4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company

The 4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company (4e CSPL) was a Saharan motorized infantry unit of the French Foreign Legion, serving in Algeria between 1955-1963. This little-known unit was the youngest Saharan motorized company of the Legion. The self-governing, autonomous company was established in 1955 as one of the four Legion’s motorized companies (CPLE). It joined the Algerian War (1954-62). In 1956, the company was designated as a Saharan unit and received the traditional Saharan uniforms. The 4e CSPL was disbanded in 1963.

4e Compagnie Saharienne Portée de Légion - 4 CSPL - 4e CSPL - 4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company's History

 

24th Foreign Legion Motorized Company: 1955

1954 – 1955:
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 aimed at French people living and working there
– during next months, rebel actions would escalate into the Algerian War

– in November-December 1954, two motorized companies were established
– they were formed within the 1er RE
21st Motorized Company (21e Compagnie Portée, 21e CP)
22nd Motorized Company (22e CP)
– in January 1955, 23e CP was established
– their main purpose was to maintain order in Algeria

1955:
– July, the companies became self-governing, autonomous units
– they were redesignated as Foreign Legion Motorized Company (CPLE)
– 21e CPLE, 22e CPLE, 23e CPLE
– in February 1956, they were grouped
Foreign Legion Algerian Motorized Group (GPLEA) was born

 
24th Foreign Legion Motorized Company
24e Compagnie Portée de Légion Etrangère (24e CPLE)

24e CPLE was established on August 01, 1955
– organized at Sidi Bel Abbes (then the Legion’s HQ), Algeria
– the reason was the deployment of 23e CPLE to eastern Algeria
– 24e CPLE had to replace it in western Algeria
Lieutenant Jacques Thimel took command
– in 1950-51, he served with 1re CSPL

– in August, 24e CPLE made their four-week instruction
– the instruction took place at Quartier Prudon, Sidi Bel Abbes
– the main garrison town of the Legion

24e CPLE to be stationed in Ain Sefra
– in September, 24e CPLE left Sidi Bel Abbes
– the company moved to Ain Sefra
– a town in western Algeria, close to Morocco
– the unit was stationed at Quartier Ardassenoff
– the barracks freshly abandoned by 23e CPLE

– in October, Lieutenant Thimel was promoted Captain

– in November, 24e CPLE received their vehicles
– Jeeps, Dodge WC cars and AMM8 (Greyhound) armored cars

– in late December, the first military operation for 24e CPLE
– at the same time, the company was redesignated

 

24e CPLE - 24 CPLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Sidi Bel Abbes - Cne Thimel - Col Raberin - 1955 - Algeria
24e CPLE. Lieutenant Jacques Thimel (left) presents his freshly established company to Colonel Raberin, the then head of the 1er RE, early September 1955.
24e CPLE - 24 CPLE - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Dodges - 1955 - Algeria
24e CPLE. Dodges 6×6 of the company during a review in the Ain Sefra region, late 1955.

 

4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company: 1956-1963

4e CSPL: 1956

4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company
4e Compagnie Saharienne Portée de la Légion (4e CSPL)

4e CSPL was established on January 01, 1956
– ex-23e CPLE company
– redesignated as a new Saharan unit of the Legion
– the company remained stationed in Ain Sefra
Captain Jacques Thimel continued as the company commander

4e CSPL’s composition in January 1956:

  • HQ Platoon
  • 1st Platoon (Lieutenant O’Mahony, Lieutenant Planet since March)
  • 2nd Platoon (Lieutenant Cailleux – killed in action later that year)
  • 3rd Platoon (Adjudant Gniewek, a well-known Polish NCO)
  • Machine Gun Platoon (would be established later that year)

– 4e CSPL served in western Algeria
– in the Ain Sefra and Geryville regions
– the unit maintained order there
– it conducted night patrols alongside the Moroccan border
– the unit also protected French convoys

January-September:
– January-July, construction works
– the men were (re)building their new installation

