1st Foreign Parachute Regiment

The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1er REP) was the first of the three airborne regiments of the French Foreign Legion. It was established in Algeria in 1948 and participated in the First Indochina War and in the Algerian War. The 1er REP became the prestigious unit of the Legion. Its history prematurely ended in April 1961, because of its participation in the Generals’ putsch of Algiers.

1er Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes - 1 REP - 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment History

 

1st Foreign Parachute Battalion – 1er BEP – First Indochina War

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

May 13, 1948:
Parachute Training Group (Groupement d’Instruction Parachutiste, GIP) was formed at Khamis (Algeria)
GIP was headed by lieutenant Colin

July 01, 1948:
GIP became the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er Bataillon Étranger de Parachutistes, 1er BEP)

November 12, 1948:
– 1er BEP landed in Indochina to join the First Indochina War

December 1948:
– 1er BEP was based in the Tonkin region (northern Vietnam)
– the unit participated in its first operation (near Xuan-Mai)

April – May 1949:
Operation Pomone I
Operation Pomone II

June 01, 1949:
Parachute Company of 3e REI amalgamated with 1er BEP

July 1949 – June 1950:
– operations in the Tonkin region

July 1950:
– 1er BEP left its main base Xuan-Mai and moved to Hanoi

October 1950:
Battle of Route Coloniale 4 (RC4)
– it took place in the Cao Bang, Dong Khe and That Khe regions, northern Vietnam
– the French units leaving Cao Bang were attacked along RC4
– up to six Viet-Minh regiments were along RC4
– the enemy outnumbered five times the French
– the battle took place mainly near Dong Khe and Cao Bang
– 1er BEP + 3rd Battalion of 3e REI were involved in
– both battalions were annihilated

– 1er BEP lost more than 480 men during 5 days
– Major Segrétain, the commander of 1er BEP, was also killed
– only 29 survived (3 officers, 26 legionnaires)
– 1er BEP became the first French parachute battalion lost in combat
– the French lost about 4,000 men in the battle

– during the battle, 1er BEP’s Provisional Company (Compagnie de Marche du 1er BEP, CM/1er BEP) was established
– it was headed by Lieutenant Loth
– CM/1er BEP was composed of the remaining elements of 1er BEP having been participated in the battle

December 1950:
– CM/1er BEP was attached to the 6e GCCP (a regular airborne unit of the French Army)
– on December 31, 1er BEP was officially disbanded

January 1951:
– CM/1er BEP was attached to the 2e BEP

March 1951:
Battalion A was created on March 1, 1951
– it consisted of men from the CM/1er BEP and 80 legionnaires from the 2e BEP
– a week later, Battalion A participated in operations in the south of Dai Dung

March 18, 1951:
– 1er BEP was re-formed with the Battalion A and 3e BEP
– it comprised the Battalion A legionnaires and men from 3e BEP
– 3e BEP (almost 500 men) landed in Indochina to restore the 1er BEP on March 12, 1951
– the battalion was a depot & training unit for both BEPs, based in Algeria

March 1951 – September 1953:
– tens of operations in Indochina

November 1952 :
Operation Lorraine

November 23 – December 2, 1952:
Battle of Na San (northwestern Vietnam)
Na San was a French stronghold surrounded by 30 smaller armed positions
– the stronghold has also a complicated trench system, enforced with barbed wires
– the French had 11 battalions + 6 artillery batteries placed there
– they included 1er BEP, 2e BEP, 3rd Battalion/3e REI, CMLE and 5e REI
– Na San was attacked by three Viet-Minh divisions (9 regiments)
– after two weeks of heavy fighting, Viet-Minh lost around 3,000 soldiers
– the French win the battle, Viet-Minh was defeated

September 01, 1953:
1re CEPML was created
– the company was administratively attached to 1er BEP

September-October 1953:
Operation Brochet

November 20-21, 1953:
Operation Castor
– 1er BEP and 1er CEPML jumped over Dien Bien Phu to clean the place out of enemies

December 1953 – March 1954:
– in December, 1er BEP was placed at Dien Bien Phu
– it conducted operations against Viet-Minh in the area

March 13 – May 7, 1954:
Battle of Dien Bien Phu

April 25, 1954:
– 1er BEP and 2e BEP are destroyed
Provisional Foreign Parachute Battalion (Bataillon de Marche Étranger de Parachutistes, BMEP) was formed
– it consisted of the remaining para-legionnaires
– the battalion was headed by Major Guiraud

