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 had been to maintain order in Algeria

1955:
– on July 01, 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
Lieutenant Robert Thimel became the company commander
– the reason was the deployment of 23e CPLE to eastern Algeria
– 24e CPLE had to replace it in western Algeria

– in August, 24e CPLE made their four-week instruction
– the instruction took place at Quartier Prudon, Sidi Bel Abbes
– Legion’s 3rd + 4th Instruction Center (CI N.3, CI N.4) were placed there

– in September, 24e CPLE left Sidi Bel Abbes
– the company moved to Ain Sefra
– a town in western Algeria, nearby Morocco
– the unit was stationed at Clavery barracks
– just abandoned by 23e CPLE

– in October, Lieutenant Thimel was promoted
– he was promoted to Captain Thimel

– 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 - Quartier Prudon - 1955 - Sidi Bel Abbès
Sidi Bel Abbès, the Foreign Legion’s headquarters. A very rare image of the newly established 24e CPLE, being reviewed by Colonel Raberin (the regiment commander of 1er RE) at Quartier Prudon before its depart for Ain Séfra. On the left, Lieutenant Thimel, the company commander. (September 7, 1955)
24e CPLE - 24 CPLE - 4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Quartier Ardassenoff - 1955 - Ain Séfra
Redoute Clavery. Barracks and the HQ of 24e CPLE at Ain Séfra (1955)

 

4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company: 1956-1963

4e CSPL: 1956

January:
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 Saharan unit
– would be equipped with Saharan uniforms
Captain Thimel continued as the company commander

4e CSPL’s composition in January 1956:

  • HQ Platoon
  • 1st Platoon (Lieutenant O’Mahony)
  • 2nd Platoon (Lieutenant Cailleux – killed in action later that year)
  • 3rd Platoon (Adjudant Gniewek, a well-known Polish NCO)
  • Armored 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 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: 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: 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 Jacquerez took command of the 4e CSPL

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
– five rebels were imprisoned

– in late June, Captain 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)
  • Armored Platoon

