History of the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion

The 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (13e DBLE) was first constituted in February 1940 as the DBLMLE, a mountain light demi-brigade. The reason of this designation was to participate in the Winter War, taking place in cold Finland, to oppose the Soviet Union troops there. However, the war ended before the unit was ready to fight. In April 1940, as the 13e DBMLE at that time, it moved to Scandinavia to enter the WWII and fight the German forces occupying Norway. The 13e DBMLE participated in the Battle of Bjervik and Battle of Narvik there.

After the Norwegian Campaign ended, the unit divided into two parts. The first one was disbanded a few weeks later in Morocco, the second one became the 13e DBLE and participated in several battles and campaigns during the WWII as part of the Free French Forces – Battle of Keren, Syria-Lebanon Campaign, Battle of Bir Hakeim, Italian Campaign… The 13e DBLE participated also in the liberation of France in 1944-45. After the WWII, it participated in the First Indochina War and Algerian War.

In 1962, the 13e DBLE moved to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa for next 49 years. There, as a motorized regiment, it served a dual security and public works role and was involved in several overseas humanitarian interventions. In 2011, it left Djibouti and was placed in the United Arab Emirates. The 13e DBLE returned to France in June 2016.

For current information about the regiment, see 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion

13e Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère - DBLE - 13 DBLE - 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade - History

NOTICE: Please, take into account that this article was published already in 2015 and thus it waits in a line to be vastly improved. Thank you for your understanding.


13e DBMLE: Norwegian Campaign 1940

September 1939:
Second World War (WWII) started

February 20, 1940:
– a battalion was formed in Sidi Bel Abbes (HQ of the Foreign Legion at that time), Algeria
– it consisted of legionnaires from the Foreign Regiments Joint Depot and 1er REI

February 24, 1940:
– another battalion was established in Fez, Morocco
– the battalion was composed of legionnaires provided by 2e REI, 3e REI and 4e REI

March 1, 1940:
– the two battalions formed a new provisional unit
Foreign Legion Mountain Light Demi-Brigade (Demi-brigade Légère de Montagne de Légion Étrangère, DBLMLE) was established
– DBLMLE was constituted as a mountain warfare unit
– it was the only unit of the Legion to receive intense specialized mountain warfare training
– the unit would participate in the Winter War
– the war was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland in 1939–1940
– DBLMLE had a strength of about 2,100 men
– lieutenant-colonel Raoul-Charles Magrin-Vernerey (later nom de guerre/pseudonyme Ralph Monclar) took the leadership

– the battalion of Fez became the 1st Battalion of DBLMLE
– the battalion of Sidi Bel Abbes became the 2nd Battalion of DBLMLE

– a few days later, DBLMLE moved to Larzac, France to receive training

March 12, 1940:
– the Winter War ended
– cancellation of DBLMLE’s mission

March 27, 1940:
– DBLMLE was redesignated
– it became the 13th Foreign Legion Provisional Demi-Brigade (13e Demi-brigade de Marche de Légion Etrangère, 13e DBMLE)
– 13e DBMLE continued its training in France without specification of future deployment

April 1940:
– 13e DBMLE moved to the Belley region, France to be trained in mountain warfare

April-June 1940:
Norwegian Campaign
– on April 22, the 13e DBMLE was sent to Norway to fight against German forces
– 13e DBMLE was part of the French Expeditionary Force in Scandinavia (Corps Expéditionnaire Français en Scandinavie, CEFS)

May 13, 1940:
Battle of Bjervik

May 28, 1940:
Battle of Narvik
– 13e DBMLE was the main force to attack and recapture Narvik from the Germans
– the battle has been called as “the only victory of France 1939-1940”

June 7, 1940:
– Norwegian Campaign ended
– CEFS, including 13e DBMLE legionnaires, left Norway for France

June 22, 1940:
Armistice was signed between France and Germany
– it ended the Battle of France (May-June 1940)
– for France, WWII temporarily ended
– CEFS moved to Britain to be based in Trentham, a village near the city of Stoke-on-Trent

June 23-30, 1940:
– French military officer Charles de Gaulle made an appeal to resist the occupation

– general Charles de Gaulle escaped to Britain and called on the French to continue to resist the occupation of France
– he asked the French troops to join him and form the new French forces
– from 14,000 French troops (officers, NCOs and soldiers) stationed at Trentham, the vast majority rejected his appeal
– they decided to serve under the new pro-German French government headed by Marshal Pétain

– only some 1,300 French soldiers went with de Gaulle
– nearly 900 of them were legionnaires from the 13e DBMLE
– these legionnaires ran away from Germans to the Legion in the late 1930s due to political or racial reasons
– they did not want to return to France, now partially occupied by German forces and fully cooperating with Germany
– among these legionnaires, there were mostly former Spanish republicans, Poles, Czechs, Jews…

– the remaining legionnaires of 13e DBMLE left Britain for Morocco on June 30
– 13e DBMLE was disbanded on July 16, after it landed in Morocco and moved to Fez


