Foreign Legion Mounted Companies

The famous Mounted Companies are infantry companies of the Foreign Legion mounted on mules. The first Mounted Company of the Legion was formed in South Oran of Algeria in 1881. The function of these elite units was to increase the mobility of infantry in hostile territory while avoiding the fatigue of men. They will successfully participate in the operations of the conquest of South Oran and in the Pacification of Morocco. Partially motorized in the 1930s, the last of the Mounted Companies was disbanded in Morocco in December 1949.

La version française de cet article: Compagnies Montées de la Légion étrangère

Foreign Legion Mounted Companies - History



The very first Foreign Legion company equipped with mules (hybrid of a male donkey and a female horse), and composed exclusively of foot soldiers, was created in early 1866, during the French Intervention in Mexico (1862-67). The company served as a counter-guerrilla unit to cover the evacuation of the French expeditionary force. This company was dissolved a year later, at the end of the campaign.

However, the story of the real mounted companies of the Foreign Legion did not begin until 1881, in North Africa, during the French conquest of Algeria (1830-1902). At the beginning of this year, an important part of the French troops were transferred from Algeria to Tunisia, to occupy this country. Immediately, an insurgency occurred in the south-west of then Algeria, in South Oran (the region of Ain Sefra, Figuig and Béchar). The insurgency is led by the marabout (a holy man) Bou Hamama, who massacres the Europeans and raids the tribes which resist him. It is an adversary of astonishing mobility which allows him to benefit from the effect of surprise in a hardly accessible territory, in the north of Western Sahara and in the Hauts Plateaux (High Plains).


Why the mule-mounted companies?

It was then in South Oran in October 1881, under the command of Colonel de Négrier (the then four-battalion Legion’s commanding officer, since July), when the first mule-mounted company was created. Within a military column, such unit is intended to move forward, to pursue the cunning and higly-mobile mounted enemy and to force him to fight face to face. The essential advantage of this new unit is to increase the mobility of the infantry while avoiding the fatigue of the men. The company of light infantrymen mounted on Arabian mules can go long and far, for several days, in hostile territory.

Towards the end of the year, mounted companies are also organized in each regiment of Zouaves and Tirailleurs (infantry units of the Army of Africa, along with the Legion).

Why mules and not horses or camels? Because the mule travels at a speed close to that of a man, i.e. at an average speed between 5 and 6 km/h. The mule is also too strong to carry the baggage of two men and well suited to the “land of thirst.” In addition, the mule feeds on 3 kg of barley per day, against the 5 kg necessary for the horse. The camel, too, is too strong and well suited to hot and sandy regions. But, in comparison with the mule, it is not usable in the djebels (North African mountain ranges).

The mounted company can usually walk 10 – 15 hours a day and cover between 25 and 30 miles (40 – 50 km). But, in an emergency, the men with their mules can keep a daily march of 44 – 50 miles (70 – 80 km) for several days.

Mounted Companies - Algeria - South Oran - Foreign Legion
The territory of South Oran in Algeria.

General - Oscar de Négrier
General Oscar de Négrier. As Colonel, he commanded the Legion in 1881-83.
Mounted Companies - Algeria - South Oran - Military Column - de Négrier - Fanion
The fanion of Colonel de Négrier‘s military column in South Oran in 1881-82.


Organization of the first Mounted Companies

In 1884, mounted companies became a Legion specialty; those of Zouaves and Tirailleurs will be dissolved. The organization of the Mounted Company (Compagnie Montée) has already been completed. It is made up of several pelotons (platoons); however, a peloton of the Mounted Company can comprise, in certain periods, up to 120 men. The legionnaires are chosen from among the most robust volunteers. The strength is increased to 215 men, 120 mules and 3 horses. The officers are on horseback; the adjutants (warrant officers) have an individual mule. As for the rest of the company, each mule is shared by two legionnaires: the “holder” (a veteran, he is responsible for the animal) and the “doubler” (a soldier with shorter service). During the march, half of the legionnaires are on mules; the others are on foot near their companion. They usually provide protection or help in difficult passages.

