Foreign Legion events: March 11 – 20

See most important events in the history of the French Foreign Legion. Today, we will present the Legion’s important events which occurred between March 11 and March 20.


French Foreign Legion: March 11

1898, Battle of Vohinghezo
– legionnaires from the Foreign Legion Task Force participated in attacking a group of rebels in the Toliara region, Madagascar
– captain Louis Flayelle from the Foreign Legion, which commanded the French troops during the battle, was killed

1917, Battle of Timalou
– 1st Mounted Company of 1er RE was involved in fierce fighting in the Souk El Khemis region, Morocco

1951, Operation Pamplemousse, French Indochina
– 4th Battalion of 13e DBLE successfully attacked the Viet Minh in the Vinh Long region, Mekong Delta, southern Vietnam
– about 50 Viet Minh soldiers were killed

1954, Battle of Quang Xa, French Indochina
– 3rd Battalion of 2e REI successfully attacked and captured a fortified village of Quang Xa in the Dong Hoi region, Annam (central Vietnam now)

1959, Operation Aghata ended
– 1er REP legionnaires took part in the operation launched a week earlier in the Orleansville region, Algeria

1961, 5e REI legionnaires were involved in an operation in the Djebel Assess, the Oran region, Algeria


French Foreign Legion: March 12

1884, Capture of Bac Ninh

Bac Ninh is a city in today’s northern Vietnam

– the united French column (about 10,000 men) successfully attacked and captured Bac Ninh (garrisoned by around 22,000 Chinese troops)

– two Foreign Legion battalions (1st + 2nd) participated in, as part of the 2nd Brigade under the command of general Oscar de Négrier

– as a colonel serving in Algeria, Oscar de Négrier ordered to establish the famous mounted companies while commanding the Foreign Regiment (the only unit of the Legion until Jan 1885) in 1881-83

– it is also the same French officer, who said: “You, legionnaires, you are soldiers in order to die and I am sending you where one dies”, while speaking about fights in Indochina..

– Capture of Bac Ninh was part of the Tonkin Campaign, which started the Sino-French War (1884-85)


French Foreign Legion: March 13

1891, a platoon of legionnaires led by lieutenant Motte attacked and eliminated a group of pirates at Dai Dong, Indochina

1949, an outpost occupied by legionnaires from 4th Squadron, 1er REC was attacked and set on fire by the Viet Minh
– however, legionnaires defended the outpost and fought off the attackers (it is said that legionnaires fought off the Viet Minh while singing the Fanion de la Légion song..)

1954, Battle of Dien Bien Phu started

– the valley of Dien Bien Phu (20 km / 12,5 miles long and 6 km / 3,5 miles wide) is a heart-shaped basin located in Tonkin, the northern part of Vietnam, near the border with Laos

– on March 13 at 05:30 PM (17h30), the Viet Minh started a campaign to get control of Dien Bien Phu, by launching a large artillery attack against Beatrice, a stronghold occupied by legionnaires of 3rd Battalion/13e DBLE, including lt colonel Gaucher, their regimental commander

lt col Jules Gaucher, having served with the Legion since 1931, was killed a few hours later

Dien Bien Phu - 13 DBLE - Gaucher - Indochina - First Indochina War - 1954
Lieutenant-colonel Jules Gaucher, the commanding officer of 13e DBLE, is awarded by René Pleven at Dien Bien Phu (February 19, 1954). In three weeks, the colonel Gaucher, aged 48, will be killed during a Viet-Minh attack. Colonel Gaucher served in the Legion as an officer since 1931. With the Legion, he spent more than 10 years in French Indochina (1938-46, 1949-50, 1951-54).


French Foreign Legion: March 14

1954, Battle of Dien Bien Phu (see the link above)

– in the early morning, Beatrice, a stronghold occupied by the 3rd Battalion/13e DBLE at Dien Bien Phu, was completely taken by the Viet Minh

– Beatrice had been under large artillery fire since 05:30 PM (17h30) of the 13th March, the hour the seven-week-long battle started; it was the first stronghold attacked by the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu

– the 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE was annihilated; the 13e DBLE lost about 300 men, including lt col Gaucher, its regimental commander

Gabrielle, another stronghold at Dien Bien Phu, was attacked in the evening of March 14

– at Gabrielle, there is a platoon of 2e CMMLE (Foreign Legion Mixed Mortar Company)

1re CEPML (Heavy Mortar Parachute Company, nicknamed “Cepemele” by legionnaires) suffered heavy casualties while supporting Beatrice and Gabrielle strongholds by artillery fire

1961, an operation in the Djebel Goursifane, northern Algeria, for Motorized Companies of 2e REI, dozens of rebels killed


French Foreign Legion: March 15

1844, Battle of M’chounech
– a battalion of 2e RE, led by major de Chabrières, seized an important village located in the Aures mountains, Algeria

1945, Battle of Oberhoffen (Alsace) for RMLE legionnaires

1946, Foreign Legion Saharan Motorized Company (CSPLE) was renamed and part of its legionnaires helped to form another saharan unit
1re CSPL (ex-CSPLE) + 2e CSPL were activated, based in Algeria, at Ain-Sefra and Ouargla

1951, 3e BEP (about 500 men) landed in Indochina
– a few days later, it will become a new 1er BEP (future 1er REP), because the old one was annihilated in October 1950 at Cao Bang

