400th Anniversary Of The Terco Da Armada Da Coroa De Portugal
The Fusiliers stem from the oldest permanent military unit in Portugal, established on 18 April 1621 and called the “Regiment of the Navy of the Crown of Portugal”. From that date until the mid-18th century, the “Naval Soldiers” or the “Fusilier Sailors”, as the naval infantry were known in those days, fought in Brazil, on the southeast frontier of the national territory, formed garrisons for the Coastguard Fleet and fought next to Lord Nelson in the Mediterranean, not to mention their successes in the fight against the French, Dutch and Spanish. The Regiment was regarded as an elite unit and was used by King João IV as his personal guard. In the late 18th century, the operational organisation was changed, combining into two infantry regiments and an artillery unit, called the “Royal Brigade of the Navy”.
In 1808, at the time of the invasion of Napoleon's troops, elements of the Royal Brigade of the Navy ensured the personal safety of the Portuguese Royal Family in their move to Brazil, which gave rise to the Brazilian Marine Corps. At the turn of the 20th century, when Europe started to assert itself in African colonies, Portugal was confronted with the great capacity of colonial powers such as France, the United Kingdom and Germany, for which reason it was deemed necessary to affirm national presence in the territories it had been allocated on that continent following the Berlin Treaties. The “Fusilier Sailors”, as part of the Expeditionary Battalions and Naval Companies, fought in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea.
More recently, in 1961, when Portugal become involved in new war
efforts in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, the Fusiliers dressed in camouflage to fight in the jungles, rivers, mountains and savannah, patrolling the rivers, landing in skiffs and speedboats, carrying out coup de main attacks from naval units and helicopters, guaranteeing the security of Naval facilities and participating in all kinds of combat. For fourteen years, around 12,500 men were involved in the theatres of operations. Following this period of war, it was necessary to restructure the Fusiliers Units, adapting to the new national theatre of operations and the requirements of the North Atlantic Alliance, of which Portugal is a founding member. Effectives were reduced by 50%, with around 2,500 men remaining, 60% of which belonged to the permanent cadres of the Navy.
After the Overseas War, the Fusiliers continued to serve Portugal, both in a strictly military sense and in response to situations of crisis. Of particular note are their efforts in national initiatives, such as the evacuation operations for non-combatants in Zaire in 1997 and Guinea-
-Bissau in 1998, as well as participation in operations in the context of international alliances and commitments, whether aboard Navy ships or on land. Among these, it is worth noting the regular departures on naval missions in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, the NATO missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Lithuania, the successive United Nations missions in East Timor and Colombia, as well as their active involvement, under the aegis of the European Union, in theatres of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Mali and the Central African Republic.
Today, the Portuguese Fusiliers still carry out actions of military cooperation in the area of defence with analogous African Fusiliers regiments, particularly in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, as well as in Asia and East Timor.