3rd Legion Saharan Motorized Company

The 3rd Legion Saharan Motorized Company (3e CSPL) was a Saharan motorized infantry unit of the French Foreign Legion, serving in Libya and Algeria between 1949 and 1963. The 3e CSPL was the only Legion unit ever stationed in Libya. This little known, self-governing, autonomous company was established in 1949 to guard the Fezzan region of Libya, having been under the French administration since 1943. In the mid-1950s, 3e CSPL joined the rest of the Legion in Algeria to take part in the Algerian War. It became a Saharan rapid reaction force. The 3e CSPL was disbanded in 1963.

3e Compagnie Saharienne Portée de Légion - 3 CSPL - 3e CSPL - 3rd Legion Saharan Motorized Company's History

 

Before the creation of 3e CSPL

In 1943, during the North African Campaign of WWII, General Leclerc and his Free French Forces (part of the Allies) entered Libya, a country in North Africa. At the time, Libya was a colony of Italy, one of the Axis powers. The Free French occupied the Fezzan, one of the three main regions of Libya, situated in southwestern part of the country. The capital of the Fezzan region is Sebha, then a small village. It was also seized by the Free French.

The French troops started to administrate the desert region, which bordered with French Algeria to the west. Sebha became the French administration center with an airfield built nearby. The village was dominated by an old fortress, renamed to Fort Leclerc by the French. French radio operators were based there, with their mast antenna.

In 1948, a decision to create a French Foreign Legion unit to serve in Libya was made. Most likely because of sporadic rebel activities related to growing independence sentiments in the region. In December 1948, first men and volunteers assigned to the future unit were regrouped in Sidi Bel Abbes, a main garrison town of the Legion (and its HQ) in Algeria.

 

3rd Legion Saharan Motorized Company: Libya 1949-56

3e CSPL: Libya in 1949

3rd Legion Saharan Motorized Company
3e Compagnie Saharienne Portée de la Légion (3e CSPL)

3e CSPL was established on February 1, 1949
– the unit was organized in Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria
– it would be stationed at Fort Leclerc, Sebha
– the only unit of the Legion ever stationed in Libya

Captain Georges Van Heems took command
– in 1946-48, he served in French Indochina (Southeast Asia)
– during the First Indochina War (1946-54)
– with the 2nd Battalion, 13e DBLE
– in the late 1950s, he commanded 1st Battalion, 3e REI
– Colonel Van Heems died in 1983

– Captain Van Heems moved to Sebha, Libya
– accompanied by an NCO (non-commissioned officer)
– to take charge of Fort Leclerc

– February 5, first 3e CSPL elements left Sidi Bel Abbes
– 8 NCOs + 64 legionnaires
– led by Lieutenant Coat
– their mission was to arrange the site

– March 31, other 3e CSPL elements arrived at Sebha
– 13 NCOs + 69 legionnaires
– led by Lieutenant David

– in April, Lieutenant Georges Hamacek joined the 3e CSPL
– a well-known French officer
– in 1946-48, he served with 3e REI in French Indochina
– in late 1950, he left Libya for Algeria
– to become a paratrooper
– in 1951, he deployed to Indochina again
– as Captain, he commanded 4th Company, 2e BEP
– Parachute Battalion, future 2e REP
– he was killed in Laos in May 1953

– April 30, 3e CSPL obtained their fanion
– during Camerone Day
– a holiday to commemorate the 1863 Battle of Camerone

– May 3, the third 3e CSPL detachment arrived at Sebha
– 6 NCOs + 19 legionnaires
– led by a senior NCO

– at the time, 3e CSPL comprised around 180 men

– 3e CSPL was composed of three combat platoons (pelotons)
– also HQ platoon + car maintenance platoon + transportation group

– 3e CSPL was equipped with Dodges 4×4 + Dodges 6×6
– also Berliet trucks for transportation tasks

– 2nd Platoon, 3e CSPL was stationed at Jadid
– an oasis village 2 miles (3 km) north-west of Sabha
– in an old barracks of Italian Carabinieri

– Fort Leclerc was adapted in 1949
– to house the 3e CSPL men
– several new military installations were built
– at the foothill of the fortress
– offices, garages, military houses
– also foyer (a Legion bar + shop)
– all works were finished in late 1949

– in Sebha, 3e CSPL also built a hospital and a water tower

– 3e CSPL’s main tasks in Libya were:

  • to patrol and maintain order in the region
  • to maintain French presence in the region
  • to research and maintain road connection between regional settlements, tribes, military outposts in the Sahara
  • to distribute water, bread, ice to local population
  • to supply French remote military outposts
  • to provide repair & maintenance service for civilian or military vehicles
  • to guard French officials
  • to search wood (very scarce goods in the Sahara)
  • to train young legionnaires before their deployment to French Indochina
  • to be an opportunity to rest and recharge for those legionnaires who returned from their necessary two-years-long stay in Indochina

 

– 3e CSPL’s working day in Libya during the hot season (May-Sept):
– wake-up call at 4.30 in the morning
– working until 10 A.M. (10.00)
– taking a break until 5 P.M. (17.00)
– working until 7 P.M. (19.00)

Attack on Fort Leclerc
– June 16, Fort Leclerc was attacked
– by a local armed rebel group
– led by Abdelkader Ben Messaoud
– a legionnaire guarding the Fort’s gate was killed
– a French Army radio operator was also killed
– another 4 radio operators (non-legionnaires) were wounded
– Captain Van Heems + 2 Legion NCOs were also wounded
– the rebels seized the fortress
– 3e CSPL legionnaires gathered below the fortress
– at the company’s garages and auto-service grounds
– they opened fire at rebels
– in fifty minutes, Fort Leclerc was recaptured
– 22 attackers were killed
– 2 attackers were imprisoned
– it was one of the first attacks aimed at the French forces in North Africa
– before the Algerian War started in 1954

 

3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Saharan Company - Compagnie Saharienne - insignia - insigne
The insignia of 3e CSPL created in 1949. The insignia has a shape of the Agadez Cross of Tuaregs, used by French troops in the Saharan regions. It bears the Legion’s green & red colors and its gold seven-flame grenade placed on the blue Cross of Lorraine, symbolizing the Free French forces’ campaign in Libya during WWII.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Fort Leclerc - Sebha - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1950
Fort Leclerc, Sebha. An old Ottoman fortress re-built by Italians (who ruled then Libya) in the 1920s. Seized by the French during WWII in 1943 and renamed later to Fort Leclerc, it became home to the 3e CSPL in February 1949. The legionnaires lived there until November 1956. Note the barbed wire protecting the fortress and Legion installations nearby.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Fort Leclerc - Sebha - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1950
Fort Leclerc in Sebha, Libya from air.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Fort Leclerc - Sebha - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1950
Legionnaires of the 3e CSPL posing at the foothills of Fort Leclerc, around 1949-50.

 

3e CSPL: Libya in 1950

– in January, a platoon was placed at Fort of Murzuk
– a old oasis town within great sand dunes, part of the greater Sahara Desert
– situated some 80 miles (130 km) south of Sebha

– another platoon was stationed at Qatrun
– a village in southern Libya
– situated some 160 miles (250 km) south of Sebha
– on the main road to Chad and Niger

– in April, a two-week mission to Chad
– a country under the French rule south of Libya
– Captain Van Heems + Lieutenant Hamacek + 26 legionnaires
– they went through the desert as far as Zouar
– 470 miles (750 km) south of Sebha

– in December, a mission to the Libya-Niger border

– in late 1950, 3e CSPL occupied different sites
– their HQ was based at Fort Leclerc
– their men were also stationed at Murzuk and Brak
Brak is some 37 miles (60 km) north of Sebha

 

3e CSPL: Libya in 1951

– in January, Rallye Alger-Le Cap
– a long distance city to city car race
– 3e CSPL secured the race in the region

– in March-April, a three-week mission to Chad

– April 24, Captain Robert Perrotte took command
– the very first commander of 38e CCB in Indochina
– Colonel Perrotte died in 2014

– every month, a UN plane was landing at Sebha
– to make inspection of the region

– in late December, Libya declared its independence

 

3e CSPL: Libya in 1952

– in 1952, AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) armored cars arrived
– they formed Armored Platoon, 3e CSPL

– on Christmas Eve, a British detachment visited Sebha
– they stayed with legionnaires for three days

 

3e CSPL: Libya in 1953

– May 9, Captain Laporte took command

– Captain Perrotte became the commander of the Sebha sector

– that year, the company was considerably reduced
– because of the war in Southeast Asia
– all redundant men left the 3e CSPL
– mainly officers and NCOs
– they were sent to French Indochina

 

