1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers

The April 1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers (Putsch des généraux), was a failed military action to press French President Charles de Gaulle to not abandon French Algeria, along with French people and pro-French Arabs living there. The putsch in French Algeria was conducted by four retired generals, led by Maurice Challe, the commander of the French Armed Forces in Algeria in 1958-60 and the author of the successful Challe Plan. The plan which in effect helped to defeat militant rebels across Algeria.

In 1960-61, French soldiers, and legionnaires in particular, who saw the successes of their military actions in 1958-60, couldn’t understand why President de Gaulle was speaking about abandoning Algeria, an integral part of France since 1848. Moreover, it was the French Army after all who carried out a successful anti-government putsch in Algiers in May 1958 to install de Gaulle as President, to save French Algeria…

1961 Generals' Putsch of Algiers - Challe - Salan - Jouhaud - Zeller - Algeria - April 1961

 

Prelude to the 1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers

1940-46

General Charles de Gaulle
– a French officer
– in June 1940, he fled France for Great Britain
– there, he presented his Appeal of 18 June 1940
– a response to the end of war between France and Germany
– General de Gaulle asked French soldiers to continue in fighting
– he asked them to join him in Britain

– the next day, a new speech by General de Gaulle
– he said that “all forms of authority had disappeared”
– he didn’t see the then French government as legal
– later in June 1940, he proclaimed himself as the only legal French leader
– in July 1940, he would establish the so called Free French Forces (FFL)
– a part of the British Army

– in fact, de Gaulle launched an armed action
– to overthrow the then French government
– to install himself as a French leader

– however, at the beginning, the plan wasn’t so successfull
– some 14,000 French soldiers were in Britain at the time
– only 1,300 would join him and his FFL of the British Army
– the rest asked to return to France to serve under the French flag

– in 1940-42, FFL would fight against France and French soldiers

– in 1944, General de Gaulle was recognized by the US as a French leader

– in November 1945, he became an official leader of France
– however, he kept his office only a few weeks

– in January 1946, General de Gaulle had to resign
– the result of then French political crisis

 

General de Gaulle in 1942
General Charles de Gaulle, 1942. In 1940, with Britain’s support, he launched an armed coup to overthrow the then French government to install himself as a French leader. At the time, he didn’t see anything wrong with an armed action aimed at a legal government. But only a marginal number of French soldiers agreed with him back then.

 

1946-54

First Indochina War
– French Indochina refers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
– under the French rule since the 1880s
– in Indochina in 1946, the new conflict officially started
– between France and the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– tens of thousands of French soldiers died
– between them, thousands of legionnires
– in 1954, the ceasefire in Indochina went into force

the French had to leave Indochina
– many French officers and soldiers saw it as a treason
– they were persuaded that the war could have been won
– they saw then French politicians as traitors of France

 

1954-55

Algerian War started
– in North Africa, local rebels intensified military actions
– these actions took part in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria
– countries under French control for decades
– Algeria under the French rule since the 1830s
– the attacks were aimed at French forces presented there
– in Algeria, the main rebel force was the FLN
– FLN stands for National Liberation Front
– later in 1955, rebel operations escalated into the Algerian War

 

1956

Independence of Tunisia + Morocco
– countries under the French control for decades
– thousands of French soldiers have died for
– then rebels were poorly equipped and less active than in Algeria
– seen as another betrayal, after the loss of Indochina

 

1958

May 1958 Putsch of Algiers
– May 13, a coup took place in Algiers
– led by four French generals
– General Salan, General Massu, General Jouhaud, General Gracieux
– a response to an “incompetent government support of military efforts”
– French politicians were once again seen as traitors of France
– the French Army and French settlers were afraid of “another Indochina”
– they didn’t want to see Algeria to be lost

– during the night of May 13, the Army seized power in Algiers
– the armed putschists were led by General Jacques Massu
– the then head of the 10th Parachute Division (10e DP)

– they formed a provisional military government
– led by General Raoul Salan
– then commander of the French Armed Forces in Algeria
– General Salan gave a speech on radio
– he said the Army “took over responsibility for the destiny of French Algeria”

– the putsch’s goal was to bring General de Gaulle back to power
– the putschists wanted to install him as the President of France

Operation Corse
– part of the May 1958 Putsch
– a military operation to size Corsica by the putschists
– an island south-east of France
– on May 24, it was seized by French paratroopers (coming from Algeria)

Operation Resurrection
– part of the May 1958 Putsch
– a planned military operation to size Paris, the capital of France
– planned by the May 1958 putschists
– French paratroopers would have been involved in
– the goal was to force the French government
– eventually, the French politicians agreed for de Gaulle‘s return to power
– May 29, General de Gaulle was appointed as Prime Minister
– the operation was cancelled

French Algeria by de Gaulle
– in June 1958, de Gaulle visited Algeria
– he shouted “Long life French Algeria!” to the crowds
– the French soldiers and French settlers were happy
– they believed French Algeria was saved

1958 French constitutional referendum
– held on September 28, 1958
– to adopt a new constitution for the French Fifth Republic
– French overseas departments were allowed to vote for their independence
in Algeria, 96,6% of voters voted YES for French Algeria
– voted by both the French settlers and local muslim Arabs

French President de Gaulle
– in December 1958, de Gaulle became the French President
– the Fifth Republic was established

 

General de Gaulle in Algiers in 1958
De Gaulle in Algiers in June 1958. In May 1958, an armed putsch to overthrow the then French government took place. Its goal was to install de Gaulle as a French leader. At the time, de Gaulle again (as well as in 1940) didn’t see anything wrong with an armed putsch aimed at a legal government… The people of French Algeria were cheering him as their savior. But their hopes pinned on him would be quickly dashed.

 

1959

French victory in Algeria
– in Algeria in 1958-59, many successful military operations
– FLN rebels were almost defeated
in mid-1959, the French Army was the closest it would be to victory in Algeria

De Gaulle’s Algerian self-determination
– on September 16, 1959, de Gaulle spoke about Algerian self-determination
– he said Algeria had the right to self-determination
– a shock to Algerians and to the French Army in Algeria
– they saw it as a great betrayal
– French settlers and local Arabs feared left-wing FLN militants to gain power
– French soldiers didn’t want to accept they were fighting and dying for nothing

 

1960

General Massu’s criticism of de Gaulle
– then commander of French forces in the capital of Algeria
– the ex-commander of the 10th Parachute Division
– the key figure of the May 1958 Putsch
– January 18, an interview with General Massu was published
– by Germany newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung
– in the interview, he stated that de Gaulle‘s Algerian policy is bad
– according to him, the Army would be ready to provide weapons to civilians
– he also stated that the selection of de Gaulle in 1958 was a bad choice
– General Massu was immediately removed from office

Week of barricades
– January 24, an insurrection in the Algerian capital started
– led by French militant civilian groups (supporting the Army)
– a response to the removal of General Massu
– they demonstrated in support of French Algeria
– the demonstration was led by Pierre Lagaillarde, Joseph Ortiz and Guy Forzy
Lagaillarde and Ortiz were involved in the May 1958 Putsch
– they were the key non-military putschists back then

– several military units were sent to restore order in Algiers
– between them, the 1er REP
– however, French soldiers and legionnaires sympathized with demonstrators

– in Paris, de Gaulle asked the French Army to remain loyal to him
– he made a TV speech which included these words:

French President de Gaulle:
You French of Algeria, how can you listen to the liars and the conspirators who tell you that, if you grant free choice to the Algerians, France and de Gaulle want to abandon you, retreat from Algeria, and deliver you to the rebellion?

