23rd Foreign Legion Motorized Company

The 23rd Motorized Company (23e CP) of the 6th Battalion, 1er REI was activated on January 1, 1955 in Ain Sefra, an old Foreign Legion garrison located in northwestern Algeria, in the legendary South Oran, the once wild territory pacified mainly by legionnaires. The company, under Captain Nicolas Laboure, was composed of three platoons equipped with Scout Cars. Considered a “fictional” unit, since the 6th Battalion’s HQ staff did not yet exist, it was administratively assigned to the DCLE (Joint Depot) in Sidi Bel Abbès, the Legion’s headquarters at the time.

In mid-February, Captain Roger Magnas replaced Captain Laboure and took over the command of the 23e CP. In March, he received the company fanion from Lieutenant Colonel Arnault, then-commanding officer of the DCLE and a provisional commander of the 6th Battalion, 1er REI, which was still formed only on paper.

Also in March, the company received the fourragère in the colors of the Foreign Theater Operations’ War Cross ribbon (Croix de Guerre des T.O.E.) of the old 6th Battalion, 1er REI, which had earned this distinction in Morocco, during the Rif War (1925-1926). Although the youngest among the motorized companies, the 23e CP was the first among them to receive this distinction.

The fourragère was awarded to the company by Major Reppelin. He was a freshly appointed commander of the 6th Battalion, though the unit still had not been fully formed.

Composition of the 23rd Motorized Company in March 1955:

  • Commander: Captain Magnas
  • 1st Platoon: Lieutenant Le Peillet
  • 2nd Platoon: Lieutenant Auclair
  • 3rd Platoon: Lieutenant Lambert


During their stay in Ain Sefra, the 23e CP’s activity was mainly devoted to training since very few of its men had already served in a motorized unit.

In May, the Scout Cars were exchanged for Dodge trucks that were more suitable for future missions in semi-desert areas. Each platoon thus received five Dodge WC 6×6 trucks. A few half-tracks and GMC trucks also remained with the company.

On July 1, 1955, the Foreign Legion’s motherhouse was reorganized. The DCLE along with the 1er REI were deactivated; a new 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE) was created to replace them. The three motorized companies of the 6th Battalion (which had never been fully reconstituted) became independent. Thus, the 23e CP was redesignated and became the 23rd Foreign Legion Motorized Company (23e CPLE).

That same month, Lieutenant Lambert was replaced by Lieutenant Tassy.


Ain Sefra - 23e CPLE - fanion - Lieutenant Colonel Arnault - Captain Magnas - 1955
Ain Sefra, March 1955. Captain Magnas (left) has obtained the fanion of his 23rd Motorized, from Lieutenant Colonel Arnault, the then DCLE commander.

Ain Sefra - 23e CPLE - Scout cars - 1955
A sergeant with sunglasses in front of the 23e CP Scout Cars, March 1955.
Cba Reppelin - fourragere du VI/1er REI - 23eme CPLE
Major Reppelin, the then commander of the 6th Battalion, 1er REI, hands the fourragère des T.O.E. over to legionnaires of the 23rd Motorized Company. Although the youngest among the motorized companies, the 23e CP was the first among them to receive this distinction. By the way, in 2019, the current 1st Foreign Regiment inherited the same fourragère that belonged to its former 6th Battalion.


At the beginning of September, the company received five U.S. M8 Light armored cars (called AM-M8 in France). They formed an Armored Platoon (peloton), comprising a significant number of former 1er REC legionnaires distinguished by their light khaki berets adopted in Indochina. Thereafter, on September 8, the 23e CPLE moved to Negrine in eastern Algeria, to share this garrison with the 2e CSPL for several weeks.

Later in the same month, the company participated in Operation Timgad, a major joint operation that occurred at the Tunisian border, close to Djebel El Djorf. The 23e CPLE legionnaires operated alongside their comrades from the 21e CPLE and 22e CPLE, the 1re CSPL and 2e CSPL, and the 1er REP and 2e REI. An important gathering of rebel leaders from the Aurès and the Nementchas mountains was destroyed. This operation saw the CPLEs and the CSPLs united into a Foreign Legion Motorized Company Group under Lieutenant Colonel Brisbarre, an officer of the Colonial Army.

In October, the 2e CSPL left Negrine and the 23e CPLE handed the post over to its older sister unit, the 21st Motorized Company. The 23e CPLE had to move further northeast to Bir El Ater. One platoon would be detached to Soukies.

From then on, the company’s defense and installation work alternated with operations and patrols in the assigned sector – in the Nementchas or on the Tunisian border (alongside the 21e CPLE or the 1er REP), as well as with day and night ambushes, identity checks, and searches of Nomad camps and their caravans (convoys ranging from 10 to 150 camels).

On January 6, 1956, Lieutenant Tassy‘s platoon left Soukies and joined the rest of the company at Bir El Ater.

