5th Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company

The 5th Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company (5e CMRLE) was a Foreign Legion logistics unit constituted in then French Indochina in 1951. The company supported French troops during the First Indochina War (1946-54). The unit’s main mission was to carry out materiel maintenance, repair, and evacuation tasks. The 5e CMRLE was dissolved in 1955.

Foreign Legion Repair Companies in French Indochina 1946-54


First Indochina War (1946-54)
– French Indochina reffers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
– in Indochina in the 1940s, a conflict started between France and Ho Chi Minh
– Ho Chi Minh led the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was an independence movement
– 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


5th Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company

5th Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company
5e Compagnie Moyenne de Réparation de la Légion Etrangère (5e CMRLE)

5e CMRLE was established on July 1, 1951
– a materiel maintenance unit of the Foreign Legion
– part of the Service du Matériel branch of the French Army
– 5e CMRLE was organized in then French Indochina during the First Indochina War
– formed and stationed at Hanoi, Tonkin
– Tonkin was then title for northern Vietnam
Hanoi was the then capital of French Indochina

– 5e CMRLE was an administratively independent unit
– a composite unit, it consisted of some 195 men
– 6 officers + 29 NCOs + 160 men
– legionnaires in the majority
– also French engineers + local Vietnamese auxiliaries (some 25%)
– the company divided into three mobile platoons
– however, the strength was quickly overcomed (to more than 200 men)

Captain Christian Vet took command

– 5e CMRLE served as a logistics unit
– it provided primarily vehicle maintenance, repair, and evacuation
– in support of legionnaires and other French troops
– its men maintenaned and repaired vehicles in their ateliers (workshops)
– the unit provided exelent services
– tens of vehicles were repaired every month

– the men provided their important services also during military operations
– the company was equipped with wreckers (mainly Mack trucks)
– to evacuate vehicles damaged in the field during the operations
– by an engine failure or by enemy attacks
– also damaged by explosive devices placed on roads
– the men were often forced to repair vehicles on the spot, under enemy fire
– these tasks were carried out by Mobile Platoon

– 5e CMRLE was able to maintain and repair different materiel
– small vehicles, trucks or armored vehicles
– their mobile platoons operated mainly around Hanoi, Tonkin

– 5e CMRLE was assigned to the 3rd Provisional Tonkin Division (3e DMT)


5e CMRLE: 1951 – 1954

– there are only a few of official data regarding the company
– these small, independent Legion units were very autonomous
– they were far from North Africa, the HQ and archives of the Legion

1951 – 1952:
– in November 1951, Operation Tulipe
– 5e CMRLE participated in the operation
– alongside 1er BEP and 13e DBLE

– in March, Captain Jean Reix took command

– in April, 3rd Platoon deployed to Laos
– it returned back to Tonkin in August

– in October 1953, Operation Mouette
– 5e CMRLE participated in the operation
– Captain Reix commanded materiel units during the operation

– in December 1953, Dien Bien Phu
– in mid-December, an operation in the Dien Bien Phu valley
– in a remote region of northern Vietnam
– 2nd Platoon, 5e CMRLE was involved
– led by Lieutenant Jourdonneau
– the platoon moved to the valley
– to support French units stationed there
– over 10,000 of French soldiers and legionnaires
– the platoon became an armored mobile unit

– in March-May 1954, Battle of Dien Bien Phu
– a decisive battle in the valley
– 2nd Platoon, 5e CMRLE was involved
– during the battle, 1 legionnaire was killed
– 8 legionnaires were wounded
– at the end of the battle, the platoon was lost
– an officer, 3 NCOs + 27 men

– in mid-May, a new 2nd Platoon was established

– June 1954, a mission in southern Laos
– 1st + 2nd Platoon participated

– July 1954, a mission at Bien Hoa
– close to Saigon, Cochinchina (then title for southern Vietnam)
– 1st + 2nd Platoon participated


5e CMRLE: 1954 – 1955

First Indochina War ended
– in August 1954, First Indochina War ended

– after the war, 5e CMRLE continued to serve as a repair company

– in September 1954, 5e CMRLE officially left Tonkin
– it moved to Annam (then title for central Vietnam)
– the company was stationed in Tourane (HQ + 1st Platoon)
– remaining platoons were placed at Hue and Dong Hoi

– in December 1954, Lieutenant Cornilleau took provisionally command
– he was promoted to Captain in January 1955
– Captain Cornilleau took command officially on March 20, 1955

– as a result of the war, France had to leave Indochina
– all French units had to leave Asia until 1956
– many units were disbanded yet in Indochina

– in August 1955, 5e CMRLE left Annam
– the unit moved to Cochinchina
– it was stationed in then Saigon

5e CMRLE’s dissolution
– 5e CMRLE was dissolved on September 30, 1955


5e CMRLE - 5 CMRLE - Medium Repair Company - 1951 - Insignia - Badge - Indochina
The insignia of 5e CMRLE, created most likely in 1951. A cogged wheel symbolizes matériel units (maintenance & repair) of the French Army. Two dragons representing French Indochina hold a shield made in the Legion’s green & red colors. The insignia also includes the seven-flame grenade of the Legion and blue leaf springs of the vehicle repair units.
5e CMRLE - 5 CMRLE - Medium Repair Company - 1951 - Hanoi - Indochina
A legionnaire (wearing a side cap) from 5e CMRLE while repairing a vehicle’s engine, Hanoi, 1951.
CMRLE - Medium Repair Company - 1950s - Indochina
A workshop + garage of a CMRLE in Indochina, 1950s.
CMRLE - CMRLE - Medium Repair Company - 1954 - Indochina
A magasin (a store) of a CMRLE in Indochina, around 1954. The legionnaires from CMRLEs stored components of all military vehicles used during the war.


Main information sources:

More-majorum.de (Germans in French Indochina 1946-56)
Insignes Legion (Fr)
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)


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See Foreign Legion’s other disbanded repair companies of Indochina:

1st Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company
2nd Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company
3rd Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company
4th Foreign Legion Medium Repair Company
2nd Foreign Legion Armored Vehicles Repair Company



The page was updated on: February 11, 2019


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