Mules march usually in single file, with strong and well-trained animals at the head. Every hour, the captain orders “Change, mount” (Changez, montez). The two men swap places. In an emergency, the speed of marching increases and the men on foot have to run. The exchange then occurs most frequently. When involved in an action, all men dismount, leaving their mules to the few legionnaires in charge of holding them.

As for the legionnaire of the Mounted Company, he is dressed in bourgeron (greatcoat) and canvas trousers (in winter, underneath, in long underwear), flannel sash, kepi with neck cover or chechia (calotte/bonnet). He bears a small backpack (musette) and a small bottle. On the chest, he has a modern cartridge pocket called Legion (from 1881, proposed by Col de Négrier). The legionnaire also bears his rifle (1874 Fusil Gras). The mule carries the rest for all three: baggage, rations, water and feed for several days.

The mule (also brèle in French military jargon) is the object of the most attentive care; its health is the main concern. Grooming of mules must take place every day. An NCO (usually a sergeant) must see the animals in his group morning and evening. A good mounted legionnaire has to put the welfare of his mule before his own. It was said that 99% of the mule’s injuries were caused by man’s fault and the sergeant’s negligence. If a mule gets injured, its holder (the responsible) was punished with 15 days in prison; he too had to walk on foot with all his equipment.

Legionnaire - Foreign Legion - 1881
The legionnaire in the early 1880s by P. Benigni. Note the chest cartridge pocket called Légion.

Mounted Companies - Legionnaire - 18th Mounted Company - South Oran - Algeria - 1903
A legionnaire of the 18th Mounted Company, 1er RE in South Oran in 1903.


South Oran and Morocco before 1914

Until the mid-1890s, one infantry company of the Legion is periodically transformed (for about a year) into a Mounted Company when deployed to South Oran. Thereafter, each of the two Foreign Legion regiments possessed such a company, until 1904. Since then, each regiment provided two rotating Mounted Companies (formed by different infantry units) to operate in South Oran, near the border with Morocco. That’s why their designation was changed so often.

Hard fighting took place there on a regular basis; the most famous occurred at El Moungar in September 1903. Part of the 22nd Mounted of the 2e RE (future 2e REI) of Captain Vauchez was badly damaged there by a Moroccan war band.

In 1907, the pacification of Morocco began. The Mounted Companies moved on the new battlefield to crisscross the Hauts Plateaux in southern Morocco. There, in May 1908, the 24th Mounted of the 1er RE of Lieutenant Jaeglé resisted the numerous enemies entrenched in the palm grove of Beni Ouzien. The lieutenant and 14 legionnaires are killed.

In 1913, the two foreign regiments have two regular Mounted Companies (CM) each. They are equipped with a Machine Gun Platoon to increase their autonomy.

The same year, the 3e CM of the 2e RE of Captain Rollet (a legendary officer, future chief of the Legion) changes the title and becomes the Moroccan Mounted Company (CMM). On the other hand, the 14e CM of the same regiment becomes Algerian Mounted Company (CMA) to operate in South Oran. Thus, there remain three Mounted Companies to serve in Morocco back then.

3rd Mounted Company - Foreign Legion - Oujda - Morocco - Camp - 1907
3rd Mounted Company, 1er RE in Oujda of Morocco, April 1907.

Mounted Company - Camp - Foreign Legion - Algeria - South Oran - 1910
A field camp of a Mounted Company in South Oran of Algeria, 1910.
Legionnaires - Mounted Company - Foreign Legion - Algeria - South Oran - 1910
Legionnaires of a Mounted Company in South Oran, 1910.
Mounted Companies - Foreign Legion - Rollet - Stamps - 1913
The stamps of a little-known 9th Mounted Company, 1er RE (future 1re CM/1er RE) and of the 3e CM/2e RE of Captain Rollet, around 1912.