3e CSPL: Libya in 1954

– 3e CSPL continued in carrying out their tasks

– in August, First Indochina War ended

– November 11, an international ceremony at Bir Hakeim
– the site of the 1942 Battle of Bir Hakeim
– a detachment of 3e CSPL participated

– also in November 1954, 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
– later in 1955, these actions escalated into a regular war

 

3e CSPL: Libya in 1955

– March 20-21, Genevieve de Galard visited 3e CSPL
– a legendary flight attendant
– serving in Indochina during the war
– well-known for her participation in the decisive battle
Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954
– she was trapped in the valley
– her plane was destroyed by enemy fire
– she then served in the field hospital
– as the only French female person in the valley
– at Fort Leclerc, she met with several Dien Bien Phu veterans

– June 30, Captain Olivier Desjeux took command
– in the Legion since 1946
– a platoon leader with 3e REI in Indochina in 1947-49
– then GPLEM in Morocco
– a company commander with 3e REI in Indochina in 1951-53
– 1963, Major Desjeux became the last commander of the reduced 5e REI
– he also served with 1er RE, 4e REI and BLEM
– Lt Colonel Desjeux left the Legion in 1965

 

3e CSPL: Libya in 1956

– in May, Colonial Road 5 road marking
– a major road connecting southern Libya and Chad
– a 3e CSPL detachment set up road markers alongside the road

– May 19, Captain Desjeux seriously wounded
– he was wounded during Operation Cashbah
– in Algiers, the capital of Algeria
– he was sent there as a French officer for a short period

Captain Pierre Bourgin took command temporarily
– a popular officer among his men
– he served within the 3e CSPL in 1955-56
– at the time, he was writing his own poems for Kepi blanc
– the Legion’s official monthly magazine
– under a chosen nickname Von Palaïeff
– in Indochina, he served as a commando leader
– later in 1956, he joined the 2e REP
– he was killed in 1959, while commanding Motorized Company, 2e REP

– August 1, Captain Robert Casati took command
– as Lieutenant, he commanded 1st Squadron, 1er REC in Indochina in 1949-50
– seriously wounded and evacuated to France in 1950
– back in Indochina in 1952-54, to command 4e GEA, 1er REC

– in mid 1956, a Franco-Libyan agreement
– all French troops had to leave the Fezzan region
– until December 1956

– in mid-November, the company’s preparations for leaving started

– November 29, 3e CSPL left Sebha for Algeria

– December 13, 3e CSPL was stationed at Fort d’Issendjel
– a fortress some 15 miles (25 km) north-east of today’s Takhamalt Airport
– in the Illizi region (Fort-Polignac formerly), southeastern Algeria
– some platoons were placed at Tarat and Bordj Tan Kena
Bordj Tan Kena was occupied by 1re CSPL elements at the time
– they restored and prepared the installation for 3e CSPL men

– 3e CSPL’s mission was to patrol along the Algeria-Libya border

 

3 CSPL - Saharan Company - Compagnie Saharienne - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1949-56
3e CSPL between 1949-56. In 1949-56, the 3e CSPL company was based in Sebha, Libya. In the 1950s, the company’s detachments visited Chad several times, mainly Zouar and the nearest region located close to the Tibesti Mountains. In late 1956, the 3e CSPL had to leave Libya. The legionnaires moved to Algeria, to be stationed temporarily at Fort d’Issendjel, Tarat and Bordj Tan Kena (a fortress located near Tarat).
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Fort Leclerc - Sebha - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1953
The fanion guard and legionnaires of 3e CSPL with their black & white Saharan uniforms at the foothills of Fort Leclerc, in late 1953.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Berliet GDR 7 - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954
A Berliet GDR 7 truck of 3e CSPL, around 1954. It was used for corvee de bois – searching and gathering of wood, a rare commodity in the desert region of Fezzan.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Armored Platoon - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954
NCOs and legionnaires of the 3e CSPL’s Armored Platoon ready for an operation, 1954.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Lieutenants - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1954
Lieutenants of 3e CSPL during a launch on maneuvers in Libya, 1954.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Fanion Guard - Tobruk - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1955
Tobruk, November 1955. The fanion guard of 3e CSPL (one NCO and two corporals) during a commemoration of the Siege of Tobruk in northern Libya in 1941, during WWII. Notice the 3e CSPL’s traditional Saharan uniform worn during the Libyan period: a long-sleeved white shirt with V-shaped red leather bandoliers (Model Sahara 1935) across the midriff and chest, black seroual trousers with 32 creases, sandals and a beige/blue burnous cloak. Legionnaires bore also the green-and-red epaulettes and the blue sash.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - AMM8 - M8 Greyhound - Armored Platoon - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1955
AMM8 armored cars of 3e CSPL during a ceremony at Sebha, 1955.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Camerone - Sebha - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956
Camerone 1956. 3e CSPL legionnaires during their last Camerone Day in Libya, April 30, 1956. The most important holiday of the Foreign Legion commemorates the famous 1863 Battle of Camerone. Here, they eat “the good Chinese soup” at one of several stands open for legionnaires…by legionnaires.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Camerone - Sebha - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956
3e CSPL legionnaires during their last Camerone Day in Libya, April 1956.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Chad - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1956
A 3e CSPL legionnaire during a mission in Chad, 1956.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Legionnaire - Djellaba - Fezzan - Libya - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1955
A member of the 3e CSPL in Libya in the mid-1950s. He wears Djellaba (also called Cachabia). A long, hooded loose-fitting traditional Berber wool robe worn during cold times and during maneuvers/operations by Saharan units.

