3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment

The 3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment (3e Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes, 3e REP) was a Foreign Legion airborne unit constituted as a battalion (3e BEP) in Algeria in 1949. The unit trained legionnaires to become paratroopers being able to take part in the First Indochina War (1946-54). The unit’s another mission was maintaining order in France’s North Africa. The 3e BEP also served as a transit unit for veterans returning from Indochina.

Twice in its history, the battalion helped to restore the other two parachute battalions of the Legion annihilated during the battles in Indochina.

The battalion became the 3e REP in 1955. It has remained the shortest living regiment (only 13 weeks) of the French Foreign Legion. The 3e REP was dissolved in late 1955. Its men helped to form the well-known 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP).

3e Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes - 3 REP - 3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment's History

 

3e BEP: 3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion

First Indochina War 1946-54

– French Indochina refers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
– under the French rule since the 1880’s
– in Indochina in the 1940’s, a new conflict started
– between France and the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was an independence movement, led by Ho Chi Minh
– 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
– in December 1946, the Viet Minh attacked Hanoi, Vietnam
– First Indochina War officially started

 

7e CIP: 7th Parachute Training Company

7th Parachute Training Company
Compagnie d’instruction parachutiste (7e CIP)
7e CIP was established on April 16, 1949
– a Foreign Legion parachute training unit
– led by Captain Pierre Darmuzai
– based at Mascara, western Algeria (North Africa)
– one of the two main training centers of the Legion
– 7e CIP was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1er REI

– the unit provided basic parachute training for young legionnaires
– volunteers to serve with parachute battalions in Indochina
– 1er BEP (formed in July 1948)
– 2e BEP (formed in October 1948)
– both battalions were based in Vietnam at the time
– they were actively participating in the war

– 7e CIP remained stationed in Mascara until October 1949
– between its officers, Lieutenant Marce or Second Lieutenant De la Croix Vaubois
– then, the company moved to Sidi Bel Abbes, western Algeria
– the garrison town of the Foreign Legion since the 1850s
– with its HQ based there
– 7e CIP would stay there until early November 1949
– it would be reinforced with new volunteers
– then, the reinforced company moved to Sétif, eastern Algeria
– some 250 men in total
– because of its strength, the unit would be redesignated

 

3e BEP: 3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion 1949-51

3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion
3e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes (3e BEP)
3e BEP was established on November 15, 1949
– ex-7e CIP
– still led by Captain Pierre Darmuzai
– based at Sétif (a former garrison town of the 2e BEP)
– at Caserne Chadeysson, an old French Army barracks
– 3e BEP was assigned to the 41e DBP (Parachute Half-Brigade)

– the battalion was composed of around 250 men
– that means a HQ unit + two companies

– the legionnaires were trained in Philippeville
– a town some 110 miles (180 km) north-east of Sétif
– a home to the 41e DBP
– also a home to the brigade’s CES (Parachute Training Center)
– the legionnaires were trained there by regular French paratroopers
– they attended the training with “blue berets” and “red berets”
– future paratroopers of the French Army regular units
– by the way, the airborne legionnaires wore green berets
– 10 years later, this symbol would be adopted by the entire Legion

1950:
– in mid-February, first reinforcement for Indochina
– about 100 legionnaires of the 3e BEP
– they left Africa to join the war in Indochina
– to reinforce the two BEPs

– later that year, the insignia of 3e BEP
– it was created by its commander, Captain Darmuzai

1951:
– in mid-February, a large reinforcement for Indochina
– almost the whole 3e BEP
– 13 officers, 32 non-commissioned officer + 441 legionnaires
– headed by Captain Darmuzai
– 3e BEP would restore the 1er BEP
– 1er BEP was annihilated in the Battle of Route Coloniale 4 in October 1950
– Captain Darmuzai would become the commander of the 1er BEP

 

3e BEP: 3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion 1951-54

1951:
– in Sétif, only a 3e BEP depot remained
– led by Major Albert Brothier
– he took command administratively in mid-January
– the depot would be reinforced by new young volunteers

