Foreign Legion events: May 21 – 31

Explore important historical events in French Foreign Legion’s history. Significant campaigns and battles, deployments and operations, the establishments or dissolutions of units. See the most notable events of the Foreign Legion which occurred between May 21 and May 31.

 

French Foreign Legion: May 21

1845, a two-day military operation ended for 2nd Battalion, 1er RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, now 1er RE) in the Orleansville region, northern Algeria
– the successful operation was aimed at the Beni Mezrough rebel tribe

1852, a task force of the 2e RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, now 2e REI), led by Major Montmarie, forming a part of a French column, got involved in a battle with local rebels in the Batna region of northeastern Algeria
– 19 rebels were killed + 50 rebels were wounded
– Captain Martinez (the future regimental commander, he was ex-Spanish Carlist fighting in Spain against the original Legion) + Captain Tranchot + 13 legionnaires were wounded

1954, near Nui Khe Non in the Phu Ly region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, during a large military operation, legionnaires from 2nd Amphibious Group, 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) got involved in a fierce battle with the Viet Minh
– that day, Viet Minh had around 300 men killed or imprisoned
– 1er REC had 5 legionnaires killed

1957, a four-day military operation started for legionnaires from 6th Motorized Company, 2e REI + 2e REC + 2e CSPL (Saharan Motorized Company)
– the operation took place at Djebel Amour in the Ain Sefra region of northwestern Algeria
– during the operation, at least 18 rebels were killed

– in the photo, the fanion of the 2nd Amphibious Group, 1er REC in French Indochina, 1954

1er REC - 1 REC - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954 - 2e GA - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: May 22

1855, during the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–55), Crimean War, legionnaires of the 1er RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, 1er RE now) and 2e RLE (2e REI now) launched an attack aimed at the trenches occupied by Russian troops near Fort Quarantaine, part of the fortification of Sevastopol, the capital of Crimea
– the fierce attack was launched in the evening and continued until the next morning
– the legionnaires faced 12 Russian battalions
– half of the enemy trenches were seized
– during the attack, 1er RLE had Captain Franzini + 2 lieutenants + 24 legionnaires killed, 4 officers + 103 legionnaires were wounded
– 2e RLE had Captain Philippe + Captain Rigny + Lieutenant Tisserant + 27 legionnaires killed, 6 officers + 153 legionnaires were wounded

1915, in the Taza region of Morocco, 2nd Battalion, 1er RE got involved in a battle with local Branes rebels
– Lieutenant Fouquart was severely wounded

– in the old postcard, the legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 1er RE at Taza, Morocco, 1914

1er RE - 1 RE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1914 - Taza - Morocco

 

French Foreign Legion: May 23

1832, first Foreign Legion officer killed
– close to Maison Carree near Algiers, the current capital of Algeria, a platoon of 27 legionnaires (3rd Battalion, Germans and the Swiss), commanded by Lieutenant Cham, were attacked by a company of Arab rebels
– the legionnaires and their commander fought till the finish
– all of them were massacred
– Lieutenant Cham became the first killed-in-action officer of the Foreign Legion

1855, during the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–55), Crimean War, legionnaires of the 1st Battalion, 1er RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, 1er RE now) took part in another fierce attack aimed at the trenches occupied by Russian troops near Fort Quarantaine, part of the fortification of Sevastopol, the capital of Crimea
– the attack was launched in the evening and continued until the next morning
– during the attack, 1er RLE had Lieutenant Opdenhoff + 10 legionnaires killed
– 4 officers + 71 legionnaires were wounded

1949, in the Dong Khe region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, legionnaires from 9th Company, 3e REI were attacked by the Viet Minh
– Second Lieutenant Laspoumaderes + 10 legionnaires were killed
– 24 legionnaires were wounded

1960, clashes with local rebels for legionnaires from 2e REC (Cavalry Regiment) close to Djelfa, northern Algeria
– 7 rebels were killed
– 1 legionnaire was also killed, 3 legionnaires were wounded

2013, Operation Morpho ended
– a ten-day operation deep in the jungle of French Guiana, South America
– the operation was aimed at illegal gold-diggers and their camps
– legionnaires from 3e REI took part in

– in the photo, a 3e REI legionnaire during Operation Morpho in French Guiana, May 2013

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

 

French Foreign Legion: May 24

1837, Battle of Huesca
– the battle was part of the First Carlist War
– it took place near the hermitage of San Jorce de Alcoraz, close to Huesca, a town in the Aragon region of northeastern Spain
– 1st + 2nd Battalion of the “Old Legion” (created in March 1831), led by Colonel Conrad, took part in
– the royalists (including the legionnaires) tried to attack the town of Huesca, defended by the Carlists
– during the battle, the Legion (1,200 men) had around 350 men killed or wounded
– between the killed, Major Montallegri + Captain Mille + Lieutenant Wolff
– Colonel Conrad, the commander of the Legion, will be killed in action a week later
– the “Old Legion” was handed over to Spain in June 1835 to fight in the First Carlist War for Maria Christina, Regent of Spain