May 07:
– Battle of Dien Bien Phu ended
– the majority of BMEP men were killed
– the survivors were sent to the Viet-Minh POW camps
– only a few men will survive them

May 19, 1954:
– 1er BEP was re-formed
– it was formed with 1er BEP reserves being not presented at Dien Bien Phu
– also legionnaires freshly landed in Indochina + volunteers of other Legion units helped to re-form the unit
– many volunteers came from the 1er REC

May 31, 1954:
– 1re CEPML was officially disbanded
– the unit was destroyed in the Batlle of Dien Bien Phu

May-December 1954:
– reorganisation of the 1er BEP

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

November 11, 1954:
Major Jeanpierre took the leadership of 1er BEP

February 8, 1955:
– 1er BEP left Indochina for Algeria

 

1er BEP - 1 BEP - 1st BEP - Indochina - 1951
1er BEP is cleaning a road after a firefight, in the Yen Cu region (December 1951); Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
Parachuting over Dien Bien Phu - 1er BEP
1er BEP parachuting over Dien Bien Phu (November 21, 1953) Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
Legionnaires of the 1er BEP crossing the Nam Youn river
Having landed at Dien Bien Phu, legionnaires of 1re CEPML (administratively attached to the 1er BEP) are crossing the Nam Youn river (November 21, 1953); Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
1er BEP - 1 BEP - 1re CEPML - Operation Castor - Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Legionnaires of 1re CEPML during Operation Castor at Dien Bien Phu (November 1953); Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
1er BEP - Operation Pollux 1953 - Sergeant
Operation Pollux on the Pavie route in the north of Dien Bien Phu. A sergeant of the 4th Company of 1er BEP and his men (December 14, 1953) Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
Three legionnaires of the 1er BEP in Operation Pollux
Three legionnaires of 1er BEP during the Operation Pollux on the Pavie route in the north of Dien Bien Phu (December 14, 1953); Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
Decoration of the 1er BEP flag in Dien Bien Phu in 1954
Defence minister René Pleven decorating the flag of 1er BEP at Dien Bien Phu (February 19, 1954); Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
1er BEP in Saigon in February 1955
1er BEP – the last dinner before leaving Indochina (Saigon, February 07, 1955)

 

1st Foreign Parachute Regiment – Algerian War 1955-61

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

February 25, 1955:
– 1er BEP under the leadership of Major Jeanpierre landed in Algeria

April 1955:
– fights against rebels in the Djeurf region

September 1955:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1er Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes, 1er REP)
– on September 1, 1er BEP became the 1er REP
– it was based in Zeralda, Algeria

September-December 1955:
– operations at Djebel Bottena, Djebel Onk, in the Khenchela and Tebessa regions, at Bou Djellal

February 01, 1956:
Colonel Brothier became the head of the 1er REP

February-May 1956:
– operations in the Nementcha mountains

April 1956:
Operation Taienouret in Perruchine
– operations at Djebel Metales

August 1956:
Operation Birkouka
– operations at Douar Béni Niscera

2nd Squadron of the 2e REC was attached to the 10th Airborne Division
– the squadron was equipped with AMX-13 tanks
– the squadron moved to Blida to train with the 1er REP (because of the Suez Crisis)

November-December 1956:
Suez Crisis
– 1er REP + 2nd Squadron/2e REC participated in
– Suez Crisis was an invasion of Egypt by Israel, followed by the United Kingdom and France
– the aims were to regain Western control of the Suez Canal
– USA + USSR + UN forced the three countries to withdraw
– the operation lasted one week

January 1957:
– 2nd Squadron/2e REC was integrated into the 1er REP

January-October 1957:
– 1er REP participated in the Battle of Algiers (the capital of Algeria)

March 25, 1957:
Lt Colonel Jeanpierre took the leadership of 1er REP again

May-August 1957:
– operations in the El Khala, Aïn Taya, Medea and Tablat regions

September-October 1957:
Battle of Algiers
– apprehension of Saadi Yacef in September
– he was one of the leaders of Algeria’s FLN front
– the second most wanted rebel leader, Ali La Pointe, was also eliminated by 1er REP
– the house in which he was hiding was bombed on October 8

November 1957 – January 1958:
– operations at Zone Est Saharienne
– operations at Guelma and in the Fedj-Zezoua region

February-May 1958:
– operations and fights at EI-Mehtha, Aïn Hallouf, Fedj-Zezoua, Djebel-Marioun, Béni Melleille, Djebel Arara, and other places