1954, the Gabrielle stronghold (occupied by an Algerian battalion and a platoon of legionnaires from 2e CMMLE) was lost
– 1er BEP launched a counter-attack to save Gabrielle, but failed and lost over 50 men
– the 2e CMMLE platoon was annihilated, only few legionnaires survived

1956, 2nd Battalion of 5e REI left Indochina, as the last battalion of the Foreign Legion

1re CSPL - 1 CSPL - legionnaires - Djanet - Christmas - Noel 1957
Legionnaires and cadres of 1re CSPL watching a Christmas sketch performing by company’s younger legionnaires in the Djanet region, Algeria (December 1957) © Photo credit:


French Foreign Legion: March 16

1948, legionnaires from 2nd Battalion/3e REI took part in fierce fighting along Colonial Road 4 (RC4) near That Khe, Tonkin (northern Vietnam, close to China)

1951, Operation Maximilien for legionnaires from 1st Battalion/13e DBLE
– during two days, five Viet Minh outposts were destroyed and several dozen Viet Minh soldiers killed

1953, four-day operation in the Hue region (central Vietnam) successfully ended for 7th Squadron/1er REC, the Viet Minh suffered heavy casualties

1959, Operation Mathilde for 5e REI in the Tissemsilt region of northern Algeria
– several rebels were killed


French Foreign Legion: March 17

1919, Battle of Oboserskala
– after fierce fighting taking place on the Oboserskala front in the Arkhangelsk Oblast (north of European Russia), a battalion composed of local volunteers, administratively assigned to the Foreign Legion, fought off the attacking Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War

1947, an operation at Quang Ngai, Tourane region (central Vietnam) ended
– 2nd Battalion of 13e DBLE + squadrons from 1er REC were involved in
– during three days, almost 170 Viet Minh soldiers were killed

1949, after severe clashes with the enemy lasting all day long, 2nd Company/1er BEP (Parachute Battalion) reached two outposts of 3e REI (located along RC4, near That Khe in northern Vietnam), ruined by the Viet Minh, to help to rescue the survived legionnaires

1956, 3e REI was awarded the Fourragère of Military Medal in yellow-green colors

– on the picture, a 3e REI pioneer and the regimental colors, both bearing the yellow-green fourragere…

A 3e REI pioneer and the regimental colors, both bearing the yellow-green fourragere…© Photo credit: 3e REI/


French Foreign Legion: March 18

1947, Operation Marius for 1st Battalion/2e REI in Tonkin (northern Vietnam)
– legionnaires had to clear the sector along Colonial Road 18 of any enemy

1951, 1er BEP was re-created with almost 500 men from 3e BEP (a training & transit unit) having landed in Indochina
– captain Pierre Darmuzai took the leadership (the only French officer commanding all three parachute units of the Legion)
– 1er BEP was annihilated at Cao Bang (norther Vietnam, close to China) during the Battle of Colonial Road 4 , in October 1950 (it lost 480 men, only 29 survived)

1957, an operation at Oued Zitoune, Algeria for 2nd Battalion/5e REI

1962, Algerian War officially ended
Évian Accords treaty, signed on 18 March 1962, ended the Algerian War
– however, military operations were conducted until September 1962
– on September 25, the Algerian republic was established


French Foreign Legion: March 19

1940, split of the 6e REI
– a new independent motorized unit, a former part of 6e REI, was established under the title of Foreign Legion Levant Group (GLEL)
– based at Damascus, today’s Syria, the unit became Autonomous Artillery Group (GAALL) in 1941 and was assigned to the 6e REI again

– a few months later, GAALL (serving Vichy France) played an important defensive role in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign (June-July 1941), while facing the British forces and Free French Forces of general de Gaulle

1945, Capture of Lauterbourg
– legionnaires from RMLE (Regimental Combat Team) took part in the capture of a commune on the German border with France, while moving on the Siegfried line

1946, a platoon of 2e REI was attacked by dozens of rebels near Nha Trang in the Khanh Hoa region, southern Vietnam; the enemy suffered heavy casualties
– for the Foreign Legion and especially 2e REI (the first Legion regiment having landed in Indochina, it landed there on February 6), it was one of the first clashes with the Viet-Minh and the beginning of the French Indochina War

1949, 3rd Company of 2e BEP (future 2e REP) was involved in an operation in the Plaine des Joncs of the Mekong Delta, southern Vietnam

1958, 1er REP (ex-1er BEP) participated in operations in the Djebel Marioun, northern Algeria


French Foreign Legion: March 20

1949, an outpost at Dong Ha (central Vietnam), occupied by a platoon of legionnaires from 4th Squadron, 1er REC was attacked by the Viet Minh
– a platoon leader and several legionnaires were killed

1952, 5th Battalion of 3e REI got involved in a battle with the Viet Minh along RP 39 (Provincial Road) near Thai Binh, Tonkin (northern Vietnam) and fought off the attackers

1956, a convoy of 5e REI, which included also a regimental commander, was attacked near Marnia, northwestern Algeria
– several rebels and an officer of 5e REI were killed

1967, 13e DBLE legionnaires had to maintain order in Djibouti City, Djibouti (TFAI then) because of violent independence demonstrations


Related posts:
Foreign Legion events: March 21 – 31
Foreign Legion events: March 01 – 10
Foreign Legion events: February 22 – 29
French Foreign Legion history