– the demonstrations ended on February 1
– the leaders of the insurrection were arrested

 

Week of barricades - January 1960
Week of barricades in Algiers in late January 1960.

 
Algerian Algeria
– September 4, a speech by de Gaulle
– he announced that Algerian Algeria was “on the way”

Barricades Trial
– in early November, the Barricades Trial started
– the demonstrations’ leaders would be sentenced to 10 years in prison
– ironically, in May 1958, they helped de Gaulle to gain the power

Algerian republic
– November 4, a TV speech by President de Gaulle
– he spoke about future “Algerian republic”

Demonstrations in Algiers
– during December 8-13, large demonstrations occured in Algiers
– demonstrations in support of French Algeria
– aimed at De Gaulle visiting Algeria at the time
– the demonstrations were led by French Algeria Front (FAF)
– a French party established in June 1960
– over one million members (40% of them were muslim Arabs)
– December 15, the FAF party was banned by the French government

– during de Gaulle‘s visit, also pro-Algerian demonstrations
– for the first time in history, Algerian flags appeared

 

Demonstrations in Algiers - December 1960
Pro-inpendence demonstrations in Algiers in December 1960, during the visit of President de Gaulle. For the first time in history, Algerian flags appeared. A result of de Gaulle‘s pro-Algerian Algeria proclamations.

 

1961

French referendum on Algerian self-determination
– January 8, the referendum was held
– ordered by French President de Gaulle
– in Algeria, 70% of voters voted for YES
– only 59% of all Algerian voters voted in the referendum

1er REP Officers’ Revolt
– Janvier 8, 1er REP officers revolted
– a unique, extraordinary issue
– while being stationed on the Tunisia border
– four company commanders
– they refused to carry out a military operation
– their revolt was a response to the referendum
– the four officers were transferred out of the Legion
– also other officers would have to leave the regiment

Preparations for a new Putsch
– in January in Paris, a new putsch started to be preparred
– by several French high-ranking officers
– led by Colonel Broizat + Colonel Argoud
– between them, also a number of Legion officers
– including Lt Col de La Chapelle, the then commander of the 1er REC

Talks with the FLN rebels
– in March, French talks with the FLN rebels started

Algerian independent state
– April 11, a conference with de Gaulle
– he said France had no problem with an independent Algeria

Decision to make the Putsch
– April 12, the plotters decided to make the putsch

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers

April 20, 1961 – Thursday

General Maurice Challe arrived secretly to Algeria

  • a French officer, born in 1905
  • between 1958-60, a Chief of the French forces in Algeria
  • the author of the famous Challe Plan
  • a series of successful operations aimed at FLN rebels
  • in 1960-61, he was a NATO commander of Central Europe
  • he resigned in February 1961

 

– he was accompanied by General André Zeller

  • a French officer, born in 1898
  • between 1955-56 and 1958-59, a Chief of the French Army

 
– both generals were welcomed by Major Georges Robin
– then commander of the GCP-RG (Parachute Commando Group)
– GCP-RG was an elite, battalion-sized airborne unit
– Major Robin spent almost 10 years in the Foreign Legion

  • Georges Robin was a French officer, born in Algeria in 1921
  • as a young Second Lieutenant, he preferred to serve in the Legion
  • in 1946-48, he served with the 3e REI in Indochina
  • in 1948-49, he served in Morocco with the Mounted Company, 4e REI
  • back in Indochina in 1950-52, Captain Robin served with the 5e REI
  • in 1955-56, he served with the 1er REP in Algeria
  • in 1957, he led an instruction company of the 1er RE
  • in 1960, Major Robin took command of the GCP-RG
  • in 1961, he became one of the plotters

– the plotters moved to Algiers
– to the Poirson villa at Les Tagarins (a district of Algiers)
– then HQ of Major Robin and his GCP-RG

– other French officers participating in the putsch arrived too
– General Gardy, Colonel Broizat, Colonel Godard or Colonel Gardes

– between them, General Edmond Jouhaud

  • General Jouhaud was a French officer, born in Algeria in 1905
  • a member of the French Air Army since 1926
  • 1943-45, a member of the French resistance
  • in 1954, the commander of Air Forces in Indochina
  • in 1957-58, a deputy commander of all French forces in Algeria
  • in 1958-60, the commander of the French Air Army
  • in 1960, General Jouhaud resigned from the Army
  • in 1961, he became one of the plotters

 
General Challe would become the head of the Putsch

 

General Maurice Challe
General Maurice Challe. The Chief of the French forces in Algeria in 1958-60 and the author of the successful Challe Plan, which helped to defeat militant rebels in Algeria. He was the only general to agree to carry out the Putsch. Yet in early April 1961, the putschists depended on several colonels only.

General André Zeller - General Edmond Jouhaud
General André Zeller + General Edmond Jouhaud. Together with Challe, the three five-star generals became the key figures of the Putsch.
Major Georges Robin
Georges Robin. A French officer, who started his military career with the Foreign Legion and spent most of his service there. Major Robin and his GCP-RG Parachute Commandos were the first military elements to join the Putsch. In the left photo, then Captain Robin as Sports Officer with the 1er RE in 1957.

 

April 21, 1961 – Friday

– 01.30 PM (13:30) – Major Hélie de Saint Marc visited General Challe
– a provisional commander of the 1er REP

  • Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc was a French officer
  • born in France in 1922
  • during WWII, a member of the French resistance
  • imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp 1943-45
  • assigned to the Legion in late 1947
  • 1948-50, he served as a Lieutenant with the 3e REI in Indochina
  • back in Algeria in late 1950, he joined the 3e BEP (later 3e REP)
  • in Indochina in 1951-53, Captain de Saint Marc served with the 2e BEP (now 2e REP)
  • 1953-54, he served with a French regular airborne unit in France
  • in 1954, back in Indochina to serve with the 1er BEP (later 1er REP)
  • 1955-57, he served with the 1er REP in Algeria
  • in January 1961, he rejoined the 1er REP to become its deputy commander

– Major de Saint Marc was asked if he want to join the Putsch
Challe himself assured him it was “neither a Fascist coup d’état nor a pro-racism action
– Major de Saint Marc eventually agreed
– the 1er REP would become the important element of the Putsch

– that day, all tasks were given
– the start of the Putsch was scheduled for 2.00 AM (02:00) in the morning

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - 1er REP - Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc
Major Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc. Then deputy commander of the 1er REP. He joined the Putsch a few hours before its launching. His unit would become the key element of the event.

