1st Engineer HQ & Services Company

The 1st Engineer HQ & Services Company (1re CEMSG) was a Foreign Legion combat engineer headquarters organized in Indochina in early 1946. Its main task was to oversee the Legion’s all engineering units serving in Indochina during the early years of the First Indochina War (1946-54). Later, the company also provided non-combat engineer training. The unit was dissolved in 1950.

Foreign Legion Engineering Companies in French Indochina 1946-54

 

First Indochina War (1946-54)
– French Indochina reffers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
– in Indochina in the 1940’s, a conflict started between France and Ho Chi Minh
– Ho Chi Minh led the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was an independence 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

 

1st Combat Engineer Group HQ Company

1st Combat Engineer Group HQ Company
Compagnie de Commandement du Groupe de Combat du Génie N° 1 (CCGCG)
CCGCG was established on September 16, 1945
– a French Army regular unit
– HQ company overseeing engineering units designated to serve in Indochina
– stationed in Marseille, France
– the company was administratively attached to the Legion

– in mid-January, CCGCG left France
– the company deployed to then French Indochina
– it landed in Indochina in early February
– stationed in Cochinchina (then title for Southern Vietnam)
– in late February 1946, the company was reorganized and redesignated

 

1st Engineer HQ & Services Company

1st Engineer HQ & Services Company
1re Compagnie d’État-Major et des Services du Génie (1re CEMSG)
– sometimes (incorrectly) called 1re CEMSGL (L as the Legion)

1re CEMSG was established on March 1, 1946
– ex-CCGCG company
– the company was comprised of 3 officers + 110 men
– the majority of these men were legionnaires
– 1re CEMSG was stationed in then Saigon, Cochinchina
Captain Schirm became the company commander
– a Foreign Legion officer
– later in 1952, he would take command of the CPLE of Saigon

– 1re CEMSG was devided into three platoons:

  • HQ Platoon
  • Folding Boat Platoon (Section des Bateaux Pliants, SBP)
  • Heavy Equipment Platoon (Peloton d’Engins Mécaniques, PEM)

– in April 1947, a new platoon would be established
Armored Boat Platoon (SBB)

 

Folding Boat Platoon

Section de Bateaux Pliants (SBP)

– SBP was a combat engineer unit with the 1re CEMSG
– according to unofficial sources, the unit was established in late 1945
– at Camp of Garrigue near Nimes, southern France
– originally it should be consisting of non-legionnaires
– ex-members of the 31e CCB (Dump Truck Company, est. 1944 in Morocco)
– in late December 1945, the platoon moved to Marseille
– there, it was assigned to the CCGCG (future 1re CEMSG)
– during that period, legionnaires replenished the unit

– SBP was a highly mobile pontoon bridge construction unit
– supporting infantry and special forces troops in stream-crossing operations
– the very first such unit of the Legion
– trained to construct floating pontoon bridges
– conducting river crossings by pontoon/raft and motor-powered assault boats
– carrying out transportation tasks on the ground
– it also provided vehicle maintenance
– its men were fighting as infantry when needed

– SBP was equipped with the U.S. Plywood Boat M2 assault boats
– it used also small engineering boats as pontoons
– for ground transportation, there were some 30 vehicles
– between them, Dodges and Chevrolet C15 trucks

Officer Candidate Brusseaux served as the platoon leader

– in Indochina, the platoon consisted of small operational groups
March-August 1946, they were operating across Cochinchina
– mainly at the Plaine des Joncs, Cap Saint-Jacques or Tan Tuya
– also operations in southern Annam (then title for Central Vietnam)
Ben Me Thuot, Kontum or Pleiku (where the platoon distinguished itself)
– for its action at Pleiku, SBP was mentioned in dispatches

– in early August 1946, the platoon deployed to Cambodia
– then part of French Indochina
– to support military operations aimed at local rebels
– SBP was placed at Kampong Cham, eastern Cambodia
– it transported French troops across the wide Mekong River
– also combat actions near Kampong Thom or Battambang