– in February, 4e CSPL’s two platoons deployed to Tindouf
– a town in the westernmost province of Algeria
– in the Sahara, close to the border with Mauritania
– an operation aimed at local rebel groups
– the operation there lasted until May
– the 4e CSPL men returned to Tindouf later that year
– to operate alongside 1er REP
– in August, operations in the Tindouf region ended

– May-September, 4e CSPL maintained order in the Ain Sefra region

September-December:
– in September, an operation near Beni Ounif
– at Djebel Bechar, in the Colomb-Béchar region
– the first fighting for 4e CSPL
– alongside men from Disciplinary Company (CDRE)
– 4e CSPL suffered first losses
Lieutenant Jean Cailleux (25 years old) was killed
– the first (and last) 4e CSPL officer killed in action
– he served as a platoon leader with 2nd Platoon

– in early November, 4e CSPL left Ain Sefra
– the unit moved to the south, to Colomb Bechar
– the region known for decades as a place for Legion disciplinary units
– the company built a tent camp to be based there

– in December, a mission to the south
– 4e CSPL made some 1,250 miles (2,000 km) in ten days
– in the remote regions of the Sahara
– to patrol the regions and search rebel activity

 

4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Jacques Thimel - 1956 - Algeria
Captain Jacques Thimel. A very rare photo of the very first commander of 4e CSPL (and 24e CPLE). In the early 1950s, he served as a platoon leader with 1re CSPL. In French Indochina in 1947, he led Armored Boat Platoon of the 1re CEMSG.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Ain Sefra - 1956 - Algeria
Quartier Ardassenoff, Ain Sefra. An old barracks named after a Foreign Legion officer and a former officer of the Russian Imperial Army, killed by two Algerian rebels in mid-1946. Built in the early 1900s by French Army pioneers and legionnaires, the barracks became home to the 24e CPLE and 4e CSPL in 1955-56. Here, 1st Platoon, 4e CSPL in early 1956.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Ain Sefra - 1956 - Algeria
Legionnaires of the 2nd Platoon, 4e CSPL in early 1956.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Jean Cailleux - Adjudant Gniewek - 1956 - Algeria
Lieutenant Jean Cailleux (left, khaki-covered kepi), the leader of 2nd Platoon, 4e CSPL killed during an operation in September 1956. He remained the only officer of the company killed in action. Here, with Adjudant Franciszek Gniewek, one of the famous figures of the Foreign Legion. Franciszek Gniewek (of Polish origin) joined the Legion in his 17, in 1944. A veteran of the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu, he commanded 3rd Platoon, 4e CSPL. He left the Legion in 1961. Promoted to Lieutenant (reservist) in 1979, he was still alive in 2017.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Operation - 1956 - Algeria
4e CSPL legionnaires during an operation in the Ain Sefra region, 1956.

 

4e CSPL: 1957

– 4e CSPL continued in their missions
– the men maintained order in the region of Colomb Bechar
– they patrolled the Algeria-Morocco border, often crossed by rebel groups
– they were at regional French military governor’s disposal
– to be ready to be alerted
– to participate in anti-rebel military operations
– the legionnaires also continued to build their new camp
– 4e CSPL often participated in the mountain campaigns too

– in January, patrols near Forthassa
– a village in the Ain Sefra region
– the site of the 1908 Forthassa disaster

– in July, the new camp was inaugurated
Camp Lieutenant Cailleux in Colomb Bechar
– the camp was built up by legionnaires of 4e CSPL

October:
– in October, 4e CSPL moved to Timimoun
– an old village in the desert of south-central Algeria
– a site to oil and gas exploration
– 4e CSPL provided security to French oil engineers

– October 15, Méharistes deserted
– a pro-French auxiliary camel cavalry unit
– that day, over 60 Méharistes deserted to rebels
– they served with the Méhariste Company of Touat
– they killed 8 French officers and NCOs of their unit
– an operation to search the deserters started
– 4e CSPL and other French units based at Timimoun took part

November-December:
– November 6, a group of 4e CSPL legionnaires was attacked
– 5 legionnaires headed by Sergeant Gutflech
– attacked by Méhariste deserters and rebels
– when guarding 2 French oil engineers + 5 Algerian oil workers
– they provided oil exploration deep in the Sahara’s desert
– heavily outnumbered, the group was imprisoned
– the incident took place some 60 miles (100 km) of Timimoun