 

3e BEP - 3 BEP - Insignia - insigne - 1950
The insignia of the 3e BEP, created by Captain Darmuzai in 1950.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Setif - Caserne Chadeysson - 1950s
Caserne Chadeysson, the barracks of the 3e BEP in Sétif.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Albert Brothier
Major Albert Brothier, the head of the 3e BEP in 1951-52.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Setif - Algeria - 1951
Major Brothier and his 3e BEP parade in Sétif, 1951. Note that the airborne legionnaires wore green berets, as the only Legion elements in North Africa. In late 1959, the green beret was adopted by the rest of the Legion as its official headgear.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Setif - Algeria - Map - 1949
Sétif in Algeria, the home of the 3e BEP. The 7e CIP moved there from Mascara, after a short stay at Sidi Bel Abbes, the then HQ of the Foreign Legion. To get the parachute badge, the legionnaires attended a three-week jumping course at Philippeville.

 

1952:
Operation Mars
– January 28 – July 2
– a military operation in Tunisia
– a country east of Algeria
– part of the then French colonial empire
– the operation was aimed at local left-wing rebels
– led by Habib Bourgouiba
– 3e BEP took part
– alongside legionnaires of the 6e REI

– January 24, 3e BEP left Algeria for Tunisia
– January 26, the battalion was stationed at Bou Ficha
– a town situated about 35 miles (60 km) south of Tunis, the capital
– the legionnaires operated in the Cape Bon peninsula
– operations at Tazerka and Nabeul

– February 4-10, maintaining order at Sousse
– a garrison town of Foreign Legion cavalrymen
– a home to the 1er REC in 1922-40 and 1955-56

– in mid-February, 3e BEP maintained order at Gafsa and Sfax
– 9th Company patrolled at Gabes at the time

– these missions lasted until late June
– the 3e BEP returned to Algeria in early July

 
Change of Command
– in mid-June 1952, Major Paul Dussert took command
– Major Brothier left the 3e BEP
– he moved to Indochina to command the 1er BEP

– Major Dussert had already served in Indochina
– he was among first legionnaires having landed there
– with the 1st Company, 2e REI (1946-48)
– then, he served with the 2e BEP (1948-50)
– also as its provisional commander
– however, he remains a little-known officer of the Legion

War Memorial
Monument aux Morts
– October 5, War Memorial was inaugurated
– dedicated to the fallen Foreign Legion paratroopers
– it was placed at the Field of Honor
– inside the 3e BEP’s barracks in Sétif
– in 1967, the War Memorial would be transferred to Corsica
– it is placed inside Camp Raffalli, Calvi

 

3e BEP - 3 BEP - Tunisia - Map - 1952
Between January-July 1952, the 3e BEP took part in Operation Mars in Tunisia.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Sergeant - Tunisia - Operation Mars - 1952
A sergeant of the 3e BEP during Operation Mars in Tunisia, 1952. While the rest of the Foreign Legion used khaki-covered képis during military operations in North Africa, the paratroopers of the Legion wore green berets (adopted in Indochina in 1948-49).
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Parade - Defile - 1952
The 3e BEP during a military parade, 1952.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - War Memorial - Monument aux Morts - Setif - 1952
The War Memorial situated within the 3e BEP’s Caserne Chadeysson in Sétif. It was inaugurated by General Gardy on October 5, 1952. The War Memorial is dedicated to the fallen Foreign Legion Paratroopers. Today, the Memorial is placed within Camp Raffalli in Calvi (Corsica), the home to the 2e REP. It was transferred from Africa to Corsica in 1967. The construction of the Memorial was carried out by the then 3e BEP’s Lieutenant Audoye (in 1948, he was among the first three Foreign Legion airborne officers, serving with the Parachute Company, 3e REI). The War Memorial was renovated in the 1980s.

