1st Foreign Parachute Regiment

The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1er REP) was an airborne unit of the French Foreign Legion, created in Algeria in late 1955. Based in Zeralda, the regiment took part in the Algerian War and was seen as one of the most elite units of the French Army at the time. However, the prestigious 1er REP was prematurely disbanded following its active participation in the Generals’ putsch of Algiers, in 1961.

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

 

1er REP: 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment in 1955

After its return from French Indochina in Southeast Asia to Algeria in France’s North Africa, the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er BEP), a unit annihilated twice during the war in Indochina, was ordered to be transformed into a regiment.

Thus, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1er Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes, 1er REP) was established in Algeria on September 1, 1955 *, with the rear base stationed in Zeralda, a town located not far from the capital of Algiers. The 1er REP inherited the battalion’s number, history, and traditions, as well as the yellow-green fourragère (shoulder cord), a decoration received thanks to the five unit citations (mentions in dispatches) the battalion earned during the war in Indochina.

Major Pierre Jeanpierre kept command. His unit consisted of 36 officers, 112 NCOs, and 666 legionnaires (814 men in total).

* The date of August 1 was used in official Legion sources until the 1960s

 

1er REP’s composition in Algeria in September 1955

  • Commander : Major Jeanpierre
  • HQ Company : Captain Faulques
  • 1st Company : Captain Abraham
  • 2nd Company : Captain Giese
  • 3rd Company : Captain de Saint Marc
  • 4th Company : Captain Le Bras
  • Combat Support Company (CA) : Lieutenant Dupoux

 

The regiment took on the tasks of the 1er BEP and continued patrols and anti-insurgent operations in the Tebessa sector in northeastern Algeria, along the border with Tunisia. The actions were aimed at the rebels, who were represented mostly by the National Liberation Front (FLN) and its armed branch, the ALN.

From September to December, the regiment saw operations near Tebessa, Negrine, Ferkane, and Bir El Ater, still in the same sector. From the end of September to early October, its men were involved in Operation Timgad, a major joint operation at the border with Tunisia, not far from the Djebel El Djorf mountain. The Legion’s 21e CPLE, 22e CPLE, 23e CPLE, 1re CSPL, 2e CSPL, and 2e REI also participated. An important gathering of rebel leaders from the Aures and the Nementchas mountains was destroyed.

In October, Captain Germain died in an accident. A former commander of the 1er BEP in Indochina in 1954, he served as the second-in-command with the 1er REP.

In December 1955, the Reconnaissance Squadron (ER) was created within the regiment, under Captain Abraham who had left the 1st Company. The squadron was equipped with Dodges and Jeeps (including those with the 105 mm M40 recoilless rifle). The squadron was stationed in Soumaa near Blida, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Zeralda.

In 1955, both the 1er BEP and the 1er REP killed dozens of rebels.

 

1er REP: 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment in 1956

In early January, the regiment conducted operations in the Ferkane region, south of Tebessa.

In February, Lieutenant Colonel Albert Brothier took command. Earlier, from 1952 to 1953, Brothier had led the 1er BEP in Indochina. Major Jeanpierre became a deputy commander.
 

1er REP’s composition in Algeria in February 1956

  • Command : Lieutenant Colonel Brothier
  • HQ Company : Captain Faulques
  • 1st Company : Captain Martin
  • 2nd Company : Captain Giese
  • 3rd Company : Captain de Saint Marc
  • 4th Company : Captain Glasser
  • Combat Support Company (CA) : Lieutenant Dupoux
  • Reconnaissance Squadron (ER) : Captain Abraham

 

In early April, following Morocco’s independence from France, the 1st and 2nd Companies deployed to Marnia in northwestern Algeria, at the Moroccan border.

At the same time, the Reconnaissance Squadron deployed some 130 miles (200 km) west of Algiers, to the Orleansville region.

In late April, the whole regiment took part in helicopter Operation 256 in the Ouarsenis mountain range, west of the capital. It remained in that region until May.

In May, the companies operated in the Oran region in northwestern Algeria, as well as in the capital city of Algiers and its surroundings. On May 26 and 27, the legionnaires participated in anti-insurgent Operation Casbah in the capital, alongside about 5,000 French troops. During searches of houses and flats, some 400 suspects were arrested.

On June 4, the 1er REP received the new regimental colors from Colonel Lennuyeux, then-chief of the Foreign Legion.

A few days later, on June 8, the regiment’s HQ Squadron and 1st and 3rd Companies deployed to Tindouf, a Saharan commune close to the Mauritanian, Spanish Saharan and Moroccan borders. Since late June, only the ER Squadron had operated there against local rebel groups. The ER men were crossing disputed borders and carrying out desert raids in the sector, alongside their comrades from the 4e CSPL.

Meanwhile, the regiment (less the ER) operated near the capital.

On July 1, the 1er REP was assigned to the newly constituted 10th Parachute Division (10e DP) under General Massu.

