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
– these actions took part in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria
– they were aimed at French forces presented in these regions
– the main rebel force fighting the French was the FLN
– FLN stands for National Liberation Front
– later in 1955, that operations escalated to 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)
– on August 01, 24e CPLE was officially established
– it was organized at Sidi Bel Abbes (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 its 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
– it was based at Clavery barracks of Ain Sefra, abandoned by 23e CPLE

– in November, 24e CPLE received its vehicles
– it was equipped by Jeeps, Dodge WC cars and AMM8 (Greyhound) armored cars

– in late December, the first military operation for 24e CPLE

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

1956:
4th Legion Saharan Motorized Company (4e Compagnie Saharienne Portée de la Légion, 4e CSPL)
– on January 01, 24e CPLE became 4e CSPL
– Captain Thimel (obtaining that rank in October ’55) continued as the company commander

– 4e CSPL was composed of:

    HQ Platoon (called Peloton in French motorized units)
    1st Platoon (1er Peloton) – commanded by Lieutenant O’Mahony
    2nd Platoon – commanded by Lieutenant Cailleux (killed in action later that year)
    3rd Platoon – commanded by Adjudant Gniewek

    – later, the Armored Platoon was established

– 4e CSPL served in the Ain Sefra and Geryville regions
– it maintained order there

– in February, 4e CSPL’s two platoons deployed to Tindouf
– Tindouf is a town in the westernmost province of Algeria
– it had to calm Moroccan rebel actions
– the operations there lasted until May

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

– in September, an operation near Beni Ounif, Colomb-Béchar region
– the first fighting action for 4e CSPL
– Intervention Platoon from Disciplinary Company (CD) took also part in

– 25-year-old Lieutenant Jean Cailleux was killed
– he was the first 4e CSPL officer killed in action
– he served as a platoon leader (2nd Platoon)

– in December, 4e CSPL moved to Colomb Bechar, south of Ain Sefra

1957:
– in January, operations in the Forthassa region

– in February, 4e CSPL was stationed at Camp Lieutenant Cailleux, Colomb Bechar
– the camp was built up by legionnaires of 4e CSPL

– although being a Saharan unit, 4e CSPL took part more and more in the mountain campaigns in the late 1950s

– one of the main task was to guard the Algerian-Moroccan border
– it was often crossed by rebel groups

– in October, 4e CSPL moved to Timimoun
– it is an old village in the desert of south-central Algeria
– 4e CSPL provided security operations in the region

Battle of Timimoun (Bataille de Timimoun)
– on October 15, more than 60 Méharistes (camel cavalry) deserted to rebels
– they served with the Méhariste Company of Touat
– that day, they killed 8 French officers and NCOs of their unit
– an operation to search the deserters started
– 4e CSPL and other French units being based around Timimoun took part in

– on November 6, a group of 4e CSPL legionnaires were killed
– the group (5 men) was headed by Sergeant Gutflech
– they guarded 2 French oil engineers and 5 Algerian oil workers
– the engineers were also killed
– they provided oil exploration deep in the Sahara’s desert
– the incident took place some 100km (60 miles) of Timimoun
– the group was attacked and killed by the 60 Méhariste deserters

– a large operation was launched
– it occurred between November 8 – December 7
– in the 150,000 km2 (58,000 square miles) of a desert area
– 4e CSPL and the 3rd Colonial Parachute Regiment (3e RPC) participated in
– at the end of the operation, more than 40 deserters were killed, the rest fled to Morocco

– in December, 4e CSPL returned to Colomb-Béchar

1958:
– 4e CSPL served in operations in the mountains near Colomb-Béchar

– in July, Capitain Jacquerez became the new company commander of 4e CSPL

– in October, military operations in the Djebel Amour (Amour range), Saharan Atlas

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

1959:
– in June, Captain Daumar became the new company commander of 4e CSPL

– August-October, operations in the Oued Zousfana and El Abiod regions

1960:
Boulevard du Bechar
– April-December, Boulevard du Bechar road construction
– 4e CSPL built up the 45km (30 miles) long strategic road
– it passed the Bechar region, through the local mountains

Colonel Lotfi killed
– on May 20, Colonel Lotfi was killed by 4e CSPL
– the operation took place close to Colomb Bechar
– Lofti was the head of local rebels
– 4e CSPL destroyed his group after severe fighting

1961:
– in June, Captain Jaluzot took the leadership
– he became the new (and last) company commander of 4e CSPL

– in October, 4e CSPL deployed to the Saoura region
– its mission was to guard the Algerian-Moroccan border
– the mission lasted until April 1962

1962:
Algerian War officially ended
– on March 18, Évian Accords treaty was signed
– it ended the Algerian War
– however, military operations were conducted until September 1962

1963:
4e CSPL dissolution
– on March 30, 4e CSPL was disbanded
– its legionnaires consolidated with 2e REI
– the unit became the 2nd Motorized Company of 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: June 29, 2016

 

← Back to French Foreign Legion Units

 

↑ Back to Top