Foreign Regiments Joint Depot

The Foreign Regiments Joint Depot (DCRE) was a training and receiving formation of the French Foreign Legion. The depot was established in Algeria in October 1933. Its main role was to receive and organize recruits, provide them with uniforms, equipment and initial military training, and then send them to the assigned Foreign Legion regiments. The joint depot also received legionnaires returning to the civilian life at the end of their contract and completed their out processing and discharges. The DCRE was disbanded in March 1949.

La version française de cet article: Dépôt Commun des Régiments Etrangers

 
Foreign Regiments Joint Depot - History - DCRE

 

Foreign Regiments Joint Depot: 1933 – 1942

In February 1867, it was prescribed that the volunteers engaged in the Foreign Regiment (then the name for the Legion, returning from Mexico at the time) should be directed, in the future, to Sidi Bel Abbès, a garrison town of the Legion in Algeria and its future headquarters.

But it was not until October 1, 1933 that the Foreign Regiments Joint Depot (Depot Commun des Régiments Etrangers, DCRE) was established in Sidi Bel Abbès. Lieutenant Colonel Albert Azan took command. The DCRE was composed of a seven-company training battalion, a four-company transit battalion, and of four smaller depots, based in Algeria and France.

Although it was considered as a separate military unit, the original DCRE was in fact just a specialized organization of the 1st Foreign Infantry Regiment (1er REI), part of the “Motherhouse”. The Joint Depot took charge of the burdens of Sidi Bel Abbès and of the particular services for the benefit of the Legion community. Its principal mission was to recruit, train and transit all those who came to the Legion, and to liberate those who were going to leave the institution. In addition, the DCRE took care of morale and social services, and managed the constitution of reinforcements or directly of new units. The Depot was also the custodian of tradition and administered the Foreign Legion’s Hall of Honor.

In 1935, the DCRE was under the command of Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Théraube. That year, the unit’s composition was as follows:

 

Foreign Regiments Joint Depot in 1935

  • HQ + HQ Staff (based in Sidi Bel Abbès)
  • Training Battalion (Sidi Bel Abbès)
    • Training Company No. 1 (Ain El Hadjar)
    • Training Company No. 2 (Saida)
    • Training Company No. 3 (Saida)
    • Training Company No. 4 (Le Kreider)
    • Team Leader Training Company
    • Machine Gun Training Company
    • Machines & Radio Operator Training Company
  • Transit Battalion (Sidi Bel Abbès)
    • Transit Company No. 1
    • Transit Company No. 2
    • Transit Company No. 3
    • Transit Company No. 4 (Bossuet)
  • Foreign Legion Smaller Depot (Oran)
  • Convalescent Depot (Arzew)
  • Transition Depot (Marseille)
  • Transition Depot Branch (Toul)

 
 

The DCRE was occasionally called as the Joint Depot of Foreign Infantry Regiments, because the 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) was still a very specific and autonomous unit at the time, with its own training program for newcomers (sent to the regiment directly from Marseille). But in January 1939, the Training Squadron of the 1er REC, previously based in Tunisia with its regiment, was transferred to Sidi Bel Abbès and assigned to the DCRE. For the first time, the 1er REC was connected to the headquarters of the Foreign Legion.

In September 1939, to be in charge of the foreign volunteers engaged for the duration of the war (EVDG) wanting to fight in the imminent conflict, the Foreign Legion Metropolitan Depot (DMLE) was created in France. It was placed at Fort Vancia in eastern France, north of Lyon. This depot also occupied part of the Sathonay Camp and La Valbonne Camp to train the men and constitute the 11e REI and 12e REI. The DMLE, led by Colonel Debas, also belonged to the DCRE.

In mid-January 1940 in Tunisia, a divisional reconnaissance group (GRDI 97), comprising some 650 men, was formed with a squadron of the 1er REC, elements of the 2e REC coming from Morocco, and with 360 legionnaires from the DCRE, then commanded by Colonel Girard.

The following month, a provisional battalion was formed by the DCRE and 1er REI in Sidi Bel Abbès. With another battalion from Morocco, it would constitute the 13th Half-Brigade, future 13e DBLE.

 

Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Quartier Viénot - 1933
The entrance to the Quartier Viénot in Sidi Bel Abbès in 1933. The same year, the Foreign Regiments Joint Depot (DCRE) was established there.

