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Royal Bavarian Auxiliary Corps
Arrival of Bavarian army in Greece 1833.jpg
The arrival of the Bavarian army in Greece, water colour by the Bavarian lieutenant Ludwig Köllnberger
Active 1832–1837
Country  Kingdom of Bavaria (1832–1834)
 Kingdom of Greece (1834–1837)
Branch Army
Type Units of line infantry, artillery, and cavalry
Size 3,345 men (1833)
4,570 men (1835)

The Royal Bavarian Auxiliary Corps (Greek: Β. Βαυαρικό Επικουρικό Σώμα, German language: Kgl. Bayerisches Hilfskorps) was a Bavarian Army expeditionary force established in 1832 to accompany Prince Otto as the first king of independent Greece in 1833, to serve as a military force and enforce order until a native military could be established. It replaced the forces maintained there by the Great Powers—chiefly the French troops of the Morea Expedition—as well as the remnants of the Greek forces organized during the Greek War of Independence. Most of the Bavarians left by 1837, but many remained behind, dominating the Greek army and the administration. This "Bavarocracy" (Βαυαροκρατία) provoked great resentment from the Greeks, and was one of the chief causes of the 3 September 1843 Revolution. Many Bavarians remained behind in Greece and became Greek citizens.


Article 14 of the 1832 Treaty of London, where Britain, France, and Russia, agreed on the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece, under the Bavarian prince Otto, stipulated that Otto's father, King Ludwig I of Bavaria, would recruit a force of up to 3,500 soldiers, at the expense of the Greek fisc, to replace the allied troops (i.e., the French expeditionary corps). The latter would remain under the disposition of the King of Greece until the arrival of the Bavarian troops. In Article 15, the King of Bavaria promised to supply Bavarian officers for the establishment of a national army in Greece.[1] The philhellene professor Friedrich Thiersch and Colonel Carl Wilhelm von Heideck, who had served in Greece under Kapodistrias and was now a member of Otto's regency council, reported on the situation in Greece to King Ludwig. Following the assassination of Ioannis Kapodistrias in 1831, Greece was in near-constant civil war. The regular and irregular military forces organized by Kapodistrias, were dissolved, but many thousands of their members retained their weapons and lived off the countryside. The political tensions in Greek society, furthermore, made any Greek troops politically suspect. Therefore it was decided early on that Otto's new regime could rely solely on the Bavarian troops, who would enforce the new government's policies. To that end, all Greek military formations would be disbanded, and Greeks were to be excluded from all senior positions in the administration and the army—though notably not the navy, which was not able to threaten the government on its own.[2]

Formation and arrival in Greece

Soldiers of the 2nd Combined Infantry Regiment, by Richard Knötel

The expeditionary corps was formed following a convention concluded between Karl von Abel, one of the three members of the projected regency for the underage Otto, on behalf of Greece and Philippe de Flad on behalf of the Kingdom of Bavaria.[1] Its 27 articles stipulated that the expeditionary corps would be composed of staff, four infantry battalions, six cavalry companies, four artillery companies, and a technician company. The corps was to be composed of volunteers, but until these could be recruited, regular Bavarian Army troops would be provided; half of them were to stay in Greece for two years, and the rest for four; the mission of the Auxiliary Corps was slated to end on 1 January 1837.[1] The costs for the maintenance of the corps were out at 50,000 florins annually, to be covered by the Greek government.[3] Officers and adjutants were to received pay equivalent to one grade above their own.[3]

According to the military historian Andreas Kastanis, the treaty contained "basic omissions" in terms of the corps' recruitment: First, the complete lack of a provision for engineering troops, which were an absolute necessity in war-ravaged and under-developed Greece. Indeed, for most of the 19th century the main occupation of Greek military engineers was building basic infrastructure across the country. Second, no formal requirements were placed for the Bavarian volunteers, and third, no requirements were placed for the Bavarian officers sent to oversee the training and organization of the nascent Hellenic Army.[4]