 

3rd Legion Saharan Motorized Company in Algeria

3e CSPL: Algeria in 1957

– in January, 3e CSPL moved to El Golea
– an oasis town in central Algeria
– some 470 miles (750 km) north-west of Fort d’Issendjel
El Golea is a gateway to the Sahara in the south

– in February, 3e CSPL changed their placement once again
– the unit was stationed in Laghouat
– the then garrison town of 2e CSPL
– some 250 miles (400 km) north of El Golea
– 3e CSPL’s rear base would be based there

– in Algeria, 3e CSPL became an operational unit
– because of the ongoing Algerian War
– the men operated in the Djelfa and Messaad regions
– their missions changed in comparison with Libya

– 3e CSPL’s main tasks in Algeria were:

  • to patrol and maintain order in the region
  • to maintain French presence in the region
  • to scour rebel groups
  • to collect information about rebel activities
  • to operate road checkpoints
  • to protect French supply convoys

 
– 3e CSPL in Algeria was composed of:

  • HQ Platoon
  • 1st Platoon
  • 2nd Platoon
  • 3rd Platoon
  • Armored Platoon
  • Heavy Platoon
  • Maintenance Platoon

– Heavy Platoon comprised 81 mm mortars
– also equipped with 57 SR Canons (M18 recoilless rifle)

– 3e CSPL consisted of about 200 men

 
Captain Casati left the company
– in March, Captain Casati had to leave the 3e CSPL
– due to his open criticizing of the French leaving of Libya
– he was transferred to 2e REC
– in the early 1960s, he became a French Algeria partisan
– to fight for French Algeria
– in opposition to the French leaving of Algeria
– he was captured and imprisoned
– Major Robert Casati died in a military prison in Paris in 1963

– in late March, Captain Louis Peyramale took command
– in the Legion since 1948
– he had served as a platoon leader with 1re CSPL
– then, he served with 2e CSPL

– in early April, 3e CSPL moved to Messaad
– some 50 miles (75 km) north-east of Laghouat
– stationed at Quartier Sergent Leiva
– a former camp of 2e CSPL
– named after the 2e CSPL’s NCO killed during operations of November 1956
– Maintenance Platoon (rear base) stayed in Laghouat

– April 3-5, first military operations
– near Tadmit, west of Messaad
– aimed at a rebel group

– April 7-8, clashes with rebels
– first combat actions for 3e CSPL in Algeria
– at Kef Haouas, a mountain ridge west of Djelfa
– a town north of Messaad
– 6 rebels were killed
– 2 rebels were imprisoned
– 1 legionnaire was also killed
– 5 legionnaires were wounded

– May 16, a skirmish at Messaad
– 2 rebels were killed

– July 2, clashes with rebels
– in the Zaccar range between Messaad and Djelfa
– 3e CSPL + 4th Squadron, 2e REC participated alongside
– it took place at Djebel Tafara
– aimed at a large rebel group led by Si Larbi
– a local rebel leader
– that day, 80 rebels were killed
– 10 rebels were imprisoned
– however, 3e CSPL lost two platoon leaders
– Lieutenant Martial Fougeras de Lavergnolle (1st Platoon)
– Staff Sergeant Rutkowski (2nd Platoon)
– both platoon leaders were killed
– 3 legionnaires were also killed

