6th Foreign Infantry Regiment

The 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment (6e Régiment Étranger d’Infanterie, 6e REI) belongs to the very little-known units of the French Foreign Legion. It existed during the 1939-41 and 1949-55 periods. In World War II, 6e REI fought as part of the Vichy regime of France (the regime of Marshal Pétain) against Great Britain and its allies, until its dissolution in December 1941. Re-established in 1949 in Tunisia, the regiment provided training and transit unit for the Legion fighting in Indochina at that time. The 6e REI, reduced to a single battalion, was disbanded in 1955.

The history and traditions of 6e REI were inherited by the 1er REG.

6th Foreign Infantry Regiment History - 6 REI - L'histoire du 6e Régiment Étranger d'Infanterie

 

6e REI: 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment 1939-1941

1939:
– on September 1, World War II (Second World War) started
– France, including the Foreign Legion, took part in

6th Foreign Infantry Regiment (6e Régiment Étranger d’Infanterie, 6e REI)
– on October 1, a new regiment of the Legion was established
– 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment (it numbered almost 3,300 men)
– the unit comprised four Legion battalions already based in Syria
– they deployed there one by one, between 1921-1939
– 6e REI was nicknamed Levant Regiment (Régiment du Levant)
– Levant was the then French title for the French Syria and Lebanon territory

– in 1939, 6e REI was composed of:

  • HQ – based at Homs
  • 1st Battalion – based at Soueida
  • 2nd Battalion – based at Baalbeck and Beirut (Lebanon)
  • 3rd Battalion – based at Damascus
  • 4th Battalion – based at Homs and Palmyra

1940:
– on March 10, 6e REI split into two separate units:

  • 6e REI, a mountain unit based at Homs
  • Foreign Legion Levant Group (Groupement de Légion étrangère du Levant, GLEL), a motorized unit based in Damascus

Battle of France (May 10 – June 22)
– France was defeated
– Armistice signed by Nazi Germany and France on June 22
– for France, WWII temporarily ended

1941:
Legion of Levant Artillery Group (Groupe d’artillerie de Légion du Levant, GALL)
– on December 31, GLEL was disbanded
– on January 1, GALL Artillery Group of 6e REI was created

Syria–Lebanon Campaign
– in June-July, the 6e REI of Vichy France faced the British forces
– they were composed of Australians + Indians + FFL (Free French Forces)
13e DBLE was also part of the FFL of General De Gaulle
– legionnaires were on both sides of the campaign
– but they did not shooting on each other
– the French were defeated and had to leave Syria and Lebanon
– 6e REI lost hundreds of legionnaires during the campaign

– on August 16, 6e REI left Levant for France
– on August 25, the regiment was stationed at Camp d’Idron, Pau, France

– on December 3, 6e REI returned to Algeria
– it joined Sidi Bel Abbes (then HQ of the French Foreign Legion)

6e REI dissolution
– on December 31, 6e REI was disbanded
– its legionnaires were absorbed by the rest of Legion units

1945:
World War II ended
– on September 2, Japan finally signed the surrender documents
– it officially ended the war

 

6e REI - 6 REI - Soueida - Syria - 1940
Soueida, Syria. The 1st Battalion, 6e REI during a ceremony (April 1940)
6e REI - 6 REI - Homs - Syria - Camerone - 1940
Homs, Syria. Legionnaires of 6e REI with their own War Memorial during a ceremony on Camerone Day (April 30, 1940). Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
6e REI - 6 REI - Homs - Syria - Camerone - 1940
6e REI legionnaires from the 4th Battalion during Camerone Day at Homs, Syria (April 30, 1940). Photo credit: Ecpad.fr
6e REI - 6 REI - Homs - Syria - Clairon - 1940
A legionnaire-clairon from the 1st Battalion, 6e REI in Homs, Syria, in 1940. Photo credit: Ecpad.fr

 

6e REI: 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment 1949-1955

1945 – 1946:
First Indochina War started
– French Indochina reffers to French colonial territories in Southeast Asia
– in Indochina, a conflict started between the French and Ho Chi Minh
– Ho Chi Minh led the Viet-Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam)
– Viet Minh was a nationalist and (later) pro-Soviet Union 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