First World War

During the First World War (1914-18), the three Montées remained in Morocco. Their main mission was to escort convoys, build posts and be part of the mobile groupements operating against local insurgents. The 1re CM/1er RE is in the region of Taza (northern Morocco), later in Bou Denib (at the border with Algeria’s South Oran). The company was mentioned in the order of the Army (France’s highest mention) in 1918 for the actions against Abd El Malek, one of the important leaders of the anti-French revolt. The 2e CM/1er RE is stationed in the region of Bou Denib. In August 1918, under the command of Captain Timm, the unit heroically fought at Gaouz; 47 legionnaires of the company are killed. The unit too is mentioned in the order of the Army in 1918.

The CMM, based during the war in the sector of Koudiat El Biad, operates between Taza and Fez. The unit is mentioned in the order of the Army and awarded with the War Cross 1914-1918 for a fierce battle of April 1918.

On the other hand, about the CMA in South Oran in 1914-18, we know almost nothing. In mid-April 1918, it crossed the border with Morocco to take part in several operations around Bou Denib.

In February 1918, the four Mounted Companies of the two foreign regiments, as well as the five Legion battalions serving in Morocco during the war, became independent units (formant corps in French military) no longer assigned to their original regiments, taking advantage of a regiment-like autonomy. They were subordinated only to sector commanders for operational tasks and to the Legion HQ for administration tasks.

Mounted Companies - Foreign Legion - Morocco - First World War - 1914-18
The three important sectors assigned to the Mounted Companies in Morocco in 1914-18. Besides, at Gaouz in 1918, 47 legionnaires of the 2e CM/1er RE were killed.


Morocco and the Rif War in the 1920s

After the war, the Legion was reorganized. The two old regiments, heavily reduced by the war, are fully reformed in 1921. In addition, another two Legion infantry regiments (3e REI + 4e REI) were established in Morocco in late 1920. The four Mounted Companies lost their autonomy and are incorporated. Now, the regiments have a mounted company each; yet another will be created.

Therefore, there were five Mounted Companies of the Legion in North Africa in 1922. One with the 1er, 3e and 4e REI; two with the 2e REI.

Four Mounted Companies operated in Morocco where the pacification of the country continued. In Spanish-controlled northern Morocco in 1925-26, in liaison with Spaniards, they also took part in the Rif War against Abd El Krim, the leader of the rebellious Riffians (Rif Berbers).

Meanwhile, the Algerian Mounted Company (CMA, now assigned to the 1er REI) still patrols along the Algeria-Morocco border in South Oran. It became the official custodian of the traditions of all the Mounted Companies of South Oran since 1881.


Syria in the Levant

At the same time, between 1921 and 1925, two Mounted Companies were created in the Levant (Near East), during the French pacification of Syria and Lebanon. They were assigned to the two battalions of the 4e REI being deployed there: the 13e CM of the 4th Battalion and the 17e CM of the 5th Battalion. Rare units, very little known, they were used for the pacification of Syria and for the development of the country. The 13e CM was dissolved in late 1924 and returned to Algeria.

The 17e CM becomes the 29e CM of the 8th Battalion, 1er REI in 1926 (don’t confuse it with the 29th Company, 1er REI assigned to the same battalion in 1925). The unit was active until the early 1930s. Already redesignated as the 16e CM of the 4th Battalion, 1er REI, the company was installed in Palmyra of Syria at the time. In 1934, it becomes a basic infantry company.

29th Mounted Company - Foreign Legion - Syria - Levant - 1929
The 29th Mounted Company in Syria in 1929. A very little-known unit.


The end of the Pacification of Morocco

In October 1929, while patrolling the Algeria-Morocco border, two platoons of the little-known CMA/1er REI are furiously attacked by local Berber rebels in Djihani, south of Meridja (the unit’s garrison in the Béchar region). Of the company’s 80 legionnaires, 52 are killed + 8 wounded.

In August 1930, the 1re CM/2e REI of Captain Fouré was attacked at Bou Leggou in Morocco by about 1,500 adversaries; 19 legionnaires are killed, 11 wounded. Then President of France Doumergue would personally award the company fanion with the War Cross.