– October 14, an accident occurred
– during a supply mission
– 3 legionnaires died

– in December, a mission to the south
– as far as In Salah
– an oasis town in the desert region of central Algeria
– some 480 miles (770 km) of Messaad

 

3e CSPL: Algeria in 1958

Harkis
– at the time, some auxiliaries served within the 3e CSPL
– called Harki (or Harka)
– pro-French muslims, ex-rebels in the vast majority
– at the time, almost every Legion operational unit had own Harkis
– this model was adopted in Indochina
Harkis were led by a Legion (Senior) Corporal or a Sergeant

– in January-February, 3e CSPL operated around El Golea

– May 1, clashes with rebels
– at Ksar El Hirane
– a village east of Laghouat
– 3rd Platoon + 2e CSPL were involved
Si Larbi, the local rebel leader was captured
– 29 rebels were killed
– 3e CSPL suffered some casualties
– 1 legionnaire + 1 harki were killed
– 5 legionnaires were wounded

– in May, 3e CSPL was devided into two parts
– one part was stationed at Messaad
– the second part was stationed at Ksar El Hirane
– Maintenance Platoon (rear base) stayed in Laghouat

– in July, a sergeant was killed by IED device
– 10 rebels were imprisoned in a following operation

– in mid-August, Heavy Platoon was placed at Mekhareg
– a small village between Laghouat and Ksar El Hirane

– October 7, 3e CSPL officially left Messaad

– in November, a three-week mission to the south
– to the newly established oil fields
– to protect a French general doing an inspection there
– 1st Platoon took part
– they went as far as In Salah and Edjeleh
Edjeleh is a town at the Algeria-Libya border
– north-east of Fort d’Issendjel
– the very first post of the 3e CSPL in Algeria
– some 940 miles (1,500 km) of Laghouat, through In Salah
– the platoon returned back in late November

 

3e CSPL: Algeria in 1959

– 3e CSPL’s main tasks at that time:

  • to patrol and maintain order in the region
  • to maintain French presence in the region
  • to scour rebel groups
  • to collect information about rebel activities
  • to operate road checkpoints
  • to protect French supply convoys
  • to control nomads and their caravans
  • to conduct military operations

 

– 3e CSPL was stationed at three places
Ksar El Hirane + Mekhareg
– their rear base (depot) was still based at Laghouat

– in early January, a skirmish with rebels
– near Mekhareg
– an NCO was wounded

– June 27, Captain Jean Vion took command
– Second Lieutenant Vion served with 64e CRALE (future 2e CMRLE) in Indochina in 1948
– then, he led 1st Platoon, Parachute Company of 3e REI
– the very first airborne unit of the Foreign Legion
– in 1949, Lieutenant Vion with his unit joined 1er BEP (future 1er REP)
– seriously wounded in Algeria in October 1956
– Colonel Jean Vion died in France in July 2018

– in October, Training Platoon
– an instruction platoon was established within 3e CSPL
– led by Lieutenant Roux de Montlebert
– to train around 50 enlisted volunteers
– as part of their initial basic training in the Legion

Battle of Kef El Fedj
– November 14, a fierce battle north-east of Laghouat
– with Commando 3, an important rebel group
– led by well-known rebel leader Ben Aissen
– the commando was annihilated
– 16 rebels were killed (including their leader)
– 13 rebels were imprisoned

 

3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - officer
The April 1957 Képi blanc magazine cover showing a Lieutenant of the 3e CSPL.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Louis Peyramale - Camerone - Messaad - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958
Captain Louis Peyramale, April 1958. The 3e CSPL’s first commander in Algeria, while reading the narrative of the 1863 Battle of Camerone, on 1958 Camerone Day. A former platoon leader with the 1re CSPL and 2e CSPL. As the other CSPL commanders at that time, he wears a beard. Until 2012, he was an active chairman of a French veterans organisation and wore proudly his Legion’s green beret.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Camerone - Messaad - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958
Camerone 1958. The 3e CSPL’s lined up in Messaad, Algeria to commemorate the legendary battle. Note that in Algeria, their traditional uniform changed. The black trousers were replaced by the whites in 1957.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Camp Sergent Leiva - Messaad - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1957-58
Quartier Sergent Leiva. The 3e CSPL’s base at Messaad, Algeria. The camp was built by 2e CSPL legionnaires in 1956-57 and named after a 2e CSPL NCO killed in November 1956.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Guerrara - M'Zab - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1958
3e CSPL Dodges during an operation at Guerrara, in the M’Zab valley of Algeria, 1958. Note the playing card spades (♠) symbol used to signify the platoon. Within the Legion, these playing card symbols were commonly used by motorized cavalry units in the 1950s.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Metlili - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959
A 3e CSPL legionnaire during an operation in the desert region of Algeria, 1959.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Jeep - Dodge - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959
Jeep-Command Car and Dodge-Radio of the 3e CSPL during an operation in the Ghardaia region of Algeria, 1959.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Oil Field - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1959
The 3e CSPL guarding an oil field in Algeria, 1959.

