Foreign Legion events: December 11 – 20

On this day. Discover the Legion’s interesting historical events which occurred between December 11 and December 20. Learn about famous operations, campaigns, battles, activations or dissolutions of units and other important Foreign Legion historical events which happened from 1831 to these days. Every day is supplemented with a picture.

To see all historical events, go back to: French Foreign Legion – Historical Events

 

French Foreign Legion: December 11

1866, Battle of Cuautitlán
– that day in Mexico, a battle with Mexican rebels
– an action during the French intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
– it took place at Cuautitlán, a village nearby Tepeji
– now part of Mexico City
– Mounted Company, Foreign Regiment was involved
– a horse cavalry unit led by Second Lieutenant Heckeren
– composed of 50 legionnaires
– they were attacked by some 500 Mexican rebels
– the following battle took five hours
– with new reinforcements, the rebels were finally fought off

1870, Irish volunteers to join the Foreign Legion
– that day, an Irish unit was assigned to the Foreign Legion
– to take part in the ongoing Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)
– Irish Company, led by Captain Martin Kirwan
– consisting exclusively of Irish volunteers
– assigned to the Provisional Foreign Regiment
– an operational unit of the Legion fighting in France
– they became 8th Company, 5th Battalion

1883, First military operation for the Legion in Indochina
– that day, the Son Tay Campaign started
– part of the Tonkin Campaign (1883-86)
– a successful campaign in today’s Northern Vietnam
– to capture the important town of Son Tay
– held by the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels)
– supported by allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– 1st Battalion, Foreign Legion were involved
– in 1887, French Indochina would be established
– the last legionnaires would leave Indochina in 1956

1956, in northwestern Algeria, a skirmish with local rebels
– during a military operation in the Tlemcen region
– 3rd Company, 5e REI were involved
– several rebels were killed
– 5 rebels were imprisoned
– 2 legionnaires were also killed

2013, Operation Sangaris started for 1er REC
– a French operation in the Central African Republic
– to restore and maintan order in the region
– to stop fighting between local rebels groups
– to protect civilians
– that day, a 1er REC platoon joined the operation
– 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
– as the first Foreign Legion element
– to reinforce French troops
– having already arrived there six days earlier
– Operation Sangaris was inactivated in October 2016
– hundreds of legionnaires from different units took part

– in the image, 1er REC legionnaires with Panhard ERC 90 during Operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic, 2015

1er REC - 1 REC - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 2015 - Central African Republic

 

French Foreign Legion: December 12

1866, Battle of Monte Alto
– that day in Mexico, a battle with Mexican rebels
– an action during the French intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
– it took place near the village of Monte Alto, central Mexico
– between Queretaro and Tepeji, north of Mexico City
– 1st Battalion, Foreign Regiment were involved
– Major Vilmette and his legionnaires
– attacked by Mexican rebels led by Eulalio Nunez
– the following battle took many hours
– finally, the rebels were fought off
– nonetheless, 4 legionnaires were killed
– 9 legionnaires were wounded

1946, 5e REI survivors to leave French Indochina
– that day, a Legion detachment left French Indochina
– to be repatriated back to North Africa
– survivors of the 1945 Japanese coup d’état in Indochina
– veterans of the 5e REI (the unit stationed in Indochina 1930-45)
– the majority of them had been serving there since the late 1930s
– they couldn’t leave Asia after their prescribed two-year stay
– because of WWII and the situation in the Pacific in 1941-45
– a number of them had to serve extra years with the regiment
– even if their five-year military contract was already terminated
– in May 1945, the Japanese attacked French Indochina
– 5e REI units suffered heavy casualties
– afterwards, the legionnaires and other French troops had to march hundreds of miles through the jungle to China
– during the march, hundreds of legionnaires died
– because of fighting, illness and exhaustion
– in China in mid-1945, the 5e REI was dissolved
– in 1946, 5e REI survivors left China
– the men were allowed to return back to Indochina
– they would conduct military operations in Northern Vietnam
– in December 1946, they could be finally repatriated to Africa
– a new 5e REI would be constituted in Indochina in 1949

