Foreign Legion events: March 21 – 31

On this day. Discover the Legion’s interesting historical events which occurred between March 21 and March 31. 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: March 21

1921, Battle of Oued Oughziat
– in Morocco, a fierce battle with local rebels
– it took place in the Oughziat valley
– legionnaires from 9th Company, 4e REI were involved
– led by Lieutenant Lamargue
– after two hours of fighting, only 13 combat-ready legionnaires left
– with fixed bayonets, they fought off the enemy
– thad day, 13 legionnaires were killed
– 12 legionnaires were wounded

1954, near Isabelle, clashes ended for 3e REI
– during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– in Northern Vietnam, then French Indochina
– the clashes occurred near Isabelle
– the southernmost French defensive position at Dien Bien Phu
– held by 3rd Battalion, 3e REI
– the clashes took two days
– legionnaires from 12th Company, 3e REI were involved
– 7 legionnaires were killed
– 13 legionnaires were wounded or missed

– in the photo, 4e REI legionnaires marching in Morocco (1930s)

4e REI - 4 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1938 - Morocco

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 22

1954, Battle of Ba Sa-Ang
– a severe battle with the Viet Minh in then French Indochina
– at Ba Sa-Ang, south of Ban Sen Phan
– in the Khammouane region of Laos
– 1st Battalion, 5e REI were involved
– led by Major de Buretel de Chassey
– the battle took many hours
– heavily outnumbered, the 5e REI suffered many casualties
– 48 men of the unit were killed + 125 men were wounded
– Major Louis de Buretel de Chassey was fatally wounded
– he died a week later
– between the killed, Lieutenant Guy Guerin de Vaugrente
– 3rd Company’s commander
– he and his legionnaires were cut off by the Viet Minh
– isolated and surrounded, they made their Camerone
– they resisted for many hours, until the finish, to the last man

– also in 1954, heavy clashes with the Viet Minh
– during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– in Northern Vietnam, then French Indochina
– the clashes occurred along the road to Isabelle
– the southernmost French defensive position at Dien Bien Phu
– 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP) were involved
– the battalion suffered many casualties
– three officers were killed
– Lieutenant André Lecocq (2nd Company)
– Lieutenant André Bertrand (4th Company)
– Lieutenant Rémy Raynaud
– 6 legionnaires were also killed
– 20 legionnaires were wounded
– since that time, Isabelle was cut off from the rest of the camp

– also in 1954, a skirmish with the Viet Minh
– in the Qui Nhon region of Central Vietnam
– in then French Indochina
1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) took part
– 12th + 13th + 17th Squadron of the regiment
– 25 rebels were imprisoned

1959, in northwestern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– the severe battle occurred near Uzes le Duc
– between Mascara and Tiarert
– legionnaires from 3e REI were involved
– 45 rebels were killed

1960, in northern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– at Djebel El Mahreg of the Djelfa region
2e REC (Cavalry Regiment) participated
– 21 rebels were killed

– in the picture, Major Pierre de Buretel de Chassey and Lieutenant Guy de Vaugrente, the 5e REI’s officers killed in Laos on March 22, 1954

Pierre de Buretel de Chassey - Lieutenant Guy de Vaugrente - 5e REI - 5 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - Laos

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 23

1893, in then French Sudan, a long operation ended
– part of the Campaign of French Sudan (1892-93)
– it took place in then Wassoulou Empire
– situated in the border region of three present-day countries
– Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea (then West Africa)
– the empire was ruled by Samori Toure, the emperor
– the operation took five weeks
– it was conducted by Legion Sudan Company
– 123 men led by Captain Destenave
– during the operation, Legion Sudan Company made 600 miles (around 950 km) in 36 days
– they got involved in 14 battles with the troops of Samori Toure
– in May, the legionnaires left Sudan to return back to Algeria
– in June, the company was dissolved

1954, in western Tunisia, a military operation started
– conducted by legionnaires from 6e REI
– at Djebel Selloum in the Kasserine region
– two companies cleared the sector of local rebels
– the operation ended three days later

1970, Capture of Ounianga Kebir
– in northeastern Chad, clashes with local rebels
– to re-capture the Ounianga Kebir post in the Ennedi region
2e REP (Parachute Regiment) were involved
– after severe fighting, the legionnaires re-captured the post

– in the photo, 2e REP legionnaires with their Colonel Lacaze in Chad, in late 1969

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1969 - Colonel Lacaze - Chad

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 24

1885, Battle of Bang Bo
– a battle between the French and the Chinese
– during the Sino-French War (1884-85)
– part of France’s Tonkin Campaign (1883-86)
– Tonkin was then title for today’s Northern Vietnam
– the fierce battle took ten hours
– it occurred at Bang Bo, in the Lang Son region
– at the China-Vietnam border
– two Foreign Legion battalions were involved
– 2nd Battalion, 1er RE
– 3rd Battalion, 2e RE (2e REI now)
– Captain Patrick Cotter (an Irish officer) + Captain Jules Brunet were killed
– 16 legionnaires were also killed
– 2 officers + 86 legionnaires were wounded