Battle of Timimoun
– it occurred between November 8 – December 7
– a large four-week military operation
– aimed at the group of Méhariste deserters
– a reaction to the incident with engineers
– 4e CSPL took part in the operation
– alongside French paratroopers (3e RPC)
– over 40 Méhariste deserters were killed
– 6 deserters were captured

– in December, 4e CSPL returned to Colomb Bechar

 

4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Insignia - insigne - 1957
The insignia of 4e CSPL, created in 1957. The insignia bears the Agadez Cross of Tuaregs, used by French troops in the Sahara as their main sign. It also bears the seven-flame grenade of the Legion and the Legion’s green & red colors.
4 CSPL - Saharan Company - Compagnie Saharienne - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - Algerie - 1955-57
4e CSPL between 1956-57. Since 1955, the company was stationed in Ain Sefra, Algeria. In early 1956, two 4e CSPL platoons moved to Tindouf in western Algeria, to face rebels there. Later that year, the company moved to Colomb Bechar. In 1957, the legionnaires saw the true Sahara when being deployed to Timimoun.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Sahara - 1957 - Algeria
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL in the Sahara in 1957. One of the rare moments reminding romantic fantasies of the old times…
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Sahara - 1957 - Algeria
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL taking a break during a mission in the Sahara, 1957. At the time, all motorized units of the Legion were equipped mainly with Dodges 6×6. Note the hooded, striped djellaba (also known as Cachabia), a Berber traditional wool robe worn by legionnaires operating in the Saharan regions during cold times.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Sahara - 1957 - Algeria
4e CSPL legionnaires wearing djellaba during an operation, 1957.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Timimoun - 1957 - Algeria
Dodges of the 4e CSPL in Timimoun, 1957. The company stayed several months there and participated in a large battle with rebels.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Jean Planet - 1957 - Algeria
Lieutenant Jean Planet. A platoon leader with 4e CSPL (1st Platoon) in 1956-58. In early 1958, he left the company to join the 2e REP. Born in 1927, two times wounded during the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu, he would be killed in April 1960. He remains the second and last company commander of the 2e REP killed in action (as valid in 2019).

 

4e CSPL: 1958

– 4e CSPL continued to maintain order in the region
– they still patrolled the electrified Algeria-Morocco border
– they continued to participate in anti-rebel military operations

January-February:
– 4e CSPL also conducted a new mission
registration of nomad population moving in the Sahara
– the legionnaires registered + photographed every person

– in mid-July, Capitain Pierre Jacquerez took command

October-December:
– in October, military operations in the Saharan Atlas
– several rebels were killed

– in November, operations at Djebel Mizeb
– it took place at the Algerian-Moroccan border

– in December, Operation Bengalore
– an important rebel hideout was found by 4e CSPL

 

4e CSPL: 1959

– 4e CSPL continued to patrol the electrified Algeria-Morocco border
– it was their most important task at the time

– in early January, several rebel depot were destroyed
– alongside the border

– May 11, an operation aimed at a rebel group
– at Ouled Safsaf
– 5 rebels were imprisoned

– in late June, Captain Eugene Daumar took command

– August-October, operations nearby Oued Zouzfana and El Abiod sectors
– east of Colomb Bechar

 

4e CSPL: 1960

4e CSPL’s composition in early 1960:

  • HQ Platoon
  • 1st Platoon (Lieutenant Bourgal)
  • 2nd Platoon (Lieutenant De Haldat du Lys)
  • 3rd Platoon (Lieutenant Bezou)
  • Machine Gun Platoon

– at the time, a group of harkis were assigned to the 4e CSPL
– pro-French muslim auxiliaries (mostly cavalrymen)
– they were often former rebels

– in mid-January, a military operation
– a legionnaire was killed by a land mine
– Captain Daumar was wounded and evacuated