 

April 22, 1961 – Saturday

Taking over Algiers

– 12.05 AM (00:05), the 1er REP left its camp of Zeralda
– then small town, located some 12 miles (20 km) west of Algiers
– the unit would seize four strategic points in Algiers:

  • Caserne Pelissier (the barracks of French forces in Algiers)
  • Ouled Fayet radio station
  • Hussei Dey Police Academy
  • General Delegation (French Government’s HQ in Algeria)

 

– at Caserne Pelissier, General Vezinet was captured
– then Chief of French forces in Algiers

– at Ouled Fayet radio station, the only victim of the Putsch
Sergeant Brillant, a French soldier
– he defended the radio station with his weapon
– in five minutes, the entire station was seized
– the rest of the men were neutralized

Hussei Dey Police Academy was seized without complications

General Delegation was also seized
– General Gambiez + General Saint Hillier were captured
– General Gambiez was then Chief of the French forces in Algeria
– General Saint Hillier was then commander of the 10th Parachute Division

– 3.30 AM (03:30), the four strategic points were seized
– the mission was accomplished
– Major de Saint Marc informed General Challe

– that night, 19 strategic points were seized in total
– 15 of them were seized by two parachute commando units
GCP-RG paratroopers of Major Robin
GCP of Air paratroopers of Lt Colonel Maurice Emery

– in the morning, Radio-France station broadcasted a speech of General Challe

I am in Algiers with Generals Zeller and Jouhaud, in contact with General Salan, to keep our oath. The oath of the Army to guard Algeria because of our fallen soldiers to not be victims for nothing.

– during April 22, several government officials would be arrested
– between them Jean Morin or Robert Buron
Jean Morin was then French governor of Algeria
Robert Buron was then French Minister of Transport

– the arrested men were transferred to In Salah
– a small town in the Sahara of central Algeria
– they were held in an international hotel

 

The speech of General Challe on April 22, 1961

1961 Generals' Putsch - France Soir
France – soir. April 22, the popular French daily newspaper is informing about the Putsch.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Jouhaud - Challe - Zeller
The three generals. General Jouhaud (left), General Challe and General Zeller in front of the French government’ HQ in Algeria. Note the 1er REP legionnaires guarding the building.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - General Delegation
General Delegation. A rare photo of 1er REP legionnaires inside General Delegation, the HQ of French government in Algeria, seized during the first night of the Putsch.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - 1er REP - 1 REP - Radio Alger
Radio Alger. 1er REP legionnaires guarding the seized Radio Alger (Algiers Radio), April 22. In the morning, the radio broadcasted the speech of General Challe.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Observation Post
An observation post of French paratroopers (or para-legionnaires) during the Putsch in Algiers, late April 1961.

 

New units joining the Putsch

– that day, new units actively joined the Putsch
– they were arriving from the Constantine region (eastern Algeria)
– between them, a Foreign Legion unit
1er REC of Lt Colonel Charles de La Chapelle

  • Charles de La Chapelle was a French officer, born in France in 1914
  • a member of an old, French nobility family
  • in 1934, he joined the Army as an volunteer
  • in 1940, he left a military academy as an officer
  • in 1941, Lieutenant de La Chapelle landed in Syria
  • he took part in the Syria-Lebanon Campaign
  • in Syria, he faced Free French Forces of de Gaulle
  • he refused to join them and returned to North Africa
  • in November 1941, Lieutenant de La Chapelle joined the 1er REC
  • with his unit, he took part in the 1943 Tunisia Campaign
  • in 1944-45, Captain de La Chapelle fought in France and Germany
  • in 1946-50, he served at a military cavalry academy
  • in 1951-54, with a French cavalry unit in Indochina
  • in 1954-59, Major de La Chapelle served in Germany and in France
  • in mid-1960, Lt Col de La Chapelle took command of the 1er REC

 

– also two Parachute Chasseurs (hunters) regiments
14e RCP, led by Lt Colonel Pierre Lecomte
18e RCP, led by Lt Colonel Georges Masselot

– Lt Colonel Masselot was a well-known Legion officer

  • Georges Masselot was a French officer, born in Tunisia in 1911
  • as Lieutenant, he joined the Foreign Legion in 1936
  • with his unit, he served in Syria and Lebanon
  • in 1940, he took part in the Battle of France, with 12e REI
  • in 1942, he moved to Senegal with 4e DBLE (ex-4e REI)
  • in 1943, Captain Masselot fought in Tunisia with 1er REIM (ex-4e DBLE)
  • in 1944-45, he participated in the Liberation of France with RMLE
  • redesignated to 3e REI, he served with his unit in Indochina in 1946-48
  • back in North Africa, he was with 4e REI in Morocco in 1949-51
  • in 1951-53, he returned to Indochina to serve with 5e REI
  • in 1953, he joined 3e BEP in Algeria to command the unit in 1954
  • in 1954, he and his 3e BEP moved to Indochina to become a new 2e BEP
  • redesignated to the 2e REP, Major Masselot served with the unit until 1958
  • in early 1960, Lt Col Masselot took command of the 18e RCP

 

– 14e RCP and 18e RCP made part of the 25th Parachute Division

– all the three units arrived in Algiers in the afternoon
– in Algiers, the units were cheered by large crowds of people
– they saw the putschists as their saviors

– with the 1er REC, also Colonel Antoine Argoud
– a non-Legion officer, one of the two initial key plotters
– he landed in Algeria a day earlier
– a close friend of Lt Colonel de La Chapelle

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - 1er REC - Charles de La Chapelle
Lt Colonel Charles de La Chapelle, then commander of the 1er REC. He was in contact with putschists since January 1961.

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - 18e RCP - Georges Masselot
Lt Colonel Georges Masselot, the commander of the 18e RCP. He was born in North Africa and, as a French officer, he served 20+ years in the Foreign Legion. He had strong pro-French Algeria views.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - 14e RCP - Pierre Lecomte
Lt Colonel Pierre Lecomte, the commander of the 14e RCP.

 

First complications

– General Challe saw first complications
– made by several generals, who commanded French forces in the regions

– in the Constantine region, General Gouraud
– then Chief of the French forces in the region
– previously, General Gouraud agreed with joining the Putsch
– in the morning, he informed General Challe that he changed his mind
– the Constantine region was the most important region
– 1er REC, 14e RCP and 18e RCP were already on their way to Algiers
– they weren’t able to return back to change the situation

– a few hours later, General Gouraud asked officially his troops to not join the Putsch
– General Zeller left Algiers to see General Gouraud

– in the Kabylie region, General Simon
– he refused to join the Putsch too
– then Chief of the French forces in the region
– a region between Algiers and Constantine

– in the Oran region, General de Pouilly
– he also refused to join the Putsch
– then Chief of the French forces in the region (northwestern Algeria)

– in the Western Sahara, General de Maison Rouge
– he didn’t join the Putsch either
– then Chief of the French forces in the region (western Algeria)

– in the South, General Arfouilloux
– he wasn’t sure if to join the Putsch
– then Chief of the French forces in the region
– southern Algeria + the Sahara, with the HQ in Médéa
– the largest military region of Algeria

– General Arfouilloux sent his aide to General Challe
Challe offered General Arfouilloux a very prestigious position
– to become the Chief of the French forces in Algiers
– nevertheless, General Arfouilloux was also contacted by General Olié
– a newly appointed Chief of the French forces in Algeria, by De Gaulle
– General Olié offered General Arfouilloux the same position in Algiers
– General Arfouilloux agreed and refused to join the Putsch

 

General Gardy and the Foreign Legion

– in the early morning, General Gardy left for Oran
– he should “rectify” or replace the “defiant” General de Pouilly
likely the second most important action during the Putsch
– the Oran region (northwestern Algeria) was homeland to the Foreign Legion
– the putschists depended on its participation
General Paul Gardy had very strong ties with the Legion

