11th October 1914: A key date for the formation of the modern Czech Armed Forces

Autor: Nuala Casey, Oldrich Holecek

A hundred years ago, the Czech Centuria, the first volunteer unit composed of Czechs and Slovaks in the Eastern Front, took an oath at Sophia Square in Kiev, Ukraine. The unit was to become the core of the future Czechoslovak Corps in Russia, the Czechoslovak Legion; the military unit which took control of major sections of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1917.

The Czechoslovak Legion, comprising of more than six thousand personnel, took part in battles around the Trans-Siberian Railway, from the European territories of Russia up to the eastern city of Vladivostok, after the Bolsheviks had agreed to evacuate their forces in an easterly direction to France.

The Czech veterans' organisation and the Ministry of Defence commemorated the events leading to the beginning of the Czechoslovak Legion on Saturday, 11th October, and also welcomed the replica ‘LegionTrain‘ that played such a decisive role in the capture of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

"This date is a very important one. It was the moment when the modern history of Czechoslovak, and the then Czech Armed Forces began," explained Colonel Eduard Stehlik, Director of the War Veterans Department. He believes it is still important today. "The Armed Forces of the Czech Republic today claims allegiance to the Legionnaires' traditions and to the tradition of our resistance during World War II," added Colonel Stehlik during the re-enactment of the Oath of Allegiance ceremony held at the Vitkov National Monument in Prague."

After the custom of driving nails into the pole of the Czech Centuria flag, and then its consecration, Minister of Defence Martin Stropnicky said: "It is a marvellous event which deserves to be commemorated. It is important to remember what our grandfathers and their fathers did for the country, and they did it completely, and with full knowledge that they could lose their lives."

To celebrate the anniversary, a replica seven-waggon train of the Czechoslovak Legion, called the "LegionTrain", arrived to the Zizkovo Freight Railway Station in Prague. It was constructed by members of the Czechoslovak Legionnaires Community in support of its "Legie 100" project which is dedicated to commemorating events and connections to the Legion.

The "LegionTrain" was met by Minister of Defence Martin Stropnicky; Chairman of the House of Deputies of the Czech Parliament Jan Hamacek; Mayor of Prague Tomas Hudecek; Deputy Mayor of Prague 3 Matej Stropnicky; Chairman of the Czechoslovak Legionnaires Community Pavel Budinsky, war veterans and other guests.

October 14, 2014