13e DBLE - DBMLE - 13 DBLE - insigne - insignia - 1940
The insignia of 13e DBMLE, created in 1940 by lieutenant Des Roberts. The insignia includes the unit motto More majorum (After the manner of our ancestors) and a Viking ship, as a symbol of the Scandinavian campaign (the ship has a Finland-flag-like sail, a remark on the original deployment plan).
13e DBLE - DBMLE - DBLMLE - Sidi-Bel-Abbes - 1940 - 13 DBLE
The legionnaires of DBLMLE at Foreign Legion HQ in Sidi-Bel-Abes, Algeria, ready to move to France to receive mountain training (March 3, 1940)
13e DBLE - 13 DBMLE - Brest - 1940 - Laborde - Monclar / Raoul-Charles Magrin-Vernerey - 13 DBLE
Brest, France. The legionnaires of 13e DBMLE being reviewed by admiral Laborde, before heading to Norway (April 22, 1940). On the left, Lt Col Magrin-Vernerey (which became later colonel Monclar), the 13e DBMLE commander.
13e DBLE - 13 DBMLE - Battle of Bjervik - 1940
Battle of Bjervik in Norway. German positions are bombarded by French Navy
(May 13, 1940)


13e DBLE: Second World War 1940-1945

July 1, 1940:
14e DBMLE was established in England
– 14e DBMLE was composed of legionnaires joining de Gaulle in late June 1940
– 14e DBMLE was based at Morval Camp near Farnborough, England
– Lieutenant Colonel Magrin-Vernerey (as Ralph Monclar, its false identity) took the leadership
– he was the ex-commander of 13e DBMLE

– 14e DBMLE became the first unit of the new French forces formed by de Gaulle
– the new forces became the Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres, FFL)

– later that year, the 14e DBMLE became the 14th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade (14e DBLE)

August-December 1940:
– on August 30, FFL, including 14e DBMLE, left Britain for Africa

Battle of Dakar (also known as Operation Menace)
– the battle occurred between September 23-25
– an unsuccessful attempt to seize the capital of Senegal in the then French West Africa

– in October, FFL moved to Cameroon and later to Gabon

– in November, 14e DBLE was retitled
– on November 2, the unit became 13e DBLE

Battle of Gabon
– the battle occurred between November 8-12
– Free French Forces fought against the regular French Army forces
– they wanted to seize French Equatorial Africa

– in December, FFL moved to Eritrea
– the FFL forces were based in this country located in the Horn of Africa

February-April 1941:
Battle of Keren
– the battle took place in the Italian colony of Eritrea
– FFL troops defeated the Italian forces and captured around 10,000 Italian troops
– during the battle, the 13e DBLE seized the city of Massaouah (also known as Massawa)
– the city was seized on April 8

May 1941:
– 13e DBLE moved to Palestine and Syria to be based there

June-July 1941:
Syria-Lebanon Campaign
– the FFL fought alongside the Allies against the regular French forces of Vichy France
– the French forces included the Foreign Legion’s 6e REI
– legionnaires did not fight each other in reality, contrary to several statements

August 1941:
– 13e DBLE was based in Beirut, the capital of today’s Lebanon

September 16, 1941:
Lieutenant Colonel Dimitri Amilakvari took command of 13e DBLE

October 1941:
– Free French Forces’ reorganization
– within the 13e DBLE, two other battalions (2nd + 3rd) were established
– since that time, the battalions were known simultaneously as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Foreign Legion Battalion (Bataillon de la Légion Étrangère, BLE), until the end of WWII

December 1941:
– 2nd + 3rd BLE moved to Egypt and Libya

May 26 – June 11, 1942:
Battle of Bir Hakeim in Libya
– Free French Forces, including the 13e DBLE, were defending the Bir Hakeim fortress against much larger German and Italian forces
– the German forces were commanded by the field marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox

June 16, 1942:
3rd BLE was deactivated

October 23 – November 11, 1942:
Second Battle of El Alamein in Egypt
– the first major offensive of the Allies against the German and Italian forces since 1939
– the Allies, including the FFL + 13e DBLE (1st BLE), won the battle

October 24, 1942:
Lt Col Amilakvari was killed during the Second Battle of El Alamein

November 1942:
British-American invasion of French North Africa (Operation Torch)
– in November, landings in Morocco and Algeria
– all French forces in North Africa received an order to cease resistance
– on November 10, the French in North Africa joined the Allies

February 1943:
– 13e DBLE was administratively deactivated
– 1st + 2nd BLE became part of the 1st Free French Division (Division Française Libre, 1re DFL)

April – May 1943:
Tunisia Campaign

August 1943:
– FFL merged together with the French Army of Africa

April – June 1944:
Italian Campaign
– 1st + 2nd BLE participated in

August 1944:
Operation Dragoon
– the Allied invasion of Provence, southern France
– 1er BLE, 2e BLE were involved in
Foreign Legion Regimental Combat Team (RMLE) and 1er REC also participated in

October 1944:
– 3rd BLE was reactivated

October 1944 – February 1945:
Battle of the Vosges in France (October-November)
Colmar Pocket in Alsace, France (January-February)

March 1945:
– on March 1, 13e DBLE was reactivated

April 1945:
– operations in the Authion mountains of France and in Italy

May 8, 1945:
– in Europe, World War II ended
– in the Pacific, WWII ended on September 2