1951, in then French Indochina, a Viet Minh attack
– aimed at the positions of 3rd Battalion, 5e REI
– situated along the Black River
– in the Hoa Binh region, Northern Vietnam
– legionnaires successfully fought off the attackers

– in the really very rare photo, ex-5e REI legionnaires, the repatriated survivors of the 1945-46 events
– they are reviewed by General Duché in Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria, in late January 1947
– note that the repatriated legionnaires wear “calots” instead of white kepis
– they also bear on their left arm the patch with the 5e REI’s Task Force (or Marching Battalion, BM 5) insignia

5e REI - 5 REI - BM5 - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1947 - Sidi Bel Abbes

 

French Foreign Legion: December 13

1885, in Tonkin, clashes with rebels
– during the Tonkin Campaign (1883-86)
– Tonkin was then title for today’s Northern Vietnam
– the clashes occurred in the Bac Ninh region
– close to the border with China
– 2nd Battalion, 1er RE were involved
– they faced rebels of Vietnamese and Chinese origin
– several rebels were killed

1951, Attack of Lang Mo
– a Viet Minh attack in then French Indochina
– part of the First Indochina War (1946-54)
– the attack took place near Lang Mo
– in the Hoa Binh region of Northern Vietnam
– it was aimed at 1st Company, 5e REI
– attacked by a Viet Minh battalion
– 4 legionnaires were killed
– 57 legionnaires were wounded or missed

– also in 1951, in then French Indochina, a battle with the Viet Minh
– in the Cho Ben region, Northern Vietnam
2e REI legionnaires were involved
– about 150 Viet Minh men were killed
– 8 legionnaires were also killed

– in the photo, 5e REI legionnaires equipped with an FM 24/29 light machine gun during a battle close to Hoa Binh in Northern Vietnam, in the early 1950s

5e REI - 5 REI - BM5 - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1952 - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: December 14

1861, 1st Foreign Regiment’s dissolution
– that day, an imperial decree was issued
– it prescribed the dissolution of 1er RE
– consisting of some 2,600 men at that time
– the decree also prescribed the redesignation of 2e RE
– 2nd Foreign Regiment (2e RE, now 2e REI)
– the unit would become Foreign Regiment simply
– until 1875, Foreign Regiment would stand for the Foreign Legion
– Foreign Regiment would include 1er RE’s NCOs and legionnaires
– 2nd Foreign Regiment would be redesignated in January 1862
– the dissolution of the 1er RE took place in late February 1862
– 1er RE would be reactivated in 1885

1883, Battle of Son Tay started
– that day, the Battle of Son Tay started
– the very first battle in Asia for legionnaires
– part of the Son Tay Campaign (Dec 11-17)
– during the Tonkin Campaign (1883-86)
– a successful campaign in today’s Northern Vietnam
– to capture the important town of Son Tay
– held by the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels)
– supported by allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– 1st Battalion, Foreign Legion were involved
– that day, 68 French troops were killed
– another 249 troops were wounded
– between the wounded, 16 legionnaires

– French Indochina would be established in 1887
– the last legionnaires would leave Indochina in 1956

1884, 1st + 2nd Foreign Regiments created again
– that day, a presidential decree was issued
– it prescribed the division of the Foreign Legion
– a regiment composed of six battalions to that date
– the former Foreign Regiment (1862-75)
– the unit would be divided into two regiments again
– the division would take place on the 1st January 1885

1948, in then French Indochina, a skirmish with the Viet Minh
– during a patrol near the Lung Vai outpost
– in the That Khe region, Northern Vietnam
– 2nd Battalion, 3e REI were involved
– 3 legionnaires were killed
– 7 legionnaires were wounded

– in the image, French troops, including legionnaires, during the 1883 Battle of Son Tay

1883 - Battle of Son Tay - Foreign Legion Etrangere - French Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: December 15