  • Paul Gardy was a French officer, born in France in 1901
  • as Lieutenant, he joined the Foreign Legion in 1925
  • he was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 1er REC based in Syria
  • two times wounded in the famous Battle of Rachaya (Sept 1925)
  • 1926-29, he served with the 1er REC in Syria, Morocco, Tunisia
  • 1930-33, he served in North Africa with regular French units
  • in 1933-38, Captain Gardy served once again with the 1er REC
  • during WWII, he commanded French cavalry units
  • Lieutenant Colonel Gardy rejoined the Legion in 1951
  • in 1951-55, he commanded the Legion’s HQ in Sidi Bel Abbes
  • 1958-60, General Gardy became the Chief of the Foreign Legion

 

– General Gardy landed at Sidi Bel Abbes
– at the local military airport, he met with Colonel Albert Brothier
– Colonel Brothier was then commanding officer of the 1er RE
– 1er RE served de facto as the HQ of the Legion (as today)
– previously, Colonel Brothier made sure he would support the Putsch
– he co-operated with the plotters since January 1961
– Colonel Brothier changed his mind and went (officially) on leave April 21

– General Gardy moved to Quartier Vienot, then HQ of the Legion
– he met with Colonel Etienne Ogier de Baulny
– a Legion cavalry veteran and then deputy commander of the 1er RE

– later, General Gardy again spoke with Colonel Brothier
– the colonel still claimed he was pro-putschist
– however, he stated that the Legion should wait for General de Pouilly

– General Gardy left Sidi Bel Abbes
– he moved to Oran, to speak with General de Pouilly
– General Gardy tried to get him to join the Putsch
– General de Pouilly said he needs time to decide

– 01.00 PM (13:00), General Gardy returned to Sidi Bel Abbes
– he met with Colonel Argoud, having freshly arrived from Algiers
– one of the two main plotters
– Colonel Brothier and Colonel Argoud moved to Oran
– to get the final decision of General de Pouilly

– according to General Gardy, the entire 1er RE agreed with the Putsch
– the officers were happy and ready to take action
– four companies were put on alert

– Colonel Brothier and Colonel Argoud returned to Sidi Bel Abbes
– they informed General Gardy about the result of their trip
– General de Pouilly decided to not join the Putsch
– he spoke with General Challe by telephone
General de Pouilly agreed to be replaced by General Gardy
– the change of command was scheduled for April 23, in the morning

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - General Paul Gardy
General Paul Gardy. A former Chief of the Foreign Legion (1951-55 and 1958-60). The fifth and never mentioned general of the key putschists, and the only one who in fact managed an office during the Putsch.

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - General Paul Gardy
General de Pouilly. Then commander of the Oran region. He was replaced by General Gardy during the Putsch. In the left, with glasses, Colonel Albert Brothier, then commanding officer of the 1er RE in Sidi Bel Abbes.
Sidi Bel Abbes - Foreign Legion HQ
Sidi Bel Abbes. The HQ of the Foreign Legion in Algeria.

 

April 23, 1961 – Sunday

2e REP joined the Putsch

2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment joined the Putsch
– based in the Constantine region
– led by Major Bernard Cabiro (then deputy commander)
– during the night, the 2e REP left its base at Philippeville
– it moved to Algiers
Colonel Pierre Darmuzai, its Commanding Officer, was sleeping in his house in the town
– a former member of de Gaulle‘s Free French Forces
– before commanding the 2e REP, he commanded the 3e BEP and the 1er BEP
– in the evening, before going home, he asked his officers to remain disciplined

 

General Zeller in Constantine

– General Zeller arrived in Constantine (eastern Algeria)
– he met with General Gouraud, the regional Chief of the French forces
– General Gouraud had joined the Putsch, but refused a few hours later
– General Zeller talked his friend into rejoining the Putsch
– General Gouraud agreed eventually
– however, there was an complication
– the privious day, General Gouraud had ordered his troops to not join the Putsch
– when he changed that order on Sunday, nobody did obey him

 

1er REC’s squadron to the Kabylie

– Sunday, a squadron of the 1er REC was sent to the Kabylie
– to “rectify” the “defiant” General Simon
– however, the cavalry legionnaires didn’t find General Simon
– he disappeared
– General Simon would make a complicated journey to Paris
– he would emerge in the capital of France several days later

 

General Gardy in Oran

– in the morning, General Gardy moved to Oran
– accompanied with Colonel Argoud
– also, a company of the 1er RE, led by Captain Bonnel
– General de Pouilly left Oran for Tlemcen
– a town in northwestern Algeria, 70 miles (110 km) south-west of Oran
– he would try to “rebel” a little bit there

 

General Gardy’s negotiations

– General Gardy negotiated with General Clausse
– then Chief of the French Air forces in the Oran region
– General Clausse didn’t join the Putsch
– however, he promised General Gardy he would remain neutral
– the same negotiations with Admiral Alain Querville
– then commander of the French naval base at Mers El Kebir
– the most important French military joint base in North Africa
– located 6 miles (10 km) north-west of Oran
– Admiral Querville also promised to be neutral

 

14e RCP + 18e RCP to Oran

– the same day, 14e RCP + 18e RCP left Algiers for Oran
– almost 250 miles (400 km) west of Algiers
– the regiments had to assure the position of General Gardy
– they arrived in Oran in the afternoon

 

General Salan arrived

– in the afternoon, General Raoul Salan arrived in Algiers
– he would become the fourth general being involved in the Putsch

  • Raoul Salan was a French officer, born in France in 1899
  • most likely, he has remained the most decorated French military person
  • he fought in both World Wars
  • in 1952-53, he commanded French Forces in Indochina
  • under his command, the successful Battle of Na San
  • in 1956-58, he commanded French Forces in Algeria
  • under his command, the successful Putsch of 13 May 1958
  • in December 1958, he was replaced by General Challe
  • General Salan retired in June 1960
  • in October 1960, he publicly supported French Algeria
  • the French government wanted to arrest him, he escaped
  • since late October 1960, General Salan lived in exile in Spain

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - General Raoul Salan
General Raoul Salan. He has remained the most decorated French officer. One of the two key figures of the May 1958 Putsch, to install de Gaulle as President. Raoul Salan joined the 1961 Putsch on April 23… Note the “Honored Senior Corporal of the Foreign Legion” diamond-shaped patch on his left shoulder. He wore it proudly and permanently.

 

– General Raoul Salan was accompanied by two civil activists
Jean-Jacques Susini and Joseph Ortiz
– both were pro-French Algeria activists
– they both organized the Week of Barricades in January 1960
– they were sentenced to 10 years in prison
– however, they also escaped to Spain
– now, they wanted to organize pro-French Algerian people
– to support the Putsch

 

French President de Gaulle’s TV speech

– 08.00 PM (20:00), President de Gaulle‘s TV speech
– likely the most important event of the Putsch
– seen as one of the best speeches of de Gaulle
– President de Gaulle asked all French people to support him
– he also asked all French soldiers to do the same
– he asked to use all possible ways to stop the plotters

 

April 24, 1961 – Monday

General de Pouilly arrested

– in the morning, General Gardy sent 14e + 18e RCP to Tlemcen
– to “pacify” General de Pouilly
de Pouilly tried to “revolt” a little bit, supported by Paris
– both units formed a brigade, led by Lt Col Masselot (18e RCP)
– in Tlemcen, Lt Col Masselot (18e RCP) talked with General de Pouilly
– they knew each other and Lt Col Masselot didn’t want to arrest him
– General de Pouilly asked to speak with General Challe
– then, a military helicopter took him to Algiers
– in Algiers, General de Pouilly met with General Challe
– after a long conversation, he refused to join the Putsch
– General de Pouilly was arrested and sent to In Salah