Foreign Legion - Algeria - Good behavior Certificate - 1933
One of the first Good behavior Certificates made out by the DCRE in 1933, signed by Lt Colonel Azan. The document was published with the kind permission of Krzysztof Schramm, historian of the A.A.A.L.E. en Pologne.
Foreign Legion - Algeria - Good behavior Certificate - Detail - 1933
The Good behavior Certificate made out by the DCRE on 8 December 1933, in detail. The model is still that one of the 1er REI, modified by hand. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Colonel Debas - Lt Colonel Azan - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Quartier Viénot - 1935
Colonel Debas (left, he would command the DMLE in France in 1939-40) and Lt Colonel Azan from the DCRE, at the Quartier Viénot in Sidi Bel Abbès, during a ceremony in early 1935.
Commandant Théraube - Foreign Legion - Tonkin - 1930
Major Théraube. He took over the DCRE in Sidi Bel Abbès in late 1935.
Convalescent Depot - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Arzew - 1935
Foreign Legion Convalescent Depot at Arzew in Algeria, in 1935.
Escadron d'instruction - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Quartier Viénot - 1939
1er REC‘s Training Squadron (led by Captain Vachnadze) having arrived in Sidi Bel Abbès, in January 1939. It would be assigned to the DCRE. Behind the men, the CIET (Machines & Radio Operator Training Company).
Instruction Platoon - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - 1940
Fresh legionnaires of an instruction platoon of the DCRE during their basic training near Sidi Bel Abbès, in July 1940, only after the Armistice. For these men, the Battle of France (May-June 1940) had already been over.

 
 

Foreign Regiments Joint Depot: 1942 – 1949

Since April 1, 1942, the DCRE had been fully separated from the 1er REI. The depot became an autonomous, self-governed, regiment-like military unit. It would be commanded by the most senior colonel among all of the Legion commanding officers. In addition, this colonel would be responsible, towards the Minister of War, for keeping the traditions and managing of all of the Legion’s common services. In April 1942, Colonel Barre took command of the Depot, replaced by Colonel Vias in May 1943, and by Colonel Lambert in December 1943.

Temporarily commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Puvis de Chavannes and by Lieutenant Colonel Foure in 1945, the DCRE provided men to organize in Algeria a provisional regiment (RMLE-EO). The latter was to participate in the war in the Pacific against Japan. In January 1946, the RMLE-EO became a new 2e REI, and since WWII had been over, it was sent to French Indochina to maintain order there.

In late April 1947, the DCRE’s Information Service (led by Captain Gheysens) showcased to the legionnaires the first issue of the magazine Kepi blanc, then printed in 15,000 copies and sent all over the world.

The same year, the DCRE soccer (football) team became the French Military Champion.

Since 1947, because of the war in Indochina, the number of enlisted volunteers had increased dramatically to substitute the significant losses. As a consequence, foreign regiments being stationed in North Africa took over the practical training of young legionnaires that the DCRE, under the command of Colonel Gaultier since December 1945, wasn’t able to handle alone.

In October 1948, men of the Joint Depot formed the HQ Company + 1st Company of the 2e BEP, an airborne unit, which transformed into the famous 2e REP in December 1955.

On March 30, 1949, the DCRE was dissolved and the next day, on April 1, it became the 1er REI, still led by Colonel Gaultier. The same day, the two battalions of the 1er REI, stationed in Tunisia at the time, constituted a new 6e REI.

On September 1, 1950, the DCLE (Foreign Legion Joint Depot) was established in Sidi Bel Abbès to take over a part of the administrative tasks which were formerly assigned to the DCRE. Since 1955, the missions of the DCLE and the former DCRE have been reassumed by the 1st Foreign Regiment, until nowadays.

 

Foreign Legion - Algeria - Good behavior Certificate - 1942
One of the first Good behavior Certificates made out by the already independent DCRE in 1942, signed by Colonel Barre. Document published with the kind permission of Krzysztof Schramm.