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

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

Lieutenant Bourgal took command par interim

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: 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 some 190 miles (300 km) across
– 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 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 - insigne - insignia
Insignia of 4e CSPL, created in 1957. Insignia’s main part comprises (like the other Legion Saharan companies) the Agadez Cross of Tuaregs, used by French troops in the Sahara as their main sign.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - 1956 - Ain Séfra - legionnaires
Ain Séfra. Legionnaires of 4e CSPL civilizing their new headquarters (1956)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - 1956 - Ain Séfra - legionnaires
Young legionnaires of 4e CSPL (May 1956)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - 1956 - Ain Séfra - legionnaire
Ain Séfra. Leaving on an operation, a legionnaire of 4e CSPL is saying goodbye to its friend (May 1956)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Sfissifa region - 1956
Dodges of 4e CSPL patrolling in the Sfissifa region (May 1956)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Sfissifa region - 1956
The Sfissifa region. Legionnaires of 4e CSPL a few minutes before attacking the enemy (May 1956)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Fort Hassa Rharbia - Gharbia
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL paying homage to 38 legionnaires at the military cemetery of Forthassa Rharbia (also Gharbia) in May 1956.
At this settlement in western Algeria near the Moroccan border, the Foreign Legion built up a fortress in 1906 and served there till 1920. In early February 1908, legionnaires patrolling in the sector of Forthassa were surprised by a massive snowstorm with strong winds, having never seen before in this land of sable. While marching all the night during that storm, 10 legionnaires died during the march due to exhaustion and 28 legionnaires died a few days later, because of frostbite being infected with gangrene.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Camp Lieutenant Cailleux - Algeria - Colomb Bechar
Camp Lieutenant Cailleux. Headquarters of 4e CSPL, since 1957 till 1963, built up by legionnaires and located in Colomb-Béchar, Algeria
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Timimoun - Dodges - 1957
Timimoun, central Algeria. Dodges of 4e CSPL being repaired in front of the fortress of Timimoun (October 1957)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Timimoun - Dodges - 1957
Dodges of 4e CSPL in Timimoun (October 1957)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Timimoun - Dodges - 1957
Return of 4e CSPL‘s patrol to Timimoun (October 1957). Legionnaires are dressed in Djellaba (also known as Cachabia) – a Berber traditional long, loose-fitting unisex outer robe, worn by French troops based around the Atlas mountains of Morocco and Algeria in the cold times, till the early 1960s.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Timimoun - Battle of Timimoun - Bataille de Timimoun - 1957
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL extricating a Dodge during an operation in the Timimoun region
(November 1957)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Battle of Timimoun - Bataille de Timimoun - 1957
The Armored Platoon (Peloton Blindé) of 4e CSPL during the Battle of Timimoun, in the hammada of the Beni Abbes region (November 1957)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Camp Lieutenant Cailleux - burnous - Colomb Béchar
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL entering its camp in Colomb-Béchar. Notice the black & beige burnous cloaks, an inseparable part of its traditional Grande tenue, a Saharan full dress uniform (1958)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Capitaine Jacquerez - 1958
Captain Jacquerez (left), the new company commander of 4e CSPL, is receiving the company’s flag during the Change of Command ceremony in the camp of Colomb-Béchar (October 1958). Notice the traditional Saharan uniform comprising 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 and sandals. It was the same uniform as the one of 1re CSPL.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - 14th July 1958 - Bastille Day 1958 - Colomb Bechar
4e CSPL during the Bastille Day parade at Colomb-Béchar (July 14, 1958) © Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Djebel Amour - 1958
4e CSPL during an operation in the Djebel Amour (Amour range) (October 1958)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Djebel Amour - 1958
An injured soldier being loaded into the helicopter by legionnaires of 4e CSPL during an operation in the Djebel Amour (October 1958)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Armored Platoon - Peloton Blindé
4e CSPL‘s Armored Platoon (Peloton Blindé) being composed of AMM8 (M8 Greyhound) armored cars, during a parade (June 1959)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - El Abiod - Abiod Valley - 1959
A legionnaire of 4e CSPL looking at the El Abiod valley during a military operation (September 1959)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Saharan Atlas
Saharan Atlas. Legionnaires of 4e CSPL becoming the mountain specialists… (October 1959)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Boulevard de Béchar
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL during the Boulevard de Béchar road construction (1960). Notice the camouflage combat uniform Tenue Léopard with a green beret, a uniform replacing the traditional combat uniform with a khaki-covered kepi. Tenue Léopard was in use by Legion’s Saharan companies since the early 1960s.
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - 1961 - Colomb-Béchar
4e CSPL‘s convoy going through Colomb-Béchar (1961)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Saoura - 1961
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL guarding the outpost in the Saoura valley, on the Algerian-Moroccan border (November 1961)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Saoura - outpost - Algeria - 1961
A legionnaire of 4e CSPL with a bush hat guarding the outpost in the Saoura valley (November 1961)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Saoura - outpost - Algeria - 1961
Legionnaires of 4e CSPL patrolling in the Saoura valley (November 1961)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Armored Peloton - Peloton Blindé
4e CSPL at its camp during the Camerone Day ceremony (April 30, 1962)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - Hamaguir
Dodges 6×6 of 4e CSPL during a mission in the Hamaguir region (May 1962)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - El Raoul - 1963
El Raoul, the Sahara. The last mission of 4e CSPL in its history. Next month, the company will be disbanded (February 1963)
4e CSPL - 4 CSPL - dissolution - Colomb-Béchar
Camp of Colomb-Béchar. Dissolution of 4e CSPL and establishing of the 2nd Motorized Company of 2e REI (March 30, 1963)
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 source:
Képi blanc magazines
Camerone bulletins
Insignes Legion

 
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: January 21, 2019

 

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