 

1953:
Paratrooper Depot Company
– January 1, a new company was established within the battalion
– led by Captain Xavier Hochart
– a former member of the 1er BEP (1948-50)

– 3e BEP continued its training mission
– it also served as a transit unit for veterans from 1er BEP + 2e BEP
– the unit participated in a number of military exercises
– if needed, a company team was able to help to maintain order in the region
– the unit also did a lot of sports
– there were several sports teams
– soccer (football), voleyball, handball or judo
– in 1953 and 1954, the 3e BEP’s handball team became champions of Algeria

 
1954:
– in February, 3e BEP moved to Oujda, Morocco
– a country located west of Algeria
– a part of the then French colonial empire
– the battalion stayed a week there

Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– a decisive battle of the war in Indochina
– March – May 1954
– 1er BEP + 2e BEP participated
– the units suffered heavy losses

3e BEP to move to Indochina
– a decision to send the 3e BEP to Indochina
– to take part in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– however, Major Dussert refused to return to Indochina

– in mid-April, Major Georges Masselot took command
– a well-known Foreign Legion officer
– he took the whole battalion to Indochina
– May 4, 3e BEP (around 500 men together) left Algeria

3e BEP to become 2e BEP
– May 7, Battle of Dien Bien Phu was over
– both BEPs were annihilated
– May 25, 3e BEP landed at Hai Phong, Northern Vietnam
– a new decision ordered the unit to restore the 2e BEP
– June 1, 3e BEP was redesignated
– a new 2e BEP was re-created
– led by Major Masselot
– reinforced by several ex-2e BEP elements
– from the dissolved depot + wounded men from hospitals
– some 120 local auxiliaries also joined the new 2e BEP

 

3e BEP - 3 BEP - Setif - Caserne Chadeysson - 1953
3e BEP legionnaires in front of the entrance to their Caserne Chadeysson in Sétif, 1953.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Paul Dussert
Major Paul Dussert, the head of the 3e BEP in 1952-54.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Morocco - 1954
3e BEP legionnaires in Morocco in February 1954.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Morocco - 1954
The 3e BEP jumping in Morocco, 1954.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Morocco - 1954
3e BEP legionnaires parade in Morocco, 1954.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - 2e BEP - 2 BEP - Georges Masselot
Major Georges Masselot, the head of the 3e BEP in April-May 1954. A volunteer to jump over Dien Bien Phu with the 3e BEP. When arriving to Indochina, the battle was over. The mission was changed and the 3e BEP became 2e BEP on June 1, 1954. Here, Major Masselot as the head of the new 2e BEP (ex-3e BEP) in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 1954.

 

BEPs’ Depot 1954

BEPs’ Depot
Depot des BEP
– in Sétif, a small depot remained
– redesignated to BEPs’ Depot
– formed by the Paratrooper Depot Company
– the company was led by Captain Ferrer
– it continued in providing parachute training
– to supply the two restored BEPs in Indochina
– the unit was assigned to the DCLE (Foreign Legion Depot, now 1er RE)

First Indochina War ended
– August 11, the First Indochina War ended
– the ceasefire in Southern Vietnam went into force
– the last of the 5 ceasefires in Indochina (since late July)
– for 1er BEP + 2e BEP, the military operations ended

Algerian War started
– in North Africa, local rebels intensified military actions
– since late 1954
– these actions took part in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria
– countries under French control for decades
– the attacks were aimed at French forces presented there
– also at French people living and working there
– during next months, rebel actions would escalate into the Algerian War

Operations to maintain order for BEPs’ Depot
– in November, several detachments operated in the Constantine region
– east of Sétif
– a company team (5 officers + 155 men) patrolled in the Aures Mountains
– in the Constantine region, eastern Algeria
– between Batna and Arris
– also between Biskra and Khenguet Sidi Nadjil
– up to 100 miles (160 km) south-east of Sétif
– the company team operated in the region until late January 1955

 

3e BEP - 3 BEP - Setif - Algeria - Map - 1954
Since late 1954, the airborne legionnaires had operated in the sectors of Batna and Biskra situated in the Aures Mountains of northeastern Algeria.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Depot des BEP - Algeria - 1954
Legionnaires of the BEPs’ Depot during a military operation in 1954.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Depot des BEP - Algeria - 1954
BEPs’ Depot legionnaires in the Aures Mountains in November 1954. Note the modern Legion paratroopers using mules of the pre-war “Old” (Vieille) Foreign Legion. However, at the same time, the BEPs’ Depot/3e BEP men were the first Legion paratroopers to use helicopters during military operations (since November 1954).

