Foreign Legion events: March 11 – 20

Discover interesting data of the French Foreign Legion’s history. Important campaigns, battles, deployments, operations, the establishments or dissolutions of units… See the Legion’s significant events which occurred between March 11 and March 20.

 

French Foreign Legion: March 11

1834, close to Bougie, in the Kabylie region of north-eastern Algeria, a French task force conducted an operation aimed at local rebel tribes
– 7th Battalion (Poles), Foreign Legion took part in
– the rebels attacked the task force
– the legionnaires, with fixed bayonets, successfully fought off the enemy

1898, Battle of Vohinghezo
– in the Toliara region of Madagascar, legionnaires from the 1st Company, Foreign Legion Task Force participated in an attack on a group of local rebels
Captain Louis Flayelle, a Foreign Legion officer commanding the French troops during the battle, was killed
– Lieutenant Montagnole, who led the legionnaires, was also killed

1946, in the Hoc Mon district of Saigon, southern Vietnam, then French Indochina, during an attack launched by the Viet Minh, Major Dumas + 2 legionnaires were killed
– Major Dumas was the commander of 3rd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade)
– the battalion landed in Indochina a day earlier

1951, Operation Pamplemousse ended
– legionnaires from 4th Battalion, 13e DBLE + 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) participated in
– the operation took place in the Vinh Long region of southern Vietnam
– during two days, about 100 Viet Minh rebels were killed

1957, in the Khenchela region of north-eastern Algeria, clashes with local rebels near Chentgouma for legionnaires from 13e DBLE
– 23 rebels were killed

– also in 1957, in the Aumale region of northern Algeria, legionnaires from 3rd Squadron, 1er REC got involved in a battle with local rebels
– 10 rebels were killed

– in the picture, legionnaires in Madagascar in the late 1890s

Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1898 - Louis Flayelle - Madagascar

 

French Foreign Legion: March 12

1884, Capture of Bac Ninh
Bac Ninh is a city in today’s northern Vietnam
– a French mixed column (about 10,000 men), including two battalions of the Foreign Regiment (then title for the Legion), led by General De Négrier (the famous commander of the Legion in Algeria), successfully attacked Bac Ninh (garrisoned by around 22,000 Chinese troops)
– two Legion companies had the right to officially capture the city
– Capture of Bac Ninh was part of the Tonkin Campaign (Tonkin was then title for northern Vietnam), which started the Sino-French War (1884-85)
– during the Capture of Bac Ninh, 2 legionnaires were killed + 12 legionnaires were wounded

1951, near Thanh Huong, in the Quang Tri region of central Vietnam, then French Indochina, 4th Battalion, 2e REI got involved in a fierce battle with the Viet Minh

– in the image, the entrance to Bac Ninh, 1884

Bac Ninh - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1884 - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: March 13

1833, close to Bone (north-eastern Algeria), a French task force conducted an operation aimed at local rebel tribes
– 6th Battalion (Belgians and Dutchmen), Foreign Legion took part in
– 47 rebels were killed

1917, in the Taza region of Morocco, legionnaires from 1st Mounted Company, 1er RE got involved in a battle with local rebels near Bab Timalou
– 4 legionnaires were wounded

1941, during the East African Campaign of WWII, 2nd Company, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) launched an unsuccessful attack on Italian positions near Keren, Eritrea
– 13e DBLE had 11 men killed + 35 men wounded
– the unit was part of Free French Forces of the British Army
– the majority of its troops were ex-legionnaires from 13e DBMLE
– in 1944-45, 13e DBLE was integrated into the Legion

1954, Battle of Dien Bien Phu started
– the most important and most tragic battle of the First Indochina War
– it took place in the valley of Dien Bien Phu
– 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 northern Vietnam, near the border with Laos
– France had roughly 11,000 troops at Dien Bien Phu, including some 5,000 legionnaires
– the Viet Minh had approximately 51,000 troops on the hills around the valley
– in the evening of March 13, at 08:00 PM (20h00), the Viet Minh started a campaign to get control of Dien Bien Phu, by launching a large artillery attack against Beatrice
– Beatrice was a stronghold (composed of several outposts) held by legionnaires from 3rd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Major Pegot) and supported by a platoon of 1re CEPML (Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company)
Lt Colonel Gaucher, the 13e DBLE’s commander, and his HQ were also placed at Beatrice
– two hours of Viet Minh shelling was followed by an infantry attack
– during the night, Beatrice was completely taken over by the Viet Minh
– around 300 officers and legionnaires from 3rd Battalion, 13e DBLE were killed or imprisoned
– less than 200 of them survived the attack and were evacuated from the area to the French HQ of Dien Bien Phu
– a platoon of 1re CEPML lost half of its men
– Lt Colonel Jules Gaucher, having served with the Legion since 1931, was killed during the shelling
– he spent 14 years with the Legion in French Indochina
– back in 1945, after the Japanese occupied Indochina, he successfully led the surviving legionnaires of the original 5e REI from Vietnam to China, the event called March to the Death (800 miles through the jungle in 93 days)