August 1945:
– 13e DBLE left France for Africa

1945 – 1946:
– 13e DBLE was based in Tunisia


13e DBLE - 14 DBMLE - London - 1940 - 13 DBLE
14e DBMLE parading in London on Bastille Day (July 14, 1940)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Libya 1942 - Bren Gun Carrier - Universal Carrier
The Bren Gun Carrier (also known as the Universal Carrier) of 13e DBLE moving in Libya (1942)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Dimitri Amilakvari - 1942
Lt Col Dimitri Amilakvari, the commander of 13e DBLE (1942). He was killed in Egypt during the Second Battle of El Alamein, in October 1942.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - de Gaulle - Italy 1944
A battalion of 13e DBLE being reviewed by general de Gaulle in Rome, Italy (June 28, 1944). Note the French 1935-pattern fortress troop khaki berets distributed to the 13e DBMLE legionnaires before deploying to Norway, as part of their “mountain” equipment. The khaki berets became the symbol of 13e DBLE during the WWII.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Dijon - France 1944
13e DBLE parading in Dijon, France (September 13, 1944)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Nice - France 1944
Nice, France. General de Gaulle decorating the flag of 13e DBLE with the Croix de Compagnon de la Libération award (April 9, 1945)


13e DBLE: First Indochina War 1946-1954

1945 – 1946:
First Indochina War started
– French Indochina reffers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– in Indochina, a conflict started between the French and Ho Chi Minh
– Ho Chi Minh led the Viet-Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was a nationalist and (later) pro-Soviet Union movement
– in September 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France for Vietnam
– clashes between French forces and the Viet Minh started
– in 1946, first Foreign Legion units landed in Indochina

February 1946:
– 13e DBLE left Africa for Indochina

March 10, 1946:
– 13e DBLE landed in Indochina
– it consisted of 3 battalions
– the unit was based in Cochinchina (the southern region of today’s Vietnam)
– its HQ was in Saigon

June 19, 1946:
– the first battle in Indochina for 13e DBLE
– the battle took place near Mat Cat

July 8, 1946:
– hard fighting near Cay Sop
– a platoon from 9th Company, 3rd Battalion participated in
– the company commander visiting the platoon was killed
– 28 legionnaires were also killed or wounded
– only two legionnaires were able to call for help

December 1946:
– 2nd Battalion moved to Annam (the central region of today’s Vietnam)

February-March 1947:
– operations in Annam
– the operations took place near Hue, Quang Tri and Tourane
– 2nd Battalion of 13e DBLE participated in

September-October 1947:
– pacification of Cambodia
– 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE eliminated Khmer rebels in Cambodia

February 1948:
Operation Vega in the Plaine des Joncs
– 1st + 3rd Battalion, together with 1er REC were involved in

March 1, 1948:
– Lt Colonel Brunet de Sairigne, the commanding officer of 13e DBLE, was killed
– Lt Col Brunet de Sairigne served in the Legion since 1939
– he served within the 13e DBLE all the time during the WWII
– he was the youngest regiment commander of the French Army (aged 33 when he took the leadership of 13e DBLE in 1946)

April 1948:
– hard fighting near Xuan An
– 2nd Battalion participated in

May-November 1948:
Arnaultville was built
– a new, large and modern HQ of 13e DBLE was built by its legionnaires in Saigon
– it was named after Lt Col Arnault, the new commanding officer of 13e DBLE, who decided to build the HQ

September 1949:
Operation Cobra
– 1st + 3rd Battalion were involved in

December 1949:
– 2nd Battalion returned to Cochinchina to join the rest of 13e DBLE

February 1950:
4th Battalion was established
– it was composed of Legion’s NCOs and anti-Viet-Minh volunteers from local population

September 1950:
– 4th Battalion conducted several operations near Tranh Loc, Tra On, Phuoc Loc

January-February 1951:
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion moved to Tonkin (the northern region of today’s Vietnam)
– 1st Battalion was involved in operations near Rach Tra, An Hoa, Tan Phu Trung

March 1951:
Operation Pamplemousse
– 4th Battalion participated in the operation which took place at Rach Nha Man

July-August 1951:
Operation Chenille
Operation Pentagone
Operation Tourbillon II

November 1951 – February 1952:
Battle of Hoa Binh

January 7, 1952:
– a new Camerone for 2nd Battalion
– the fights took place at Xom Pheo, near Hoa Binh
– two companies from the 2nd Battalion (some 250 men) were attacked by six battalions of Viet-Minh (around 5,000 men)
– the legionnaires succesfully defended their outposts

March 1952:
Operation Mercure
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE participated in, together with 1er BEP

June 1952:
Operation Claudine in the Tien Thuan region
Operation Sandwich in the Co Trach region

August-September 1952:
Operation Sauterelle + Operation Caiman in central Annam
– 3rd Battalion moved to Annam to participate in the operations
5e REI and 1er REC also participated in the operations

October 1952:
– 3rd Battalion returned back to Tonkin
– hard fighting for 2nd Battalion near Ninh Binh

December 1952:
Operation Bretagne
– 2nd Battalion was involved in, together with two battalions from 2e REI

January 1953:
Operation Artois
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE and two battalions from 2e REI participated in

February 1, 1953:
– 4th Battalion was disbanded

April-June 1953:
Operation Bearn
– 1st Battalion of 13e DBLE participated in
– the operation took place near Dau Tieng

