Foreign Legion events: December 11 – 20

Discover the most interesting events in French Foreign Legion’ history. Significant campaigns and battles, deployments and operations, the establishments or dissolutions of units. See the Legion’s important events which occurred between December 11 and December 20.

 

French Foreign Legion: December 11

1866, Battle of Parral
– a battle near the town of Tepeji (in the Mexico City region), central Mexico
– Mounted Company (50 legionnaires), led by Captain Heckeren, was attacked by some 500 Mexican rebels at the hacienda of Parral
– the battle lasted more than 5 hours
– after the reinforcements arrived, the rebels were fought off

1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Irish Company (composed of Irish volunteers solely and led by Captain Kirwan) joined the Provisional Foreign Regiment at the small town of La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin (near Bourges, central France) and became the 8th Company, 5th Battalion of the regiment

1883, first military operation started for legionnaires in French Indochina
– that day, the Son Tay Campaign (part of the Tonkin Campaign in northern Vietnam) started to capture the important city of Son Tay in Tonkin (then title for northern Vietnam) from the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels) and allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– legionnaires from 1st Battalion of the Foreign Legion took part in

1956, in the Tlemcen region of north-western Algeria, during a military operation, legionnaires from 3rd Company, 5e REI attacked a group of local rebels
– 2 legionnaires + several rebels were killed, 5 rebels were imprisoned

2013, Operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic started for 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment)
– its platoon arrived in the CAR to reinforce the French forces having already been placed there since December 5
– Operation Sangaris was an operation to restore order in the former French colony
– French forces had to stop fighting between Séléka elements and Christian self-defence militias called anti-balakas
– Operation Sangaris was inactivated in October 2016
– finally, hundreds of legionnaires from different units took part in

– 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

1864, in Mexico, a French column was assembled at Yanhuitlan, to seize Oaxaca (Oajacca in several French books), a fortified city in south-western Mexico
– the column was commanded by General Courtois d’Hurbal
– battalions of the Foreign Regiment (then title of the Foreign Legion) made part of the column
– the column attacked the city in January 1865

1866, Battle of Monte Alto
– a battle near the village of Monte Alto, central Mexico
– 1st Battalion of the Foreign Regiment was outnumbered and attacked by Mexican rebels
– the battle lasted many hours, before the rebels were fought off
– the battalion had 4 killed and 9 wounded legionnaires

1946, the survivors having served with 5e REI in French Indochina during the WWII period took ship to return back to Algeria, North Africa
– 5e REI received its last reinforcement in 1941
– because of the situation in the Pacific in 1942-45, legionnaires couldn’t leave Asia
– they had to serve extra years with the regiment even if their military contract was terminated
– in May 1945, the Japanese attacked French Indochina
– 5e REI suffered heavy casualties and the French, including legionnaires, had to march hundreds of miles through the jungle to China and then back to northern Vietnam
– during the march, hundreds of legionnaires died because of fighting, illness and exhaustion
– they landed in Algeria in January 1947

1951, in the Hoa Binh region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, 3rd Battalion, 5e REI was attacked by the Viet Minh at its positions along the Black River
– legionnaires successfully fought off the attackers

– in the picture, ex-5e REI legionnaires, the repatriated survivors of the 1945-46 events marching in Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria in January 1947

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

 

French Foreign Legion: December 13

1885, fighting with pirates (of Vietnamese and Chinese origin) in the Bac Ninh region of Tonkin (then title for northern Vietnam), French Indochina
– 2nd Battalion of 1er RE took part in
– several pirates were killed

1944, during Liberation of France of WWII, military operations against German forces in the Belfort Gap of western France ended for RMLE (Regimental Combat Team, 1943-45, later 3e REI)

1951, in the Cho Ben region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, legionnaires from 2e REI got involved in a fierce battle with a Viet Minh battalion
– during the battle, 8 legionnaires + about 150 rebels were killed

– also in 1951, during a military operation near Lang Mo in the Hoa Binh region of northern Vietnam, 1st Company, 5e REI was attacked by a Viet Minh battalion
– 4 legionnaires were killed + 57 legionnaires were wounded or missed

– in the photo, the RMLE color guard standing on a M3 Half-track equipped with a M2 Browning machine gun in eastern France, early 1945

RMLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1945 - France

 

French Foreign Legion: December 14

1861, 1st Foreign Regiment dissolution
– an imperial decree was issued
– it prescribed that the 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE, some 2,600 men) have to be disbanded
– it also prescribed that the 2nd Foreign Regiment (2e RE, now 2e REI) have to be redesignated to Foreign Regiment simply
– NCOs and legionnaires with the 1er RE have to be transferred to the Foreign Regiment
– 2nd Foreign Regiment was redesignated on January 1, 1862
– the dissolution of the 1er RE took place on February 27, 1862

