Foreign Regiments Joint Depot

The Foreign Regiments Joint Depot (DCRE) was the administrative, training, and transit unit of the Foreign Legion. The depot was created in Algeria in October 1933. Its main task was to receive and sort recruits, provide them with uniforms, equipment, and basic military training, and assign them to Foreign Legion regiments. The Joint Depot also received legionnaires who were returning to civilian life at the end of their contract and handled their discharge. The DCRE was disbanded in March 1949.

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

 
Foreign Regiments Joint Depot - History - DCRE - 1933-1949

 

Foreign Regiments Joint Depot: 1933 – 1942

In February 1867, the decision was made that volunteers for the Foreign Regiment (the then-name of the Legion just returning from Mexico) would henceforth be sent to Sidi Bel Abbès, the Legion’s garrison town in Algeria and its future headquarters. However, not until 1933 were the administrative matters and training of recruits centralized within an autonomous formation.

On October 1, 1933, the Foreign Regiments Joint Depot (Depot Commun des Régiments Etrangers, DCRE) was created in Sidi Bel Abbès under Lieutenant Colonel Albert Azan. The DCRE consisted of a training battalion of six companies, a transit battalion of four companies, and four depots based in Algeria and France. In November, a mortar and signal training company was also formed within the DCRE.

Although considered a separate military corps, the DCRE was only a specialized body of the “Motherhouse,” the 1st Foreign Infantry Regiment (1er REI). It took charge of the regiment’s administrative burdens. The Depot’s principal mission was to recruit, train, and transfer all those who were willing to join the Legion or to discharge those who were about to finish their contract and leave the institution. In addition, the DCRE was responsible for morale, social services, the formation of reinforcements, and the creation of new units. The Depot was also the keeper of traditions and manager of the Legion’s Hall of Honor.

In 1935, the DCRE was commanded by Major Théraube (later promoted to lieutenant colonel). That year, the unit’s composition was as follows:

 

Foreign Regiments Joint Depot in 1935

  • HQ and 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
    • Mortars & 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 initially designated as the Joint Depot of Foreign Infantry Regiments (DCREI) because the 1er REC (Cavalry Regiment) was still a very specific and autonomous unit at the time. Created in the early 1920s and stationed in Tunisia, it provided its own training program for newcomers who were sent to the regiment directly from the Legion’s depot in Marseille, southern France. However, in January 1939, the 1er REC Training Squadron was transferred from Tunisia 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 take charge of the foreign volunteers who were engaged for the duration of the war (EVDG) and who were ready to fight in the imminent conflict, the Foreign Legion Metropolitan Depot (DMLE) was created in France. Assigned to the DCRE, it was placed at Fort Vancia in eastern France, north of Lyon. Commanded by Colonel Debas, the DMLE also occupied part of the Sathonay Camp and La Valbonne Camp. It administrated and trained men who subsequently formed the 11e REI and 12e REI.

In Tunisia in mid-January 1940, a battalion-sized divisional reconnaissance group (GRDI 97) was established with a squadron of the 1er REC, elements of the 2e REC coming from Morocco, and 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 organized in Morocco, it would constitute the 13th Demi-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 Honorable discharge certificates issued by the DCRE in 1933, signed by Lt. Col. Azan. The document was published with the kind permission of Krzysztof Schramm, historian of Poland’s Foreign Legion veteran association (A.A.A.L.E. de Pologne) and the author of Zygmunt Jatczak: I regret nothing.
Foreign Legion - Algeria - Good behavior Certificate - Detail - 1933
A close-up of the Honorable discharge certificate issued by the DCRE on December 8, 1933. The model is the original one of the 1er REI, modified by hand. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Foreign Legion - Joint Depot - DCRE - rubber stamp - 1933
The DCRE’s first rubber stamp, early 1934. The designation reads Joint Depot of Foreign Infantry Regiments. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Colonel Debas - Lt Colonel Azan - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Quartier Viénot - 1935
Colonel Debas and Lieutenant Colonel Azan from the DCRE in the Quartier Viénot in Sidi Bel Abbès during a ceremony in early 1935. Col. Debas would command the DMLE in France from 1939-40.
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 - 1930s
Foreign Legion Convalescent Depot in Arzew, Algeria, in the 1930s.
DCRE - Depot - Foreign Legion - France - Toul - 1930s
Foreign Legion Depot in Toul in France, in the 1930s.
Escadron d'instruction - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Quartier Viénot - 1939
The 1er REC Training Squadron (led by Captain Vachnadze) arriving in Sidi Bel Abbès in January 1939. It would be assigned to the DCRE. Behind the men is the CIET (Mortars & Radio Operator Training Company).
Instruction Platoon - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - 1940
Fresh legionnaires of the DCRE during their basic training near Sidi Bel Abbès in July 1940, shortly after the Armistice was signed with Germany. For these men, the Battle of France (May-June 1940) was already over.

 
 

Foreign Regiments Joint Depot: 1942 – 1949

On April 1, 1942, the DCRE became an autonomous, self-governed, regiment-like military unit fully separated from the 1er REI. The decision was made that the Depot should be commanded by the senior-most colonel of all the Legion commanding officers, directly subordinate to the Minister of War. In addition, the DCRE was responsible for keeping all the Legion traditions and managing all common services. In April 1942, Colonel Barre took command of the Depot; he was replaced by Colonel Vias in May 1943. Colonel Vias was replaced by Colonel Lambert in December 1943.

In mid-1943, DCRE men helped form the legendary RMLE (Operational Regiment of the Legion), which took an important part in the Liberation of France (1944-1945).