– in the picture, Lt Colonel Jules Gaucher decorated at Dien Bien Phu in February 1954 and with some of his 13e DBLE officers at Beatrice in March 1954, a few days before the stronghold was attacked and he was killed
– bearing the khaki beret, Major Pegot, the 3rd Battalion commander, killed the same night as Lt Col Gaucher

13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - Dien Bien Phu - Lt Colonel Jules Gaucher

 

French Foreign Legion: March 14

1954, in northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, on the second day of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Viet Minh launched an attack on Gabrielle, one of the French strongholds built in the valley
– Gabrielle, held by a battalion of Algerians, was supported by a platoon of 2e CMMLE (Foreign Legion Mortar Mixed Company) and a platoon of 1re CEPML (Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company)
– the shelling continued all the night
– next day in the morning, 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP) was sent to Gabrielle to launch a counter-attack
– the severe battle lasted many hours
– nonetheless, Gabrielle was taken over by the Viet Minh
– from 870 Algerians, over 500 were killed
– 2e CMMLE and 1re CEPML platoons had both only a few survivors
– 1er BEP had 9 legionnaires killed + 46 wounded
– over 3,000 Viet Minh attackers were killed
– Beatrice, the stronghold held by 3rd Battalion, 13e DBLE, was attacked in the previous evening and completely seized by the Viet Minh in the early morning of March 14

1959, near Tircine in the Saida region, north-eastern Algeria, a two-day operation started for legionnaires from 3e REI
– during the operation, 30 rebels were killed

– in the very rare photo, Beatrice, the stronghold at Dien Bien Phu held by 3rd Battalion, 13e DBLE, was seized by the Viet Minh in the early morning of March 14, 1954

Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 Beatrice - Dien Bien Phu - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: March 15

1844, Battle of M’Chounech
– in the Biskra region of north-eastern Algeria, French troops led by Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale (the son of France’s King Louis-Philippe I, who established the Foreign Legion) launched an attack on the village of M’Chounech (M’Chouneche now), occupied by the Emir Abd El Kader and his light infantry troops and rebels (around 3,000 men)
– the village was successfully seized
– 1st Battalion, 2e RE (2e REI now), commanded by Major De Chabrières, took part in the battle
– Major De Chabrières will become the famous commander of the 2e RE and, as a colonel, will be killed in Italy in 1859

1855, during the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–55), Crimean War, Russian troops launched an attack near Fort Quarantaine, aimed at the trenches occupied by 2nd Battalion, 2e RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, 2e REI now), led by Major L’Hériller
– legionnaires launched a successful counter-attack with fixed bayonets, defended their positions and fought off the enemy
– 6 legionnaires were killed + 2 officers (including Captain Chardin) and 8 legionnaires were wounded

1949, in the That Khe region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, three outposts held by legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 3e REI were attacked by the Viet Minh during the night
– the Song Ky Cung outpost had 11 legionnaires killed + 22 legionnaires wounded
– the another two outposts were taken over by the Viet Minh
– tens of legionnaires were missed

1952, Battle of Noi Thon
– a battle with the Viet Minh in Northern Vietnam
– it took place in the Thai Binh region, south of Hanoi
– 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP) got involved in
– 52 Viet Minh rebels were killed

1955, in Indochina, 26th Engineering Battalion (26e BG) was dissolved
– a mixed engineering unit comprising French engineers and legionnaires
– established in France in late 1945 as 16th Engineering Maintenance Company (16e CEG) to support French troops in then French Indochina
– in the vast majority, the company consisted of German POWs (prisoners of war) held in France
– in 1952, the company was reinforced and became the mixed battalion

1956, 2nd Battalion, 5e REI left Indochina for North Africa, as the last Legion unit stationed in Asia
– legionnaires had been based in Indochina since 1883

1958, near El Rhedir in the Philippeville region of north-eastern Algeria, severe clashes with local rebels started for legionnaires from 2e REP (Parachute Regiment)
– during three days, 48 rebels were killed

1961, at Djebel Goursifane near Djeniene Bou Rezg, in the Ain Sefra region of western Algeria, clashes with rebels for 3rd + 6th Motorized Company, 2e REI
– about 30 rebels were killed

– in the image, a legionnaire of the 26th Engineering Battalion with his bulldozer in then French Indochina

26e BG - 26 BG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: March 16

1855, in Besancon of France, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Foreign Legion was established
– Colonel De Chabrieres (the future famous commander of the 2e RE, who was killed in Italy in 1859) took command
– 2nd Foreign Legion was open for Swiss legionnaires only and was nicknamed Swiss Legion
– it was commanded by General Ochsenbein, a Swiss officer and a close friend of Napoleon, then French Emperor
– 2nd Legion (composed of two regiments) was dissolved in June 1856
– its men formed the 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE)
– 1st Foreign Regiment consisted of the Swiss in the vast majority until 1859

1948, in the That Khe region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 3e REI got involved in a severe battle with the Viet Minh
– Viet Minh had 33 men killed
– 11 legionnaires were also killed + 29 legionnaires were wounded

1959, near Ain Beroua, north-western Algeria, an operation ended for legionnaires from 5e REI
– 5 rebels were killed