In early August, the regiment – including the returned Squadron – was tasked with a new mission: to prepare for an Anglo-French invasion of Egypt. There, Egyptian leader Nasser took control of the strategically important Suez Canal, in violation of agreements he had signed with the British and French governments which administrated the canal. Besides, France saw Egypt as a national threat, because Nasser continuously supported FLN rebels in Algeria.

The new mission was originally code-named Operation Hamilcar (Amilcar in France) and later renamed to Operation Musketeer (Mousquetaire in France). The 1er REP was chosen as one of the main landing forces of the operation. Because of that, it was reinforced by a tank squadron from the 2e REC, equipped with 17 AMX-13 French light tanks. On the beaches near Algiers, both units began intensive landing exercises that continued through October. In the meantime, the 1er REP units were taking part in military operations in and around the capital.

On November 1, the 1er REP and the 2e REC squadron left Algeria for Cyprus, where French Army and Navy elements reinforced the detachment. They left Cyprus for Egypt a few days later.

On November 6, Operation Musketeer started. Anglo-French landings were aimed at Suez cities Port Said and Port Fouad. The latter was to be seized by the 1er REP detachment led by Lt. Col. Brothier. The operation was a great success; the Egyptian troops quickly retreated.

However, the United States immediately sanctioned the British financial system to break the British effort and stop the invasion. Although very successful, the Anglo-French troops were forced to cancel the operation on its third day and withdraw. By late December, all the Anglo-French troops had left Egypt, including the 1er REP and 2e REC men. Profoundly disappointed, they returned to Algeria on December 29.

 

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Insignia - Insigne
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment. The 1er REP’s insignia created in late 1955.

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Jeanpierre - Brothier
Major Jeanpierre and Lt Colonel Brothier. Albert Brothier (right) replaced Major Jeanpierre as the commanding officer of the 1er REP in February 1956. Both officers also led the 1er BEP in Indochina.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Tebessa - Algeria
Tebessa region. 1er REP legionnaires continued in conducting operations in the Tebessa region until April 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Tebessa - Algeria
Tebessa. Having returned from an operation, 1er REP legionnaires are washing clothes at their camp of Tebessa, in early March 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Algeria
1er REP legionnaires during an operation in northwestern Algeria, May 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Drapeau - Zeralda
1er REP’ regimental flag. At the camp of Zeralda on June 4, 1956, General Lennuyeux (right), then Chief of the Foreign Legion, handed over the new regimental flag to Lt Colonel Brothier (left), then 1er REP’s commanding officer.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Algeria
1er REP legionnaires during a parade in Algeria, in mid-1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Tindouf - Map
Tindouf. In early June 1956, the 1er REP deployed to Tindouf, situated in the Sahara of western Algeria. The para-legionnaires would take part in desert raids on rebels, sometimes crossing the border with Mauritania and Spanish Sahara (Western Sahara now). Last men of the regiment left the region in early August 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Tindouf - ER Squadron - Jeep
Tindouf. ER Squadron, 1er REP men with their Jeeps near Tindouf, July 1956. The Jeeps are armed with the FM 24/29 light machine gun.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Saint Michel - Blida - Algeria
1956 Saint Michael Day. 1er REP legionnaires parade on Saint Michael Day (their holiday) in Blida, Algeria, September 29, 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Combat Support Company - Algeria
Combat Support Company, 1er REP, late September 1956. The company was equipped with Jeeps, some of them furnished with 106 SR cannons (M40 recoilless rifles). The regiment’s Reconnaissance Squadron was also equipped with Jeeps.
2e REC - 2 REC - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Blida - Algeria - 2nd Squadron
2nd Squadron, 2e REC. The AMX-13 light tanks of the 2e REC transferred to the 1er REP, late September 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Egypt - Suez Crisis - Map
Suez Crisis – Operation Musketeer. The operation took place in Port Said and Port Fouad, twin cities in Egypt, north of the Suez Canal. Britain and France launched the operation to cancel the nationalization of the Suez Canal by then Egyptian President Nasser. While the British troops seized Port Said, the French troops, including the 1er REP, seized Port Fouad.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Egypt - Jeanpierre - Massu - Brothier
Operation Musketeer (ex-Operation Hamilcar). Lt Colonel Jeanpierre, then deputy commander of the 1er REP, General Jacques Massu, then head of the 10th Parachute Division (to which the 1er REP was assigned to) and Lt Colonel Brothier, then commanding officer of the 1er REP. He also commanded French forces during the landing operation in Port Fouad, Egypt on November 6, 1956, part of Operation Musketeer. The French forces quickly seized the town.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Egypt - Jeanpierre - Massu - Brothier
Port Fouad. Lt Colonel Jeanpierre (left, speaking to the radio) and Lt Colonel Brothier (center), with members of the HQ Company, 1er REP in Port Fouad, November 7, 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Egypt - Suez Crisis - AMX 13 Tanks
Captain Maurice Hautechaud reviewing the tanks of his 2nd Squadron, 2e REC in Egypt, during the Suez Crisis, November 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Egypt - Suez Crisis - Observing
A 1er REP observation post in Egypt during the Suez Crisis, December 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956 - Egypt - Suez Crisis - Withdrawal
Withdrawal from Egypt. 1er REP legionnaires are leaving Egypt, late December 1956.