September-October 1953:
Operation Brochet
Operation Mouette
– 2nd + 3rd Battalion were involved in the operations, together with 1er BEP and 2e BEP

– 1st Battalion moved to Tonkin

December 1953:
– 1st + 3rd Battalion were stationed at Dien Bien Phu
– Dien Bien Phu was a heavily fortified base with an airstrip deep in the hills of northwestern Vietnam

February 1954:
– hard fighting near Phu Lao and Dong Lieu for 2nd Battalion

March 13 – May 7, 1954:
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– 1st + 3rd Battalion participated in the battle
– during the first hours of the battle, Lt Colonel Jules Gaucher, the commanding officer of 13e DBLE, died of wounds
– during the battle, both battalions of 13e DBLE were decimated and deactivated

May-July 1954 :
13e DBLE consisted of only one combat-ready battalion (the 2nd)

June 1, 1954:
– 3rd Battalion was officially disbanded

June 1954:
– 1st Battalion was reactivated

July 1954:
Operation Auvergne in the Delta
– hard fighting in the Luc Nam region
– 2nd Battalion was involved in

August 1954:
First Indochina War ended
– the war in Indochina ended on August 1
– France had to leave northern Vietnam
– in 1956, French troops had to leave the entire Indochina pensisula

October 1, 1954:
– 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE was reactivated
– the battalion was created by retitling the 3rd Battalion of 3e REI

May 1955:
– 13e DBLE, as the last French military unit, left Tonkin
– it moved to Cochinchina

June 1955:
– 13e DBLE left Asia for Africa, after 9 years spent in Indochina

– during the First Indochina War, 13e DBLE lost 80 officers (including 2 of its commanders), 307 NCOs and 2,334 legionnaires


13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - insigne - insignia - 1946 - 1947
Left, the smaller one of the two insignias of 13e DBLE created in Indochina in 1946. The bigger one had more 1940-insignia-like shape and included the motto Honneur Fidélite. These two 1946 insignias had a brief lifetime period. In 1947, the new insignia (center) was approved by Lt Col de Sairigné. The insignia includes the blue Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of Free France during WWII, and a dragon, the legendary symbol in Asian culture. The original insignia had its dragon winged. In later years, the insignia was simplified (right).
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Brunet de Sairigne - 1966
Gabriel Brunet de Sairigné. The famous commander of 13e DBLE. He was attached as an officer to the 13e DBMLE before the regiment moved to Norway in 1940. Later in Britain, he joined the Free French Forces of de Gaulle and became an officer within the 14e DBMLE, later the 13e DBLE. In 1946, aged 33, he took the leadership of 13e DBLE and became the youngest French regiment commander. On 1 March 1948, he was killed during a Viet-Minh attack.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Indochina - Plaine des Joncs - 1947
13e DBLE during an operation in the Plaine des Joncs (Plain of Reeds) on the Cambodian border (1947)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Indochina - Bao Trai - 1948
The outpost of the 12th Company, 13e DBLE near Bao Trai of Cochinchina (1948)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Indochina - Ca Mau - 1950
Legionnaires of 13e DBLE during a river patrol near Ca Mau, Cochinchina (1950)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Indochina - Hoa Binh - 1952
An officer of 13e DBLE with his khaki beret during the Battle of Hoa Binh (January 1952)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Indochina - Hoa Binh - 1952
An outpost of 13e DBLE at Song Moi during the Battle of Hoa Binh (January 1952)
Beatrice - Dien Bien Phu - Indochina - First Indochina War - 1954
Beatrice at Dien Bien Phu. The strong point held by legionnaires from the 3rd Battalion of 13e DBLE. It was the first strong point attacked by the Viet-Minh during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The majority of legionnaires based at Beatrice, including their commanders, were killed or imprisoned during the attack (March 1954)
Dien Bien Phu - 13 DBLE - Gaucher - Indochina - First Indochina War - 1954
Lieutenant Colonel Jules Gaucher, the commanding officer of 13e DBLE, is awarded by a French Minister of Defence René Pleven at Dien Bien Phu (February 19, 1954). In three weeks, the colonel Gaucher, aged 48, will be killed at Beatrice strong point during a Viet-Minh attack. Lt Colonel Gaucher had served in the Legion as an officer since 1931. With the Legion, he spent more than 10 years in French Indochina (1938-46, 1949-50, 1951-54).


13e DBLE: Algerian War 1955-1962

1954 – 1955:
Algerian War started
– in North Africa, local rebels intensified military actions
– these actions took part in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria
– they were aimed at French forces presented in these regions
– the main rebel force fighting the French was the FLN
– FLN stands for National Liberation Front
– later in 1955, that operations escalated to the Algerian War

June-July 1955:
– 13e DBLE landed in Africa
– during June and July, the battalions of 13e DBLE returned to Africa from Indochina
– they were placed in Zeralda, Algeria

– 13e DBLE was the only unit of the Legion having to wait for determination of its future deployment

August-November 1955:
– 13e DBLE moved across Algeria and changed several provisional placements

November 1955:
– 13e DBLE was finally based in Khenchela, a town in the Aures Mountains of northeastern Algeria

    – HQ was based in Khenchela
    – Forward Operating Base (FOB) + 1st Battalion HQ were based in Taberdga
    – 2nd Battalion HQ was based in Babar
    – 3rd Battalion HQ was based in Kheirane

