History of the Military Service in France

The Military Service (Service Militaire) is the name of the Conscription in France, which means “the compulsory enlistment of people in a national service, most often a military service.

It dates back to the French Revolution (1789), at the time of the National Guard and the “Levée en masse” (mass levy). Since then, it evolved and changed a lot and even disappeared for a while.

In its original form, under the Ancien Régime. Conscription is voluntary, but in 1968 the king forced his subjects to provide provincial militias for which troops were randomly chosen.

Then, in 1978, the Council of Five Hundred made Military service obligatory. The article says: “Every French men must do a military service for 5 years between the age of 20 to 25 years old.”

In 1923, the service went from 5 to 3 years. In 1928, its duration went down to 1 year, before going back to 2 years in 1935. Finally, in 1946, it goes back to 1 year. Those changes are mainly due to the World Wars that increased the need for soldiers.

After WWII, tensions decrease until 1950 and the War of Algeria forced the government to increase the duration of the service to 18 months and then again to 30 months.

In 1963, it is brought back to 18 months. Then in 1965, the service becomes “national” instead of “military”. It takes 3 different forms, 1 military called “service de defense”, 1 civil called “aide technique” (technical help) and the “cooperation”.

In 1996 the government made the decision to professionalize the Army. The consequence of this was the total suppression of the military service, replaced by volunteering or simply, enrollment. This will take a few years to be implemented after numerous national debates. Finally, in 2002 the military service completely disappears.

To replace the service, the “Journée D’Appel à la Défense” (JAPD, literally, Day for Defense Call) is created. Today called “Journée Defense et Citoyenneté » (Day Defense and Citizenship), which trains young people to the questions of citizenship and of defense. By the way, the certificate obtained after this day is mandatory to access any National exams, tests (Baccalaureate, drivers license, etc.)

Thirteen years later, in 2015, after many polls revealed the interest of the French youth for the return of a volunteer military service, the president created the SMV or Voluntary Military Service. For 6 to 12 months, youngsters receive military and professional training (Physical, civic and citizenship training). During this time, they are paid, meals and lodging are provided, and they receive the rights and advantages of the Military status.

Discover a few fun words from the french slang created by the people who did military service on the French version!