Temporarily commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Puvis de Chavannes, and by Lieutenant Colonel Foure in 1945, the DCRE provided men to organize, in Algeria, another operational (provisional) regiment, the RMLE-EO (i.e., Far East RMLE). The latter was to take part in the war in the Pacific against Japan alongside the Americans. However, World War II ended before the men went through training. Therefore, the RMLE-EO became a new 2e REI in January 1946 and was sent to French Indochina to help restore order there.

In December 1945, Colonel Gaultier took command of the DCRE. A legendary Legion officer, he commanded the RMLE in France.

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

The same year, the DCRE soccer (football) team became France’s Military Champion.

From 1947, because of the war in Indochina (1946-1954), the number of enlisted volunteers increased dramatically in response to the significant losses. As a consequence, Legion regiments and units stationed in North Africa helped provide basic training for young legionnaires whom the DCRE couldn’t handle alone.

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

On March 31, 1949, the DCRE was dissolved. The next day, on April 1, it became a new 1er REI, still commanded by Colonel Gaultier. In the meantime, two 1er REI battalions that were stationed in Tunisia constituted a new 6e REI.

On September 1, 1950, the DCLE (Foreign Legion Joint Depot) was established in Sidi Bel Abbès to take over some of the administrative tasks formerly assigned to the DCRE. In 1955, the missions of the DCLE and the former DCRE were reassumed by the 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE, ex-1er REI), which has carried them out to date.

 

Foreign Legion - Algeria - Good behavior Certificate - 1942
One of the first Honorable discharge certificates issued by the already-independent DCRE in 1942, signed by Colonel Barre. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.

Foreign Legion - Algeria - Good behavior Certificate - Detail - 1942
A close-up of the Honorable discharge certificate issued by the DCRE in July 1942. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Colonel Barre - General Eisenhower - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Quartier Viénot - 1942
Colonel Barre (right), then-commander of the DCRE, in Sidi Bel Abbès in late 1942. Left, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who commanded the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942. Ironically, Colonel Barre, the highest-ranking officer of the Legion at the time, fought with his 6e REI against British troops invading France’s Syria and Lebanon the previous year, in June-July 1941.
DCRE - Foreign Legion - Sidi Bel Abbes - Officers - 1944
DCRE officers in Sidi Bel Abbès, probably in 1944. The photo was published with the kind permission of Andrew J. Mitchell, a passionate Foreign Legion insignia collector and author of several books on the Legion, including his latest: Foreign Legion Insignia – 2e REP.
DCRE - Foreign Legion - Order of mission - Lt Colonel Foure - 1945
The order from July 1945 for Lt. Col. 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
The DCRE’s first insignia, created in 1946.
DCRE - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Sidi Bel Abbès - Parade - 1946
A DCRE battalion during a parade in Sidi Bel Abbès in 1946, on April 30 (Camerone Day).
DCRE - Depot de Marseille - Foreign Legion - France - 1946
The Foreign Legion Depot (part of the DCRE) at Fort Saint Nicolas in Marseille on April 30, 1946. On the right is the tower of Fort Saint Jean, the Legion’s former gathering spot for recruits (prior to World War II).
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Instruction - 1946
A rare photo showing two friends and legionnaires during their initial instruction within the DCRE, late 1946. They are wearing the unit’s first badge. The photo was published with the kind permission of Ms. Anikó Melchner Kőhegyi, daughter of Karl Melchner, a Hungarian legionnaire who served with the DCRE from 1946-1947.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Saida - Legionnaires - Instruction - 1946-1947
Legionnaires of Hungarian origin in Saida in 1946 or 1947, during their instruction organized by the DCRE. 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 wears the DCRE’s original badge. Collection of Ms. Anikó Melchner Kőhegyi.
DCRE - Foreign Legion - Colonel Gaultier - Captain Gheysens - 1947
Colonel Gaultier, then-head of the DCRE, and Captain Gheysens (right, standing), the first editor-in-chief of the magazine Képi blanc, in Sidi Bel Abbès in 1947.
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 to date.
Dépôt Commun des Régiments Etrangers - DCRE - Foreign Legion - Insignia - 1947
The DCRE’s second insignia, created in 1947. Today, it is used by the COMLE.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Legionnaire - Instruction - 1947
German Legionnaire Fritz Wachtendonk, with the DCRE’s second badge (extraordinarily placed on the right). Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Menu - 1948 - BICS
Menu of the 11th November 1948, made by BICS (Cadre & Specialist Training Battalion) 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 made by the CP 1 (Transit Company) of the DCRE. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.
Escadron blindé - DCRE - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Fanion - 1947-1949
The Training Squadron, DCRE became the Armored Squadron, 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 Armored Squadron, DCRE (1942-1949).
DCRE - Dépôt Commun - Foreign Legion - Algeria - Legionnaires - Instruction - BICS - 1949
Legionnaires of the DCRE’s BICS instruction battalion, in early 1949. Collection of Krzysztof Schramm.

 
 

DCRE: COMMANDING OFFICERS
Oct 1933 – Aug 1935: LCL Azan
Sep 1935 – Jan 1938: CBA Théraube
Feb 1938 – Apr 1939: COL Azan
Apr 1939 – Jan 1940: COL Flan
Jan 1940 – Oct 1940: COL Girard
Oct 1940 – Aug 1941: COL Bouty
Aug 1941 – Sep 1941: COL Lambert
Oct 1941 – Apr 1943: COL Barre
Apr 1943 – May 1943: LCL Brisset
May 1943 – Dec 1943: COL Vias
Dec 1943 – ?? 1945: COL Lambert
?? 1945 – June 1945: LCL Puvis de Chavannes
July 1945 – Dec 1945: LCL Foure
Dec 1945 – Mar 1949: COL Gaultier

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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
J. Brunon, G.-R. Manue, P. Carles: Le Livre d’Or de la Légion Etrangère (Charles-Lavauzelle, 1976)
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: April 03, 2024

 

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