One of the last battles for the Montées in Morocco took place in the Djebel Sagho range in February 1933: Battle of Bou Gafer. It is also one of the last major operations for French troops against Moroccan dissidents. Three Foreign Legion Mounted Companies (those of the 1er, 2e, and 3e REI), and a former mounted company (the ex-2e CM of the 2e REI, already motorized) participated. Captain Faucheux (CM/3), Lieutenant Brencklé and a number of legionnaires were killed. However, in a year, the pacification of Morocco would be finally accomplished.

After the end of the pacification, a more calm life started. The legionnaires of Mounted Companies are occupied with building roads, bridges or military posts. They also conduct long patrols in the Moroccan countryside to demonstrate French presence.

See also: PHOTOS: Lieutenant Mafteiu and Algerian Mounted Company in the early 1930s

Mounted Company  2e REI - Fanion - Captain Fouré - Ltn Brencklé - Morocco - 1930
In the photo taken in November 1930, the fanion of the Mounted Company, 2e REI was just decorated for the battle of Bou Leggou. Left, Captain Fouré, the then unit commander. Right, Lieutenant Brencklé; he will be killed at Djebel Sagho in 1933.

Lieutenant - 3 REI - Mounted Company 3e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - 1928-1940
A rare image of a lieutenant in front of the fanion of the Mounted Company, 3e REI (and the close-up), most likely in the 1930s. Photo published with the kind permission of Andrew J. Mitchell, the author of Tigers of Tonkin.
Mounted Company - Legionnaire - Mule - Morocco
A legionnaire and his mule march in the mountains of Morocco.
Mounted Company - 3e REI - Foreign Legion - Road construction works - Morocco - 1935
Road construction works by Mounted Company, 3e REI in 1935.
Mounted Company - 2e REI - Foreign Legion - Ksar Es Souk - Morocco - 1938
Legionnaires of the Mounted Company, 2e REI celebrate Christmas Eve at their post at Ksar Es Souk, 1938.
Mounted Company - 2 REI - 1939 - Legionnaires - Foreign Legion - Ksar Es Souk - Morocco
Legionnaires of the Mounted Company, 2e REI wearing shirt and tie, at Ksar Es Souk, 1939. Photo published with the kind permission of Mr Claude Fossé, a stepson of Staff Sergeant Ephisio Costamagna (Mat. 4041, second from right), who had served with this company in 1938-43, before being transferred to RMLE (a provisional, combined Foreign Legion unit constituted to fight Germans in Europe; 3e REI once again in 1945).
Mounted Company - 2 REI - 1938 - Legionnaire - Mule - Foreign Legion - Ksar Es Souk - Morocco
Legionnaire Costamagna with his mule at Ksar Es Souk. Another excellent photo from the collection of Mr Claude Fossé.
Mounted Company - Legionnaire - Mule - Morocco
A mule of a Mounted Company is fed by a legionnaire straight from a bidon.


Motorization of Mounted Companies

Towards the end of the 1920s, the Legion began to be motorized. The first Legion units equipped with vehicles are the 5th + 6th Squadron of the 1er REC (Cavalry), created in South Oran and in Morocco in 1929.

A few months later, the first Mounted Company will be motorized. For these mobile light infantry units, the introduction of the engine marginalizes their loyal and favorite mules. The companies will be transformed, slowly but surely, into composite mounted motorized companies before becoming fully Portées. That is to say (light) motorized infantry units of high mobility having their troops mounted in wheeled vehicles, instead on mules; they also have at their disposal armored anti-tank vehicles (replacing the machine gun platoon from 1913) to benefit from a much better mobility and autonomy.

By the way, the French military term Portée is sometimes translated to English as Mobile; however, that’s inaccurate. The mounted units were also considered as highly mobile at the time of their creation. Therefore, the term Portée is supposed to mean Motorized as to distinguish the modern vehicle-mounted motorized infantry companies from the old Montées, the mule-mounted ones.


First motorized Mounted Companies

In early 1930, Lieutenant Gambiez of the 2e CM/2e REI is responsible for preparing the motorization of the company. The first detachment of legionnaires has to follow an instruction on the new equipment. The company is redesignated 2nd Motorized Mounted Company in late 1930, and assigned to the 1er REI in July 1931.

