was awarded the first Military Order of Italy Knight Cross.
  • War World II (1940-1945). During WWII the Carabinieri saw action in all of the battle fronts, from the far off Balkans and Russia to the African deserts. Amongst the various events worthy of mention, the most outstanding are the battle of Klisura (December 16-30, 1941. Greek-Albanian front), for which the Corps Colours were awarded a Bronze Medal for Military Valour and the strong defense of Culqualber(August 6 through November 21, 1941. Ethiopian front). As to the latter, the Supreme Command's War Bulletin n. 539quotes : "the Royal Carabinieri Battalion achieved glorious distinction when, having run out of ammunition, it continued counter-attack after furious counter-attack with cold steel. Almost all the Carabinieri were killed".
    The Colours were awarded the second Gold Medal for Military Valour in memory of the many who fell there.
    During the course of WWII the Carabinieri Corps suffered 4,618 dead, 15,124 wounded (including 2,735 dead and 6,521 wounded for the Resistenza against the Nazis) and 578 missing in action. For the contribution granted to the Resistenza, on June 2, 1984 the Colours were awarded the third Gold Medal for Military Valour.

Amongst the innumerable heroic Carabinieri who sacrificed their lives during WWII, are the often remembered Vicebrigadiere Salvo D'Acquisto (Palidoro - September 23, 1943) and the Carabinieri La Rocca, Marandola and Sbarretti (Fiesole - August 12, 1944) who offered their lives on behalf of those of civilian hostages.

Fighting Crime

Since the first days of its creation, the Corps has given its best efforts in a neverending daily, fight against crime, always personifying respect of law and social order. This activity was carried out throughout the entire country at a severe cost in terms of lives. The first Fallen was the Carabiniere Giovanni Boccaccio, killed in action against outlaws in Vernante (Cuneo) on April 23, 1815, just 9 months after the Corps creation.

In 1834, about twenty years thereafter, the Carabiniere Giovanni Battista Scapaccino paid for his loyalty to the king with his own life : surrounded by a group of rebels who had attacked the small stazione of Les Echelles, near the French border, and called on to repudiate his flag or to die, he answered "Long live the King!". He was shot to death by the rebels. For his sacrifice he was awarded the first Gold Medal for Mililitary Value of the "Sardinian Army".

During the last decades of the XIX century, Italy was raided by "wild bunches" of criminals and of "brigands" , against whom the Carabinieri were always in front line. Amongst the many who conducted this restless fight, Captain Chiaffredo Bergia(1840-1892) is a real human legend : for his conduct, often carried out alone and disguised on cloak and dagger missions, he was awarded Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Italy, 1 Gold, 3 Silver and 2 Bronze Medals for Military Valour, 15 honourable mentions and dozens of mentions.

Throughout the years the Corps has continued in its silent and tenacious service against crime and terrorism, to guarantee people's security.

Serving the Country

Over the years the Corps has deserved commendment from the people not only for their military valour and their commitment in fighting criminals. High merits of recognition is given to the Carabinieri for their help, often at a high cost of lives, granted to the population in the event of natural catastrophes. Some examples are the earthquakes of Casamicciola (1833), Messina (1908), Marsica (1915), Vulture (1930), Belice (1968), Friuli (1976), Irpinia (1980) and the big floods in the Polesine area (1951) and in Florence (1966).

As a recognition of this meritorious activity, the Corps Colours were awarded 2 Gold and 1 Silver Medals for Civil Valour, 3 Gold Medals of Merit, 2 Gold Medals for Merits of Public Health.