– in January 1947, SBP moved to Annam
– the platoon was stationed in Tourane
– it would support the 1er REC and 13e DBLE during local operations
– actions mainly at Hue, Quang Tri or Dong Hoi
– it also provided river crossing for French military convoys
– SBP stayed in Annam until 1948

Lieutenant Arocco served as the platoon leader then

 

Folding Boat Platoon - Section de Bateaux Pliants - CEMSG - Insignia - Badge - Indochina - 1947
The insignia of Folding Boat Platoon, 1re CEMSG, created 1946 or 1947. It bears a shield of an undefined Legion unit (with the seven-flame grenade of the Legion and the Legion’s green & red colors), a dragon as a symbol of Indochina and a banner with the latin motto AD ULTIMUM (Until the End).
Folding Boat Platoon - Section de Bateaux Pliants - CEMSG - Fanion - Indochina - 1948
The fanion of Folding Boat Platoon, 1re CEMSG, used 1946-48. It bears the War Cross with a silver-gilt star, representing the mention in dispatches in the order of the Expeditionary Forces from 1946.

 

Heavy Equipment Platoon

Peloton d’Engins Mécaniques (PEM)

– PEM was a combat engineer unit with the 1re CEMSG
– according to unofficial sources, the unit supposed to be established in late 1945
– together with the SBP, at Camp of Garrigue near Nimes, southern France
– originally, it should be also consisting of non-legionnaires
– ex-members of the 31e CCB (Dump Truck Company, est. 1944 in Morocco)
– in late December 1945, the platoon moved to Marseille
– there, alike the SBP, it was assigned to the CCGCG (future 1re CEMSG)
– during that period, legionnaires replenished the unit

– PEM was a heavy construction works unit
– mainly trained to build roads and military airfields

– PEM was equipped with several heavy equipment vehicles
– 6 bulldozers + 6 graders + some excavators
– it also used several heavy equipment transportation trucks
– British Albion trucks + Chevrolet pick-ups
– the platoon was also equipped with compressors and electric generators

Lieutenant Manent served as the platoon leader

– 1946-47, the platoon was carrying out construction works
– they took place mainly in the Saigon region and the Mekong-Delta

Heavy Equipment Platoon to leave 1re CEMSG
April 15, 1947, PEM left the 1re CEMSG
– the platoon was assigned to the 15e CEG (Engineer Maintenance Company)

 

Heavy Equipment Platoon - Peloton d'Engins Mécaniques - CEMSG - Insignia - Badge - Indochina - 1947
The insignia of Heavy Equipment Platoon, 1re CEMSG, created 1946 or 1947. It has a shape of a breastplate (the symbol of French engineering units) made in the Legion’s green & red colors, with a gold seven-flame grenade representing the Legion. The insignia also bears the Legion’s motto LEGIO PATRIA NOSTRA (The Legion is our Homeland) in a black field (the color of French sappers-engineers).

 

Armored Boat Platoon

Section de Bateaux Blindés (SBB)

– in late March 1947, the 1re CEMSG was reinforced
– in April, a new platoon was established – SBB

SBB was established in April 1947
– it was stationed in My Tho, Cochinchina
Second Lieutenant Thimel became the platoon leader

  • a French officer with the Legion
  • in Algeria in 1955, he became the commander of 24e CPLE
  • in 1956, his company would be redesignated to 4e CSPL

Armored Boat Platoon to leave 1re CEMSG
June 30, 1947, SBB left the 1re CEMSG
– the platoon was reorganized and redesignated
– it was assigned to the 71e BG (Engineer Battalion)
– a mixed battalion, consisting of legionnaires and French engineers
July 1, 1947, the platoon became 4th Armored Boat Company (4e CBB)

 

Armored Boat Platoon - Section de Bateaux Blindés - CEMSG - Insignia - Badge - Indochina - 1947
The insignia of Armored Boat Platoon, 1re CEMSG, created 1946 or 1947. The black anchor (the color of French sappers-engineers and the symbol of French marines) bears the seven-flame grenade of the Legion in its green & red colors, with a depiction of an armored boat. The white part of the grenade represents French armored cavalry units. The depiction inside the white bomb is unrecognizable – most likely the feathers of a knight helmet (the symbol of French armored cavalry units), placed on a cross.