Foreign Legion - Algeria - Good behavior Certificate - Detail - 1942
Detail of the Good behavior Certificate made out by the DCRE of Colonel Barre, in July 1942. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Colonel Barre - General Eisenhower - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Quartier Viénot - 1942
Colonel Barre (right), then the commander of the DCRE, in Sidi Bel Abbès in late 1942. Left, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had commanded the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942. Ironically, Colonel Barre, the highest-ranking officer of the Legion at the time, was fighting with his 6e REI against the British troops in Syria and Lebanon the previous year, in June-July 1941.
DCRE - Foreign Legion - Order of mission - Lt Colonel Foure - 1945
An order from July 1945 for Lt Colonel Faure to take command of the DCRE. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
DCRE - Depot Commun - Foreign Legion - Louis-Antoine Gaultier
Louis-Antoine Gaultier. A famed Foreign Legion officer and the only commander of the DCRE after 1945.
Dépôt Commun des Régiments Etrangers - DCRE - Foreign Legion - Insignia - 1946
DCRE’s first insignia, created in 1946.
DCRE - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Parade - 1946
A DCRE battalion parade in Sidi Bel Abbès, on 30 April 1946, Camerone Day.
DCRE - Depot de Marseille - Foreign Legion - France - 1946
Foreign Legion Depot (part of the DCRE) at Fort Saint Nicolas in Marseille, on 30 April 1946. On the right, the tower of Fort Saint Jean, a former gathering spot of the Legion for recruits (before WWII).
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Instruction - 1946
A rare photo showing two friends-legionnaires during their initial instruction within the DCRE, bearing the unit’s badge, late 1946. Photo published with the kind permission of Ms Anikó Melchner Kőhegyi, daughter of Karl Melchner, a Hungarian legionnaire who served with the DCRE in 1946-47.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Saida - Legionnaires - Instruction - 1946-1947
Legionnaires of Hungarian origin during their instruction organized by the DCRE, in Saida in 1946 or 1947. Left, Legionnaire Karl Melchner. Collection of Ms Anikó Melchner Kőhegyi.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Saida - Instruction - 1947
Legionnaires of the DCRE with a Jeep in Saida in 1947. Collection of Ms Anikó Melchner Kőhegyi.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Saida - Instruction - 1947
A Hungarian corporal of the DCRE near Saida, 1947. He bears the DCRE’s original badge. Collection of Ms Anikó Melchner Kőhegyi.
Dépôt Commun des Régiments Etrangers - DCRE - Foreign Legion - Insignia - 1947
DCRE’s second insignia, created in 1947. Today, it is used by the COMLE.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Legionnaire - Instruction - 1947
Legionnaire Fritz Wachtendonk, from Germany, with the DCRE’s second badge (extraordinarily placed on the right). Photo published with the kind permission of Krzysztof Schramm.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Kepi Blanc - magazine - 1947
First issue of Képi blanc (April 1947), the monthly magazine founded by the DCRE and published until nowadays.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Menu - 1948 - BICS
Menu of the 11th November 1948, made by BICS (??) of the DCRE. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Menu - 1948 - GIM
Menu of the 11th November 1948, made by GIM (Mechanized Instruction Group) of the DCRE. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Christmas card - 1948 - CP 1
A nice 1948 Christmas card of the CP 1 (Transit Company) of the DCRE. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Escadron blindé - DCRE - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Fanion - 1947-1949
Training Squadron of the DCRE became Armored Squadron of the DCRE in 1942. In the picture, a fanion guard of the Squadron, around 1948.
Escadron blindé - DCRE - Foreign Legion - Fanion - 1942-1949
Fanion of the DCRE’s Armored Squadron (1942-1949).

 

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My special thanks belong to Krzysztof Schramm, historian of the A.A.A.L.E. en Pologne, for his diligent help with this article.

 
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Main information & images sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Légion Etrangère magazines
Foreign Legion annual bulletins
Lee Sharp: The French Army 1939-1940: Organisation, Order of Battle, Operational History, v. 3 (Military Press, 2005)
P. Cart-Tanneur + Tibor Szecsko: La vieille garde (Editions B.I.P., 1987)
Fanion Vert et Rouge (Fr)
Collections d’Insignes et Souvenirs Militaires (Fr)
11e et 12e REI, 13e DBLE, 1939-1940 (Fr)
Wikipedia.org

 
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See other Foreign Legion’s former regiments:
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment
4th Foreign Infantry Regiment
5th Foreign Regiment
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment

 

 

The page was updated on: July 7, 2020

 

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