1956 – 1959:
– 13e DBLE was involved in military operations in the Aures and Nementchas mountains

January 1956:
Operation Extra Bravo in the El Ouldja region
– 13e DBLE participated in, together with 22e CPLE and 3e REI

– a month later, 22e CPLE became part of the Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group (GPLEA)
– Lt Col Jean Ange Rossi, the then 13e DBLE commander took the leadership of GPLEA a few months later, in May 1956
– Lt Col Rossi commanded the 13e DBLE since the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (after Lt Col Gaucher was killed) until April 1956
– he served in the Legion since 1946, within the 13e DBLE (7,5 years) and 6e REI (as a commander, 2 years)
– in October 1956, after its interim leadership of GPLEA, he left the Legion

September 1957:
– 13e DBLE was reduced to two battalions

    – HQ was based in Khenchela
    – 1st Battalion HQ was based in Bou Hamama
    – 2nd Battalion HQ was based in Edgar Quinet

December 1957:
Harka of 13e DBLE was established and based in Edgar Quinet
Harki (or Harka) was a loyal pro-French muslim Arab, attached as a volunteer to French Army units based in Algeria
– within the French units, Harkis made a group titled Harka, which was headed by the French or Legion cadres
– Harka of 13e DBLE was headed by lieutenant Robin Wrenacre, an England-born officer of Russian origin
– Harka was composed of around 200 men (officers, NCOs, Harkis) and some 45 horses

May 7, 1958:
– the local rebels leader Amrani Abderrahmane was killed
– after fierce fighting, a large group of FLN rebels was eliminated and its leader, wanted by 13e DBLE for two years, was killed
– 2nd Battalion conducted this operation, which took place near the Akkar mountain in the Aures Mountains

July 1958:
– rescue of Bambi
– a lonely starving small donkey was rescued by Harka of 13e DBLE
– a photo of a 13e DBLE member carrying the small donkey on his back became world-wide known
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals based in London sent a lettre to the Legion
– it thanked the Legion for that “demonstration of humanity
– the small donkey was given a name, Bambi, and became the mascot of 13e DBLE

October 1958:
– 13e DBLE moved to Batna
– 13e DBLE became an intervention force

February 1959:
– 13e DBLE was stationed in Bougie, Kabylie region, northern Algeria
– HQ of 13e DBLE was officially based in Bougie
– Bougie was planned to become a large, modern and comfortable headquarters
– in reality, the legionnaires of 13e DBLE spent only a few weeks in Bougie during next three years
– they participated in military operations and just some 80 legionnaires served in Bougie to build the base
– the base wasn’t yet completed, when 13e DBLE legionnaires had to leave it in 1962

July 1959:
Operation Etincelle

July-October 1959:
Operation Jumelles in the Hodna Range
– 13e DBLE and 1er REP (ex-1er BEP) participated in

November 1959 – January 1960:
Operation Emeraude
– the operation took place in the Collo, Philippeville and Guelma regions in the Aures Mountains
– 13e DBLE + 3e REI + 5e REI were involved in

– Forward HQ (FOB) of 13e DBLE was based in Bou Hamama

January-March 1960:
– restoring order in Algiers
– 13e DBLE was involved in an operation to restore order in Algiers, the capital of Algeria
– 1er REP and 2e REP (ex-2e BEP) also participated in
– the operation followed the Barricades week (Semaine des barricades)
– Barricades week were the anti-Gaulle demonstrations conducted by the French people living in Algiers

March-June 1960:
– 13e DBLE returned to Bou Hamama in the Aures mountains

June 1960 – July 1962:
Ligne Challe
– 13e DBLE, as many other Legion units, was placed on the Ligne Challe (Line Challe), on the Algerian border with Tunisia
– its mission was to guard this mined, electrified, floodlit defensive border line equipped with a barbed wire fance
– the border line prevented Tunisian and Algerian rebels from crossing the border to support FLN rebel forces
– the Ligne Challe constructed in 1958-59 sometimes doubled the Ligne Morice, finished in September 1957

– 13e DBLE was placed three times on the Line, in the Bec de Canard and Lamy regions
– whenever returning from the Line, 13e DBLE always moved back to Bou Hamama, after a short rest in Bougie

June-November 1960:
– 13e DBLE was placed for the first time on the Ligne Challe
– 13e DBLE Forward HQ (FOB) was based at Souk Ahras

February 1961:
Operation Dordogne in the Beni Melloul forest

April 1961 – July 1961:
– second placement on the Ligne Challe
– during the placement, a short operation back in the Kabylie region

January-June 1962:
– third placement on the Ligne Challe
– 13e DBLE was based at outposts in the Lamy region and in the Bec de Canard near the Tunisian border
– Forward HQ (FOB) was based at Hammam des Beni Salah

March 1962:
Algerian War officially ended
– Évian Accords treaty, signed on 18 March 1962, ended the Algerian War
– on July 5, Independence of Algeria was declared
– however, military operations were conducted until September 1962
– on September 25, the Algerian republic was established