1883, Battle of Son Tay started
– the very first battle for legionnaires in Asia
– the battle of the Son Tay Campaign (part of the Tonkin Campaign in northern Vietnam) to capture the important city of Son Tay in Tonkin from the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels) and allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– legionnaires from 1st Battalion of the Foreign Legion took part in
– that day, the French had 68 men killed + 249 wounded (including 16 legionnaires)

1884, a presidential decree was issued
– it prescribed that the Foreign Legion (a regiment composed of six battalions to that date) have to be divided into two regiments again
– Foreign Legion was formed by renaming a former 2nd Foreign Regiment (2e RE, 2e REI now) in 1862
– 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE, disbanded in 1862) + 2nd Foreign Regiment were re-established on January 1, 1885 with battalions stationed in North Africa and Asia (Indochina)

1948, during a patrol near the Lung Vai outpost in the That Khe region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 3e REI got involved in clashes with the Viet Minh
– 3 legionnaires were killed + 7 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

1847, a military operation started for four companies from 1st and 3rd Battalion, 2e RLE (Foreign Legion regiment) in the Guelma region of Algeria

1865, in Mexico, the 5th Battalion of the Foreign Regiment (then title of the Legion) was stationed in Tula (central Mexico) to build several outposts in the region

1942, 3rd Foreign Infantry Regimental Combat Team (3e REIM) was activated in Morocco
– composed of 2 battalions of 3e REI + a battalion of 2e REI
– it took part in the 1943 Tunisia Campaign and suffered heavy casualties while fighting German troops of Marshal Rommel

1947, 15th Engineer Maintenance Company (15e CEG) was established in then French Indochina
– a military engineering mixed unit composed of legionnaires, French engineers and local Vietnamese auxiliaries
– the company became 22nd Engineer Battalion in 1952
– it was dissolved in 1955

1951, in Madagascar, 4th Battalion, 4e REI was disbanded
– stationed on the island since 1947 to restore and maintain order there
– its legionnaires were sent to French Indochina to join the ongoing war and to Morocco to join the rest of 4e REI

1954, having left French Indochina after 8 years spent there, 3e REI returned back to North Africa

2015, 5th Company was established within 2e REP (Parachute Regiment)
– its domain is desert warfare
– the unit’s last 5th combat company existed in French Indochina in 1955, in the then 2e BEP (Battalion, predecessor to 2e REP)
– the then 5th Company participated in the Battle of Na San in 1952 or in the well-known Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, where the company was decimated and it temporarily ceased to exist (together with the whole 2e BEP)

– 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
– a royal decree was issued on the 16th December
– it prescribed that the new Foreign Legion has to be constituted
– the original Foreign Legion (created March 1831, now called “Old Legion”) was handed over to Spain in June 1835 to fight in the First Carlist War for Maria Christina, Regent of Spain
– “Old Legion” fought there until 1838 and was disbanded in January 1839
– “New Legion” (today’s Legion) was formed in 1836 to serve in Algeria

1883, Battle of Son Tay ended
– the very first battle for the Foreign Legion in Asia
– the battle (Dec 14-17) successfully ended the Son Tay Campaign (Dec 11-17, part of the Tonkin Campaign in northern Vietnam)
– the important city of Son Tay in Tonkin (then title for northern Vietnam) was captured by the French from the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels) and allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– legionnaires from 1st Battalion of the Foreign Legion took part in
– during the battle, Captain Mehl + 9 legionnaires were killed, over 60 men of the battalion were wounded

1948, during a patrol in the Cho Ben region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 3e REI were attacked by the Viet Minh
– 2 legionnaires were killed

1954, 22nd Motorized Company (22e CP), 1er RE was established
– led by Captain Desjeux and equipped with M3 Scout Cars and AM-M8 (M8 Greyhounds) armored cars, 22e CP became independent in 1955 and was redesignated to 22e CPLE (Foreign Legion Motorized Company)
– in 1956, it formed together with 21e + 23e CPLE a new unit, GPLEA (Algerian Motorized Group)
– the same year, the companies 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, 1st Battalion of the Foreign Regiment (then title of the Legion) left Geryville (north-western Algeria) to take part in military operations against the Ouled Sidi Sheik rebel tribe near Mengoub, a town in the Sahara Desert on the Algeria-Morocco border
– some 19,000 rebels’ camels were captured by the French during these operations
– the battalion returned to Geryville in early January