 

3e CSPL: Algeria in 1960

– in January, 3e CSPL left Ksar El Hirane
1re CSPL would replace them there
– 3e CSPL remained stationed at Mekhareg
– their rear base (depot) remained at Laghouat

– a new task for 3e CSPL legionnaires in 1960
– guarding of oil fields and oil engineers in the Sahara of Algeria

– since July, another mission for 3e CSPL
– registration of nomadic persons
– in the assigned sectors
– the legionnaires had to take photos and personal info of every person

– in late September, a mission in the south
– to patrol around In Salah
– 3rd Platoon was involved
– a response to a sad incident
– a French saharan Mehariste patrol was annihilated on September 19
– 2 French officers + 8 Meharistes (local camel cavalry) were killed

Operation Hoggar
– between September 23 – October 9
– also known as Operation Meniet
– aimed at the rebels who massacred the Meharistes
– it occurred between In Salah and Tamanrasset
– several rebels were killed
– their group leader was captured

 

3e CSPL: Algeria in 1961

French referendum on Algerian self-determination
– January 8, a referendum was held
– ordered by French President de Gaulle
– in Algeria, 70% of voters voted for Yes
– the referendum was seen as a provocation
– many Legion officers didn’t agree with it
– however, 3e CSPL had to participate
– the legionnaires crossed their assigned sectors with ballot boxes
– to let vote nomadic tribes at their nomad camps

– March 12, a skirmish with rebels
– 1 rebel was killed + 2 rebels were wounded

– in April, operations and patrols
– around Beni Ounif, in the Colomb Bechar region

– July 5, Captain Gustave Monnet took command
– he fought in Italy and France in 1944-45, with future 13e DBLE
– a survivor of the 1950 Battle of Dong Khe, with 3e REI
– captured by the Viet Minh a month later, he was sent to a POW camp
– liberated four years later, in late 1954
– before 3e CSPL, he served with 1er RE
– in 1958, his 6th Company, GILE (Training Group) saw a fierce battle
– 19 rebels were killed by his fresh legionnaires
– in the 1960s, he served with 5e REI in French Polynesia
– Colonel Gustave Monnet died in February 2000

– in late July, the whole 3e CSPL was stationed at Mekhareg

– the rest of the year, operations + patrols in the region
– also military training

 

3e CSPL: Algeria in 1962

– in early 1962, the war changed
– Algerians and French soldiers knew the war would be over
– the rebel ativities were very rare
– all units waited for a peace agreement

– 3e CSPL main tasks were patrols and night operations
– besides, also maintanance of materiel and training

Algerian War ended
– March 19, an official ceasefire came into force
– a result of the Évian Accords treaty (signed on March 18)
– however, military operations in Algeria would be conducted until September
– the end of the war would result in Algerian independence
– also in France’s withdrawal from North Africa
– the Foreign Legion’s HQ had to leave its homeland, Algeria
– it would move to France, after 130 years spent there

– 3e CSPL had to leave Mekhareg
– the company would be placed around Touggourt

– April 10, an operation to maintain order
– at El Hadjira, south-west of Touggourt
– a 3e CSPL legionnaire was seriously wounded

– June 6, 3e CSPL moved back to Mekhareg
– at Touggourt, the unit was replaced by 3e CP, 4e REI

– 3e CSPL conducted patrols in the region
– also patrols between Ouargla and Hassi Messaoud
– to guard oil fields

Independence of Algeria
– July 5, Algeria gained its independence

– July 9, Captain Raymond Bureau took command
– the last commander of the 3e CSPL
– in the Legion since the mid-1940s
– Colonel Bureau died in May 2016