The unit changed its title again in February 1933 to Automobile Company, 1er REI (CA/1). Stationed at Tabelbala in 1934, it consists of 278 men, commanded by Captain Robitaille. They form an HQ Platoon, a light motorized infantry platoon with trucks (120 men), and two armored platoons equipped with four Panhard armored vehicles each (they replaced old Berliet and White cars from 1930). In 1940, the company eventually became the CSPL (Saharan Motorized, 1re CSPL later) and served in the Sahara until early 1960.

In April 1933, Mounted Company of 4e REI became Automobile (CMA/4). With the strength of 285 men under the command of famous Captain Gaultier, the company is composed of four pelotons (same structure as the CA/1) and placed at Foum El Hassan of southern Morocco in 1934. At the beginning of this year, the unit participated (within the Group of Colonel Trinquet, alongside CA/1 + the two motorized squadrons of the 1er REC) in southern Morocco in the successful Anti-Atlas campaign, the first fully motorized operation of the French Army.

But the motorization of other Mounted Companies does not continue so fast. The CMA (Montée d’Algérie) of the 1er REI is motorized in 1931 only on paper. However, in 1933, the unit has already been equipped with first vehicles (Motorized Platoon with Berliet CBA trucks). In 1934, after the pacification of Morocco, the company was transferred from South Oran, where it served for more than 20 years, to Khenchela in northeastern Algeria. With a permanent detachment placed in the Sahara (Oasis Territory), it finally became the Motorized Company, 1er REI (Portée, CP/1) in January 1939. It is the very first Legion company with this official title for new motorized infantry units of the French Army.

In November 1940, the CP/1 becomes 9e CMP (Mixed Motorized, with composite platoons) of the 3rd Bon, 1er REI. In February 1941, it gains autonomy and is retitled 1re CMP, 1er REI. The company (or a detachment) is occupying a French post at Ouargla (Oasis Territory in the Sahara), until 1943. For this year, in French Army archives, the 1re CMP is mentioned as to participate in the Tunisia Campaign. The company is finally disbanded in June 1943. In April 1946, the freshly established 2e CSPL of Captain Bernard is stationed at the same post of Ouargla (Bordj Chandez) and in December, on the captain’s requests, his unit becomes officially the custodian of the old CMA’s fanion and traditions (even the insignia of the 2e CSPL was inspired by that one of CMA).

So, in 1939, only two genuine Mounted Companies with their mules remained alive. Those of the 2e REI and 3e REI. We do not know if it was someone’s nostalgia or a consequence of the sad events in Europe, what interrupts the finalization of the motorization of Mounted Companies. It is true that the CM/3e REI was already motorized on paper in early 1939 and that its legionnaires passed the car repair & maintenance class at their CMA/4 comrades’ place at the same time. In any case, the two Mounted Companies of 2e + 3e REI will remain mounted on mules.

Motorized Mounted Companies - Algeria - Morocco - 1934-39 - Posts
Posts of the motorized Mounted Companies in the late 1930s. The CA/1 was stationed at Tabelbala; CMA/4 at Foum El Hassan; CP/1 in Khenchela, with a detachment in the Oasis Territory (Ouargla).

Automobile Mounted Company - 4th REI - 4e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - 1939
Automobile Mounted Company, 4e REI and their field camp in southern Morocco in the late 1930s. The unit was the second fully motorized Mounted Company of the Legion. The charm of the traditional vieille Légion is gone; the modernity replaces it, with displeasure of the men missing the free air and their devoted animals.
Automobile Mounted Company - 4th REI - Mounted Company - 3rd REI - Foreign Legion - Foum El Hassan - 1939
Legionnaires of the CM/3 leave the post of the CMA/4e REI at Foum El Hassan, 1939. The 3e REI detachment finished car maintenance class there. Despite this, their unit remains motorized only on paper.
Algerian Mounted Company - 1st REI - 1er REI - Foreign Legion - Fanion
The fanion of the little-known Algerian Mounted Company, 1er REI (CMA/1), the custodian of the traditions of all the Mounted Companies of South Oran since 1881. In 1934, it moved to Khenchela in northeastern Algeria, to be motorized there. A detachment served in the Sahara, until 1943, when the unit was disbanded.
Motorized Company - 1st REI - 1er REI - Foreign Legion - Insignia - Badge
The insignia of the very first Compagnie Portée of the Foreign Legion, the ex-CMA/1 (with its badge in the top-right corner). As we can see, the exceptional but very little-known company was stationed in Khenchela even in early 1940. The company’s fanion and traditions were guarded by the 2e CSPL, which also adopted and slightly modified the insignia.