1857, 1st Battalion, 2e RE (Foreign Regiment, 2e REI now) got involved in a battle with local rebels near Affensou, in the Tizi Ouzou province of northern Algeria
– the battle was part of a large French operation to finally pacify the Kabylie region
– that day, 5 legionnaires were killed + 39 were wounded

1976, Djibouti helicopter crash
– that day, the French Foreign Legion suffered its worst losses in a single incident since the end of the Algerian War in 1962
– in the then French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (today’s Djibouti), during a military exercise, a helicopter crashed with legionnaires from GOLE (Foreign Legion Task Force), 2e REI on board
– Staff sergeant Zolic + 5 legionnaires + 2 crew members were killed
– 5 legionnaires were seriously burnt
– nevertheless, officially, the second deadliest incident for the Legion since the end of the Algerian War has been completely forgotten in France

– in the picture, the memorial plaque of the 1976 Djibouti helicopter crash inside the Legion’s abandoned cemetery at Bonifacio, Corsica (the GOLE’s garrison 1971-77)

GOLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1976 - Memorial - Bonifacio

 

French Foreign Legion: May 25

1881, during a military operation, a battle with local rebels for a Foreign Legion’s task force (led by Major Laffont) near Bou Alem in the Geryville region of northwestern Algeria
– the rebels lost 28 men

1956, legionnaires from 23e CPLE (Foreign Legion Motorized Company) got involved in a skirmish with a group of local rebels near Bir El Ater, in the Tebessa region of northeastern Algeria
– several rebels were killed
– 23e CPLE (est. Jan 1955) was an independent unit equipped with Jeeps, Dodges and AMM8 armored cars
– in June, the unit was integrated into GPLEA (Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group)
– in October, GPLEA consolidated with 2e REI

1957, legionnaires from 2nd + 3rd Battalion, 5e REI took part in a military operation near Azails in the Tlemcen region of northwestern Algeria
– during the operation, 14 rebels were killed + 3 rebels were imprisoned

– in the rare image, 23e CPLE and its AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) armored cars in Tebessa, Algeria, mid-1950s
– note the 23e CPLE legionnaires wearing light khaki berets (they kept them as veterans from 1er REC units serving in Indochina, which used these berets there)

23e CPLE - 23 CPLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: May 26

1842, at Oued Sly in the Orleansville region, northern Algeria, a military operation aimed at the Sbeah and the Beni Ouragh rebel tribes
– a task force of the 1er RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, now 1er RE), composed of elite companies and led by Major De Caprez, took part in

1960, a two-day operation ended for legionnaires from 4e REI in the Souk Ahras region of northeastern Algeria, close to the Tunisian border
– at least 28 rebels were killed

– in the picture, two 1960 Kepi blanc magazine covers show 4e REI members surveying the Algeria-Tunisia border in the Souk Ahras region
– note the AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) equipped with the “12,7” (M2 Browning) machine gun
– in late 1959, the green berets of para-legionnaires were extended to all Legion units to become the only regular headgear worn during operations (to replace khaki-covered kepis and light khaki berets)

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

 

French Foreign Legion: May 27

1871, Paris Commune ended
– since March, after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) ended, armed radical socialists and anarchists had controlled Paris, the capital of France, and formed a revolutionary government
– the regular French Army conducted an operation to restore order in the city
– Provisional Foreign Regiment (est. Oct 1870) was actively involved in
– between November-March, the regiment had participated in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) in France
– the unit consisted of 1st + 2nd + 5th Battalion, Foreign Regiment (then title for the Legion), comprising non-German legionnaires and foreign enlisted volunteers
– because of large losses during the war, the unit was composed of French conscripts in the majority since mid-December
– on May 27, 5th Battalion seized several barricades held by radicals
– in the evening, the battalion launched an important, successful attack on the rebel artillery on the heights of the Buttes-Chaumont (northeastern Paris), one of the two last strongpoints of the revolutionary government
– 1st + 2nd Battalion participated in operations in the streets of Paris and took over 2,000 prisoners
– the next day, all resistance ceased and the Army took control over Paris
– at the same time, 3rd + 4th Battalion, Foreign Regiment (composed of German legionnaires in the vast majority, not allowed to fight in France) served in Algeria

1978, Battle of Kolwezi ended for 2e REP
– also Operation Bonite in France
– an airborne operation to rescue European hostages held by Katangese rebels from the FNCL liberation front after they conquered the city of Kolwezi in then Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo now)
– on May 17, 2e REP (Parachute Regiment) in Corsica was put on alert
– on May 19, the legionnaires jumped over Kolwezi
– the same day in the evening, after several clashes with the rebels, the 2e REP seized the town and liberated the Europeans
– in the following week, 2e REP legionnaires were clearing the area around the town of any rebels
– during the battle, 247 rebels were killed + 163 rebels were imprisoned
– 5 legionnaires were killed
– over 2,000 Europeans were rescued
– giving publicity to the successful operation, the 2e REP became popular around the world