– at the time, 3e CSPL was composed of 6 officers + 37 NCOs + 190 men

– after the independence, the unit’s missions changed
– maintaining, cleaning and repairing of materiel
– also tours between different French (mainly Legion) outposts
– to keeping connections

– in mid-August, 3e CSPL was stationed in Laghouat
– at Quartier Bessieres
– alongside the 2e CSPL

– 3e CSPL was guarding French convoys
– going to Ghardaia or Ouargla

– in August, also a mission to the south

– in late 1962, another mission to the south
– to In Eker (the site of France’s underground Nuclear Tests)
– to Reggane (the main atmospheric nuclear testing site)
– to Timimoun

– also a mission in support of oil engineers
– near Fort Lallemand (an old fortress south of Hassi Messaoud)

– at the time, 3e CSPL’s main missions were:
– guarding French convoys
– guarding important places
– maintaining, cleaning and repairing of materiel
– military training, doing sports

– in November, 3e CSPL visited 4e CSPL
– at Colomb Bechar, western Algeria
– some 350 miles (550 km) south-west of Laghouat

 

3e CSPL: Algeria in 1963

– January 1, Captain Bureau was promoted to Major

– February 1, commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the company

– March 31, 3e CSPL’s dissolution
– that day, 3e CSPL was disbanded
– the whole company would join 4e REI
– to become the 7th Motorized Company, 4e REI (7e CP) since April 1
– Captain Pascaud took command the same day

– June 1, 7e CP was renamed
– the unit became the 3rd Motorized Company (3e CP) of 4e REI

– however, the company would not survive more than 9 months
– in mid-January 1964, the unit was disbanded definitively

 

3 CSPL - Saharan Company - Compagnie Saharienne - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - Algerie - 1957-63
3e CSPL between 1957-63. In 1957-63, the 3e CSPL company operated in Algeria, mainly between Laghouat, Messaad and Djelfa. The unit was also stationed in this sector until its dissolution. In 1957 and 1958, the company saw the Sahara Desert again, when moving to the south – to In Salah and Edjeleh. In 1960, the legionnaires of the company also participated in a military operation in this region, between In Salah and Tamanrasset. Since the late 1950s, from time to time, they also guarded oil fields around Hassi Messaoud. In 1962, after the war was over, the 3e CSPL men conducted several missions. They saw then France’s main atmospheric nuclear testing site at Reggane, for example.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Registration - Nomadic persons - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961
The 3e CSPL carrying out the registration of nomadic persons in their prescribed sector, 1961. All persons of local nomadic tribes had to be photographed with an ID plate. Thousands of persons were registered by the unit. Note the green berets having replaced the khaki-covered kepi on operations in late 1959. The men also wear new camouflage fatigues/battledress Model 1947, adopted in the early 1960s.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Registration - Nomadic persons - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1961
The 3e CSPL carrying out the registration of nomadic persons in their prescribed sector, 1961. A legionnaire is marking a nomad family’s tent to be clearly identified from air.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - beer - tenue leopard - Sahara
3e CSPL legionnaires taking a break in the Sahara, 1961.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Berliet GBC - Bou Kahil
Berliet GBC truck (called Gazelle) of 3e CSPL during operations in the Bou Kahil region, 1962.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - training - instruction - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1962
3e CSPL legionnaires during a training course, late 1962.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Caserne Bessiére - Laghouat
Caserne Bessiére, Laghouat. Home to the 3e CSPL since August 1962 until the company’s dissolution.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Raymond Bureau - Fanion Guard - Algeria - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1962
Captain Raymond Bureau. The last commander of the 3e CSPL and the fanion guard during a 3e CSPL ceremony at the airfield of Laghouat, late 1962.
3e CSPL - 3 CSPL - Fanion - Foreign Legion Etrangere
The fanion of 3e CSPL used in 1949-63.

 

Images & information main sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Foreign Legion bulletins
Jean Paul Mahuault: Legionnaires Sahariens (L’esprit du Livre, 2011)
Insignes Legion
Vert et Rouge

Foreign Legion Info Shop - Banner

 

Foreign Legion’s other disbanded motorized units:
1st Legion Saharan Motorized Company
2nd Legion Saharan Motorized Company
4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company
Foreign Legion Moroccan Motorized Group
Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group

 
Foreign Legion disbanded regiments:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment
4th Foreign Infantry Regiment
5th Foreign Regiment
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment

 

 

The page was updated on: April 8, 2019

 

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