Second World War

During the Second World War, the last two Mounted Companies stayed in North Africa. In 1939 and 1940, because of the French declaration war on Germany, they sent a third of their men to Legion units being formed in mainland France. In June 1940, the Armistice was signed between the Third Reich and the French government. The war is over for now. The French Army will be reorganized into the Armistice Army.

That’s why, in November 1940, a major reorganization took place within the Legion, followed by the change of designations and assignments.

The CM/3e REI of Lieutenant Ragot is retitled the 8th Mixed Mounted Company (8e CMM, with composite platoons – infantrymen, machine guns, mortars…) and stationed in Midelt (Morocco), where the unit replaced the freshly dissolved 2e REC. The CM/2e REI is assigned to the 3e REI and becomes the 12e CMM of the regiment (each of the two units became the fourth company of the 2nd + 3rd Bn, that’s why this numbering). The 12e CMM, under the command of Captain Charton, remains at Ksar Es Souk (also Morocco). Instruction, maneuvers, all kinds of works, long patrols, these are the activities of Mounted Companies in Morocco during the war.

At the end of 1942, France resumed the fighting. The Legion will fight first in Tunisia (until May 1943), then in France (1944-45). In North Africa in 1944, only the necessary personnel remains. Everything else is directed to the famous RMLE going to leave for Europe. Among the units remaining in Morocco in 1944, there are the two Mounted Companies, now assigned to the rear base of the 3e REI in Fez (the regiment itself was dissolved in May 1943 to form the RMLE). The Montées still have their mules, but their strength is considerably reduced.

In June of the same year, the two companies are incorporated into GCMP/3 (Mounted and Motorized Companies Group, 3e REI) of Lt Col Guyot. This battalion-size group united the remaining five companies of the recently dissolved rear base in Fez. The GCMP became the only operational unit of the Legion in Morocco. Its mission is to keep French sovereignty in this country during the rest of WWII.

However, the 12e CM (the term mixed was no longer in use) will survive only four weeks in this formation. At the end of June 1944, the former 3e CM of Captain Rollet (and the ex-CM/2) is disbanded. Its men will join the 8e CM and form, with their fanion, a peloton keeping the traditions of their glorious unit.

Mounted Companies - Foreign Legion - Morocco - 1940-44 - Posts - Map
Posts of Mounted Companies in the 1940s. The post of the 8e CM in Midelt was converted into a POW camp in 1943. The unit had to move to Khénifra.