May 1958:
– 1er REP participated in the Operation Taureau III

May 29, 1958:
Lt Col Jeanpierre died in the helicopter crash
– his helicopter was shot down by rebels rocket in front of his legionnaires
– he was examining the terrain and searching hidden rebels during Operation Taureau III

  • as a French officer, Lt Col Jeanpierre joined the Foreign Legion in 1937
  • he served in the 1er REI and 6e REI
  • as a member of Free French Forces he was imprisoned by Germans at the Mauthausen camp in 1944
  • he rejoined the Legion after WWII
  • he became an officer in the 1er BEP during its creation in July 1948
  • Lt Col Jeanpierre was a veteran of the Battle of RC4, who headed the group of 29 survived men of the original 1er BEP at the end of the battle
  • he headed the group of that 29 survivors from the original 1er BEP at the end of the battle

August 1958:
Operation Flavien

September 1958:
Operation Referendum

October 1958 – December 1960:
– tens of operations in the Douar Tircine, Saïda, Aïn Sefra, Berrouaghia, Tenes, Frenda, Masséna, Mondovi, Ampère, Batna regions and other places

July 1959 – March 1960:
Operation Jumelles
– a large and successful operation in the Kabylie region
– 1er REP, 3e REI, 5e REI, 13e DBLE took part in
– over 2,000 rebels were killed

December 07, 1960:
– Lt Colonel Guiraud took the leadership of 1er REP
– he was a veteran of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– he commanded the BMEP provisional battalion there

January-March 1961:
– operations in the El Milia and Kerrata regions

 

The 1er BEP and 1er REP insignia
1er BEP and 1er REP insignia
1er BEP in Algiers in April 1955
1er BEP reviewed by colonel Gardy, the head of the Foreign Legion at that time. Next to him major Jeanpierre (Algiers, April 13, 1955)
A 1er BEP parade in Algiers in April 1955
Legionnaires of 1er BEP decorating by colonel Gardy and parading in Algiers (April 13, 1955)
1er REP break in the Nementcha mountains in February 1956
1er REP having a break during the operations in the Nementcha mountains (February 1956)
Sniper of 1er REP in the Nementcha mountains in February 1956
Sniper of 1er REP during the operations in the Nementcha mountains (February 1956)
1er REP in the Nementcha mountains in February 1956
1er REP during the operations in the Nementcha mountains (February 1956)
Legionnaires of the 1er REP marching in the Nementcha mountains in February 1956
Legionnaires of 1er REP marching in the Nementcha mountains (February 1956)
Legionnaires of the 1er REP being back at the camp in February 1956
Legionnaires of 1er REP at the (provisional) camp of Tebessa (February 1956)
Reconnaissance Squadron of 1er REP in Blida in November 1956
Reconnaissance Squadron of 1er REP during the Saint Michel Day celebration in Blida (September 29, 1956)
Reconnaissance Squadron of 1er REP parade in Blida in November 1956
Reconnaissance Squadron parade in Blida (September 29, 1956)
St.Michel - Legionnaires of 1er REP in Blida in November 1956
Legionnaires of 1er REP parading on Saint Michel Day in Blida (September 29, 1956)
1er REP and Suez Crisis 1956
Landing in Egypt during the Suez Crisis (November 1956)
Legionnaires of 1er REP at Port Fouad on 06 November 1956 during the Suez Crisis
Legionnaires of 1er REP taking over Port Fouad in Egypt during the Suez Crisis (November 06, 1956)
1er REP checkpoint Suez Crisis
1er REP checkpoint during the Suez Crisis (November 1956)
1er REP jeep with 75SR cannon during the Suez Crisis
Jeep of 1er REP with a 75SR cannon during the Suez Crisis (November 1956)
1er REP and 2e REC leaving Egypt after finishing operations in Suez
Legionnaires of 1er REP and the tanks of the 2nd Squadron of 2e REC are leaving Egypt – a mission in Suez ended (December 22, 1956)
Legionnaire of the 1er REP checking papers during the Battle of Algiers in 1957
Legionnaire of 1er REP checking papers during the Battle of Algiers (1957)
1er REP jeep patrol during the Battle of Algiers in 1957
1er REP jeep patrol during the Battle of Algiers (1957)
3rd Company of the 1er REP at Guelma in January 1958
Legionnaires of the 3rd Company of 1er REP waiting for helicopters during an operation at Guelma (January 1958)
Colonel Jeanpierre, a legendary commander of the 1er REP
Colonel Jeanpierre, the legendary commander of 1er REP
Funeral of Colonel Jeanpierre in Guelma on 31 May 1958
Funeral of Colonel Jeanpierre in Guelma (May 31, 1958)
Camp of Lieutenant Colonel Jeanpierre of the 1er REP in Zeralda in 1958
Camp Lieutenant Colonel Jeanpierre of 1er REP in Zeralda (1958)
Camp of Zeralda of the 1er REP
Camp of Zeralda of 1er REP; Image source: ParaLegion
Foyer of the 1er REP in Zeralda in 1960
Foyer (a bar/club/assembly room) of 1er REP at its camp of Zeralda
Parading of the 1er REP in Zeralda in May 1959
1er REP parading at the camp of Zeralda (May 01, 1959)
1er REP at Djebel Djurdjura 1959
A field camp of 1er REP during the operations at Djebel Djurdjura (1959)