 

Colonel de Boissieu joined the Putsch

– that day, Colonel Georges de Boissieu joined the Putsch
– then commander of the Djidjelli sector
– part of the Constantine region
– his action would not change the path of the Putsch
– Colonel Georges de Boissieu made it only as a gesture
– a gesture to express his fidelity to General Challe
– he previously served under his command, as a member of his staff
Colonel de Boissieu was also a former Foreign Legion officer

  • Georges de Boissieu was a French officer, born in France in 1911
  • as Lieutenant, he was assigned to the Legion in 1936
  • in 1936-41, he served with the 1er REI in Algeria
  • in 1941-42, he was in Senegal with 4e DBLE (ex-4e REI)
  • in 1943, Captain de Boissieu fought in Tunisia with 1er REIM (ex-4e DBLE)
  • in 1943-54, he served outside the Legion
  • in Indochina in 1954, Major de Boissieu was assigned to the 5e REI
  • in 1954-56, as Lt Colonel, he commanded the regiment
  • Colonel de Boissieu took command of the Djidjelli sector in 1960
  • his cousin Alain de Boissieu was the son-in-law of General de Gaulle

 

Four Generals’ public speech in Algiers

– 6.30 PM (18:30), a public speech at the Forum in Algiers
– made by four Generals-putschists
– to the crowd of some 100,000 civilians
– the civilians cheered the generals
– they saw the generals as their last hope
– the demonstration was guarded by the 1er REP

 

New complications

Complications with military conscripts
– that day, new complications
– following the speech of de Gaulle
– a number of French military constcripts refused to serve
– they refused to work and to obey their officers
– the vast majority of then French units consisted of conscripts

Complications with officers and units
– many French officers stopped their support to the Putsch
– feared by the TV speech of de Gaulle
– also nervous about the ongoing inactivity of putschists

 

Restoring order in Algiers

– several actions to restore order
– to “pacify” several rebellious military bases
– at Caserne d’Orleans in Algiers
– a 1er REP company sent to restore order
– at Blida (a military air base), south-west of Algiers
– 1er REC’s squadrons sent to restore order
– later, also 1er REP units
– at Maison Blanche, the airport of Algiers
– 2e REP sent to restore order

 

Mers El Kebir Incident

– an incident at Mers El Kebir
– Admiral Querville refused to be neutral
– General Challe ordered to seize the naval base
– General Gardy sent 14e RCP to Mers El Kebir
– however, the men of Lt Colonel Lecomte‘s 14e RCP revolted
– two of his three companies refused to obey the order
– the naval base wasn’t seized

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Colonel Georges de Boissieu
Georges de Boissieu. Another former Foreign Legion officer. Colonel de Boissieu joined the Putsch on April 24, when it was clear the coup was going to fail. Then commander of the Djidjelli sector later stated that his action was a gesture to express his fidelity to General Challe. In the very rare photo, then Lt Col de Boissieu as leaving the Foreign Legion’s 5e REI in 1956.

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Algiers - Forum
Algiers – Forum, April 24, 1961. The four generals arrive to deliver a speech to the large crowd of some 100,000 local French people and muslim Arabs. Note the vehicles of the 1er REP. The legionnaires served as security guards.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Algiers - Forum - Generals
Generals – Putschists, April 24, 1961. The four generals (from left, Jouhaud, Salan, Challe, Zeller) to deliver speeches to the large crowd of local people, who saw them as their saviors. In fact, the generals have already known that the end was quickly coming.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Algiers - Forum - 1er REP - 1 REP
Algiers – Forum – 1er REP, April 24, 1961. Legionnaires of the 1er REP are watching the large crowd of local people gathered behind their Jeeps.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Algiers - Forum
The generals leaving the Algiers‘ Forum, April 24, 1961.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Blida - Airport - conscripts
Blida – Military Air Base, April 24. Rebellious anti-putschist conscripts at Blida Military Air Base, south-west of Algiers. At the time, the majority of them owned transistor, a small portable radio. The previous evening, they heard President de Gaulle‘s speech and started to rebel. Legionnaires of the 1er REC and, later, of the 1er REP, had to arrive to restore order… In those days, regular French troops in Algeria were composed of conscripts in the majority. The Legion was the only professional branch of the then French Army, consisting 100% of volunteers.

 

April 25, 1961 – Tuesday – The last day of the Putsch

General Gardy back to Algiers

– General Gardy contacted General Challe
– he informed him about the incident with the 14e RCP
– Colonel Brothier stopped the co-operation too
– the 1er RE’s head refused to send Legion units to Mers El Kebir
– General Gardy reported that the situation wasn’t good
– General Challe asked him to return to Algiers
– 14e RCP + 18e RCP should leave the region too

 

1er REC + 2e REP to leave Algiers

– in the afternoon, 1er REC + 2e REP left Algiers
– they returned back to the Constantine region

 

Generals’ Putsch to end

– in the evening, the Putsch was over
– General Challe capitulated
– he didn’t want to see French soldiers fighting each other
– initially, he expected all French Forces in Algeria would support him
– finally, only a few units did it

– General Zeller + General Gardy disapeared
– Generals Challe + Salan + Jouhaud left Algiers
– they moved to the 1er REP’s camp of Zeralda, with its convoy
– the Putsch ended

– in the early morning, Generals Salan + Jouhaud would leave the camp
– they would fight for French Algeria illegally as partisans, until 1962
– General Challe would be arrested in the morning, at the camp

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - General Challe - Leaving
The End. In the evening of April 25, General Challe knows that the Putsch has already been over. He and his team (including General Jouhaud, right) are leaving their HQ in Algiers. In the upshot, they spent only three days there.

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - 1er REP - Leaving
1er REP to leave Algiers, April 25, 1961. During the night of April 25-26, legionnaires of the 1er REP are leaving the HQ of putschists in Algiers. They would return to their camp in Zeralda. Generals Challe, Salan and Jouhaud would accompany them. The three generals would stay there to morning.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Gendarmerie
Gendarmerie to recapture Algiers, April 25-26, 1961. French gendarmerie AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) cars in Algiers, during the last night of the Putsch. The Gardes Mobiles are waiting for the 1er REP’s withdrawal.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Gardes Mobiles
Gendarmerie to recapture Putschists’ HQ, April 25-26, 1961. In a rare image, the French gendarmerie’s Gardes Mobiles are recapturing the HQ of putschists in Algiers.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Aftermath - Conscripts
Maintaining order in recaptured Algiers, late April, 1961. French Army conscripts arrive to maintain order in recaptured Algiers.

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers: Foreign Legion

Foreign Legion Command

NO, the Legion Command didn’t join the Putsch

– led by General René Morel
– a former member of de Gaulle‘s Free French Forces
– a strongly anti-putschist officer
– however, he had a low authority among his men
– at that time, he was in France

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - René Morel
René Morel. Then Chief of the Foreign Legion. A former member of de Gaulle‘s Free French Forces and an anti-putschist. During the Putsch, he was in France. When he phoned with the HQ of the Legion in Sidi Bel Abbes, he was informed that “the 1er RE joined the Putsch, Mon General“.