A few months later, the company lost its autonomy and would be integrated, along with the two sister companies, into the Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group (GPLEA), activated in February of the same year. The 23e CPLE became the 23rd Motorized Company, GPLEA.

On May 20, Captain Magnas handed over command of the 23e CPLE to Captain Julien Camelin.

On the 25th, during a reconnaissance mission at Djebel Onk (a mountain/massif west of Bir El Ater), the company came across a rebel group. That day, six fellaghas (rebels) were killed. On June 8th, there was another major skirmish for the company, this time to the southeast of the village; 35 rebels were killed and 10 taken prisoner.

In early September, the company left for Philippeville, then the garrison of the 2e REP, for a week’s leave. On their return to the post on the 21st, a fierce battle took place at Djebel Fououa, north of Bir El Ater; 26 rebels were killed.

In late October 1956, the GPLEA – a little-known and short-lived unit – was disbanded. Its elements passed to the recently reorganized 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment. Still based at Bir El Ater, the 23rd Motorized Company, GPLEA was renamed as the 6th Motorized Company, 2e REI. The company’s overall result was 89 rebels killed and 67 weapons seized.

In March 1957, the 6e CP, 2e REI was replaced at Bir El Ater by the 3e CP, 4e REI. The company then left eastern Algeria for the west. It would join the 2e REI at its headquarters in Ain Sefra, which had in fact been the birthplace of the 23rd Motorized Company in January 1955.

In 2000, the newly created Base and Training Company (CBI) of the 2e REI adopted the former badge of the 23e CPLE. Transformed into the Administration and Support Company (CAS) in 2003, the company kept this badge until 2011, when the unit was disbanded.


Insignia - Badge - 23e CPLE - 23 CPLE - 1955
The 23e CPLE badge, created in 1955. The dorcas gazelle refers to the (pre-)Saharan regions, the company’s area of operations. Unlike the other two company badges, this one has a silver gazelle, in contrast to the gold grenade.

Ain Sefra - train station - 23e CPLE - 23 CPLE - departure - 1955
The 23e CPLE is leaving Ain Sefra for Eastern Algeria, September 1955. Note the half-tracks and GMC trucks of the company.
Tebessa - 23e CPLE - 23 CPLE - M8 cars - 1955
U.S. M8 Light armored cars of the 23e CPLE (with a Browning M2 machine gun) in Tébessa, Eastern Algeria, late 1955. Note the light khaki beret proudly worn by veterans of the 1er REC who had participated in the war in Indochina.
Algerie - 23e CPLE - 23 CPLE - legionnaire - 1955-1956
One of the 1er REC veterans serving with the 23e CPLE. The light khaki beret was worn in Indochina by men of the armored cavalry, including legionnaires. In the Legion, this beret disappeared in late 1959.
23e CPLE - 23 CPLE - captain Camelin - 1956
Captain Camelin, 23e CPLE commander since May 1956, with his Dodge Command Car during an operation in the sector of Bir El Ater.
23e CPLE - Bir El Ater - 1956
Bir El Ater, 1956. The HQ (under construction) of the company in Eastern Algeria.
23e CPLE - Bir El Ater - 1956
Airdropping of supplies to the 23e CPLE in Bir El Ater, 1956.
23e CPLE - Bir El Ater - 1957
Bir El Ater in 1957. The post had already passed to the 3e CP, 4e REI. But the badge of the 23e CPLE remained, as a souvenir. Right, the then 2e REI’s badge.
23e CPLE - badge - Bou Alem - 1957
The badge of the 23e CPLE seen in Western Algeria in mid-1957, inside the Bou Alem post of its successor, the 6th Motorized Company, 2e REI. The past was not forgotten.
23 CPLE - 23e CPLE - Sergent-Chef Johann Kraus - 6 Compagnie Portée - 2 REI - 2e REI
Staff Sergeant Johann Kraus, a non-commissioned officer of German origin and a platoon leader with the 23e CPLE. He spent five years in the First Indochina War and participated in the well-known Battle of Dien Bien Phu. He was four times wounded and imprisoned by the Viet-Minh for four months. After his return to Algeria, SCH Kraus joined the 23e CPLE from its very beginning and served with the company until his death. He was killed during a battle in the Ain Sefra region in January 1959. SCH Kraus had spent 11 years in the Legion. He gave the name to a class of the French Non-Commissioned Officers School (ENSOA).


La version française de cet article:
23eme CPLE : 23e Compagnie Portée de Légion Etrangère


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Main information sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Foreign Legion annual bulletins (1950s)
Tibor Szecsko: Le grand livre des insignes de la Légion étrangère (S.I.H.L.E., 1991)
Fanion Vert et Rouge


Related articles:
Foreign Legion Moroccan Motorized Group
1st Legion Saharan Motorized Company
2nd Legion Saharan Motorized Company
3rd Legion Saharan Motorized Company
4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company



The page was updated on: December 04, 2021


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