– during the Algerian War, 13e DBLE lost 214 men


13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - insigne - insignia - Harka - 1958
The insignia of Harka, attached to the 13e DBLE. Harka was composed of Harkis, pro-French Algerian muslims. The insignia was created in 1958 by lieutenant Wrenacre, an England-born officer of Russian origin and the first Harka commander. The insignia bears an inscription Algérie française (French Algeria) and its sign 8 (Harka no. 8).
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Operation Extra Bravo - 1956
Algerian War. 13e DBLE during Operation Extra Bravo in the El Ouldja region, together with 3e REI and 22e CPLE (January 1956)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - 1956
A caporal of 13e DBLE with his friend (1956)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Taberdga - 1957
Forward HQ (FOB) of 13e DBLE in Taberdga (May 1957)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Khenchela - Camerone - 1958
13e DBLE during Camerone Day at airport of Khenchela (April 30, 1958)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Yabous - Poste Septavaux - 1958
A rebel is surrendering to legionnaires in front of the Outpost Lieutenant Septavaux, based near Yabous and occupied by 3rd Company, 1st Battalion of 13e DBLE (June 1958). Lt Guy Joseph Gilbert Septevaux, an officer of the 1st Battalion, was killed during a rebel attack in Yabous in October 1957.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bambi - 1958
Rescue of Bambi. The well-known image of a muslim harki (very often confused with a legionnaire), a member of 13e DBLE‘s Harka, carrying a small donkey. It was found, lonely and hungry, during an operation in the Edgar Quinet region. Taken to the base, the small donkey became a mascot of 13e DBLE, called Bambi. (July 1958)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bambi - 1958
When Bambi became a world-wide sensation… The Legion was surprised by such a huge positive response all over the world. The Legion was also officially thanked by London-based RSPCA, the oldest and largest animal welfare organisation in the world. (August 1958)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Djurdjura - 1958
Legionnaires of 13e DBLE, wearing light-khaki berets, during an operation in the Djurdjura range (December 1958). The light-khaki berets were part of a combat uniform until 1959, worn in 13e DBLE and 1er REC.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Souk Ahras - 1956
13e DBLE patrolling in the Souk Ahras region, near the Algerian border with Tunisia (September 1960)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bougie - 1959
Legionnaires of 13e DBLE during a rare leave at their HQ in Bougie.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bougie - 1961
Bougie. The entrance of main headquarters of 13e DBLE and the 13e DBLE memorial placed within (1961). Bougie was planned to become a large and modern headquarters for 13e DBLE. However, due to lot of operations and works, it was never finished. Legionnaires used only barracks of HQ Company (CB) for their accomodation during a leave or holidays. In total, they spent only several weeks in Bougie between 1958-1962.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bou Hamama - 1961
Bou Hamama. A French joint base in the Aures mountains. Several French units were placed within, including Forward HQ (FOB) of 13e DBLE (1961)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bou Hamama - 1961
A very rare image of a hard-working legionnaire with the light-khaki beret at FOB of Bou Hamama in 1961, two years after these berets became irregular.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bou Hamama - Legionnaire - 1961
An ancien, long-serving legionnaire of 13e DBLE during his duty in Bou Hamama (1961)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Bec de Canard - 1962
One of the outposts of 13e DBLE placed in the Bec de Canard (Duck beak), a region in northeastern Algeria, on the border with Tunisia (March 1962)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Algeria - Algiers - 1962
Algiers. The 3rd Company of 13e DBLE ready to leave Algeria for French Somaliland (April 29, 1962)


13e DBLE: Djibouti 1962-2011

April-May 1962:
– 13e DBLE started to move itself to Djibouti

– Djibouti is a country located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia

– 3rd + 6th Company of 13e DBLE left Algeria for French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis), today’s Djibouti
– the companies became the 3rd + 2nd (ex-6th) Provisional Company (Compagnie de Marche) of the 13e DBLE’s Provisional Battalion
– in Djibouti, the 2nd Company of Foreign Legion Madagascar Battalion (BLEM) became the 1st Company of 13e DBLE
– the company of BLEM had been stationed in Djibouti, at Oueah, since March 1961
– BLEM’s 2nd Company was the very first unit of the Legion stationed in this country

April 9, 1962:
– Harka of 13e DBLE was disbanded

July 1962.
– 13e DBLE was reorganized and reduced
– the regiment withdrawn from the Ligne Challe outposts based on the Tunisia border
– 13e DBLE was reduced to only four combat companies
– two companies were already stationed in French Somaliland (Djibouti)
– two combat companies were placed at 13e DBLE HQ in Bougie
– the companies placed in Bougie consisted of elements being medically fit to deploy to Djibouti
– the rest of 13e DBLE men were transferred to other regiments of the Legion

October 1962 – 13e DBLE was fully stationed in French Somaliland

    HQ & Support Company (CCAS) – stationed in Gabode, near Djibouti City, the capital
    – 1st Company (ex-BLEM company) – stationed in Oueah
    – 2nd Company (ex-6th Company) – stationed in Obock
    – 3rd Company – stationed in Ali Sabieh
    – 4th Company (ex-Motorized Company) – stationed in Holhol (or Holl-Holl)

– in Djibouti, the 13e DBLE served a dual security and public works role

August 25, 1966:
– riots in Djibouti City
– riots occurred in the capital during the visit of the French president de Gaulle in Djibouti
– 11 legionnaires were injured while being sent to restore order
– the riots lasted several days
– on August 30, the French government offers independence to French Somaliland to calm the situation