 

1st Foreign Regiment

YES, the 1er RE joined the Putsch

– commanded by Colonel Albert Brothier
– he was contacted by putschist in late 1960
– he had co-operated with them since January 1961
– April 21, he sent two captains to Algiers
– to follow the Putsch and to confirm the participation of the Legion
– however, during the Putsch, he became neutral
– he would play it on both sides
– eventually, he went on leave officially

– the 1er RE was led by Colonel Etienne Ogier de Baulny
– then deputy commander of the regiment
– he openly supported the Putsch
– there were many pro-putschist elements within the unit
– between them, Captain Bonnel, Captain Bertany or Captain Glasser
– also Captain Pompidou and Captain Des Rieux
– the two captains were in Algiers during the first night of the Putsch

– also Major Louis Fournier
– he assured an EMT (then battalion-size operational unit)
– consisting of three companies
– ready for maintaining order missions

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Albert Brothier
Colonel Albert Brothier. Then commander of the 1er RE (1959-61). In 1945-59, he served with the 13e DBLE, 1er REI, 6e REI, 3e BEP, 1er BEP, GPLEM, 1er REP. Contacted by putschists already in late 1960. He promised his support and the help of the Legion. However, during the Putsch, he became neutral, went officially on leave and played it on both sides. In court a few weeks later, he spoke against the Putsch, to surprise all of his closest officers.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Etienne Ogier de Baulny
Etienne Ogier de Baulny (1908-93). Then deputy commander of the 1er RE. A Legion cavalry veteran from an old French nobility family. He actively supported the Putsch and also General Gardy during his mission in the Oran region. April 22, he himself went to Oran to persuade General de Pouilly to join the Putsch. In Oran, he also gave a pro-putschist public speech.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Michel Glasser
Michel Glasser. Then captain of the 1er RE and an active putschist. During the Putsch, he served as an aide to General Gardy. In the photo (1959), Captain Glasser becomes the youngest Commander of the Légion d’honneur, the highest French order of merit. Decorated by then Chief of the Legion, General Gardy. In 1959-61, Captain Glasser led the 1er RE’s prestigious CPCIP unit (Team Leader Improving & Parachute Instruction Center). He married General Gardy‘s daughter. In early 1962, he deserted the Army to fight for French Algeria as partisan. He would spent 3 years in prison. A former member of the 1er REP.

 

2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment

YES, the 2e REI joined the Putsch

– commanded by Colonel Bertrand de Sèze
– he was openly for French Algeria
– however, at that time, he was on leave in France

– the unit was led by Major Charles Met
– he and his companies secured Ain Sefra

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Bertrand de Sèze
Colonel Bertrand de Sèze (1910-95). Then commander of the 2e REI. An exception among Legion commanders at the time. He had never served in the Legion before he took command of the regiment. In the Army since 1929. During the Korean War (1950-53), he was a deputy commander of the only French unit participating in the conflict, French Battalion. He would lead the unit later in Algeria (1957-59), before taking command of the 2e REI. During the Putsch, he was in France. Nonetheless, as an ardent supporter of French Algeria, Colonel de Sèze would fight for it as partisan. He would be arrested and senteced to 10 years in prison. Freed in 1966.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Charles Met
Charles-Marie Met (1921-2004). In the Legion since 1946. The son of Colonel Charles Met, the famous Legion officer who lost his leg during fights with Moroccan rebels in 1914. During the Putsch, Major Charles-Marie Met took temporarily command of the 2e REI and, as a member of a local public committee, he also took over Ain Sefra, the then garrison town. As its ardent supporter, he would later fight for French Algeria as partisan. Arrested and senteced to 10 years in prison. Freed in 1965.

 

3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment

NO, the 3e REI didn’t join the Putsch

– commanded by Colonel Pierre Langlois
– a former member of de Gaulle‘s Free French Forces
– a strongly anti-putschist officer
– he made it clear that he would not join the Putsch

– there aren’t any accessible information about pro-putschist elements

 

4th Foreign Infantry Regiment

YES and NO
– the 4e REI joined and also didn’t join the Putsch
– there are only a few accessible information

– commanded by Colonel Etienne Georgeon
– Colonel Georgeon was a strongly pro-putschist officer

  • a French officer, born in France in 1913
  • as a young Lieutenant, he served in Syria and Lebanon with the 6e REI in 1941
  • there, he and his unit faced Free French during the 1941 British invasion
  • in 1943, he fought in the Tunisia Campaign with 2nd Battalion, 3e REIM
  • there, Captain Georgeon took part in the famous Battle of Zaghouan
  • in 1944-45, he fought in France and Germany with RMLE (future 3e REI)
  • 1954-55, Major Georgeon served as the last commander of the 6e REI
  • 1957-59, Lt Col Georgeon led GILE (Legion’s Training Group, now 4e RE)
  • he took command of the 4e REI in 1959
  • in late April 1961, Colonel Georgeon joined the Putsch
  • Commander of the Légion d’honneur in 1960
  • Etienne Georgeon died as a two-star General in 1974

– Colonel Georgeon made it clear to his staff he would join the Putsch
– however, he let them make their own free choice

– between the most active pro-putschist elements, Captain Roquefeuil
– during the Putsch, he kept connection between the 4e REI and the putschists
– arrested after the Putsch, he was eventually acquitted

Lt Colonel Michel Vadot didn’t join the Putsch
– then deputy commander of the 4e REI
– he didn’t believe in success of the Putsch
– in early May 1961, he took command of the 4e REI

– there aren’t any other information

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Etienne Georgeon
Etienne Georgeon (1913-74). Then commander of the 4e REI. He actively supported the Putsch and French Algeria. However, he offered his subordinates a free choice to join the Putsch or not. In early May 1961, he was replaced by Lt Colonel Vadot in the lead of the regiment… In the very rare photo, Lt Col Georgeon is taking command of the 4e REI in 1959. An almost mysterious person, there isn’t any other available info about him or his destiny after the Putsch.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Alain Roquefeuil
Captain Alain Roquefeuil. Then officer of the 4e REI, described as “a great warrior and a great instructor”. Captain Roquefeuil actively supported the Putsch. He was authorized by Colonel Georgeon to maintain connection with the putschists in the region (led by Colonel Bouchoud from 9e RCP) and to follow their orders. During the Putsch, he was detained by anti-putschist conscripts from 14e BCA (Alpine Hunters). He said to their captain: “In the Legion, our men defend their officers. If you arrest me, my guys would come to search me…”. He was promptly freed.

 

5th Foreign Infantry Regiment

YES, the 5e REI joined the Putsch

– commanded by Colonel Paul Pfirrmann
– initially, he was pro-putschist
– April 22, he moved to Sidi Bel Abbes (Legion’s HQ)
– to share future steps with the putschists
– eventually, he became neutral

– the 5e REI was led by Major Julien Camelin
– a strongly pro-putschist officer
– in the Legion since 1945
– among first Legion elements to arrive in Indochina in early 1946
– in 1961, he led five 5e REI companies in support of the Putsch
– during the Putsch, “Major Camelin maintained the regiment’s cohesion”
– the testimony of a company commander, Lieutenant Le Pivain

– Major Camelin and his companies “pacified” General Ginestet
– General Ginestet was then Chief of the Southern Oran region
– he should be replaced by Colonel Pfirrmann

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Paul Pfirrmann
Paul Pfirrmann (1909-70). Then commander of the 5e REI. Born in Algeria, he was an ardent supporter of French Algeria. At the beginning, Colonel Pfirrmann actively supported the Putsch. Eventually, he became neutral.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Julien Camelin
Julien Camelin. Then officer of the 5e REI, Major Camelin led an EMT (then battalion-seize motorized operational unit), consisting of five 5e REI companies, which then operated in the Ain Sefra region, alongside the 2e REI. An ardent supporter of French Algeria, having served with the Legion since 1945, Major Camelin joined the Putsch and actively participated in, with his companies. Later, he would fight for French Algeria as a partisan, alongside General Jouhaud. Arrested in March 1962 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Freed around 1966, he died only a few years later. In the rare photo, taken in 1956, then Captain Camelin while commanding the 23e CPLE (later part of GPLEA).