– in the picture, 5e REI legionnaires in north-western Algeria, March 1959

5e REI - 5 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: March 17

1947, a military operation ended for legionnaires from 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) and 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) in the Tourane region of central Vietnam, then French Indochina
– during the operation, 166 Viet Minh rebels were killed

1956, near Ras El Dar in the Taounate region of northern Morocco, legionnaires from 1st Battalion, 4e REI took part in an important military operation to clear the sector
– during the operation, a large group of local rebels was annihilated

– also in 1956, for its actions in French Indochina, the 3e REI was awarded the Fourragère of Military Medal in yellow-green colors
– it was the most decorated regiment of the French Army

1959, near Prevost-Paradol in the Tiaret region, north-western Algeria, legionnaires from 3e REI got involved in a fierce battle with a group of local rebels
– 17 rebels were killed

– in the photo, in French Guiana, a 3e REI sapper-pioneer bearing Fourrageres, including the Fourragère of Military Medal (yellow)

3e REI - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 2013 - Guiana

 

French Foreign Legion: March 18

1853, some 200 legionnaires riding camels passed 32 kilometers (20 miles) in the Sahara, between Ouargla and Djioud
– the legionnaires served with elite companies of 2e RLE (2e REI now)
– it was the very first time when French infantry troops were riding camels

1951, in then French Indochina, 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion) was re-established
– the unit was annihilated in the Battle of Route Coloniale 4 (Oct 1950), First Indochina War
– it became the first French parachute battalion lost in combat
– 1er BEP was re-formed with 500 men of the 3e BEP (a unit based in Algeria, future 3e REP)
– back in Algeria in 1955, 1er BEP was redesignated to 1er REP (Regiment)
– in 1961, 1er REP, two times annihilated in Indochina, was dissolved because of its active participation in the Generals’ putsch in Algiers (April 1961)

1955, at Djebel Taourirt in the Khenchela region of north-eastern Algeria, legionnaires from 1st Battalion, 3e REI got involved in the first battle with local rebels in North Africa, after they left French Indochina
– 2 legionnaires were killed, 4 legionnaires were wounded

1957, at Djebel Mesloula, between Souk Ahras and Tebessa in north-eastern Algeria, severe clashes with local rebels for legionnaires from 2e REP (Parachute Regiment)
– 20 rebels were killed

– in the image, 1er BEP legionnaires during an operation in French Indochina, 1951

1er BEP - 1 BEP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1951 - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: March 19

1946, near Khanh Hoa, in the Nha Trang region of south-central Vietnam, then French Indochina, a group of legionnaires (led by Second Lieutenant Barthe) from 2e REI got involved in a fierce battle with the Viet Minh
– many Viet Minh rebels were killed or wounded

1958, at Djebel Marioun of northern Algeria, a two-day operation ended for legionnaires from 1er REP (Parachute Regiment)
– during the operation, 118 rebels were killed
– 12 legionnaires were also killed

1960, in the El Milia region, north-eastern Algeria, a three-day military operation started for legionnaires from 3e REI
– 20 rebels were killed

1962, Algerian War ended
– Évian Accords treaty (signed on March 18) officially ended the Algerian War
– however, military operations in Algeria were conducted until September

– in the picture, 1er REP reviewed by General Massu at Camp of Zeralda, Algeria, 1958

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: March 20

1837, Battle of Larraintzar
– a fierce battle in the village of the Navarra region, Spain
– legionnaires from the original Foreign Legion (now called “Old Legion”, 1831-39), led by Colonel Conrad, fought against Carlists
– over 50 officers (including Lieutenant Sokaski) and legionnaires were killed
– the enemy was successfully fought off
– the “Old Legion” (around 4,100 legionnaires) was handed over to Spain in June 1835 to fight in the First Carlist War for Maria Christina, Regent of Spain

1945, during WWII in northern Vietnam of ex-French Indochina (occupied by the Japanese ten days ago), 3rd Company (Captain Aspirot), 5e REI got involved in a severe battle, while marching to China
– the company lost 27 men, including 10 men killed

– also in 1945, during the last phase of WWII, 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment), commanded by Lt Colonel Miquel, crossed the French border and entered Germany, as the first Legion unit, to continue in operations against German forces

1956, near Marnia in north-western Algeria, at Djebel Mahassar, a convoy of 5e REI, which included also a regimental commander, was attacked by a group of local rebels
– during a following counter-attack, Captain Cozette was killed
Captain René Cozette became the first 5e REI officer killed in Africa
– 5e REI served only in then Indochina between 1930 and 1956
– for 5e REI, this battle was also its very first action in Africa

1957, at Djebel Bou Nukta of the Geryville region, north-western Algeria, legionnaires from 2nd Company, 2e REI got involved in a fierce battle with local rebels

– in the photo, Captain Cozette (left), the very first officer of 5e REI killed in Africa

5e REI - 5 REI - René Cozette - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Algeria

 

Related posts:
Foreign Legion events: March 01 – 10
Foreign Legion events: February 21 – 29
Foreign Legion events: February 11 – 20
Foreign Legion events: February 01 – 10
French Foreign Legion history