Lieutenant Henri Bourgal took command temporarily

Colonel Lotfi killed
– May 20, a military operation
– in the mountains near Colomb Bechar, western Algeria
– aimed at a rebel group with snipers
– led by Colonel Lotfi
– an important Algerian rebel and a regional leader
– a heavy fighting occurred
– Colonel Lotfi was killed
– several rebels were also killed
– between them, Commandant Faradj, Lotfi’s deputy
– a sergeant + 3 legionnaires were also killed, however

– in April, a group of legionnaires was placed at the local military airport
– to be ready to be transported immediately by a helicopter
– all platoons took turns

– April 6, a military operation
– part of Operation Promethee
– it took place in the Geryville region
– two Legion units participated
– 2e REI + 4e CSPL
– 52 rebels were killed
– 11 rebels were imprisoned

Boulevard du Bechar
– April-December, Boulevard du Bechar road construction
– 4e CSPL built up the 30 miles (45 km) long strategic road
– all platoons took turns
– the road went through the local mountains of the Bechar region

 

4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Camp Lieutenant Cailleux - Algeria - Colomb Bechar
Camp Lieutenant Cailleux. The camp in Colomb Bechar built by 4e CSPL legionnaires and inaugurated in July 1957. It was named after the platoon leader killed in 1956. Home to the 4e CSPL until 1963.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Colomb Bechar - 1958 - Algeria
4e CSPL legionnaires returning to their barracks in Colomb Bechar, 1958. They wear the Saharan grande tenue (full parade dress for winter period). Note their dark blue/white burnous, inspired by the traditional long cloak of Berbers.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - 14th July 1958 - Bastille Day 1958 - Colomb Bechar
4e CSPL during the Bastille Day military parade in Colomb Bechar, July 14, 1958. © Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Jacquerez - 1958 - Algeria
Captain Jacquerez (left) receiving the new fanion of the company, July 1958. He replaced Captain Thimel who led the company for three years. Note the summer parade dress uniform worn by legionnaires. The uniform was composed of a white short-sleeved Saharan shirt with V-shaped red leather bandoliers (model Sahara 1935) across the midriff and chest + white seroual trousers including 32 creases + sandals. It was the same uniform as the one of 1re CSPL (while another two Saharan companies distinghuished themselves).
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Berliet - 1958 - Algeria
Berliet GBC truck (nicknamed Gazelle) of 4e CSPL during an operation in the Colomb Bechar region in 1958. Every platoon had one Berliet to carry supplies and fuel. Another Berliet was used within the company as a service car. Note the ♥ (heart) playing card symbol representing one of the platoons.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Dodges - 1958 - Algeria
4e CSPL Dodges during an operation in the Colomb Bechar region in late 1958.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Helicopter - 1958 - Algeria
4e CSPL legionnaires often used helicopters during operations. Here, in 1958.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Machine Gun Platoon - AM M8 - M8 Greyhound - 1959 - Algeria
Machine Gun Platoon. AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) armored cars of the 4e CSPL during a ceremony at Colomb bechar, 1959. The platoon was called Peloton AM (Machine Gun) or Peloton Canon (Cannons).
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Daumar - 1959 - Algeria
In November 1959, Captain Daumar of 4e CSPL during an annual ceremony to pay homage to the officers and legionnaires of the 24th Mounted Company, killed during 1908 battles. The 4e CSPL (ex-24e CPLE) saw themselves as successors to that old mounted unit.

 

4e CSPL: 1961

– 4e CSPL continued in conducting operations in the region

– at the time, 4e CSPL was composed of 173 officers and legionnaires
– these men were still led by Lieutenant Bourgal

– March 19, 4e CSPL (re)deployed to Tindouf
– a town in the westernmost province of Algeria
– in the Sahara, close to the border with Mauritania
– some 500 miles (800 km) south-west of Colomb Bechar
– the company already served there in 1956
– the platoons patrolled the region
– they returned to Colomb Bechar in late April

– in May, the company was reinforced
– by NCOs and legionnaires from the disbanded 1er REP

– in June, 2nd Platoon operated in the Tabelbala sector
– some 190 miles (300 km) south of Colomb Bechar