 

13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion

YES, the 13e DBLE joined the Putsch

– commanded by Colonel Alberic Vaillant
– a very strongly anti-putschist officer
– very loyal to de Gaulle
– in 1943, as Lieutenant, he deserted the Legion to join the Free French
– he made it clear that he would not join the Putsch

– however, his men revolted and joined the Putsch

– led by Major Gendron (according to General Gardy)
– he informed the 1er RE that “the 13e DBLE joined the Putsch”
– he also confirmed that he took command in place of Colonel Vaillant
– General Gardy advised him to call General Challe to receive orders

– between the most active pro-putschists, Captain Moulinier
– also Captain Pochard or Captain Fourticq-Esqueoute
– others were Lieutenant Dimke (a German legionnaire, 15+ years of the Legion)
– also Lieutenant Balais or Lieutenant Charlet

– after the Putsch, a 13e DBLE officer wrote an open letter
– he stated in it that “the majority of 13e DBLE officers were arrested”

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Ernst Dimke
Ernst Dimke. Then officer of the 13e DBLE, who actively participated in the Putsch. One of those many Germans who fought in WWII before serving France. An exceptional legionnaire, awarded with the Légion d’honneur, he was promoted to the officer rank in 1957. In the very rare photo, then Second Lieutenant Dimke bears the sacred Hand of Captain Danjou during a Camerone Day at Sidi Bel Abbes.

 

1st Foreign Parachute Regiment

YES, the 1er REP joined the Putsch

– commanded by Colonel Maurice Guiraud
– at the time, he was on leave in France
– his stance was neutral

– the 1er REP was led by Major Hélie de Saint Marc
– then deputy commander of the regiment
– he was loyal to General Challe

– 1er REP remained the most active and most loyal unit of the Putsch

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Hélie de Saint Marc
Major Hélie de Saint Marc (1922-2013). Then deputy commander of the 1er REP. He joined the Putsch a few hours before its launching and remained loyal to General Challe to the very end.

 

2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment

YES, the 2e REP joined the Putsch

– commanded by Colonel Pierre Darmuzai
– a former member of de Gaulle‘s Free French Forces
– in 1948, he led the very first Legion parachute company in Algeria
– also the only officer commanding all the three main Legion parachute units
– despite well-known rumors led by an antipathy, his stance was neutral
– April 22, he didn’t order any pro- or anti-Putsch activities
– he told his men he understand the stance of putschists
– however, he asked his men to wait and to be disciplined
– he added that, the next day, they would get a free choice to choose a side
– in court, 2e REP officers would confirm it

– when Colonel Darmuzai slept in the garrison town, his men revolted
– during the night of April 22-23, the regiment left its base for Algiers
– led by Major Bernard Cabiro
– then deputy commander of the regiment

– however, Colonel Darmuzai was disappointed by his unit’s movement
– in court, he called it “a betrayal”
– he also stated that “a such unit should not survive” (2e REP)
– because of that statement, the Legion would be closed for him
– nevertheless, he has remained the only officer to command all the three main Legion airborne units – 1er BEP, 2e REP, 3e BEP/3e REP

– 2e REP was one of the most active Legion units during the Putsch

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Bernard Cabiro
Major Bernard Cabiro (1922-93). Then deputy commander of the 2e REP. During the night of April 22-23, company commanders of his regiment revolted and left the base with their units. The colonel slept in the town, exactly as Major Cabiro. They contacted Cabiro and asked him to join the Putsch with them, to command them. They knew that he was a pro-putschist. He agreed… A former member of the 1er BEP, wounded at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, 18 mentions.

 

1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment

YES, the 1er REC joined the Putsch

– commanded by Lt Colonel Charles de La Chapelle
– one of the most active Legion officers of the Putsch
– he had co-operated with the putschists since January 1961

– for the record, Colonel Herve Le Barbier de Blignieres
– a former commander of the 1er REC (1958-60)
– the predecessor to Colonel de La Chapelle
– also one of the most active putschists

– 1er REC had the most determined pro-putschist leadership
– it was also the second most active Legion unit of the Putsch

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Helicopter - Joe Van Raamt
Joe Van Raamt. Then legionnaire of the 1er REC (1959-64), he participated with his squadron in the Putsch. In the photo, he is refueling a helicopter used by the putschists.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Helicopter
The helicopter with putschists is leaving the site, after refueling and having consulted the regiment’s movement with 1er REC HQ officers.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Putsch - 1er REC - Dodge
1er REC moving to Algiers. An image taken from a 1er REC Dodge by Joe Van Raamt, when his squadron moved to Algiers, across the Algerian countryside. According to him, on the way, they were cheered by local people.

 

2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment

YES, the 2e REC joined the Putsch

– commanded by Lt Colonel Charles de Coatgoureden
– he was an active pro-putschist

– as a matter of interest, even the 2e REC had the determined leadership
– a former commander of the 2e REC (1957-60) was also openly pro-putschist
– Colonel de Baulny (then deputy commander of the 1er RE)

 

Foreign Legion Saharan Motorized units

– four Foreign Legion Saharan motorized units
– according to General Gardy, “the majority of the Saharan units joined the Putsch”
– that means, that only one Legion Saharan unit didn’t join the Putsch
– there aren’t any available information to find out which one

1st Legion Saharan Motorized Squadron

YES, the 1er ESPL (1re CSPL until Jan 1961) joined the Putsch

– commanded by Captain Jacques Gaud
– its fresh commander (since mid-February 1961)
– ex-commander of the 2nd Squadron, 1er REC in Tunisia

– the unit is said to be guarding the arrested officials at In Salah

– after the Putsch, Captain Gaud was immediately removed from command

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers: Aftermath

Generals’ Putsch: Punishments

– about 220 officers were removed from command
– over 110 officers were arrested
– June-July 1961, Generals’ Putsch Trial
– it took place in Paris

 
General Maurice Challe
– sentenced to 15 years in prison
– freed in December 1966
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– he died in 1979

General André Zeller
– he surrendered two weeks later, in early May 1961
– sentenced to 15 years in prison
– freed in July 1966
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– he died in 1979

General Raoul Salan
– he fought for French Algeria illegally as partisan
– he was arrested in April 1962
– sentenced to death
– later changed to life imprisonment
– freed and pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– fully rehabilitated in 1982
– he died in 1984

General Edmond Jouhaud
– he fought for French Algeria illegally as partisan
– he was arrested in March 1962
– sentenced to death
– later changed to life imprisonment
– freed in December 1967
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– fully rehabilitated in 1982
– he died in 1995

General Paul Gardy
– he has never been arrested
– he fought for French Algeria illegally as partisan
– in June 1962, he left Algeria for South America
– sentenced to death in absentia
– he died in exile in Argentina in 1975

Major Hélie de Saint Marc (1er REP)
– sentenced to 10 years in prison
– freed in December 1966
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– fully rehabilitated in 1982
– he died in 2013