 
 

1er REP: 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment in 1957

Following the cancellation of Operation Musketeer, the 2e REC squadron didn’t return to its original unit. Instead, it merged with the 1er REP. Thus, on January 1, it became the Tank Squadron (Escadron de Chars, EC), consisting of three platoons and a LVT landing vehicle detachment. Commanded by Captain Maurice Hautechaud, with Lieutenant Chevallereau as his deputy, it was the only purely airborne cavalry unit of the Legion. The men continued to wear silver rank insignias (instead of the gold ones meant for infantry) and use cavalry ranks. Nevertheless, after the Suez campaign, their tanks became useless and were gradually replaced by Jeeps.

In mid-January, the Battle of Algiers started. The entire 1er REP was in the capital to restore order in response to the heightened activity of the FLN rebels and the growing number of terrorist attacks they were inflicting on the city. Accommodated in ordinary apartments or villas, the para-legionnaires conducted daily patrols to maintain order and night raids to find rebel suspects and their hideouts (full of explosives and firearms). In the meantime, both squadrons (ER and EC) carried out street patrols and roadside checks. The operations in the capital continued until mid-April.

In the meantime, on March 25, freshly promoted Lt. Colonel Jeanpierre succeeded Lt. Colonel Brothier as the commanding officer of the regiment.
 

1er REP’s composition in Algeria in March 1957

  • Command : Lieutenant Colonel Jeanpierre
  • HQ Company : Captain Faulques
  • 1st Company : Captain Martin
  • 2nd Company : Captain Estoup
  • 3rd Company : Captain Allaire
  • 4th Company : Captain Gamas
  • Combat Support Company (CA) : Captain Glasser
  • Reconnaissance Squadron (ER) : Captain Abraham
  • Tank Squadron (EC) : Captain Hautechaud

 

In April, the ER squadron returned to Tindouf. Saharan operations in Mauritania and Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) resumed, alongside two motorized companies of the 4e REI. The squadron didn’t come back until mid-June.

In late April, a week-long operation took place in the Medea region, southwest of Algiers; 29 rebels were killed.

On May 5, the six-week Operation NK3 started in the Kabylie, a mountainous coastal region east of the capital. During the operation, 175 rebels were killed by the 1er REP, while another 102 rebels were imprisoned. On May 17, the 1st Company under Captain Martin killed over 80 rebels in the Battle of Djebel Bou Zegza, which was part of the operation.

In June, the 4th Company and CA again maintained order in Algiers.

On July 14, the colonel, the color guard, and an honor company of the regiment participated in the Bastille Day Military Parade in Paris.

In late July, the month-long Operation NC15 started in the Medea region, south of the capital; 92 rebels were killed.

In early September, the 1er REP was sent back to Algiers to finish the battle in the capital. Thanks to intensive raids, three prominent rebel leaders were eliminated. First was Saadi Yacef, the FLN rebels’ military chief of Algiers, on September 24. Lt. Col. Jeanpierre was wounded by a grenade during Yacef’s apprehension. Second was Ali La Pointe, the second most important FLN rebel leader in Algiers who was responsible for many terrorist attacks in the capital. He was killed by 1er REP legionnaires on October 8. Third was Abderrahmane Benhamida, nicknamed Salim El Kaiam, chief of the FLN’s political branch in Algiers. He was captured on October 15. These actions successfully ended the Battle of Algiers and brought peace and safety back to the city. The 1er REP returned to Zeralda.

In late November, the regiment deployed to the Sahara in eastern Algeria, to protect the newly developed oil fields located near Hassi Messaoud. The construction of the installations, as well as a new pipeline to Biskra, was threatened by local rebels. Within a month, dozens of them were killed and 186 rebels were imprisoned. The 1er REP, stationed at Hassi Messaoud, Ouargla, and M’Raier, stayed in the Sahara until January 1958.

 

2e REC - 2 REC - 1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - Maurice Hautechaud
Captain Maurice Hautechaud. The commander of the 2nd Squadron, 2e REC. The squadron was transferred to the 1er REP in 1956. In January 1957, it merged with the regiment and became its Tank Squadron. It remained the only airborne cavalry unit of the Foreign Legion. Its cavalrymen kept their silver rank patches and were addressed in cavalry ranks, while bearing parachute badges.

