Lieutenant Colonel Brochet de Vaugrigneuse

The 15th of April marks the day when Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Brochet de Vaugrigneuse, the then temporary commanding officer of the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (3e REI), was killed during the war in Algeria, in 1957. This article was written in memory of this little-known, almost forgotten officer of the Foreign Legion.

Maurice Brochet de Vaugrigneuse was born on November 25, 1911, in Brest, France. Having chosen the military, his first assignment, as a fresh second lieutenant, was to the Machines & Radio Operator Training Company of the DCRE in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria. Shortly afterwards, in 1935, he was transferred to the 2e REI in Morocco: first as an instructor in the Team Leader Platoon, later as a platoon leader with the Mounted Company.

After the outbreak of WWII, Lieutenant de Vaugrigneuse returned to France and was assigned to the 11e REI, in November 1939. With this unit he participated in numerous battles against Germans and was wounded twice. In early May 1940, still during the campaign, he was promoted to captain.

Following the Armistice of June 1940, Captain Brochet de Vaugrigneuse rejoined the DCRE in Algeria. In August of the next year, he left for Senegal in French West Africa, with the 2nd Battalion, 4e DBLE (successor to the 4e REI). The unit returned to North Africa in early 1943 to take part in the Tunisia Campaign, alongside the Allies. Once the campaign was over, the officer was assigned to the Foreign Legion Regiment Combat Team (RMLE, future 3e REI) where he took command of the 5th Company. With the RMLE, he participated in fierce battles in France and Southern Germany, until May 1945. In June of the same year, he was promoted to major.

Once WWII was over, Major Brochet de Vaugrigneuse was assigned to the HQ staff of the 7th military region in France, then to the 41st Infantry Regiment. Because of health issues associated with his war injuries, he was prohibited to take part in the First Indochina War (1946-1954). In 1953, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to the HQ staff of the French forces stationed in Germany. The next year, he was named an honorary corporal of the Foreign Legion, because of his great help dedicated to the Legion recruitment in Germany. In early May 1956, he returned to the Foreign Legion to become the second-in-command of the 3e REI, then stationed in Algeria.

On April 15, 1957, a fierce battle with rebels occurred north of El Milia, a town in the mountainous Petite Kabylie region of northeastern Algeria, and a new HQ of the regiment. When on patrol, two platoons from the 2nd Company, 3e REI were heavily attacked near a small native village of M’Chatt. In the densely forested terrain, no more then 40 legionnaires led by a lieutenant faced over 200 fellagas.

To navigate his isolated men and help them to locate enemy in the difficult, uncluttered terrain, then the temporary commanding officer of the regiment – Lt. Colonel Brochet de Vaugrigneuse – immediatelly arrived from El Milia by helicopter to the site of the battle. To better recognize figures on the ground, he asked the pilot to descend. Suddenly, a burst of gunfire hit the air. The colonel had the strength to murmur: “I am hit,” and collapsed on his seat. The wound was mortal and he died shortly after. That day, another 11 legionnaires were also killed during the fierce, six-hour battle.

Commander of the Legion of Honor, Lieutenant Colonel Brochet de Vaugrigneuse was mentioned in dispatches seven times. He was awarded the Second World War Cross with four mentions, including two in the Army level, the highest-possible mention in France. He was also awarded with the Colonial Medal with the “Tunisia 1942-1943” clasp, the Algeria commemorative medal, as well as the American Bronze Star Medal. He was 45 years old, married since 1944, father of two sons.

Along with Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre from the 1er REP (killed in Algeria in May 1958), they remain the highest-ranking officers of the Foreign Legion killed in action after the end of the Indochina War (1954). Coincidentally, they both died while navigating their men in a helicopter.


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