Mounted Company - 3rd REI - 3e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - 1939
Mounted Company, 3e REI in southern Morocco in the late 1930s. At the time, it was one of the last two Mounted Companies to use mules.
Mounted Company - 3rd REI - 3e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - Fez - 1940
Mounted Company, 3e REI (CM/3) parade in Fez, Morocco, late 1940. A few weeks later, the unit is redesignated to 8e CMM.
Mounted Company - 3rd REI - 3e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - Djebel Ayachi - 1941
The 8e CMM descend Djebel Ayachi, one of the highest mountains (3,757 m) in Morocco, situated south-west of Midelt (then their garrison), July 1941.
Mounted Company - 3rd REI - 3e REI - Foreign Legion - Fanion
The fanion of the Mounted Company, 3e REI. In 1944, the unit became the last Mounted Company of the Legion.
12th Compagnie mixte montée - 12 CMM - Mixed Mounted - 3rd REI - 3 REI - 1940-42 - Post - Quartier Brencklé - Foreign Legion - Morocco - Ksar Es Souk
Very rare photo showing the entrance of the Quartier Brencklé at Ksar Es Souk, around 1941, then the post of 12e CMM (ex-CM/2). Note the legionnaires bearing the double Fourragère of the 3e REI. Photo published with the kind permission of Mr Claude Fossé, a stepson of Staff Sergeant Costamagna (center).
12th Compagnie mixte montée - 12 CMM - Mixed Mounted - 3rd REI - 3 REI - 1942 - Camerone - Foreign Legion - Morocco - Ksar Es Souk
Legionnaires of the 12e CMM during Camerone Day at Ksar Es Souk in late April 1942, to commemorate the 1863 Battle of Camerone. Another rare photo from the collection of Mr. Claude Fossé.
12th Compagnie mixte montée - 12 CMM - Mixed Mounted - 3rd REI - 3 REI - 1942 - Insignia - Foreign Legion - Morocco
A close-up of the 12e CMM men bearing the badge of their company (of both the smaller and larger sizes of the old insignia of the CM/2, designed by Captain Lagarrigue in 1935). Collection of Mr Claude Fossé.
8th Mounted Company - 12th Mounted Company - 3rd REI - 3e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - 1943
A very rare photo shows the fanion guards of both the 8e CMM (ex-CM/3) and 12e CMM (ex-CM/2), the last two Mounted Companies of the Legion, during their meeting at Ksar Es Souk in Morocco in early 1943.
Mounted Company - 2nd REI - 2e REI - Foreign Legion - Fanion
The fanion of Mounted Company, 2e REI. In official Legion sources, we can read that the Company was four times mentioned in the order of the Army in 1914-18 and was awarded with a fourragère. However, that’s a mistake. As we can see, the fanion doesn’t bear neither four palm leafs, nor fourragère… It is awarded with the very rare Cherifian Order of Merit, the War Cross of 1914-18 with two palm leafs and the War Cross of TOE with one palm leaf. The unit became 12e CMM/3e REI in late 1940 before being definitively disbanded in mid-1944.
Mounted Company - 2nd REI - 2e REI - Foreign Legion - Insignia - Badge
The insignia of Mounted Company, 2e REI. Created in 1935, it is worn even after 1940.


8th Mounted Company: The very last mounted company

Since July 1, 1944, the 8e CM (8e Esel in the then Legion jargon; esel means donkey in German), stationed in Khénifra under the command of Captain Pfirrmann, is therefore the only Mounted Company of the Legion which remains active. Its legionnaires are occupied with road construction works, restoring their installations or with training; they also conduct marches and patrols to maintain order in the territory (pacified for ten years) and take part in military maneuvers.

By the way, among the GCMP units, there was also an old mounted company, already motorized: the 13e CP (Portée), the ex-CMA/4, still occupying their post at Foum El Hassan in southern Morocco.

The war ended with the capitulation of Japan in September 1945. A few months later, the first units of the Legion were shipped to the Far East, to regain control of French Indochina. The post-war Legion is reorganized again. The 4e DBLEM (Moroccan Demi-brigade, under the flag of the 4e REI) was established in Fez in September 1946, to replace in Morocco the reconstituted 3e REI, deployed to Indochina.

The same month, the 8e Montée of Captain Le Toulec left the GCMP to be assigned to the 4th Demi-brigade on October 1. It becomes Mounted Company, 4e DBLEM (CM/4) and will be stationed at Ksar Es Souk, the former garrison of the CM/2 (and 12e CMM), that was still existing as a peloton de tradition within the company.

In October 1948, the 4th Demi-brigade changed its designation to become a regiment. The company is therefore retitled as the Mounted Company, 4e REI. One of its platoons had already been equipped with vehicles (six Latil 4×4 vehicles, two Dodges 4×4 and a GMC).

A year later, in late December 1949, the glorious era of mounted companies is over. The modernization of the French Army, bolstered in 1944 with the rearmament program, is under way. The full motorization is prescribed even for the very last Mounted Company, that of the 4e REI, commanded by Captain Roux.

On January 1, 1950, at Ksar Es Souk, the Mounted Company, one of those rare elementary units of the Legion to have their own song (Suzanna, the traditional song of the Montées), became the Motorized Company, 4e REI (CP/4, Portée).