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen. The future well-known French politician captured by an army reporter in early 1957, while speaking with local residents during the Battle of Algiers. Lieutenant Le Pen served as a platoon leader with the 1st Platoon, 1st Company, 1st REP. With his unit, he took part in the Suez Crisis in Egypt in late 1956.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Jeanpierre - Massu
Lt Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre. In March 1957, Lt Colonel Jeanpierre again took command of “his” regiment, 1er REP. A deputy commander of the original 1er BEP already in August 1948, who led its few survivors through the jungle full of the Viet Minh in late 1950. A commanding officer in 1954-56 and a deputy commander in 1956-57, very popular among his men, Lt Colonel Jeanpierre saw the unit as his own private matter. Here, decorated by General Massu, the head of the 10e DP.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - Louis Martin
Captain Louis Martin. One of the most famous officers of the 1er REP. With the unit since 1953, he participated in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, several times wounded, imprisoned. In 1957, he led a honorable company during the Bastille Day Parade in Paris. Five times wounded, fourteen times mentioned in dispatches, Major Martin died in France in 2005.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Jeanpierre - Paris - Champs Elysées
Paris – Champs Elysées, 1957. Lt Colonel Jeanpierre, the color guard of the 1er REP and a honorable company led by Captain Martin taking part in the 1957 Bastille Day Parade.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Algiers - Jeep
Algiers. A Jeep of the 1er REP patrolling in the capital of Algeria, during the Battle of Algiers, 1957. The legionnaires helped to restore order in the capital.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Algiers - Patrol
Algiers, 1957. 1er REP legionnaires conducting patrols during the Battle of Algiers, to restore order in the city. In the nights, they were searching rebel firearms’ hideouts and looking for rebel suspects and leaders.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Algiers - Control - Checking
Algiers. A Sergeant of the 1er REP is checking ID documents during the Battle of Algiers, 1957. These operations were a response to a growing number of terrorist attacks with explosives, conducted by FLN rebels, aimed at civilians of both, French and Arab origins.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Algiers - Freetime
Algiers, 1957. 1er REP legionnaires during their free time, while accommodated in the capital.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Operations - Hassi Messaoud - Map
In 1957, besides the Battle of Algiers or a new deployment to Tindouf, the 1er REP conducted also operations in the regions of Medea, Tablat and Palestro (now Lakhdaria), close to the capital. In late November, the regiment was sent to Hassi Messaoud in the Sahara, to guard freshly discovered oil fields.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957 - Hassi Messaoud
Hassi Messaoud. In late 1957, 1er REP legionnaires deployed to the Sahara to guard freshly producing oil fields. The regiment would leave the Sahara in January 1958.

 
 

1er REP: 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment in 1958

In mid-January, the mission in the Sahara was over. However, instead of Zeralda, the regiment was sent to Northeastern Algeria, to the Guelma and Souk Ahras regions. These were located east of Constantine and north of Tebessa, close to Tunisia. The Battle of the Borders under General Vanuxem started there on January 21. It was a series of large and intense military operations conducted in the regions’ wild mountain ranges and alongside the Tunisian border, newly reinforced with electric fence barriers. As in 1955 and 1956, the operations focused on the FLN rebels who operated in these regions and crossed the border regularly to their camps in friendly Tunisia, including their supply trains.

In February, two significant battles took place. One on February 12 at Fedj Zezoua, where 47 rebels were killed. The second occurred at Koudiat Megroum on February 26; that day, the 1er REP men killed 149 rebels. However, Lieutenant Georges Maroni was also killed.

Throughout the course of five weeks, over 600 rebels were killed by the regiment. These results impressed the high command, and the 1er REP was called one of the most elite units of the French Army.

In the meantime, on February 14, the unique Tank Squadron was disbanded. It was a considerably reduced unit at the time, and its men merged with the Motorized Company (CP, a former ER squadron).

In March, the 1er REP saw another two significant battles: one in the Djebel Marioun between March 18 and 19 resulting in the deaths of 118 rebels and 12 legionnaires, and the battle at Chaba Ben Said on March 29, when the 1st Company under Captain Martin killed 70 rebels.

Nevertheless, a tragic loss marred the successful operations. On May 29, Lt. Col. Pierre Jeanpierre was killed while leading his men from a helicopter; the machine was hit by gunfire and crashed. Nobody survived. The regiment lost its father and the Legion an important and remarkable personality. Deputy commander of the original 1er BEP, Pierre Jeanpierre essentially followed the fate of his close friend and the 1er BEP’s commander, Major Pierre Segrétain.

Two days later, the Battle of the Borders was over. In four months, the 1er REP had killed as many as 1,193 rebels. However, 111 men of the regiment fell during the battle, while 278 officers, NCOs, and legionnaires were wounded.

On June 11, the 1er REP returned to Zeralda after having spent six months in the Sahara and near the Tunisian border.

A week later, Colonel Albert Brothier again took command, replacing the killed commanding officer.

In early July, the regiment returned to maintain order in the capital; it remained there until September.

In mid-July, the 1er REP’s colonel and the color guard participated in the Bastille Day Military Parade in Paris.

In the summer, the camp of the 1er REP in Zeralda was renamed Camp Jeanpierre in honor of their killed colonel.

In late September, Operation Referendum took place. It involved protecting the streets in Algeria during the successful French National Referendum regarding France’s new constitution and the future status of French colonies. The 1er REP patrolled the streets of Algiers. During the referendum in Algeria, the majority of local Muslims and French settlers voted to be part of France.