1884, clashes with some 1,000 Chinese rebels near Bac Ninh, Tonkin (then title for northern Vietnam) for two companies of the 2nd Battalion, Foreign Legion
– 14 legionnaires were killed + 19 wounded

1951, fighting with the Viet Minh in the Cho Be region near Hoa Binh in northern Vietnam, then French Indochina for legionnaires from 10th Company, 2e REI
– 32 Viet Minh rebels were killed

1953, a platoon of 2e CREBLE landed at Dien Bien Phu, northern Vietnam
– 2nd Foreign Legion Armored Vehicle Repair Company elements were sent to the Dien Bien Phu valley to assemble ten M24 Chaffee light tanks of 1er RCC, a French cavalry regiment
– the platoon of 2e CREBLE left Dien Bien Phu in January 1954
– between March-May 1954, the valley see the bloody Battle of Dien Bien Phu

– in the image, a legionnaire from 2e CREBLE at Dien Bien Phu, French Indochina, 1954

2e CREBLE - 2 CREBLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - Dien Bien Phu - French Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: December 18

1870, at Saint-Florent (near Bourges, central France), during the Franco-Prussian War, over 2,000 young men (Bretons in the majority) from several French infantry regiments were transferred to the Provisional Foreign Regiment
– the regiment was devastated during the fights with Germans near Orleans in early December
– now, only a few hundreds of real legionnaires remained in the regiment
– the survived legionnaires became the new cadres of the unit

1885, fighting with pirates (of Vietnamese and Chinese origin) in the Bac Ninh region of Tonkin (then title for northern Vietnam), French Indochina
– 2nd Battalion of 1er RE took part in
– 2 legionnaires were killed

1956, a military operation for legionnaires from 2e REP (Parachute Regiment) at Djebel Mezeraa in the Tebessa region of north-eastern Algeria
– during the operation, 28 rebels were killed
– Lieutenant Mounier + 6 legionnaires were also killed

1957, at Djebel Hammimat in the Guelma region of north-eastern Algeria, legionnaires from 2e REP (Parachute Regiment) took part in a military operation against local rebels
– 61 rebels were killed

– in the picture, 2e REP legionnaires from 2nd Company at Caserne de France, then HQ of the regiment located in Philippeville, Algeria, 1956

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

 

French Foreign Legion: December 19

1946, First Indochina War (1946-54) started
– the Battle of Hanoi started the seven-and-half-year conflict in then French Indochina (today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), in which the Legion lost over 10,000 men
– even if the fighting between French forces and their Viet Minh opponents dated from September 1945, the war officially started when 30,000 Viet Minh soldiers launched an attack against French army units in Hanoi (northern Vietnam), the capital of French Indochina, on December 19, 1946

1953, Operation Gerfaut in the Thai Binh region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina
– legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) took part in
– about 160 Viet Minh rebels were imprisoned by legionnaires

1955, Operation Tango for legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE at Douar Taouzient in the Khenchela region of north-eastern Algeria

– 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
– as General Rollet, he became the most famous figure of the Foreign Legion, called “Father of the Legion”
– as a French officer, he served with the Legion during the 1899-1914 and 1917-1935 periods
– in 1931, General Rollet took the command of the Foreign Legion Inspection (today’s Foreign Legion Command, COMLE)
– as the very first Legion’s Chief, he changed many things within
– he launched several new traditions, e.g. Camerone Day or a cult of Sappers-Pioneers
– General Rollet also ordered to build the famous Foreign Legion War Memorial (finished in 1931, now placed in Legion’s HQ of Aubagne) and established a home for Legion veterans
– General Paul Frédéric Rollet died in Paris in April 1941
– his remains are buried at Puyloubier, the cemetery of the Foreign Legion located near Aubagne, southern France

1946, 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) started to defend Tourane, then French Indochina, the third largest city in Vietnam and an important port city located in the central part of the country
– Tourane had been attacked by thousands of Viet Minh rebels since previous day, the day the First Indochina War officially started
– after several days, the legionnaires defended the city and the Viet Minh attackers had to move back

1950, during a patrol in the Sadec region of southern Vietnam, legionnaires from 6th Squadron, 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) got involved in clashes with the Viet Minh near the village of Long Loc
– 4 legionnaires were killed

1953, fighting with the Viet Minh for legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 3e REI in the Moung Khoua region of Laos
– 2 legionnaires were killed

– in the image, General Paul Frédéric Rollet, Father of the Legion

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

 

Related posts:
Foreign Legion events: December 01 – 10
Foreign Legion events: November 21 – 30
Foreign Legion events: November 11 – 20
Foreign Legion events: November 01 – 10
French Foreign Legion history