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 Parral
– a battle during the French intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
– it took place near the town of Tepeji, 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, Irish volunteers joined the Foreign Regiment
– during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), Irish Company joined the Provisional Foreign Regiment participating in the war
– Irish Company was led by Captain Kirwan
– it consisted exclusively of Irish volunteers
– they became 8th Company, 5th Battalion of the regiment

1883, First-ever military operation for legionnaires in Indochina
– that day, the Son Tay Campaign started
– part of the Tonkin Campaign in today’s Northern Vietnam
– it’s purpose was to capture the important town of Son Tay
– it was located in then Tonkin (then title for Northern Vietnam
– the town was held by the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels) and allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– legionnaires from 1st Battalion, Foreign Legion took part in

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

2013, Operation Sangaris for 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
– an operation in the Central African Republic (CAR)
– that day, legionnaires from 1er REC joined the operation
– a 1er REC platoon arrived in the CAR to reinforce French troops having already been placed there 6 days ago
– 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
– 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

1866, Battle of Monte Alto
– a battle during the French intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
– it took place near the village of Monte Alto, central Mexico
– 1st Battalion, Foreign Regiment got involved in
– its legionnaires were outnumbered and attacked by Mexican rebels
– the battle lasted many hours until the rebels were fought off
– the battalion suffered 4 killed and 9 wounded legionnaires

1946, 5e REI survivors left French Indochina
– that day, 5e REI survivors left French Indochina
– the majority of them had been serving there since the late 1930’s
– 5e REI was the only unit of the Legion then stationed in Indochina
– the regiment received its last reinforcement in 1941
– because of WWII and the situation in the Pacific in 1941-45, legionnaires couldn’t leave Asia after their prescribed two-year stay
– they had to serve extra years with the regiment even if their military contract was already terminated
– in May 1945, the Japanese attacked French Indochina
– 5e REI suffered heavy casualties
– the French, including legionnaires, had to march hundreds of miles through the jungle to China
– during the march, hundreds of legionnaires died because of fighting, illness and exhaustion
– because of that, the regiment was dissolved in China
– in 1946, 5e REI survivors returned back to Indochina
– they conducted military operations in Northern Vietnam
– in December, they were finally repatriated to Africa
– they landed in Algeria in January 1947
– a new 5e REI was constituted in Indochina in 1949

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

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

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

 

French Foreign Legion: December 13

1885, clashes with rebels in then Tonkin
– Tonkin was then title for today’s Northern Vietnam
– legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 1er RE got involved in clashes with rebels of Vietnamese and Chinese origin
– the clashes took place in the Bac Ninh region, Tonkin
– several rebels were killed

1951, Attack of Lang Mo
– a severe Viet Minh attack in Northern Vietnam, then French Indochina
– it took place near Lang Mo, in the Hoa Binh region
– 1st Company, 5e REI was attacked by a Viet Minh battalion
– during the attack, 4 legionnaires were killed
– 57 legionnaires were wounded or missed

– also in 1951, in the Cho Ben region of Northern Vietnam, a fierce battle with a Viet Minh battalion
2e REI legionnaires got involved in
– during the battle, about 150 Viet Minh’s men were killed
– 8 legionnaires were also killed, however

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

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

 

French Foreign Legion: December 14

1861, 1st Foreign Regiment dissolution
– that day, an imperial decree was issued
– it prescribed the dissolution of the 1er RE (some 2,600 men)
– the decree also prescribed a redesignation of the second regiment
– 2nd Foreign Regiment (2e RE, now 2e REI) would become Foreign Regiment simply
– 1er RE’s NCOs and legionnaires would be transferred to the Foreign Regiment
– 2nd Foreign Regiment was redesignated in January 1862
– the dissolution of the 1er RE took place in late February 1862
– 1er RE was reactivated in 1885

1883, Battle of Son Tay started
– the very first battle for legionnaires in Asia
– a battle of the Son Tay Campaign (part of the Tonkin Campaign) to capture the important city of Son Tay in Tonkin (today’s Northern Vietnam)
– the city was held by the Black Flag Army (Chinese rebels) and allied Vietnamese and Chinese troops
– legionnaires from 1st Battalion, Foreign Legion took part in
– that day, 68 French troops were killed
– another 249 men were 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 a former 2nd Foreign Regiment redesignated in 1862
– 1st Foreign Regiment (disbanded in 1862) + 2nd Foreign Regiment were re-established on the 1st January 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 a skirmish with the Viet Minh
– 3 legionnaires were killed + another 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 in the Guelma region of northeastern Algeria
– four companies from 1st + 3rd Battalion, 2e RLE (Foreign Legion regiment) took part in

1942, 3rd Foreign Infantry Regimental Combat Team
– in Morocco, 3e REIM was constituted
– composed of two 3e REI battalions + a battalion of the 2e REI
– 3e REIM took part in the 1943 Tunisia Campaign
– the unit would face the German Africa Corps of Marshal Rommel
– 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
– a military engineering mixed unit composed of legionnaires, French engineers and local Vietnamese auxiliaries
– the company became 22nd Engineer Battalion in 1952
– one of the mixed Engineer-Legion battalions in Indochina
– it was dissolved in 1955