1836, Foreign Legion returned to Algeria
– that day, a battalion landed in Algeria
– 1st Battalion, New Foreign Legion
– organized in France between September-November 1836
– led by Major Bedeau
– consisting of eight companies
– Dutch volunteers in the majority
– in Algeria, the New Foreign Legion replaced the “Old” Legion
– after 16 months of absence
– the Old Legion was established in France in March 1831
– it served in Algeria before having left the French Army in 1835
– to be handed over to Spain
– to fight in the First Carlist War (a civil war, 1833-40)
– in support of Maria Christina, Regent of Spain
– it left Algeria for Spain in early August 1835
– the Old Legion would be dissolved back in France in early 1839
– the New Foreign Legion in Algeria became the current Legion

1942, 3rd Foreign Infantry Regimental Combat Team
– in Morocco, 3e REIM was constituted
– a provisional operational unit
– composed of two 3e REI battalions + a 2e REI battalion
– 3e REIM took part in the 1943 Tunisian Campaign
– an Allied campaign of WWII in North Africa
– 3e REIM would face Marshal Rommel’s German Africa Corps
– the poorly equipped 3e REIM suffered heavy casualties
– the unit was dissolved in May 1943

1947, 15th Engineer Maintenance Company
– in then French Indochina, 15e CEG was established
– an engineer maintenance composite company
– composed of legionnaires (the majority) + French sappers
– ex-42e CEG (Engineer Depot Company)
– a very little-known unit assigned to the Foreign Legion
– without any more detailed description in Legion sources
– only in French Engineer Corps sources
– 42e CEG was most likely a semi-penal unit of ex-German POWs
– established in October 1945 at Camp des Garrigues in France
– the very first Foreign Legion unit to land in Indochina after WWII
– also the then third French Army engineer unit to land in Indochina
– after two years in Indochina, it became an official Legion unit
– 15e CEG would serve there another five years
– in 1952, the company would become 22nd Engineer Battalion
– one of the composite Engineer-Legion battalions in Indochina
– the unit would be dissolved in 1955

1951, 4e REI’s battalion in Madagascar dissolved
– in Madagascar, 4th Battalion, 4e REI was dissolved
– a very little-known unit in a very little-known campaign
– Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean
– part of the then French colonial empire
– 4e REI’s battalion was sent there in 1947
– to take part in a campaign to restore order
– during the ongoing war in French Indochina (1946-54)
– the island was affected by a violent local rebellion
– within a year, the legionnaires successfully restored order there
– nevertheless, the unit and its success have remained little-known

2015, 5th Company, 2e REP established
– that day in Corsica, 5th Combat Company was established
– a company of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP)
– its domain is desert warfare
– the unit’s last 5th combat company existed in the 1950s
– within the then 2e BEP (Battalion, predecessor to the 2e REP)
– serving in French Indochina back then
– the company participated in the Battle of Na San in 1952
– also in the well-known Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954

– in the picture, 5th Company, 2e REP and its fanion parade during the establishment ceremony at Camp Raffalli on 15 December 2015

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 2015 - Calvi - Corsica

 

French Foreign Legion: December 16

1835, New Foreign Legion
– that day, a new royal decree was issued
– it prescribed that a new Foreign Legion had to be constituted
– France was without a Legion at the time
– the original Foreign Legion was fighting in Spain
– created in March 1831, now called “Old Legion”
– handed over to Spain in June 1835
– in support of Maria Christina, Regent of Spain
– the Old Legion would fight there until 1838
– it would be dissolved back in France in January 1839
– the “New” Foreign Legion would replace the old one in Algeria
– its first battalion would land there a year later, in December 1836

1883, Battle of Son Tay ended
– that day, Battle of Son Tay ended
– the very first battle in Asia for legionnaires
– part of the Son Tay Campaign (Dec 11-17)
– during the Tonkin Campaign (1883-86)
– a successful campaign in today’s Northern Vietnam
– tha day, the important town of Son Tay was seized
– held by the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels)
– supported by allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– 1st Battalion, Foreign Legion were involved
– during the battle, the battalion suffered several casualties
– Captain Jean Mehl + 9 legionnaires were killed
– over 60 men of the battalion were wounded