 

3e BEP: 3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion 1954-55

3e BEP was re-established on December 1, 1954
– the unit remained stationed at Sétif
– led by Major Dussert par interim
– the missions of the battalion changed
– because of the end of the war in Indochina
– also due to the growing rebel activities in Algeria
– 3e BEP became an operational unit
– to maintain order and to fight local rebels
– however, it still trained future paratroopers

3e BEP’s composition in 1954-55:

  • HQ Company
  • 9th Company (Captain Audigier)
  • 10th Company (Captain Borel)
  • 11th Company (Captain Allaire)
  • Combat Support Company (Compagnie d’Appui, CA)

– note the companies’ numbering
– it’s because of the French Army system
– the 1er BEP consisted of 1st-4th Company
– the 2e BEP consisted of 5th-8th Company

1955:
Change of Command
– in mid-January 1955, Major Pierre Darmuzai took command
– the very first commander of the 3e BEP in 1949
– Major Dussert left the 3e BEP

– in April, 3e BEP still operated in the Biskra sector

3e BEP stationed in Batna
– in May, the battalion moved to Batna
– a town in the Constantine region, south-east of Sétif
– the battalion was placed at Transit Camp (Camp de Passage)
– a field military camp of the French Army in Batna
– the unit would stay there until early November

– May-November, operations in the Batna sector

– July 20, a skirmish with local rebels
– at Djebel Bosdane, north-west of Batna
– 10th Company, 3e BEP were involved
– a platoon led by Aspirant Cevaer
– a rebel was killed, several rebels were imprisoned
– it was the first rebel killed by the 3e BEP in Algeria

– in August, operations in the El Mhader range
– north-east of Batna

 

3e BEP - 3 BEP - Setif - Caserne Chadeysson - Darmuzai - Dussert - 1955
Change of Command. Major Pierre Darmuzai (left), the newly appointed head of the battalion, is reviewing the 3e BEP legionnaires at Caserne Chadeysson, Sétif, January 15, 1955. Behind him, Major Dussert. He had led the battalion since June 1952.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Setif - Caserne Chadeysson - Fanion - 1955
The fanion guard of the 3e BEP during the Change of Command ceremony, mid-January 1955. Note that the guard consisted of NCOs only, veterans from Indochina.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Algeria - Brandt Mle 27/31 - 1954
A young legionnaire of the 3e BEP during an instruction with the Brandt Mle 27/31 (81 mm) mortar in Sétif.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Batna - Algeria - 1955
3e BEP legionnaires during an operation in the Batna sector, mid-1955.

 

3e REP: 3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment

3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
3e Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes (3e REP)
3e REP was established on September 1, 1955
– ex-3e BEP
Major Pierre Darmuzai kept command
– the regiment remained based at the camp of Batna
– it continued in its missions
– 3e REP was an operational unit
– to maintain order and to fight local rebels
– besides, it trained future paratroopers

3e REP’s composition:

  • HQ Company
  • 9th Company
  • 10th Company
  • 11th Company
  • Combat Support Company

– as we can see, the composition remained unchanged
– just as the strength
– the then average 3e REP platoon consisted of about 15-20 men
– that means 400-500 men in total

– at the same time, 1er BEP was also redesignated
– it became the 1er REP
– since late February 1955, 1er BEP was stationed in Algeria

 

3e REP - 3 REP - Insignia - insigne - 1950
The insignia of the 3e REP. The regiment adopted its old battalion badge from 1950.
3e REP - 3 REP - Pierre Darmuzai - 1955
Major Pierre Darmuzai, the only commander of the 3e REP. In 1949, he led the original parachute training company in Mascara, before its movement to Sétif and becoming the new airborne battalion.
3e REP - 3 REP - Batna - Algeria - 1955
Transit Camp in Batna. The field camp made of large tents became a new forward operating base for the 3e BEP/3e REP in 1955.