1951, 4th Battalion, 4e REI dissolution
– in Madagascar, 4th Battalion, 4e REI was dissolved
– stationed on the island since 1947, to face local rebels
– its legionnaires defeated the rebels in several months
– then, they were maintaining order there
– their mission was seen a very successful in comparison with the ongoing war with the Viet Minh in Indochina
– after the dissolution of the battalion, its legionnaires were sent as reinforcements to French Indochina or back to Morocco to join the rest 4e REI

2015, 5th Company, 2e REP established
– in Corsica, 5th Combat Company was established
– a company with the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP)
– its domain is desert warfare
– the unit’s last 5th combat company existed in French Indochina in 1955, in then 2e BEP (Battalion, predecessor to the 2e REP)
– 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 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 a 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 established in 1836 to serve in Algeria

1883, Battle of Son Tay ended
– the very first battle for the Foreign Legion in Asia
– the three-day battle successfully ended the Son Tay Campaign (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, Foreign Legion took part in
– during the battle, Captain Mehl + 9 legionnaires were killed
– over 60 men of the battalion were wounded

1954, 22nd Motorized Company established
– in Algeria, 22e CP was established
– assigned to the 1er RE
– the company was led by Captain Desjeux
– it was equipped with M3 Scout Cars and 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, military operations started for 1st Battalion, Foreign Regiment
– Foreign Regiment was then title of the Legion
– the operations took place near Mengoub, a town in the Sahara Desert on the Algeria-Morocco border
– it was aimed at the Ouled Sidi Sheik rebel tribe
– some 19,000 rebels’ camels were captured by the French during these operations
– the battalion returned to its camp at Geryville in early January

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

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

1953, 2e CREBLE landed at Dien Bien Phu
– a platoon of the 2nd Foreign Legion Armored Vehicle Repair Company landed at the Dien Bien Phu valley, Northern Vietnam
– 2e CREBLE legionnaires were sent to Dien Bien Phu to assemble ten M24 Chaffee light tanks of a French cavalry regiment being placed there in support of French infantry troops, including hundreds of legionnaires
– the platoon of 2e CREBLE left Dien Bien Phu in January 1954
– between March-May 1954, the bloody Battle of Dien Bien Phu took place

2010, Captain Dupin killed
– in northeastern Afghanistan, a rebel attack during a reconnaissance operation in the Alasay district of Kapisa Province
– during the attack, Captain Benoit Dupin was killed
– he served as the commander of the 3rd Company, 2e REG (Engineer Regiment)
– Captain Dupin has remained the highest-ranking member of the Legion killed in action

– 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
– during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), Provisional Foreign Regiment had to be reinforced
– the regiment was formed with three battalions consisting of non-German legionnaires from Algeria and European war-period-only volunteers
– they were devastated during the fights with Germans near Orleans (central France) in early December
– over 2,000 young conscripts (Bretons in the majority) from different French infantry regiments were transferred to the Provisional Foreign Regiment
– only a few hundreds of real legionnaires remained in then regiment
– the surviving legionnaires became new corporals and NCOs within the unit

1885, a skirmish with rebels in then Tonkin
– Tonkin was then title for today’s Northern Vietnam
– legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 1er RE got involved in a skirmish with rebels of Vietnamese and Chinese origin
– the skirmish took place in the Bac Ninh region, Tonkin
– 2 legionnaires were killed

1956, heavy fighting for legionnaires from 2e REP (Parachute Regiment) in northeastern Algeria
– it took place at Djebel Mezeraa, in the Tebessa region
– during the fighting, 28 rebels were killed
– Lieutenant Mounier + 12 legionnaires were also killed

1957, a military operation aimed at local rebels in northeastern Algeria for legionnaires from 2e REP
– it took place at Djebel Hammimat, in the Guelma region
– that day, 61 rebels were killed

– in the picture, 2e REP legionnaires during an operation in northeastern Algeria in late 1956, and Lieutenant Mounier who was killed on December 18, 1956

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Lieutenant Mounier - 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 which over 10,000 men of the Legion were killed
– the war was officially commenced by the Battle of Hanoi
– that day, 30,000 Viet Minh soldiers launched an attack against French troops in Hanoi (Northern Vietnam), the capital of then French Indochina
– it took two months for the French to re-gain complete control of the city

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

1955, Operation Tango
– an operation aimed at growing rebel activities in North Africa
– it took place at Douar Taouzient, in the Khenchela region of northeastern Algeria
– legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE were involved in

– 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
– the most famous figure of the Foreign Legion
– the very first Chief of the Foreign Legion
– he was called “Father of the Legion”
– as a French officer, he served 33 years with the Foreign Legion
– he served during the 1899-1914 and 1917-1935 periods
– in 1917, during WWI, he took command of the RMLE which became one of the two most decorated units within the French Army in 1919
– in 1931, General Rollet took the command of 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 a 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, the cemetery of the Foreign Legion located near Aubagne, southern France

1946, in then French Indochina, 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) got involved in defending Tourane, 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 soldiers since the previous day, when the First Indochina War officially started
– after several days, the legionnaires managed to defend the city and the Viet Minh attackers had to move back

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