June 1967:
– French Somaliland became the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (TFAI)

January 1968:
– 2nd Company left Obock and moved to Arta

February 1968:
Reconnaissance Squadron (Escadron de Reconnaissance, ER) was established
ER was composed of vehicles and elements transferred from 1er REC and 2e REI (the unit disbanded in January 1968)
– the squadron was based in Oueah, instead of the 1st Company
– 1st Company moved to Dikhil

– 2nd Company was disbanded in Arta

February 1970:
2nd Construction Company (2e Compagnie de Travaux, 2e CT) was established
2e CT was based in Gabode, within the 13e DBLE HQ

October 1974:
Rotational Company (Compagnie Tournante) was established
– 13e DBLE were reinforced by a rotational company, consisted of legionnaires from 2e REP
– 2e REP sent periodically one of its companies to Djibouti for the Short Period Mission (Mission de Courte Durée, MCD)
– the mission lasts usually 4-6 months and during the mission, 2e REP helped to fulfil the tasks of 13e DBLE
– 2e REP legionnaires guarded the Djiboutian border with Ethiopia and were trained in desert warfare
– the Rotational Company was based in Gabode, together with 13e DBLE HQ and 2e CT

February 4, 1976:
1976 Loyada Hostage Rescue Mission
– a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission
– 2e REP + 13e DBLE participated in a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission in Loyada, a Djibouti-Somalia border town
– a Somali FLCS guerrilla group hijacked a bus carrying 31 French children in Djibouti City and drove it to Loyada
– 2nd Company of 2e REP (13e DBLE’s Rotational Company) + ER of 13e DBLE were sent to rescue the children
– 2e REP legionnaires conducted a frontal attack
– all 7 hijackers were killed
– 2 of 30 children died, a 2e REP platoon commander was injured during the attack

May 24, 1976:
GOLE helicopter crash
– a military helicopter crash occurred in Djibouti during a training mission
– six men from the Foreign Legion Operational Group (GOLE) were killed

June 27, 1977:
Independence of Djibouti
– the TFAI territory became independent as Djibouti (or Republic of Djibouti)

July 1977:
– reorganization of 13e DBLE
– 1st Company moved to Obock and in August, it launched the Amphibious Center there
– 3rd Company moved to Gabode
– Rotational Company was deactivated

August 1978:
– 1st Company of Obock was disbanded
– a new Amphibious Center of 13e DBLE was established at Arta-Plage (Centre Amphibie d’Arta, CAA), moved there from Obock

October 1978:
– Rotational Company of 13e DBLE was activated
– it was based in Arta and in the Amphibious Center at Arta Plage

October 1979:
– 4th Comapny was disbanded
– 3rd Company became specialized in different combat techniques

Grand Bara race was born
– the run sponsored by the 13e DBLE took place in the vast Grand Bara Desert near Dikhil, Djibouti
– in later years, the race became international
– U.S. soldiers, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Djiboutian soldiers and nationals or runners from around East Africa participated in, till its last session in 2011

– CAA became the Arta Beach Commando Training Center (Centre d’Entraînement Commando d’Arta Plage, CECAP)
– the center was used by the Legion, French Army forces and later also by US soldiers

February 1982:
Mont Garbi accident
– an aviation accident in Djibouti
– 27 men from 2e REP + 3 members of 13e DBLE were killed

December 1985:
Operation Bioforce

Operation Godoria

1992 – 1993:
Operation Oryx + Operation Onusom II in Somalia

1992 – 1995:
Operation Iskoutir

Operation Turquoise in Rwanda + Operation Diapason in Yemen

– 2e CT (2e CAT at this date) was disbanded
Engineer Company (Compagnie de Génie, CG) was activated
CG was a rotational company, comprising a company either from 6e REG (which became the 1er REG in 1999) or 2e REG (since 1999)

– 3rd Company of 13e DBLE was disbanded
Infantry Company (Compagnie d’Infanterie, CI) was established
CI was a rotational company, comprising a company either from 2e REP or 2e REI

Maintenance Company (Compagnie de Maintenance, CM) was attached to 13e DBLE
– it was a mixed company consisted of regular French Army unit elements and legionnaires