In mid-October, the 1er REP moved to the Oran province in northwestern Algeria. The men operated alongside the 2e REI at the Moroccan border, in the Mascara, Ain Sefra, and Figuig regions, until late December.

During their return to Zeralda, a fatal road accident occurred close to the town on December 21. A 1st Company truck slipped on a wet road and crashed into a ravine; Lieutenant René Gastaud and six legionnaires died.

Between December 28 and 31, the 1er REP took part in Operation Couronne II near Berrouaghia, southwest of Algiers; 129 rebels and five legionnaires were killed.

 

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - 1958 - Jeanpierre - Lennuyeux
The very last photo of Lt Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre (center), taken five days before his death, while being visited by then-Chief of the Legion, General Lennuyeux (left). Lt Colonel Jeanpierre was an excellent strategist, a great soldier and an officer being very popular among his men, who saw him as their father.

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Guelma - Pierre Jeanpierre - Homage
Paying homage to Lt Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre. Guelma, May 31, 1958. For the last time, the 1er REP parade in front of their commanding officer. Lt Colonel Jeanpierre was killed during an operation in the Guelma region. When navigating his men to attack an important rebel group, his helicopter was hit by a missile and crashed into the ground.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algiers - Pierre Jeanpierre - Funeral
Funeral of Lt Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre. Algiers, May 31, 1958. Six senior NCOs of the 1er REP are carrying the coffin with Lt Colonel Jeanpierre during his official funeral in Algiers. The unexpected death of their cherished commander affected the whole regiment. In fact, the 1er REP had just finished one of the best military campaigns any other French unit have ever done in the history of North Africa, when almost 1,200 rebels were killed in four months by its men. For this action, the unit gained the title The most elite regiment of the French Army. And the 1er REP legionnaires wished other victorious campaigns led by their great Lieutenant Colonel.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - Zeralda - Camp Jeanpierre
Camp Jeanpierre. In Zeralda, a new name was given to the home base of the 1er REP – Camp of Lt Colonel Jeanpierre. The rest of the large military camp (occupied by French regular units) would keep its original name, Camp Gosselin.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Paris - Brothier
1er REP in Paris, 1958. Colonel Brothier, once again designated as a commanding officer of the 1er REP, and the color guard of the 1er REP take part in the 1958 Bastille Day Parade.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Paris - Legionnaires - Liane Marelli
1er REP in Paris, July 14, 1958. After the Bastille Day Parade, legionnaires have fun at the fair. They are accompanied by French actress Liane Marelli.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Guelma - Pierre Jeanpierre - Homage
In 1958, besides the Battle of the Borders in the Guelma region, the 1er REP conducted also operations in the regions of Mascara and Saida (both towns served then as Foreign Legion instruction centers for enlisted volunteers). In late 1958, the regiment deployed to the Ain Sefra region, then occupied by the 2e REI, to participate in operations alongside it.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Guelma - Algeria
Guelma region. 1er REP legionnaires during an operation, part of the Battle of the Borders. Almost 1,200 rebels were killed by the regiment in four months.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Guelma - Algeria
Guelma region. 1er REP legionnaires during an operation.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Guelma - Algeria
Guelma region. 1er REP legionnaires boarding a helicopter during the Battle of the Borders.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958 - Algeria - Lieutenant Gastaud
Lieutenant René Gastaud. He died in the Zeralda Road Accident, together with six legionnaires, on December 21, 1958. Their truck slipped on a wet road and crashed into a ravine, when returning from Ain Sefra. By the irony of fate, his brother Jean Gastaud, a Lieutenant with the 2e REP, was killed in action only five months earlier, in July 1958.

 
 

1er REP: 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment in 1959

The 1er REP spent the first half of the year in the mountains of northwestern Algeria, in the Tenes, Orleansville, Frenda, and Cherchell sectors. It carried out several operations there.

In February, the so-called Challe Plan began in Algeria. Named after General Challe, a new commander-in-chief of the French forces in Algeria, the plan was a very successful series of large, offensive military operations aimed at destroying rebels and their armed and political organizations in Algeria and having the French occupy their positions. The 1er REP actively participated. The Challe Plan continued throughout January 1961.

In mid-February, the 1er REP’s 3rd Company and CA destroyed local rebel leader Menouar and his group of roughly thirty rebels at Tenes, about 125 miles (200 km) west of the capital.

In April and May, Operation Courroie took place in the Cherchell sector of the Ouarsenis mountain range. This was part of the Challe Plan, and the 1er REP participated, alongside the Legion’s 3e REI and 5e REI.

In early May, Lieutenant Colonel Henri Dufour took command of the regiment.

 

1er REP’s composition in Algeria in May 1959

  • Command : Lieutenant Colonel Dufour
  • HQ Company : Captain Clementin
  • 1st Company : Captain Sergent
  • 2nd Company : Captain Ysquierdo
  • 3rd Company : Captain Chiron
  • 4th Company : Captain Cattelotte
  • Combat Support Company (CA) : Captain Roux
  • Motorized Company (CP) : Captain Bésineau

 

On May 14, during a military operation, Adjudant Laszlo Tasnady was killed. A respected NCO within the 1er REP, he was one of the Legion’s three Hungarian senior NCOs killed that May.