1949:
new 6e REI
– on April 1, 6e REI was re-established
– it was organized in Tunisia with two battalions of 1er REI
– Lieutenant-Colonel Babonneau took the leadership

– in June, 1st Battalion received an order to deploy to French Indochina
– it was renamed and became 3rd Battalion
– on June 7, the battalion left Tunisia to join the First Indochina War (1946-54)
– in July, it landed in Indochina
– III/6e REI was based at Hanoi, northern Vietnam
Operation Canigou (August), in the Hanoi region
– in November, 3rd Battalion of 6e REI changed its designation
– it became 1st Battalion of the newly reformed 5e REI

– in Tunisia, new 1st Battalion was re-established
– it was formed with fresh legionnaires joining the 6e REI

– in 1949, 6e REI was composed of:

  • 1st Battalion – stationed at Kef
  • 2nd Battalion – stationed at Tabarka

 

1951:
6e REI reorganization
– because of the war in Indochina, Legion units in Africa were reduced
– they had to send many of their legionnaires to reinforce the French in Asia
– 6e REI was also reduced
– its both battalions merged into a single unit
– on March 31, 1st Battalion, I/6e REI was formed
– I/6e REI was stationed at Kroumirie, Tunisia

– in July, I/6e REI was reorganized again
– it became an independent battalion (Bataillon Forment Corps, BFC)
– at that time, Forment Corps units served as administratively independent transit units
– both, fresh legionnaires and veterans joined them before/after serving in Indochina
– fresh legionnaires joined them to learn a real military life in the Legion
– legionnaires-veterans joined them to teach and help the young legionnaires

Forment Corps units conducted advanced military training courses
– sometimes, Forment Corps units also conducted basic training for young legionnaires
Forment Corps units also conducted real military operations to maintain order in the region
– after several months, both types of legionnaires, the young and the veterans left Forment Corps units
– they (re-)joined the standard combat units (operating overseas at that time, in French Indochina)

1952:
– in March, I/6e REI participated in operations in Tunisia
3e BEP also took part in

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

– 6e REI conducted military operations against rebels in Tunisia

1954:
– in March, I/6e REI participated in operations at Djebel Selloum

– in May, operations in the Kasserine and Kef regions

First Indochina War ended
– the war in Indochina ended on August 1
– France had to leave northern Vietnam
– in 1956, French troops had to leave the entire Indochina pensisula

– on August 5, I/6e REI was based at Camp Serviéres (Kef region)
– in August, operations in the Kasserine region

– in September, operations at Sidi Bou Zid and Grombalia

– in October, fighting with rebels at Debel Gouleb

1955:
6e REI dissolution
– on June 30, I/6e REI was disbanded
– it was the Legion’s only unit based in Tunisia during the First Indochina War
– its legionnaires consolidated with 2e REI
– on July 1, they formed its 3rd Battalion

6e REI - 6 REI - insignia - 1939 - 1949 - 6e Régiment Étranger d'Infanterie - insigne
6e REI insignia in 1939 and 1949
Young legionnaires of the 1/6e REI guarding at Bir Drassen in 1951
Young legionnaires of the I/6e REI guarding at Bir Drassen (1951)
6e REI - 1/6rei - Camp Amyot - Kef - Tunisia
Camp Amyot. Headquarters of the I/6e REI at Kef, Tunisia (1953)
6e REI - 1/6rei - Camp Servieres - Tunisia
Camp Servieres. Headquarters of the I/6e REI since 1954 (1955)
6e REI - 1/6rei - dissolution 1955
A very short report on the I/6e REI dissolution in 1955
(Képi blanc, 1955)
6e REI - 1/6rei - flag - drapeau - Sidi-bel-Abbes 1955
The flag of 6e REI parading in Sidi-bel-Abbes (headquarters of the Legion at that time) to be placed in the local Hall of Honour. (November 11, 1955)

 

Images source (besides that already defined):
Képi blanc magazines

Information source:
Kwaak99
Képi blanc magazines
Armée de Terre Française 1940

 
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See Foreign Legion’s other disbanded regiments:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment
4th Foreign Infantry Regiment
5th Foreign Regiment

 

 

The page was updated on: August 07, 2016

 

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