Operation Licorne in Ivory Coast

Operation Beryx in Indonesia

– mission in the Central African Republic

– CECAP became the Arta Beach Combat Training Center

June 13, 2011:
– 13e DBLE officially left Djibouti

– 13e DBLE left Djibouti after more than 49 years of its presence there

– ER squadron was disbanded
– CG engineer company was also disbanded


13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Holhol - Holl holl - 1968
Holhol. The outpost of the 4th Company of 13e DBLE in Djibouti (1960s)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Obock - 1962
Obock. The outpost of the 2nd Company of 13e DBLE in Djibouti (October 1962)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Ali Sabieh - 1962
Ali Sabieh. The outpost of the 3rd Company of 13e DBLE in Djibouti (October 1962)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Ali Sabieh - 1962
Legionnaires from the 3rd Comapny are building a road near Ali Sabieh (November 1962)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Obock - 2cie - 1963
2nd Comapny during a ceremony in Obock (February 1963)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Bastille Day - 14 Juillet - 1963
13e DBLE during its first Bastille Day Parade realized in Djibouti (July 14, 1963)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - 3cie - Djibouti - 1965
3rd Comapny of 13e DBLE during a reconnaissance mission in Djibouti (July 1965)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - 3cie - Ali Sabieh - Djibouti - 1966
VLRA 4×4 vehicles passing the new entrance of the Ali Sabieh outpost of the 3rd Comapny (1966)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Arta - 2cie - 1968
The new outpost of the 2nd Comapny in Arta (1968)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Oueah - ER - 1970
Oueah. The outpost of the Reconnaissance Squadron of 13e DBLE (1970)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - MILAN - 1976
13e DBLE legionnaires during a MILAN exercise (1976)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - CME - Corporals course - 1970
Future caporals during their Corporals course in Djibouti (1977)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Grand bara - 1978
13e DBLE formed the Legion seven-flame grenade with its vehicles in the Grand Bara Desert, during a commemoration of the 38th anniversary of its creation (March 15, 1978)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - 3 CIE - 1979
3rd Company of 13e DBLE became specialized (e.g. snipers, frogmen, explosive specialists were part of the company) (1979)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Djibouti - Mortar platoon - Mortiers - 1981
Heavy Mortar Platoon (SML) of 13e DBLE during its first exercise (September 1981)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Somalia - Operation Oryx - 1992
A legionnaire of 13e DBLE improving the headquarters of his unit during Operation Oryx in Somalia (December 1992)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Grand Bara race - 2009
Grand Bara 15km race. The race was managed by 13e DBLE at Grand Bara desert, Djibouti, between 1982-2011 (December 2009)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - CECAP - 2010
The CECAP (Combat Training Center, formerly Commando Training Center) at Arta Plage, Djibouti (2010). The 13e DBLE had run the center for 33 years, since August 1978. In June 2011, the last participants (from 2e REI) went through the stage commando.
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Compagnie Genie - 2010
Compagnie Genie of 13e DBLE during a parade at Gabode HQ, Djibouti (2010)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - ERC-90-Sagaie - 2010
An ERC-90 Sagaie armored vehicle from ER squadron of 13e DBLE during an exercise in Djibouti (2010)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - ERC-90-Sagaie - 2010
13e DBLE during the leaving ceremony, before its departure to France (June 13, 2011)


13e DBLE: United Arab Emirates 2011-present

August 2, 2011:
– 13e DBLE was officially based in the United Arab Emirates
– 13e DBLE was reduced to some 55-60 permanent officers, NCOs and legionnaires (rotated every 2-3 years) + 10-15 French military personnel
– around 210 men (legionnaires + regular French military elements) are serving within rotational units (rotated every 4-6 months)
– 13e DBLE was based at the Zayed Military City near Adu Dhabi, the capital

2011 – 2015:
– 13e DBLE became a support + training + task force unit
– 13e DBLE operates the Middle East Familiarization & Combat Training Center (CECAM)
– the center provides desert + urban warfare training
– simultaneously, the 13e DBLE also fulfils its mission as the Joint Task Force 13 (Groupement Tactique Interarmes 13, GTIA 13)
GTIA 13 participates in military drills alongside UAE Armed forces

Operation Chammal in Iraq


13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Zayed Military City - United Arab Emirates - 2012
13e DBLE during a ceremony in their new HQ at the Zayed Military City, United Arab Emirates (June 2012)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Caesar - United Arab Emirates - 2014
The CAESAR self-propelled howitzer detachment of 13e DBLE during an exercise in the United Arab Emirates (2014)
13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - CECAM - United Arab Emirates - 2014
Legionnaires from the rotational company of 13e DBLE during an exercise in the combat training center (CECAM) near their HQ, United Arab Emirates (2014)


13e DBLE - 13 DBLE - Siegfried Freytag
Siegfried Freytag. A German Luftwaffe officer, who became a fighter ace during the World War II and was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Crosses. In 1952 (aged 32), he joined the Foreign Legion. He was attached briefly to the 5e REI, than to the 13e DBLE. Siegfried Freytag served with his unit in the First Indochina War and in the Algerian War. In 1962, he moved with the Demi-brigade to Djibouti, where he served until 1965. In 1965, after 12 years spent within the 13e DBLE, the Caporal-chef Freytag was transferred to the 1e RE for next five years. He left the Legion in 1970 and moved to the Legion’s Veterans Institution at Puyloubier. He had never spoken of his past. But he was recognised in Puyloubier by retired German legionnaires who served also in the WWII and they helped him to get his German veteran pension and all his awards. He died in June 2003 and was buried with his Knight’s Cross at Legion’s cemetery of Puyloubier, with the attendance of German WWII veterans and German officials.


For current information about the regiment see 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion


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Images source:
13e DBLE official website
Képi blanc magazines
Ministère de la Défense – French Ministry of Defence official website


Information sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Ecpad.fr (French Army media service)
Insignes Legion (FFL insignia & badges)
More-majorum (German legionnaires in the Indochina War)
Ordre de la liberation (website dedicated to the Liberation of France)
La 1ère Division Française Libre (1st Free French Division, 1re DFL)

Foreign Legion’s disbanded regiments:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment
4th Foreign Infantry Regiment
5th Foreign Regiment
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment


The page was updated on: March 4, 2016


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