In July, the Challe Plan’s Operation Etincelle occurred in the Hodna mountain range of the M’Sila region. The Legion’s 1er REP, 3e REI, 5e REI, and 2e REC took part.

In late July, another large operation of the Challe Plan began: Operation Jumelles. It took place in the Tizi Ouzou sector, in northern Algeria, and consisted of several smaller operations in which the 1er REP, 3e REI, 5e REI, and 13e DBLE were engaged. The operation continued throughout March 1960. Over 510 rebels were killed, and 220 rebels were imprisoned.

In early August, the Instruction Company 1er REP was activated under Captain Martin. The company’s task was to relieve the 1er RE from parachute training. The company trained fresh legionnaires for both the 1er REP and the 2e REP, a sister unit.

On December 19, Lieutenant Christian Pasteau was killed during Operation Jumelles. A young officer, he fell in his first combat action.

A week later, during the same operation, another officer died: Second Lieutenant Marcel Lemahieu. He had joined the Legion as a simple legionnaire in 1947.

In 1959, 972 rebels were killed by the 1er REP; the regiment’s 42 men also died.

 

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Operations - Map
In 1959, besides the three large military operations, the 1er REP conducted also operations in the regions of Tenes, Orleansville (now Chlef) and Frenda, in northwestern Algeria.

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Zeralda - Brothier - Gardy - Dufour
Change of Command, May 1959. Colonel Albert Brothier (left), leaving the 1er REP, is to be replaced as the commanding officer of the regiment by Lt Colonel Henri Dufour (right). In the center, General Paul Gardy, then Chief of the Foreign Legion.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria
1er REP legionnaires during an operation in Algeria in 1959, with captured rebel weapons.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algiers - Jacques Morin
Major Jacques Morin, Algiers, May 13, 1959. Major Morin, then deputy commander of the 1er REP, is heading the unit during a ceremony in the capital of Algeria, marking the first anniversary of the May 1958 Putsch. Two weeks later, he would definitively leave the regiment. In Indochina in April 1948, then Lieutenant Morin formed and commanded the Parachute Company of 3e REI, the very first airborne unit of the Legion. He served with the 1er BEP/1er REP between 1949-50, 1951-53, and 1956-59. In 1954, Captain Morin became the youngest Commander of the Légion d’Honneur in France. Having left the Army in the 1960’s, Major Jacques Morin died in 1995.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria - Tasnady
Laszlo Tasnady. Adjudant Laszlo Tasnady (First Sergeant for US Army), a legendary NCO within the 1er REP. Born in Hungary, he served with the Legion since 1946. The Knight of the Légion d’Honneur, he was killed on May 14, 1959. Adjudant Laszlo Tasnady was one of the Legion’s three Hungarian senior NCOs killed that May.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria - Jumelle - Bésineau
Operation Jumelle. Captain Michel Bésineau, then commander of the 1er REP’s Motorized Company (CP), is speaking with local pro-French leaders, in late 1959.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria - Zeralda - Instruction - Training Company
Training Company, 1er REP. Established in August 1959, the unit provided airborne training for young legionnaires assigned to both the 1er REP and 2e REP. Based in Zeralda and led by the well-known Captain Martin.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria - Lemahieu
Marcel Lemahieu. Second Lieutenant Marcel Lemahieu served with the Legion since 1947, when he joined it as a young Sergeant. A member of the 1er BEP/1er REP since 1952, participating in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, he was promoted to the officer rank in October 1959. He would be killed two months later, on December 26, 1959.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959 - Algeria - Lemahieu
Certificat de bonne conduite (Honorable discharge certificate) for a 1er REP member, Staff Sergeant Rutecki. The certificate was issued in early 1959 by Colonel Brothier. The document was provided to our website and published with the kind permission of Krzysztof Schramm, historian of Poland’s Foreign Legion veteran association (A.A.A.L.E. de Pologne) and the author of Zygmunt Jatczak: I regret nothing.

 
 

1er REP: 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment in 1960

Week of Barricades. The beginning of the year was marked by demonstrations in Algeria’s capital during the last week of January. Organized by pro-French public figures, the protests were a response to General de Gaulle’s proclamation about Algeria’s self-determination, as well as his dismissal of General Massu, commander of the French forces in Algiers at the time who had criticized de Gaulle’s policy in Algeria. Several military units, including the 1er REP, were sent to restore order. However, the legionnaires sympathized with the organizers who, in May 1958, had helped General de Gaulle to gain power. Ironically, de Gaulle allowed the organizers of the Week of Barricades to be sentenced to 10 years in prison which would cause future problems.

Throughout May and June, the regiment carried out several operations in the Hodna and Bou Saada regions. Among them were Operation Flammeche and Operation Pamphile.