– French Indochina would be established in 1887
– the last legionnaires would leave Indochina in 1956

1884, in Tonkin, heavy fighting with the Chinese
– part of the Sino-French War (1884-85)
– a conflict during the Tonkin Campaign (1883-86)
– Tonkin was then title for Northern Vietnam
– the fighting occurred in the Bac Ninh region
– between the Chinese (Guangxi Army) and legionnaires
– 3rd + 4th Company, 2nd Battalion, Foreign Legion
– the two companies faced over 1,000 Chinese troops
– the heavy fighting took many hours
– finally, the Chinese were fought off
– tens of Chinese troops were killed
– 15 legionnaires were also killed
– 19 legionnaires were wounded

1954, 22nd Motorized Company
– in Algeria, 22e CP was established
– a motorized company of the Foreign Legion
– led by Captain Desjeux
– assigned to the 1er RE
– it was equipped with a number of vehicles
– M3 Scout Cars + AM-M8 (M8 Greyhounds) armored cars
– the unit became independent in 1955
– it was redesignated to 22e CPLE
– Foreign Legion Motorized Company
– the following year, it helped to form a new unit
GPLEA (Algerian Motorized Group)
– the same year, the group consolidated with 2e REI

– in the very rare photo, an AM-M8 (M8 Greyhound) of the 22e CPLE during a military operation in the desert of Algeria, 1955

22e CPLE - 22 CPLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1955 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: December 17

1871, on the Algeria-Morocco border, military operations started
– 1st Battalion, Foreign Regiment were involved
– Foreign Regiment was then title for the Legion
– the operations took place near Mengoub
– a town in the Sahara Desert
– it was aimed at the Ouled Sidi Sheik rebel tribe
– some 19,000 rebels’ camels were captured
– the operations ended in early January

1951, in then French Indochina, a battle with the Viet Minh
– the battle took place near Hoa Binh
– in the Cho Be region, Northern Vietnam
– men from 10th Company, 2e REI were involved
– 32 rebels were killed

2010, Captain Benoit Dupin killed
– that day in northeastern Afghanistan, a rebel attack
– during a reconnaissance operation in the Alasay district
– in the Kapisa Province
– during the attack, Captain Benoit Dupin was killed
– the commander of the 3rd Company, 2e REG
– 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment
– Captain Benoit Dupin has remained the highest-ranking member of the Foreign Legion killed in action
– he joined the Legion and the 2e REG as an officer in 2005
– assigned to the 3rd Company as a platoon leader
– deployments in Martinique, Djibouti, Kosovo and Afghanistan

– in the image, Captain Benoit Dupin from the 2e REG, in 2010

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Benoit Dupin - 2010 - Afghanistan

 

French Foreign Legion: December 18

1870, Provisional Foreign Regiment reinforced
– an operational unit of the Foreign Legion
– taking part in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)
– initially formed with three battalions
– consisting of non-German legionnaires coming from Algeria
– also of European war-period-only volunteers
– that day, Provisional Foreign Regiment had to be reinforced
– the unit suffered heavy casualties
– during the fights with Germans near Orleans (central France)
– over 2,000 young conscripts joined the regiment
– Bretons in the majority from different French infantry regiments
– only a few hundreds of real legionnaires remained within the unit
– the were appointed as new corporals and NCOs

1956, 2e REP’s first officer killed in action
– that day in northeastern Algeria, a severe battle with rebels
– at Djebel Mezeraa, in the Tebessa region
– 2e REP (Parachute Regiment) men were involved
– they faced an important rebel group of Cherif Mahmoud
– the group was annihilated
– 28 rebels were killed
– however, even the regiment suffered heavy losses
– Lieutenant Jean Mounier was killed
– the 2e REP’s very first officer killed in action
– 15 legionnaires were also killed
– 20 legionnaires were wounded