 

September-November 1955:
– September-November, operations in the Batna sector
– also in the Khenchela region
– a region situated east of Batna

– Combat Support Company operated in the south
– in the Biskra region

– September 18, a skirmish with local rebels
– north-west of Khenchela
– 9th Company, 3e BEP were involved
– a rebel group was annihilated (a leader + 10 men)
– two legionnaires were wounded

3e REP to leave Sétif for Philippeville
– October 1, 3e REP was officially stationed at Philippeville
– its rear base was placed there
– led by Captain Ferrer
– however, the rest of the 3e REP remained based at Batna + Biskra

 
November 1955:
– November 9, 3e REP left the field camp of Batna
– it moved to the town, to be placed at a local college

– November 17, a skirmish with local rebels
– at Djebel Amrane, east of Batna
– 11th Company, 3e BEP were involved
– a platoon led by Lieutenant Branca
– 4 rebels were killed
– 4 rebels were imprisoned

first Legion Paratrooper Officer killed in North Africa
– he was killed on November 19, 1955
Lieutenant Raymond Cherfallot
– a member of the 10th Company, 3e REP
– killed at Djebel Fortass, Constantine region, Algeria

– November 26, a skirmish with local rebels
– at Djebel Maaguel, north of Batna
– 9th Company, 3e BEP were involved
– a legionnaire was killed
– another legionnaire was wounded

 
3e REP’s dissolution
– November 30, 3e REP was dissolved
– after 13 weeks of its existence
– it became the shortest living regiment of the Legion

– 9th Company, 3e REP was dissolved
– its men reinforced the 10th + 11th Company
– these two companies would help to form a new regiment

– Major Darmuzai left the regiment
– in January 1956, he took command of GPLEM in Morocco

 
2e BEP landed in Algeria
– November 18, 2e BEP (ex-3e BEP) landed in Algeria
– still led by Major Masselot
– the unit definitively left Indochina
– November 30, 2e BEP would be also dissolved
– its men would help to form a new regiment

 

2e REP: 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment

2e REP was constituted on December 1, 1955
– ex-2e BEP (which was in fact a former 3e BEP) + ex-3e REP
– the unit was stationed at Philippeville
– led by Major Masselot par interim

2e REP was composed of four companies
– two of them were formed by ex-2e BEP men
– 1st + 2nd Company
– another two were formed by ex-3e REP men
– 3rd + 4th Company (ex-10th + 11th Company, 3e REP)
– these two companies continued their missions in the Batna sector
– they joined the 2e REP in Philippeville in mid-January 1956

 
 

3e REP - 3 REP - Batna - Algeria - 1955
A 3e REP legionnaire inside Transit Camp in Batna, the forward operating base of the 3e BEP/3e REP in 1955.
3e REP - 3 REP - Judo - Batna - Algeria - 1955
3e REP legionnaires training Judo, Batna, 1955.
3e REP - 3 REP - Judo - Batna - Algeria - 1955
3e REP legionnaires during their freetime inside the camp of Batna, 1955.
3e REP - 3 REP - Judo - Batna - Algeria - 1955
A 3e REP legionnaire packing his “pépin” (a parachute) after a jump at Telergma (near Batna), 1955.
3e REP - 3 REP - Judo - Batna - Algeria - 1955
A 3e REP legionnaire (left), equipped with the MAT-49 submachine gun, while protecting a patrol in Batna, 1955.
3e BEP - 3 BEP - Fanion
The fanion of the 3e BEP (and the 3e REP), found and donated by Legion veterans to the Hall of Honor of the 2e REP at Camp Raffalli, in 1990.

 
 

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Main information & images sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Foreign Legion annual bulletins
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)
Pierre Montagnon: Les parachutistes de la Légion (Pygmalion, 2005)
Hommes de Guerre magazines
Google Maps

 
More from the history of the Foreign Legion’s paratroopers:
1st 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 4, 2018

 

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