In late June, the 1er REP men moved to the Collo sector in the Philippeville region of the northeastern part of the country. They conducted guerrilla warfare there. Just for the record, the 2e REP was stationed in Philippeville (Skikda today).

Between late July and late September, the 1er REP participated in Operation Cigale in the Ouarsenis, around the town of Vialar (Tissemsilt now). At least 115 rebels were killed.
 

1er REP’s composition in Algeria in September 1960

  • Command : Lieutenant Colonel Dufour
  • HQ Company : Captain Bernard
  • 1st Company : Captain Sergent
  • 2nd Company : Captain Simonot
  • 3rd Company : Captain Estoup
  • 4th Company : Captain Cattelotte
  • Combat Support Company (CA) : Captain Ponsolle
  • Motorized Company (CP) : Captain de la Forest Divonne

The 1er REP was composed of 1,285 officers, NCOs and legionnaires.
 

Between October 5 and November 19, Operation Ariege (the first phase of the larger Operation Trident) took place in the Setif and Batna regions in northeastern Algeria. Both towns were old garrisons of the 3e REP, dissolved in late 1955. Over 110 rebels were killed during the operation.

On November 10, a fierce battle occurred during Operation Ariege, near Batna. Lieutenant Godot and his 1st Company, 1er REP were involved. During the battle, nine rebels were killed, as were 11 legionnaires; six legionnaires were wounded.

On December 5, Colonel Henri Dufour left the regiment. He was replaced by Lt. Colonel Maurice Guiraud, who arrived in mid-December.

 

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1960 - Operations - Map
In 1960, besides the two large military operations (Operation Cigale and Operation Ariege), the 1er REP also conducted operations in the Hodna Mountains (Operation Flammeche) or in the Collo region.

 
 

1er REP: 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment in 1961

1er REP Officers’ Revolt. In early January, a French referendum was held on the matter of Algeria’s self-determination, as ordered by French President de Gaulle. In Algeria, 70% of voters voted for independence. The referendum was seen as a provocation and many Legion officers opposed it. The same day, four 1er REP company commanders revolted (Sergent – 1st Coy, Simonot – 2nd Coy, Ponsolle – CA, de La Forest Divonne – CP). This was a unique, extraordinary issue, a response to the referendum. While stationed near the Tunisian border, they refused to carry out a military operation. Their stated reason was that they didn’t want to see their men killed for no reason. The revolt resulted in the captains being transferred outside the Legion. Other officers left the regiment as well.
 

1er REP’s composition in Algeria in late January 1961

  • Command : Lieutenant Colonel Guiraud
  • HQ Company : Captain Bésineau
  • 1st Company : Captain Rubin de Cervens
  • 2nd Company : Lieutenant Picot d’Alignies d’Assignies
  • 3rd Company : Captain Estoup
  • 4th Company : Lieutenant (later Captain) Bonelli
  • Combat Support Company (CA) : Captain Carreté
  • Motorized Company (CP) : Lieutenant Durand-Ruel

 

In mid-January, the regiment returned to Zeralda. The same month, Major Helié de Saint Marc rejoined the 1er REP to boost the unit’s morale. He became its second-in-command.

Between late January and mid-April, the regiment conducted operations in the regions of Bougie, Djidjelli, and El Milia, situated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in northeastern Algeria. Almost 200 rebels were killed, wounded or imprisoned.

During the operations, several intense clashes with rebels took place. One of them occurred close to Mila, in the Djidjelli region, from January 31 to February 1; 21 rebels were killed. The second one took place near Kherrata, in the Bougie region, in late February. This time, 38 rebels were killed.

In mid-April, the 1er REP returned to Zeralda. The colonel went on leave and moved to France for several days. Major Helié de Saint Marc replaced him.

Generals’ Putsch in Algiers. A week later, a coup d’état took place in the capital of Algeria, organized by four retired French high-ranking generals. These were almost the same figures who had helped General de Gaulle gain power in May 1958, via a similar putsch in Algiers. Now, because of his acceptance of Algeria’s independence, they saw de Gaulle as a betrayer of France, French settlers in Algeria, and the French soldiers who had fallen during the Algerian War. Many in the military believed that the Algerian rebels could have been quickly defeated if the political will existed to do so.

Major Helié de Saint Marc with his 1er REP rejoined the putsch, and the unit became one of its most active participants. The men took control of several strategic points in Algiers and maintained order in the capital.

However, three days later, on April 25, the putsch failed. The following day, the regiment returned to Zeralda. In the afternoon, the camp was besieged by units loyal to de Gaulle.

On April 27, Lt. Colonel Guiraud arrived from France to replace Major Hélie de Saint Marc who had been arrested. Later, Guiraud moved to Sidi Bel Abbes, the Legion’s HQ. In the meantime, 1er REP officers were arrested or detained. Company commanders were sent to the High Military Tribunal and condemned to one to two years in prison; their sentences would be suspended. 1er REP lieutenants were released without tribunals.