– in mid-June, Captain Pierre Jaluzot took command
– he became the last company commander of 4e CSPL
– he had served in the Legion since 1948
– wounded in Indochina, when serving with 3e REI

– July-August, a military instruction

– September 29, a military operation
– several rebels were killed
– 3 rebels were imprisoned
– a legionnaire was also killed

– in October, 4e CSPL guarded the Algerian-Moroccan border
– the mission lasted until April 1962

– in November, protectiong of important places in Colomb Bechar
– against local protesters during pro-independence demonstrations

 

4e CSPL: 1962

– in January, operations at Djebel Amour, in the El Abiod sector

Algerian War officially ended
– March 19, Algerian War ended
– that day, 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’ HQ had to leave its homeland
– it would move to France, after 130 years spent in Algeria

– April-June, patrolling the border
– by a designated platoon put on alert
– the rest of the company carried out other tasks
– mainly instruction and sports activities
– also guarding civil refugees leaving Algeria

Independence of Algeria
– July 5, Algeria gained its independence

– since July, operations ended for the company
– replaced by protecting of ammunition depots
– also reconstruction of several military posts

– September 17, two legionnaires killed
– by a land mine hidden at the border

– November-December, a mission to the south
– two platoons (2nd + 3rd) participated
– they went separately to In Salah
– an unspecified mission
– in late December, the company was complete

 

4e CSPL: 1963

– January-March, maintenance of equipment
– also sports and istruction activities

4e CSPL dissolution
– March 31, 4e CSPL was disbanded
– its legionnaires merged with 2e REI
– they formed a new 2nd Motorized Company, 2e REI
– the new company remained based at Colomb Bechar

 

4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Outpost - 1961 - Algeria
An isolated outpost of 4e CSPL in the Colomb Bechar region to guard the Algeria-Morocco border, 1961. Note berets worn instead of kepi since 1960.
4 CSPL - Saharan Company - Compagnie Saharienne - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Algeria - Algerie - 1958-63
4e CSPL between 1958-63. Until its dissolution in 1963, the unit operated in the Colomb Bechar region (and the Geryville sector situated nearby). In 1961, the 4e CSPL deployed once again to Tindouf in western Algeria. Later that year, the company operated around Tabelbala, the garrison of the 1re CSPL before WWII. In late 1962, when the Algerian war was over, the legionnaires saw the true Sahara again when on a mission to In Salah.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Colomb Bechar - 1961 - Algeria
A convoy of 4e CSPL passing Colomb Bechar in 1961.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Colomb Bechar - Camerone - 1962 - Algeria
Camerone Day, 1962. The last Camerone for 4e CSPL legionnaires. The most important holiday of the Legion commemorates the famous 1863 Battle of Camerone. Local military officials are accompanied by Captain Jaluzot (left), the then company commander.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Pierre Jaluzot - 1962 - Algeria
Captain Pierre Jaluzot (undressed) during a mission in the Sahara in 1962. The last commander of 4e CSPL. A veteran of the war in Indochina, he left the Army as Colonel.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Sahara - 1962 - Algeria
4e CSPL Dodges during the company’s last big mission in the Sahara, 1962.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Colomb Bechar - Dissolution - 1963 - Algeria
4e CSPL’s dissolution, 1963. Legionnaires of the company lining up at their camp of Colomb Bechar in late March 1963, to be disbanded.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Foreign Legion Etrangere - Colomb Bechar - Dissolution - 1963 - Algeria
4e CSPL’s dissolution, March 1963. The fanion of the disbanded 4e CSPL next to the fanion of the newly constituted 2nd Motorized Company, 2e REI, formed with ex-4e CSPL men.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Fanion - Foreign Legion Etrangere
The Fanion of the 4e CSPL.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Djellaba - Cachabia - legionnaire
The March 1959 Képi blanc magazine cover showing a legionnaire (radio operator) of 4e CSPL dressed in a Djellaba and wearing a khaki-covered képi (designated for military operations outside the home base).

 

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
3rd 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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