 

1re CEMSG: 1946 – 1948

– 1re CEMSG was an engineering mixed unit
– it served as a combat engineer headquarters in Indochina
– the unit was overseeing the Legion’s all engineering units serving there

– in September 1947, Captain Schirm left the 1re CEMSG
2nd Lieutenant Bonhomme became an interim company commander

– in 1948, Captain Leze served as the company commander

1re CEMSG’s dissolution
– in August 1948, a reorganization took place
– a new company with a new mission would be created
August 15, 1948, 1re CEMSG was dissolved

Folding Boat Platoon to leave the unit
– the same day, Folding Boat Platoon was transferred
– the platoon was assigned to the 40e CCB (Dump Truck Company)

 

1st Legion Engineer Training & Services Company

1st Legion Engineer Training & Services Company
1re Compagnie d’Instruction et des Services du Génie de Légion (1re CISGL)

1re CISGL was established on August 16, 1948
– ex-1re CEMSG company
– the unit was comprised of 2 officers + 62 legionnaires
– 1re CISGL continued to be stationed in then Saigon, Cochinchina
Captain Leze kept the company command

– 1re CISGL was devided into two platoons:

  • HQ Platoon
  • Training Platoon

– 1re CISGL served as the Foreign Legion combat engineer headquarters
– it was overseeing the Legion’s all engineering units serving in Indochina
– a chief of all engineering units of the Legion served within
– at that time, it was Captain Fouasson

– the company’s new mission was to train future legionnaires-sappers
– it used a large engineer training center
Centre d’Instruction du Génie at Thu Dau Mot
– based some 13 miles (20 km) north of then Saigon

– 1re CISGL had also a large car fleet
– it comprised some 100 heavy engines and vehicles
– between them, 29 Jeeps
– there were even 4 Japanese trucks
– veterans from the Japanese invasion of Indochina 1940-45

– in 1949, Captain Zanchetta became the company commander

  • a Foreign Legion officer of Italian origin
  • in 1944-45, Captain Zanchetta took part in the Liberation of France of WWII
  • he led HQ Company, 1st Battalion, RMLE (future 3e REI)
  • in 1947-48, Captain Zanchetta commanded the 64e CRALE
  • a Foreign Legion vehicle repair company, future 2e CMRLE
  • in all likelihood, Major Zanchetta died in Southern Vietnam in September 1954

– in late March 1950, the Training Center of Thu Dau Mot was closed
– its activities were transferred to Hanoi and Hai Phong, Northern Vietnam

1re CISGL’s dissolution
– in September, the company’s mission ended
– 1re CISGL was dissolved on September 30, 1950

 

Legion Engineer Training & Services Company - CISGL - Insignia - Badge - Indochina - 1949
The insignia of the 1st Legion Engineer Training & Services Company, created around 1949. It bears the seven-flame grenade of the Legion in a black field (French engineering units’ color), the Legion’s green & red colors’ banners. The insignia is placed on an archor to symbolize folding & armored boats of the Legion.
Foreign Legion - Legion Engineer Training & Services Company - CISGL - Saigon - Indochina - 1949
Legionnaires of the 1st Legion Engineer Training & Services Company (1re CISGL) during the Bastille Day in Saigon, July 1949. In the center, a platoon leader (bearing the calot, side cap) and his deputy (black kepi).

 
 
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Main information sources:

Pierre Dufour: Génie-Légion – de Sidi Bel Abbes au Kosovo (Lavauzelle, 2000)
More-majorum.de (Germans in French Indochina 1946-56)
Insignes Legion (Fr)
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)

 
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See Foreign Legion’s other disbanded engineering companies of Indochina:

15th Engineer Maintenance Company
16th Engineer Maintenance Company
38th Dump Truck Company
40th Dump Truck Company
39th Riverine Craft Engineer Company

 

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The page was updated on: June 21, 2018

 

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