Lt Colonel Charles de La Chapelle (1er REC)
– sentenced to 7 years in prison
– freed in December 1966
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– fully rehabilitated in 1982
– he died in 2000

Lt Colonel Georges Masselot (18e RCP)
– sentenced to 8 years in prison
– freed in 1965
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– fully rehabilitated in 1982
– he died in 2002

Lt Colonel Pierre Lecomte (14e RCP)
– sentenced to 8 years in prison
– freed in 1965
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– fully rehabilitated in 1982
– he died in 2009

Major Georges Robin (GCP-RG)
– sentenced to 6 years in prison
– freed in July 1965
– pardoned by de Gaulle in 1968
– fully rehabilitated in 1982
– he died in 2007

Lt Colonel Maurice Emery (GCP of Air)
– sentenced to 3 years, on probation (suspended sentence)

Major Julien Camelin (5e REI)
– sentenced to 3 years, on probation (suspended sentence)

Major Bernard Cabiro (2e REP)
– sentenced to 1 year, on probation (suspended sentence)

 
– the higest-ranking officers (generals, colonels) got 5-15 years in prison
– between them, five active generals
General Bigot15 years in prison
General Nicot12 years in prison
General Faure10 years in prison
General Petit5 years in prison

General Gouraud
– then commander of the Constantine region
– likely the most unlucky higher-ranking officer of the Putsch
– at least three times joining the Putsch
– at least three times joining de Gaulle
– April 22, he officially ordered his units to not join the Putsch
– despite that fact, he was arrested
– sentenced to 7 years in prison

– the sixth general, General Mentré, was acquitted

 
– the rest of the arrested officers got 1-5 years in prison at most
– the majority of them got 1-3 years on probation (suspended sentences)
– several of them (mainly lower-ranking officers) were acquitted

 

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Saint Marc - de La Chapelle - Trial
Major Hélie de Saint Marc (1er REP) and Lt Colonel Charles de La Chapelle (1er REC) during the trial in Paris, June 1961. They were sentenced to 10 years / 7 years in prison.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - 1er REP - 1 REP - Officers - 1961 - Paris - Trial
Generals’ Putsch Trial in Paris, June 1961. Officers of the 1er REP (berets) arriving at the court, with their escort. Together with them, a senior NCO, Adjudant Giubbi (left, in the center). A long-serving legionnaire, a member of the regiment, he was responsible for the only victim of the Putsch, Sergeant Brillant. The officers got 0-2 years of suspended sentences. Adjudant Giubbi got 18 months, also suspended on probation (reaction in self-defence).
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Saint Marc - Robin - Prison
Major Robin (GCP-RG) and Major de Saint Marc (1er REP) in prison, in 1961.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - French Algeria - Prisoners
French Algeria’s supporters in prison, in the mid-1960s. Above, from left to right: General Salan, Colonel de Sèze (2e REI), General Jouhaud, Major Camelin (5e REI), Lieutenant Pierre Guillaume (ex-commando; until March 1962, a partisan under General Jouhaud, along with Major Camelin), Colonel de La Chapelle (1er REC). Below, Major de Saint Marc (1er REP) and Major Robin (GCP-RG).

 

Generals’ Putsch: Unit dissolutions

– April 30, 1961, several units were dissolved
– as punishment for their active participation in the Putsch
– more or less, the most elite units of then French Army

1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1er REP)

14e Chasseurs Parachute Regiment (14e RCP)

18e Chasseurs Parachute Regiment (18e RCP)

Parachute Commando Group – General Reserve (GCP-RG)

Air Parachute Commando Group (GCPA)

10th Parachute Division (10e DP)

25th Parachute Division (25e DP)

 

Generals’ Putsch: Additional images

– some additional images related to the putsch

1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Map
A map with all important places related to the Putsch. In northeastern Algeria, 1er REC legionnaires left their base in Khenchela to join the Putsch. The 2e REP was then based in Philippeville. Both units moved to Algiers, the capital. Meanwhile, the 2e REI remained in Ain Sefra and controlled the town. The civil and military officials arrested during the Putsch were held in an international hotel of In Salah, deep in the Sahara.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - General Gambiez - Colonel Brothier
General Fernand Gambiez (1903-89). In April 1961, he led the French Armed Forces in Algeria. Arrested by the 1er REP during the first night of the Putsch. As Lieutenant, Fernand Gambiez served with the Foreign Legion’s 2e REI in Morocco in 1927-35. His first-born son, Second Lieutenant Alain Gambiez, served with the 3e REI in the First Indochina War. He was killed at Dien Bien Phu in March 1954. In the photo, General Gambiez during an inspection at the Legion’s HQ in Sidi Bel Abbes, late 1960. Right, Colonel Brothier (1er RE).
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - General Gardy - General Challe
General Gardy + General Challe. In the rare photo, then Chief of the Legion + then Chief of the French Armed Forces in Algeria at the Legion’s HQ in Sidi Bel Abbes, 1959. Two years later, they would manage the Putsch.
Indochina - Major Masselot - General Salan - 1954
Major Masselot + General Salan, August 1954. Then commander of the 2e BEP (later 2e REP) + then Chief of the French Armed Forces in Indochina. In April 1961, both officers would take part in the Putsch of Algiers.
Algeria - 1957 - General Salan - 1er REC - 1 REC - Foreign Legion
General Salan visiting the 1er REC, 1957. Then Chief of the French Armed Forces in Algieria visited the regiment, which would take part in the 1961 Putsch, along with him.
Georges Robin - Foreign Legion etrangere - 1957 - Sidi Bel Abbes
Captain Georges Robin. Then Captain Robin is leading the 1er RE’s prestigious CPCIP team leader & parachute instruction unit during 1957 Camerone Day at Sidi Bel Abbes. He started his military officer career with the Legion, in 1946. In 1960, he took command of the GCP Commandos. He and his unit were the first military elements to join the 1961 Putsch.
Indochina - Major Masselot - General Salan - 1954
General Salan + General de Gaulle, 1958. Then Chief of the French Armed Forces in Algeria is welcoming General de Gaulle, after the successful 13 May 1958 Putsch of Algiers. General Salan was a key element of the Putsch, which gained the power to de Gaulle. At the time, the future French President didn’t see anything wrong with an armed putsch. Also, he then promised to all Algierians and French soldiers to keep Algeria French. A few months later, when French soldiers were defeating Algerian militant rebels across the whole country, de Gaulle gave a shock by speaking about an Algerian independence…

 

 
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Special thanks to:
Joe Van Raamt (a former legionnaire and a member of the 1er REC 1959-64)

 
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Main information & images sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Historia magazines
Historama magazines
Maurice Cottaz: Les procès du putsch d’Alger (Nouvelles Editions, 1962)
Pierre Montagnon: Histoire de la Légion (Pygmalion, 1999)
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)
A.D.I.M.A.D. – Algeria 1830-1962 (Fr)
Jean J. Viala’s site – Algerian War – Chronology (Fr)
ECPAD (Min of Def audiovisual communication and production unit)
Google Maps
Wikipedia.org

 

More from history of the Foreign Legion:
1863 Battle of Camerone
1908 Forthassa Disaster
1932 Turenne Rail Accident
1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu
1976 Loyada Hostage Rescue Mission
1978 Battle of Kolwezi
1982 Mont Garbi Accident

 
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The page was updated on: May 10, 2018

 

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