– in the photo, 2e REP legionnaires parade after the Battle of Kolwezi, 1978

2e REP - 2 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1978 - Battle of Kolwezi - Operation Bonite - Congo

 

French Foreign Legion: May 28

1857, a task force of the 1er RE (Foreign Regiment) was formed to take part in a large and successful military operation to pacify the last part of the Kabylie region in northeastern Algeria

1940, Battle of Narvik
– a battle during the Norwegian Campaign of WWII
– legionnaires from 13e DBMLE (Provisional Half Brigade, later 13e DBLE) successfully participated in
– in the morning, the legionnaires stormed the German positions at Narvik, Norway and sized the town
– the name of the town was emblazoned on the regimental flag of 13e DBLE

1955, clashes with local rebels for legionnaires from 3rd + 4th Company, 3e REI in the Aures mountains of northern Algeria
– that day, 11 rebels were killed

– in the image, 13e DBMLE legionnaires leaving the Legion’s HQ of Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria in early March 1940, to take part in the Norwegian Campaign

13e DBMLE - 13 DBMLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1940 - Algeria

 

French Foreign Legion: May 29

1916, near Ras El Dar in the Taza region of Morocco, 6th Battalion, 1er RE got involved in a ten-hour battle with the local Beni Bou Yala rebel tribe
– the battalion had around 10 men killed or wounded (including Lieutenant Dumas)

1958, Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre was killed
– the famous commanding officer of the legendary 1er REP (Parachute Regiment)
– he was killed during Operation Taureau, when his helicopter was hit by a missile and crashed into Djebel Mermera, in the Guelma region of northern Algeria
– he was navigating his men by radio to the position of a rebel group at the moment
– as a French officer, Lt Col Jeanpierre had served with the Foreign Legion since 1937
– with 6e REI, he participated in the 1941 Syria-Lebanon Campaign, facing British forces
– in October 1950, then Captain Jeanpierre was one of those 24 survivors of 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, the predecessor to the 1er REP), when the unit (over 500 men) was annihilated during the battle at Cao Bang, northern Vietnam and became the first French airborne battalion lost in combat
– Lt Col Jeanpierre also played the key role in the successful Battle of Algiers (1957), when his 1er REP helped to restore order in the capital of Algeria and captured the well-known rebel leader, Yacef Saadi

– in the photo, Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre, the commander of 1er REP killed on May 29, 1958

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre

 

French Foreign Legion: May 30

1842, in northeastern Algeria, the town of Djidjelli was attacked again by around 1,000 local rebels
– legionnaires from 1st Battalion, 2e RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, now 2e REI), stationed at Djidjelli at that time, managed to defend the town and fought off the rebels
– tens of rebels were killed

1954, close to Hien Luong in the Bac Ninh region of northern Vietnam, then French Indochina, Sergeant Le Tallec and his platoon from 1st Battalion, 3e REI got involved in fighting with the Viet Minh
– 22 Viet Minh rebels were killed
– Sergeant Le Tallec and 2 of his men were also killed

1960, legionnaires from 4e REI took part in a military operation at Djebel Mesla in the Souk Ahras region of northeastern Algeria
– that day, at least 9 rebels were killed

– in the picture, the fanion of the 1st Battalion, 3e REI with its guard in French Indochina, mid-1950s

3e REI - 3 REI - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1955 - Indochina

 

French Foreign Legion: May 31

1847, legionnaires from 2nd Battalion, 2e RLE (Foreign Legion Regiment, now 2e REI), led by Major Meyer, got involved in a battle with local rebels in the Bougie region of northeastern Algeria
– 1 legionnaire was killed + 13 legionnaires were wounded

1943, 1er REIM + 3e REIM (Regimental Combat Teams) were disbanded
– formed by legionnaires from 1er REI (ex-6e REI) + 4e DBLE and 2e REI + 3e REI
– both units participated in the 1943 Tunisia Campaign and in the final offensive near Djebel Zaghouan (in May), while opposing the German Africa Corps of Marshal Rommel

1949, Parachute Company of 3e REI was disbanded
– the very first airborne unit of the Foreign Legion
– the unit was formed in then French Indochina in April 1948 to take part in the ongoing war
– its legionnaires consolidated with 1er BEP (Parachute Battalion, later 1er REP)

1954, 1re CEPML (Heavy Mortar Parachute Company, nicknamed “CEPEMELE”) and 1re CMMLE + 2e CMMLE (Mortar Mixed Companies) were officially disbanded in then French Indochina
– these units were annihilated during the well-known Battle of Dien Bien Phu (in northern Vietnam) a few weeks earlier

– in the photo, at Dien Bien Phu in late November 1953, a 120 mm mortar being operated by 1re CEPML legionnaires of Sergeant Simonet

1re CEPML - 1 CEPML - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953 - Dien Bien Phu

 

Related posts:
Foreign Legion events: May 11 – 20
Foreign Legion events: May 01 – 10
Foreign Legion events: April 21 – 30
Foreign Legion events: April 11 – 20
French Foreign Legion history