Mounted Company - 3rd REI - 3e REI - 4th REI - 4e REI - Foreign Legion - Insignia - Badge
The insignia of Mounted Company, 3e REI. Created around 1935, it was worn until 1950, then adopted by the Motorized Company, 4e REI to be in use until 1957.

Legionnaire - Mounted Company - 4th REI - 4e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - 1948
A legionnaire of the Motorized Platoon, Mounted Company, 4e REI in 1948, by Captain P. Carles. As we can see, the Peloton porté was equipped even with Dodges. Eight years later, the 4e REI would become the first fully motorized infantry regiment of the Foreign Legion.



Thus ended the great epoch of mounted companies, these prestigious elite units, and its 68 years of long marches, hard fighting and hard work. A page of the Legion’s history has been turned.

The Motorized Company remained at Ksar Es Souk until March 1952. It was keeping its autonomy and its very particular traditions. A mounted platoon with mules is also kept within the unit during the first years of existence, as a relic of the good old days. In April 1952, the company left southern Morocco to be based in Khénifra, its former garrison. There, in 1955, the unit was renamed 1st Motorized Company. Towards the end of 1956, the entire 4e REI was reorganized and became the first motorized infantry regiment of the Legion, equipped with Dodges.

By the way, it was within this reorganization that the original Mounted Company, 4e REI (1920-33, then CMA/4 motorized) rejoined the regiment, after sixteen years of exile, and became the 4th Motorized Company.

The reorganized regiment leaves Morocco to take part in the Algerian war (1954-62). The 1re CP of the 4e REI, depositary of the traditions of the last Compagnie Montée, was dissolved in March 1963; the regiment followed it in April 1964.

Today, the badge of the 1re CP/4e REI is worn by the 1st Company of Enlisted Volunteers of the 4e RE (the regiment created in Castelnaudary in 1980).

Motorized Company - 4th REI - 4e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - Fanion - 1950
The fanion of the Motorized Company, 4e REI, created on 1 January 1950.

Motorized Company - 4th REI - 4e REI - Foreign Legion - Morocco - Fanion - 1955
The fanion guard of the Motorized Company, 4e REI in 1955. Note that the legionnaires are still keeping the unit’s autonomy and don’t wear the badge of the 4th Regiment. The fanion is supplemented with a tail (a cavalry sign of the companies portées); its white color indicates that one of the unit commanders was killed in action (in this case, Captain Faucheux in 1933).
Tapanar - 2e REI - Foreign Legion - Mule - 2010
The mule Tapanar, mascot of the 2e REI, is keeping the souvenir of the Legion mounted companies.


Main information & images sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Légion étrangère magazines
André-Paul Comor: Aux origines de l’infanterie portée et de la cavalerie blindée (Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, 2007/1)
Jacques Ragot: De Gaulle, la Légion, l’Algerie (Graphica, 1984)
Jacques Hortes: Les Compagnies Montées de la Légion étrangère (Editions Gandini, 2001)
J. Brunon, G-R. Manue, P. Carles: Livre d’Or de la Légion étrangère (Lavauzelle, 1976)
Gén. Grisot, Ltn Coulombon: Légion étrangère 1831 à 1887 (Berger-Levrault, 1888)
P. Cart-Tanneur + Tibor Szecsko: Le 4eme Etranger (Editions B.I.P., 1987)
P. Cart-Tanneur + Tibor Szecsko: La vieille garde (Editions B.I.P., 1987)
Pierre Dufour: La Légion en 14-18 (Pygmalion, 2003)
J. P. Mahuault: Légionnaires Sahariens (L’esprit du Livre, 2011)
Google Maps


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See more from the Foreign Legion’s history:
1863 Battle of Camerone
Foreign Legion Repair Platoons in Africa
1908 Forthassa Disaster
Foreign Legion in the Balkans: 1915-1919
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment
11th Foreign Infantry Regiment
1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu
1978 Battle of Kolwezi



The page was updated on: May 12, 2020


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