Service in Greece

The Auxiliary Corps arrived in Greece in early 1833, comprising 3,345 men; about half were Bavarian Army regulars and the rest volunteers.[5] Per the terms of the Greco-Bavarian treaty, the Auxiliary Corps was to be an independent formation, not to be mixed or combined with native Greek units, and subject to Bavarian military law, rather than the French regulations followed in Greece. This was rapidly discarded once the corps arrived in Greece, however, and on 6 February 1834 by Royal Decree, the relevant article in the treaty was modified unilaterally, with the Auxiliary Corps becoming a part of the Hellenic Army.[6] Two companies in each infantry battalion, in the cavalry regiment, and the artillery battalion, were to be manned exclusively by Bavarians. While the stated purpose of this arrangement was to promote the training of the Greek units, in reality this was a measure designed to ensure absolute control of the army by the Bavarians.[3] All senior military positions were given to Bavarians or other foreigners: Wilhelm von Le Suire became Minister for Military Affairs; Christian Schmaltz Inspector-General of the Army; Anton Zöch head of the Engineers; Ludwig von Lüder head of Artillery; François Graillard head of the Gendarmerie; and Thomas Gordon chief of the General Staff.[5] The Bavarians, moreover, remained subject to their own military regulations, received higher salaries, and swifter promotions, setting themselves further apart from their Greek colleagues.[7] This "Bavarocracy", both in the army and the administration, quickly became a source of resentment among the Greeks, and was a major rallying cry of political opposition to Otto and the regency.[5] The exorbitant costs of the Auxiliary Corps became a particular point of contention, particularly since by 1834, its strength reached 5,000 well above the provisions of the treaty.[5] Between 1832 and 1835, 5,410 volunteers were recruited for the Corps. 3,345 were Bavarians, 1,440 from minor German states, 235 Swiss, 186 Prussians, 135 Austrians, 23 French, 19 Danes, 10 Russians, 6 Italians, 3 Swedes, 2 British, 1 each from Holland, Spain, and Belgium, and even 3 Turks.[8] The Corps fought its main test of arms in 1834, during the uprising of the Mani Peninsula, sparked by the arrest of the War of Independence hero Theodoros Kolokotronis. 2,500 men of the Corps, under Christian Schmaltz, were sent to suppress the revolt, but the Maniots ambushed and captured most of them. To denote their disdain, when they agreed to ransom them to the government, they demanded 6 phoenixes for each soldier, but only one phoenix for the officers. At this point the regency was forced to issue a general amnesty to calm the situation.[8] By December 1834, of the 5,678 men in the Hellenic Army, 3,278 were members of the Bavarian Auxiliary Corps; a year later, with army strength at 9,613, the Bavarians numbered 4,570.[8] When the Corps' tenure ended in 1837, the bulk left, but the Greek government offered inducements for many to stay on.[8] In 1841, when Otto was forced to call upon the Greek politician Alexandros Mavrokordatos to become Prime Minister, the latter demanded that the Bavarians be removed from their commanding positions, and that a process of replacement of the remaining volunteers be begun. Although Otto was willing to replace Schmaltz as Minister for Military Affairs with a Greek, Andreas Metaxas, he rejected the second demand.[9] Tensions between the Greek and Bavarian officers increased during the period, and reached a boiling point in 1842: during the annual celebration for the start of the War of Independence on 25 March, the Greek artillery officers in Nafplion publicly supported the removal of the remaining foreign volunteers. The Bavarian commander of the artillery imposed a 20-day prison sentence on them, which caused an uproar in the press. The government quickly quashed the sentence, but reassigned the officers to other garrisons, while the commander remained in place.[10] 181 Bavarian officers remained in the army lists until the 3 September 1843 Revolution that introduced constitutional government and ended the Bavarian domination of the army.[11]


Obverse and reverse of the Cross for the Royal Bavarian Auxiliary Corps, instituted in 1833 by the Greek government

The Bavarian Auxiliary Corps was contentious during its existence, and caused great resentment among the Greeks.[11] Historians generally agree that its record was poor, particularly in comparison with the French who had preceded them; not only were the latter much better in training and organizing the Greek army, they also proved more capable and willing to assist the Greeks by building fortifications, bridges, and other infrastructure, without recompense. The Bavarians, on the other hand, despite their high salaries and longer stay in the country, left almost no buildings of note.[12] A large part of the problem originated with the recruitment of the Corps. Most of the volunteers were low-ranking soldiers or even simple artisans, who in Greece found themselves promoted to officers; many of the recruits were adventurers, while others were the dregs of society, despised even by their countrymen.[13] According to newspaper accounts from 1842, of the remaining Bavarian officers, only the four technicians in the Nafplion arsenal, and a single Engineers captain were absolutely necessary due to their technical skills.[8]

The costs of recruitment and maintenance of the Corps were exorbitant for the means available to Greece, especially so soon after the end of the destructive War of Independence; the Corps took a lion's share of the Greek military budget, for little in return. Of the 7,028,207 drachmas in the 1833 budget of the Ministry for Military Affairs, 1,220,582 (17.4%) were spent on recruitment in Bavaria, and 2,786,067 (39.6%) on maintenance of the Corps; in the next year, out of a budget of 8,505,208 drachmas, the respective figures were 1,371,431 (16.1%) and 1,740,282 (20.5%) respectively.[14] It is indicative that the 25 Bavarian officers serving in the artillery in 1842 cost 5,470 drachmas, whereas their 27 Greek colleagues, most of whom had received better education as graduates of the Hellenic Military Academy, cost 3,910 drachmas.[15] One account places the total expenses incurred by the Greek fisc on account of the Auxiliary Corps to the "astronomic sum" (Kastanis) of 66,842,126 drachmas. So great was the financial burden, that France refused to provide guarantees for the third installment of the 60,000,000-franc loan stipulated in the Treaty of London, unless the Bavarian army left the country.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kastanis 2010, p. 44.
  2. Kastanis 2010, pp. 47–48.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Kastanis 2010, p. 46.
  4. Kastanis 2010, p. 45.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Kastanis 2010, p. 48.
  6. Kastanis 2010, pp. 44, 46.
  7. Kastanis 2010, pp. 46, 48.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Kastanis 2010, p. 51.
  9. Kastanis 2010, p. 52.
  10. Kastanis 2010, p. 54.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Kastanis 2010, pp. 52, 54.
  12. Kastanis 2010, pp. 45–46, 52.
  13. Kastanis 2010, pp. 49, 51.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Kastanis 2010, p. 49.
  15. Kastanis 2010, pp. 51–52.


  • Kastanis, Andreas (2010). "Το Βαυαρικό Επικουρικό Σώμα: Εθελοντές στρατιωτικοί στην Ελλάδα" (in Greek). Η Ελλάδα την εποχή του Όθωνα. Periskopio Editions. ISBN 978-960-9408-59-2. 

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