Bordels Mobiles de Campagne or Bordel Militaire de Campagne (both abbreviated to BMC) is a French term for the mobile brothels which were used during World War I, Second World War, and First Indochina War to supply prostitution services to French soldiers who were facing combat in areas where brothels were unusual, such as at the front line or in isolated garrisons. The BMCs gradually generated regulation of prostitution within the French army.
These mobile brothels were in some cases officially organised by the army. They consisted of large trailer trucks in which up to ten women would work. The first references to these BMCs were in World War I, and they are noted particularly in the Indochina War and the Algerian War.
Almost absent in France after World War II, there were many during the Indochina War and the war in Algeria. Subsequently, only the Foreign Legion still used them. The BMC in Djibouti was still operating until 2003.
The tradition of bringing "brothels to soldiers" was started during the Third Crusade by Philip II of France. He was so shocked by the extent of sodomy and rapes committed by the Crusaders, he arranged for a full boat of "girls of joy" to be sent from France. The first BMCs probably appeared during the period of military control of Algeria (1830-1870), following its conquest by the French army. The BMCs remained confined to the army in Africa until the First World War. BMCs then arrived in France with the arrival of indigenous units from the colonies. The military command not wanting indigenous soldiers to have sex with local women, but especially to try to limit the infection of the troops by venereal diseases, especially syphilis which was hardly curable at the time. (Penicillin was only available from 1944). Despite this, four years of war saw the infection of 400,000 men.
Initially, no official designation is given to the BMCs. The acronym first appeared in the 1920s with the regulation of signs in the French army, and from then BMCs are mentioned in military documents.
Military officials actively provided prostitutes for their troops. The "association des maitres et maitresses d'hôtels meublés de France et des colonies" plays an almost official co-ordinating role. It was governed by a law of 1 July 1901, and located at 73 rue de Nazareth, Paris. The prostitutes were volunteers.
The military brothels multiplied during the interwar period, almost every town has a garrison or a regiment with a BMC. During the colonial wars, the organisation and attendance of BMC was public knowledge and encouraged by the army, especially in Indochina and Algeria ("the candy box"). In France brothels were prohibited by "Loi Marthe Richard" in 1946. However, in 1947, the Ministry of the Armed Forces authorised the maintenance of BMC for North African units while stationed in Metropolitan France, the prostitutes for these BMCs coming from Algeria.
BMCs, were generally mobile and temporary and should be distinguished from "reserved areas" close to permanent garrisons, such as Bousbir de Casablanca.
French literature has several times mentioned the "Buffalo Park", a BMC in Saigon. In the Indochina War, the French used women from the Ouled Naïl tribe of the highlands of Algeria. BMCs were known to have a significant role in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and were an avenue of attack by female Viet Minh sympathizers. There was a vast BMC in Saigon known as "the park of the buffaloes", and in January 1954, a BMC containing Vietnamese and Algerian prostitutes was flown to Dien Bien Phu. Here, the prostitutes became nursing assistants for the French garrison during the siege, though they were sent for re-education by the Viet Minh after the French garrison fell.
The last BMC in France, that of the Foreign Legion 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment in Calvi, Corsica was closed in 1978. The last BMC in French territory, that of the Legion in Kourou, French Guiana closed in 1995 (following a complaint by a Brazilian pimp for unfair competition). Outside of the French territories, the Foreign Legion still had a BMC in the Republic of Djibouti in 2003.
- In the film RAS (1973), directed by Yves Boisset, about the war in Algeria, a sequence shows the arrival of a BMC and its use by the soldiers.
- Stéphane Benhamou's 2013 documentary film, Putains de guerre, contains many sequences and testimonials on BMC, especially in Indochina.
- Comfort women (women coerced and raped by Japanese soldiers during World War II)
- Special Comfort Facility Association (Japanese brothels, post World War II)
- Western princess (prostitutes in Korea, post World War II)
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- World Association of International Studies article Archived 2007-06-12 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved on March 10, 2007
- The Last Valley Martin Windrow, 2004
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- "C'est le bordel à Djibouti" [This is the brothel in Djibouti]. Le Canard enchaîné (in French). 24 September 2003. ISSN 0008-5405.
- Kedor, Roman (2016). Todeskampf im tropischen Regenwald (in German). Books on Demand. ISBN 9783739235547.
- "Le Bordel militaire de campagne ferma en 1995". Journal Du Canada (in French). May 13, 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
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- Benoit, Lieutenant-Colonel Christian (13 June 2013). "L'armée a fermé son dernier bordel en 1995" [The army closed its last brothel in 1995] (Interview) (in French). Guerres & Histoire.
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- Vietnam, a war lost and won, Nigel Cawthorne
- IHT article, retrieved on March 10, 2007
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