1957, in northeastern Algeria, heavy clashes with rebels
– at Djebel el Hamimat Guerra, in the Tebessa region
– legionnaires from 2e REP were involved
– 61 rebels were killed

– in the first picture, 2e REP’s first officer killed in action, Lieutenant Jean Mounier, killed in Algeria on December 18, 1956

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Lieutenant Mounier - Algeria

– in the second picture, 2e REP legionnaires spill out of a Piasecki in the Tebessa region of northeastern Algeria, December 1957

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Piasecky - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: December 19

1946, First Indochina War started
– that day, First Indochina War (1946-54) started
– the seven-and-half-year conflict in then French Indochina
– today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos in Southeast Asia
– the French faced Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh
– the Foreign Legion was involved
– over 10,000 men of the Legion were killed
– the war officially started by the Battle of Hanoi
– that day, 30,000 Viet Minh rebels launched an attack
– aimed at Hanoi, the capital of then French Indochina
– many French residents were massacred
– only two Foreign Legion units were involved in the battle
– 42e CEG (Engineer Depot Company, future 15e CEG)
– 1re CEP (Bridge Equipment Company, future 38e CCB)
– the information never mentioned in any Legion sources
– also the units never mentioned in any Legion sources
– most likely semi-penal units composed of WWII prisoners
– First Indochina War would be over in August 1954
– the last legionnaires left Indochina in 1956

1953, Operation Gerfaut
– an operation in then French Indochina
– part of the First Indochina War (1946-54)
– it took place in the Thai Binh region of Northern Vietnam
– aimed at the Viet Minh
– 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) were involved
– about 160 Viet Minh rebels were imprisoned

1955, Operation Tango
– a military operation in northeastern Algeria
– part of the Algerian War (1954-62)
– aimed at growing rebel activities in the region
– it took place at Douar Taouzient, in the Khenchela region
– 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE were involved

– an expressive photo of the First Indochina War; a Spanish para-legionnaire decorating the grave of his comrade in Northern Vietnam, 1951

2e BEP - 2 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1951 - French Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: December 20

1875, Paul Frédéric Rollet was born
– a French Army general
– the famous figure of the Foreign Legion
– the very first Chief of the Foreign Legion
– called as the “Father of the Legion”
– he served 33 years with the Foreign Legion
– between 1899-1914 and 1917-1935
– during WWI, he commanded the RMLE
– Foreign Legion Regimental Combat Team (now 3e REI)
– in 1919, RMLE became one of the two most decorated units within the French Army
– in 1931, General Rollet joined the Foreign Legion Inspection
– today’s Foreign Legion Command (COMLE)
– he changed many things to the better within the Legion
– he launched several new traditions
– e.g. Camerone Day or the cult of Sappers-Pioneers
– General Rollet also ordered to build the well-known Foreign Legion War Memorial (finished in 1931, now placed in Legion’s HQ of Aubagne) and to establish a home for Legion veterans
– General Paul Frédéric Rollet died in Paris in April 1941
– his remains are buried at Puyloubier near Aubagne
– the cemetery of the Foreign Legion in southern France

1946, in then French Indochina, defending of Tourane
– the third largest city in Vietnam and an important port
– located in the central part of the country
– attacked the previous day by thousands of Viet Minh rebels
– part of a general Viet Minh offensive
– it started the First Indochina War (1946-54)
– 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) arrived
– to support French troops in defending the city
– the battle took several days
– the Viet Minh was finally fought off
– the rebels had to retreat

1950, in then French Indochina, clashes with the Viet Minh
– near the village of Long Loc
– in the Sadec region of Southern Vietnam
– 6th Squadron, 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) were involved
– that day, 4 legionnaires were killed

– in the image, Lt-Colonel Paul Frédéric Rollet with his general staff of the RMLE during WWI in France, July 1917

Paul Frédéric Rollet - Father of the Legion - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1917

 

Related posts:
Foreign Legion events: December 01 – 10
Foreign Legion events: December 21 – 31
French Foreign Legion history