1949, First combat jump for 2e BEP
– that day, the first combat jump for 2e BEP
– 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (today’s 2e REP)
– it occurred during Operation Prestige
– in southern Cambodia, then French Indochina
– two 2e BEP companies were involved
– they jumped over the region of Kompong Trach
– to search local rebel groups
– 2e BEP landed in French Indochina in early February 1949
– to participate in the First Indochina War (1946-54)

1954, Operation Oculi
– an operation in then French Indochina
– it took place at Phu Cat
– in the Dinh Binh region of Central Vietnam
– 1st Amphibious Group, 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) were involved
– 21 rebels were killed
– 6 rebels were imprisoned

– in the image, an Alligator of the 1st Amphibious Group, 1er REC in French Indochina, 1954
– note the cavalry legionnaires wearing light-khaki berets

1er REC - 1 REC - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - Indochina

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 25

1952, in then French Indochina, military operations started
– conducted by 1st Squadron, 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment)
– the week-long operations took place in the My Tho region
– a region in Southern Vietnam
– during the operations, 34 rebels were imprisoned

1953, Foreign Legion Heavy Mortar Company
– in Laos, CMLLE was constituted
– an independent artillery unit
– consisting of legionnaires and local auxiliaries
– it would participate in the First Indochina War (1946-54)
– in September 1953, the unit was redesignated
– it became 1re CMMLE
– Foreign Legion Mortar Mixed Company
– the company was equipped with 120 mm mortars
– they took part in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– the company was annihilated there

1954, in then French Indochina, a battle with the Viet Minh
– the severe battle occurred close to Hanoi, Northern Vietnam
– 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) were involved
– 61 Viet Minh rebels were killed

– in the picture, legionnaires of the 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE in French Indochina, 1954

13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - Indochina

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 26

1867, Legionnaires returned to North Africa from Mexico
– that day, first legionnaires landed back in Algeria
– members of the Foreign Regiment (then title for the Legion)
– they returned back from Mexico
– having served there since March 1863
– during the French intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
– over 1,500 officers and legionnaires died in Mexico
– mostly of yellow fever/black vomit
– also the famous 1863 Battle of Camerone took place there

1917, Battle of Trana Stena started
– known in France under that name
– Battle of Chervena Stena (Red Wall) properly
– part of the Battle of Monastir (March-May 1917)
– an action on the Macedonian Front
– during the Balkans Campaign of WWI
– Allied troops against Central Powers
Monastir was a town in then Serbia
– today’s Bitola in southern Macedonia
– that day, a three-day battle started there
– at Chervena Stena (Trana Stena in French sources)
– a mountain ridge west of Monastir
– part of the Baba range
– French troops faced Bulgarian troops
– Bulgarians made part of Central Powers
– alongside Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire
– Foreign Legion Orient Battalion were involved
– a little-known Foreign Legion unit
– at the time, some 200 combat-ready legionnaires
– they fought fiercely and seized Bulgarian lines
– the following attacks and counter-attacks took three days
– 5 officers + 160 Bulgarians were imprisoned
– the Legion also suffered casualties
– Captain André Pignatelli di Cerchiara was killed
– an Italian commander of the 11th Company
– 24 legionnaires were also killed
– 2 officers + 90 legionnaires were wounded

– for its actions at Chervena Stena, the battalion was mentioned in dispatches
– in the order of the Army (the highest mention)
– it would gain a fourragere, as the only second Legion unit

1954, in then French Indochina, clashes with the Viet Minh
– part of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– they occurred in the Dien Bien Phu valley of Northern Vietnam
– near Huguette 6
– one of the French strongpoints
– 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP) were involved
– 20 Viet Minh men were killed

1991, Operation Merrain started
– a mine clearing operation after the Gulf War (1990-91)
– it took place in Kuwait City, Kuwait
– 6e REG (Engineer Regiment, 1er REG now) took part
– two companies + DINOPS (Engineer Combat Divers)
– an NCO of the 6e REG was killed during the operation

– in the photo, 6e REG legionnaires in Kuwait City in 1991

6e REG - 6 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1991 - Kuwait

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 27

1871, Provisional Foreign Regiment to move to Paris
– that day in France, an order was placed
– Provisional Foreign Regiment had to move to Paris
– a provisional unit, composed of three Legion battalions
– their mission was to restore order in the capital of France
– to face the Paris Commune, a revolutionary government
– armed radical socialists and anarchists

