The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada

The First Expeditionary Corps

In the twentieth century, we are accustomed to seeing our soldiers leave for distant lands. But which was the first Canadian corps to serve outside North America?

This honour may well have fallen to a company of Canadian volunteers who took part in the capture of Nevis Island in the British West Indies in 1706. D'Iberville mentioned this group of "Canadians making up a corps" who landed on the island before him "to facilitate [his] arrival." Like the Navy troops and the West Indian volunteers, these Canadians possessed "the essential characteristics" of bravery, discipline and steadfastness in battle. After the capture of the island, D'Iberville had the company of Canadians and a company of grenadiers mounted on horseback in order to escort him as he reconnoitered the island.

This "company of Canadian volunteers" numbered 40 men under the command of "M. de Mousseau." They seem to have served at times as shock troops and at times as D'Iberville's personal guard. As is typical for expeditionary corps, the company existed only for this particular campaign and was probably dissolved after D'Iberville died in Havana.