 

1er REP – Generals’ putsch in Algiers – April 1961

April 18, 1961:
– Major Hélie de Saint Marc took the leadership of the regiment
– as a deputy of Lt Col Guiraud being on vacation
– Major Hélie de Saint Marc was a veteran of the First Indochina War
– he served with 2e BEP there, as a French officer
– in Algeria, he joined the 1er REP
– he was a former commander of the 3rd company/1er REP

April 21, 1961:
– Major Hélie de Saint Marc decided to join the Generals’ putsch in Algiers with the 1er REP
– the putsch aimed against French President Charles de Gaulle
– de Gaulle was seen by putschists as a betrayal of France, French Algerians and fallen soldiers
– because of de Gaulle’s declaration of acceptance of Algerian independence
– the putschists believed the Algerian rebels could be defeated

April 22, 1961:
– in the early morning, 1er REP commanded by Hélie de Saint Marc moved to Algiers (the capital)
– the regiment seized all strategic points in the city in three hours

April 24, 1961:
– 1er REP protected a public appearance of Putsch’s generals in Algiers

April 25, 1961:
– the putsch failed
– generals were not united in their future plans

April 27,1961:
– Major Hélie de Saint Marc was captured
– 1er REP had to leave its camp of Zeralda
– the regiment moved to Thiersville, an old air-navy base
– the regiment waited there for its dissolution

April 30, 1961:
– on Camerone Day, the 1er REP was officially disbanded
– before its dissolution, the regiment was seen as the top elite unit of the Legion

May 03-06, 1961:
– 1er REP legionnaires amalgamated with other units of the Foreign Legion

June 05, 1961:
– Major Hélie de Saint Marc was sentenced to 10 years in prison
– he was freed in December 1966, after more than five years of imprisonment
– in 1978, Major Hélie de Saint Marc was completely rehabilitated
Major Hélie de Saint Marc has died on August 26, 2013

 

1er REP vehicles in Algiers on April 24, 1961
Vehicles of 1er REP during the public appearance of Putsch’s generals in Algiers (April 24, 1961) Photo credit: Ecpad
1er REP in Algiers on April 24, 1961
Legionnaires of 1er REP protecting the public appearance of Putsch’s generals in Algiers (April 24, 1961)
People saying goodbye to the 1er REP in Zeralda on April 27, 1961
A crowd of people in front of the 1er REP‘s camp of Zeralda to say the last goodbye (April 27, 1961)
1er REP is leaving Zeralda on April 27, 1961
First vehicles of 1er REP leaving the camp of Zeralda (April 27, 1961)
1er REP in Zeralda while having left its camp on April 27, 1961
1er REP leaving the town of Zeralda (April 27, 1961)
1er REP - the last goodbye to Zeralda
The last goodbye to Zeralda, the last images of 1er REP (April 27, 1961)

Major Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc
Major Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc in June 1961 and in 2011, being decorated by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy

 
 
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Images source (besides that already defined):
Képi blanc magazines
Ecpad.fr

Information source:
2e REP official website
Kepi blanc magazines
Ecpad.fr

 
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See Foreign Legion’s other disbanded airborne units:
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
Parachute Company of 3e REI
1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company
CERA – Foreign Airdrop Company
 

See other Foreign Legion’s disbanded regiments:
2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment
4th Foreign Infantry Regiment
5th Foreign Regiment
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment

 

 

The page was updated on: July 04, 2016

 

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