In the afternoon, at 05:30 p.m. (17.30), the 1er REP men left Camp Jeanpierre for Thiersville (today’s Ghriss), a small town in northwestern Algeria, with a former military air base. During the movement, dozens of legionnaires deserted; many of them continued their fight for French Algeria as illegal partisans within the OAS (Secret Army).

Liquidation Detachment. In Zeralda, only one detachment remained, comprising around 100 men under Captain Caumont. They were appointed as liquidators whose mission was to execute the unit’s dissolution. They had to collect all documents, weapons, munitions, etc., and handle the subsequent cleanup operations. The detachment, less 60 men who had left the camp for Thiersville on April 29, was later reinforced by a team from the 1er RE. Lt. Col. Guiraud, after his return from Sidi Bel Abbes, also took part in the liquidation of his unit. The liquidators remained at the camp until late May.

1er REP’s dissolution. On April 30, Camerone Day, the 1er REP was officially dissolved, as a punishment for the unit’s participation in the putsch. Its last Camerone Day took place at Camp Jeanpierre in Zeralda. The small ceremony was organized by Lieutenant Soum, one of the very few unarrested 1er REP officers (on April 29, he had returned from his official leave in France).

Meanwhile, in Thiersville, between April 30 and May 3, 1er REP men got their new assignments in other Legion units (mainly the 1er RE). A special 1er RE detachment carried out this mission.

During the six years in Algeria, from 1955 to 1961, the 1er REP (and 1er BEP) men killed, wounded or imprisoned 3,507 rebels. The regiment was seen as the elite of the French Army. Having twice survived its annihilation during the First Indochina War, the unit was ultimately felled by a political decision. The 1er REP has never been reactivated. In Algeria, it suffered 7 officers, 44 NCOs, and 247 legionnaires killed.

 

1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961 - Algeria - Guiraud
Maurice Guiraud. In the rare image, Lt Colonel Maurice Guiraud (left) during an operation with the 1er REP in Algeria, 1961. The commander of the 1er BEP in Indochina in 1953-54, leading the unit during the battle at Dien Bien Phu. He had to replace Colonel Dufour in late 1960.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Hélie de Saint Marc
Major Hélie de Saint Marc. As a deputy commander of the 1er REP, he joined the Generals’ Putsch in Algiers.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961 - Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - HQ
Putsch’s HQ – Algiers. In the rare image, 1er REP legionnaires are sleeping inside the Putsch’s HQ in Algiers.
1961 Generals’ Putsch of Algiers - Algiers - Forum - 1er REP - 1 REP
Algiers – Forum – 1er REP, April 24, 1961. Legionnaires of the 1er REP are watching the large crowd of enthusiastic local people, gathered behind their Jeeps during the Putsch, to support the putschists. Note the three cars in the center equipped with 106 SR (M40) cannons.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961 - Algeria - Camp Zeralda
Camp Jeanpierre in Zeralda, late April 1961.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961 - Algeria - Camp Zeralda - leaving
Leaving. April 27, 1961, the 1er REP is leaving its camp in Zeralda for Thiersville.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961 - Thiersville - Algeria - Map
Thiersville (now Ghriss) in Algeria. The 1er REP moved there to be dissolved.
1er REP - 1 REP - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961 - Officers - Putsch - Trial
Generals’ Putsch Trial in Paris, June 1961. Officers of the 1er REP (berets) arriving at the court, with their escort.
The 1er REP leaving Zeralda, April 27, 1961 (from 1:24). Rare images captured by AP.
The camp of Zeralda in 1957. Very rare color images of the 1er REP, captured by German legionnaire Dieter Heller. From 10:55, 1er REP legionnaires burying their killed comrade, from 13:04, Foreign Legion's HQ in Sidi Bel Abbes, from 13:48 Marseille and its recruiting center with volunteers to join the Legion... From 00:50, the 1er REP's regimental song, Contre les Viets (see below).

 

1st Foreign Parachute Regiment’s hymn

The regimental song of the 1er REP: Contre les Viets

 
 
———
 

Foreign Legion Info store - Banner
You can support this website at any time through our store. Thank you.
EU-based readers can visit our EU-based shop, to avoid import charges.
Please note that the 1er REP design is available in the U.S. Store only.

 
———
 
 

Main information sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Foreign Legion annual bulletins
Jean Luc Mesager and collective: Légionnaires parachutistes (L’Esprit du Livre, 2008)
Pierre Montagnon: Les parachutistes de la Légion (Pygmalion, 2005)
Pierre Montagnon: Histoire de la Légion (Pygmalion, 1999)
Pierre Sergent: Je ne regrette rien (Librairie Fayard, 1972)
Alain Gandy: La Légion en Algérie (Presses de la Cité, 1992)
Henri Le Mire: L’épopée moderne de la Légion (SPL, 1977)
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)
Google.com
Wikipedia.org

 
———
 

More about the history of Foreign Legion paratroopers:
2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion
History: 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
Parachute Company of 3e REI
1st Heavy Mortar Foreign Parachute Company

 
———
 

The page was updated on: October 24, 2023