1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company

The 1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company (1re CEPML) was one of the three mortar companies of the French Foreign Legion being participated in the First Indochina War. Its short history started in September 1953 and ended in May 1954. 1re CEPML remains the only heavy mortar parachute company of the Legion constituted in French Indochina (today’s Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). The company was destroyed during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954).

1re CEPML insignia
1re CEPML insignia created in 1954


1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company

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 early 1946, first Foreign Legion units landed in Indochina

September 1953:
1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company (1re Compagnie Étrangère Parachutiste de Mortiers Lourds, 1re CEPML)
– on September 1, 1re CEPML was created
– it was formed by elements of the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er BEP) and 2e BEP
– 1re CEPML was attached to the 1er BEP
– the company was equipped with eight 120 mm heavy mortars
– it was stationed at Quynh Loi, south of Hanoi

September-October 1953:
– mortar training for the company

November 1953:
Operation Castor
– on November 21, a combat jump over Dien Bien Phu
– it was the first military operation for 1re CEPML

December 1953:
– 1re CEPML expanded to a strength of 4 officers and 95 legionnaires

January-March 1954:
– at Dien Bien Phu, 1re CEPML was supporting 1er BEP during fights with the Viet-Minh

March-May 1954:
Battle of Dien Bien Phu

March 13, 1954:
– Viet-Minh launched a frontal attack at Dien Bien Phu
– 1re CEPML was supporting the 3rd Battalion, 13e DBLE, occupying the Beatrice outpost
– in the morning of May 14, Beatrice was lost

March 14, 1954:
– 1re CEPML was sent to support the “Claudine” outpost

March 16-29, 1954:
– 1re CEPML took part in many fights with the Viet Minh

March 30-31, 1954:
– 1re CEPML was fighting along with the 1re CMMLE and 2e CMMLE
– the reason was that 9 of its 12 mortars were destroyed

April 1954:
– new fights against the Viet-Minh

May 07, 1954:
– Battle of Dien Bien Phu was over
– the survived legionnaires of 1re CEPML were imprisoned by the Viet-Minh
– they were sent to POW (prisoner-of-war) camps

May 31, 1954:
– 1re CEPML was officially disbanded

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

December 1954:
– from those 99 men of the 1re CEPML of December 1953, only 17 survivors returned from the Viet-Minh’s POW camps

Legionnaires of the 1er BEP crossing the Nam Youn river
Having landed at Dien Bien Phu, legionnaires of 1re CEPML are crossing the Nam Youn river (November 21, 1953); Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
1re CEPML is participating in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
1re CEPML at Dien Bien Phu; Image source: Wikipedia
1re CEPML participating in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
1re CEPML during Operation Castor at Dien Bien Phu (November 1953); Photo credit: Ecpad.fr



Information source:

See also:
1st Foreign Legion Mortar Mixed Company
2nd Foreign Legion Mortar Mixed Company
Parachute Company of 3e REI
2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment

See 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: July 04, 2016


← Back to French Foreign Legion Units


↑ Back to Top