– between November-March, the regiment fought in France
– during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)
– since mid-December, the legionnaires were in the minority
– because of heavy losses during the early stage of the war
– French conscripts (mainly Bretons) were in the majority
– at the same time, two Legion battalions served in Algeria
– Germans in the vast majority + Belgians
– they were not allowed to fight in France

1941, Battle of Keren ended
– that day, a two-month battle was over
– part of the East African Campaign of WWII
– British forces faced Italian troops
– to seize Keren, a city in Eritrea (East Africa)
– the city was successfully seized by British troops
– over 500 Allied troops and 3,000 Italians were killed
– 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) took part in the battle
– a Free French Forces unit
– part of the British Army
– in the majority, ex-legionnaires from 13e DBMLE
– a Foreign Legion unit fighting in Norway in 1940
– in 1944-45, the 13e DBLE was (re-)integrated into the Legion

1948, Foreign Parachute Battalion
– that day in North Africa, a decree was issued
– it prescribed the formation of a parachute battalion
– within the French Foreign Legion
– later that year, two Legion parachute battalions emerged
– a third one was formed in 1949

1956, in northeastern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– close to T’Kout, in the Batna region
– 6th Company, 3e REI were involved
– led by Captain Plantier
– 31 rebels were killed
– 5 legionnaires were also killed

1960, Colonel Lotfi killed
– that day, Colonel Lotfi was killed
– an important Algerian rebel leader
– killed by legionnaires from 4e CSPL
– 4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company
– during a military operation aimed at his group
– near Colomb Bechar, western Algeria
– several rebels were also killed
– between them, Commandant Faradj, Lotfi‘s deputy
– 4 legionnaires were also killed, however

– in the image, a column of 4e CSPL in Colomb Bechar, Algeria, in the early 1960s
– in the smaller image, rebel leader Colonel Lotfi’s captured military ID card

4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1960 - Algeria

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 28

1863, Foreign Regiment landed in Mexico
– that day, Foreign Regiment landed in Mexico
– some 1,430 men led by Colonel Pierre Jeanningros
– join the French intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
– Foreign Regiment was then title for the Legion
– the same year, some 800 of these legionnaires died
– mostly of yellow fever/black vomit
– the regiment would leave Mexico in March 1867

1885, Battle of Ky Lua
– a battle between the French and the Chinese
– during the Sino-French War (1884-85)
– part of France’s Tonkin Campaign (1883-86)
– Tonkin was then title for today’s Northern Vietnam
– the battle occurred at Lang Son
– a town at the China-Vietnam border
– Chinese troops attacked Fort Ky Lua of Lang Son
– defended by two Foreign Legion battalions
– 2nd Battalion, 1er RE
– 3rd Battalion, 2e RE (2e REI now)
– the enemy was successfully fought off
– 2 legionnaires were killed
– 4 officers + 22 legionnaires were wounded
– hundreds of Chinese troops were killed or wounded

1954, Battle on the West
– an operation in Northern Vietnam, then French Indochina
– aimed at Viet Minh anti-aircraft artillery
– part of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– it took place near Huguette 6, a French strongpoint
– one of the few French victories at Dien Bien Phu
– a French composite task force was involved
– consisting of four battalions + artillery + M24 tank platoon
– between them, two battalions of the Legion
– 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP)
– 1st Battalion, 2e REI
– during the battle, a Viet Minh battalion was annihilated
– about 350 Viet Minh men were killed
– the French suffered 20 men killed + 72 men wounded

1959, in northern Algeria, a two-day operation ended
– aimed at local rebels
– it took place at Djebel Zemra of the M’Sila region
– 2e REC (Cavalry Regiment) participated
– during the operation, 67 rebels were killed
– 43 rebels were imprisoned
– among those killed, Amirouche and El Haouès
– two very important rebel colonels

1961, in western Algeria, clashes with rebels
– they occurred at Djebel El Djehaf, in the Sfissifa region
– the clashes took more than five hours
– 2nd + 4th Motorized Company, 2e REI were involved
– 19 rebels were killed
– 3 rebels were imprisoned

– in the photo, 2e REC legionnaires discovering a rebel hideout during operations at Djebel Zemra, Algeria, March 1959

2e REC - 2 REC - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 29

1951, in then French Indochina, a skirmish with the Viet Minh
– near Tan My, in the An Giang region of Southern Vietnam
– 1st Battalion, 13e DBLE (Half-Brigade) were involved
– 11 rebels were killed

1957, in northeastern Algeria, a battle with local rebels
– it occurred at Aghour El Kifene, in the Tebessa region
– 2e REP (Parachute Regiment) participated
– 38 rebels were killed
– Lieutenant Claude Brehier was also killed
– Lieutenant Raymond Lalet was fatally wounded
– he died a month later

1958, Battle of Chaba Ben Said
– a severe battle in northeastern Algeria
– part of the Battle of the Borders (Jan-May 1958)
– in the Guelma region
– 1er REP (Parachute Regiment) were involved
– 1st Company led by Captain Martin
– 70 rebels were killed

2013, Operation Awara ended
– a ten-day operation in French Guiana
– part of Operation Harpie (2008-present)
– it took place in the jungle near the border with Brazil
– 3e REI legionnaires participated in
– the operation had to eliminate activities of illegal gold diggers

– in the picture, 3e REI legionnaires during Operation Awara, French Guiana, March 2013

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

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 30

1856, Crimean War ended
– that day, 1856 Treaty of Paris was signed
– it settled the Crimean War (1853-56)
– a conflict between Russia and an alliance of France, Britain, Ottoman Empire and Sardinia
– the war took place in Crimea, Russian Empire
– both Foreign Regiments of the Legion were involved
– the Legion sufferred many casualties
– 25 officers + around 420 legionnaires were killed

1954, Battle of Five Hills
– a battle in Northern Vietnam, then French Indochina
– part of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– French troops against the Viet Minh
– that day, a severe assault aimed at five hills held by the French
– followed by many hours of intense fighting
– two hills were overrun by the Viet Minh
– other three hills resisted the attacks
– three Legion units took part in defending them
– 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP)
– a platoon of 1re CMMLE (Mortar Mixed Company)
– a platoon of 1re CEPML (Heavy Mortar Parachute Company)
– 16 men from the 1er BEP were killed or missed
– the 1re CMMLE platoon was annihilated
– Lieutenant René Colcy was killed (its platoon leader)

1957, in northeastern Algeria, a skirmish with local rebels
– near Hill 88, in the El Milia region
– 1st Company, 3e REI were involved
– Adjudant Szuts and his platoon
– 2 rebels were killed, other rebels were captured

– Adjudant Szuts would be killed two years later
– he was one of the three Hungarian senior NCOs joining the Legion around 1946 and killed within two weeks of May 1959
– today in French Guiana, Camp Szuts is named after him
– the 3e REI’s well-known CEFE jungle training center

– in the photo, M8 Half Tracks and M8 Scout Cars of the 3e REI during a ceremony in El Milia, Algeria, 1957

3e REI - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Algeria

 
 

French Foreign Legion: March 31

1943, 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment deactivation
– in Morocco, 2e REI was deactivated
– the longest-serving unit of the Legion
– established in Algeria in 1841
– its men would reinforce Legion units in Tunisia
– fighting during the 1943 Tunisia Campaign of WWII
– its batteries + motorized companies were attached to 3e REI
– 2e REI was re-activated in early 1946

1946, 3e REI to leave France for Indochina
– that day in Marseille in France, 3e REI took ship
– the regiment would deploy to French Indochina
– HQ + two battalions
– to reinforce French troops there
– the regiment had been stationed in France since January
– at Aubagne and Camp Carpiagne
– it trained new recruits there, mostly Germans
– the unit had to complete its strength and expand into a full regiment again before leaving for Indochina
– a third battalion would join the unit a few weeks later

1954, Isolation of Isabelle
– an action in Northern Vietnam, then French Indochina
– part of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)
– legionnaires against the Viet Minh
– it took place close to Isabelle
– a remote French stronghold in the Dien Bien Phu valley
– held and defended by 3rd Battalion, 3e REI
– 4 miles (6 km) distant from the French camp’s HQ
– they wanted to maintain the connection with the rest of camp
– however, the Viet Minh had already cut off a strategic road
– also, large trenches were built by the Viet Minh nearby
– that day, a fierce battle occurred
– in the battle, 3e REI suffered casualties
– 15 men were killed or missed
– about 50 men were wounded, including Captain Picard
– since that day, Isabelle became an isolated stronghold
– cut off from the rest of the French camp

1963, Legion’s Saharan motorized units disbanded
– that day, Legion’s Saharan motorized units were disbanded
– four exceptional, independent units
– 1er ESPL (Saharan Squadron, formerly 1re CSPL)
2e CSPL, 3e CSPL, 4e CSPL (Saharan Companies)
– organized in Algeria in 1940-55
– keeping the traditions of Saharan units
– they took part in the Algerian War (1954-62)
– the units would merge with 2e REI and 4e REI
– they would form their new motorized companies
– last Saharan uniforms were guarding until 1967

– in the image, a Motorized Saharan Company legionnaire wearing the traditional Saharan uniform, in the mid-1950s
– right, the insignias of the four Saharan companies

CSPL - Saharan legionnaire - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria

 

Related posts:
Foreign Legion events: March 11 – 20
Foreign Legion events: April 01 – 10
French Foreign Legion history