I 3251

r-Kt::NCH FOREIGN
LEGION 1914-1945
- ,--
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\I.\RTI,\; \VINDROW MIKE CHAPPELL
SERIES EDITOR: LEE JOHNSON
FRENCH FOREIGN
LEGION 1914-1945
TEXT BY
MARTIN WINDROW
COLOUR PLATES BY
MIKE CHAPPELL
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TITLE PAGE Morocco, earlv HI30s:
posed gfOUp of :k
wearing wh"e <:ap coven., M 1920 khalU
wool unilonna and lhe regimental
double ICourtesv JohIl Neal)
Dedication
This book is dedicated, with respecl1ul affeclkln, to the memories of
two IIIICien /ftgIonnBlres to Adludam-Chef Charles Milass,n of lhe
Aulomobde Mounled Company/4e REI. RMLE. ancl211 REI, whose
geoorOSlty made poMIble much of whal I nave wntten on the
subtecl 'Of nearly and 10 Geo<ge Fromm of the 22e RMVE.
whose c:ornp.:my 01 eoch Comerone is greatly
Acknowledgements
In pIarnng the colour p1ales we have drawn heavtIy on resea-ch
published lrt Unlfom1es and Mohtana maglIZIIle$; and on the work 01
the Keeper of the L.egoon l..II1Ilorm Museum al Puy\OubIer M.
Raymond Guyacler. published in the magazHle$ Utwtormes and Kep.
&Inc over many year$. and recently in hos book Cited in the
Bibliography. Author and artlSl WISh to recon::l thelr debt to thos
.....aluabIe pnmary 1llS8aIf'Ch.. The author also WIShes 10 thank Gerry
Embleton, Ron Ha-ns. John Neal. Franl;oos Vat.rvilIIer, Rosemary
WeeIdsy. Jim V'Ibrden and John Rober1 Vou>g lor th.- _tarw.:e

Publisher's Note
Readers may WISh 10 Study this trtIe on WIth !he lolowlng
Osprey publications:
Elite 6 French For8fgn Legoon Pararroops
MAA 286 The FffIfICft Afmy 1914_ f8
MAA 300 French FCXfHiJfI LBglOfllnfamry & Cavaty sonc:e 1945
MAA 312 The AJgerian War 1954-62
MAA315 TheFrendI Afmy 1939·45 (I)
MAA 318 The French Army 1939·45 (2)
MAA 322 The French Indoc/JJr'la War 1946·54
CAM 3 France f940
Author's note
ConSISle<1Cy ,n spelling Arable place names is not clrumed: I have
geoorally Iollowed French Iransltteration, bUt different sooroos vary
- e.g. $agho or Sartlro. The same is true of tribal names:
French accounts spell the Berber tribe 01 the tar eastern High Atlas
as Ait TSIlmlUChOO, more r&Ce<1t sources as Ait Seghrushin.
French units and ,anks are capitalised in the English style.
As standard histories (see Bibiiograpl1yJ cover the campaigns 01
Leg,on unilS in the World Wars, I have limited some passages here
to note form in order to save splICe for material less accessible
elsewhere 10 English·speaking readers - e,g. some of the LegiOfl's
Moroccan battles, and fUIi commentaries on the unifOfm plates.
Artist's Note
Readers rTllIy care 10 note thaI the original pa,nhngs from whoch
lhe colour plates in this book we<e prepared are available IOf private
sale. All reproductlOll copyrIghl whalsoever is relatned by the
pobIisher. AU enqUIne5 ahould be ackWessed 10:
M'M Chappell. 14 Downlands, Walmer. Deal, Kent CT14 7XA UK
The publisher"s regret that lhey can ....Ier Irlto no correspondence
upon this matter
FRENCH FOREIGN
LEGION 1914-1945
3
THE LEGION IN 1914
II !!H4 the Ugion con,is[L'd olllH: I('r and 2c
Regirnt"llt:. [trang(-p;;, wilh headquarters at Sidi IX'I Aboc...
ami S<lidil. Algeria, The 41h IlaU;llion of Ihe lei Rt: (IV ieI' RE) and
V12t, RE in French Indochina, Each IhnuS:Uld-slfong baualion
cOll,i,tt'd of four lilk cOIllI)anic<;, nUlllhered con:.cclIli\'ch (i,e, Ist-hh
in I It,,, RE. 5th--8th in II IeI' RE, (-'IC,): ,llll! ;11 \':.lriOll:. daln one or IWO
1Il11!e-!xlrnc MOUlllt·d Comp,,,nic<; W('l"(' al'\() affiliatt·d 10 t'i1ch n:gimcnt,
though 01X'r.lling (ktached.
Siuce bt'fore the lllnl ul the cClllllry ,ht' Frt·lIch Anm had been
nihhling ;\1 thc dc'\o\;lte and di'plll{·d :-olllh(>rll frontier Ixl"een
France'" colony of Algeria ami ill{\CpCIlCkTll, chaotic \Iorocco. This
unofficial \I':.\r of r.lid. rt-pri"kll alld U11,lllthtlri.,t·d cllcro,IChmCIII. Q;.l:.i.s bv
W,L" choreog"I':.lphcd for thc Frcnch b\' tht, ,·i'lionan· Col. L'':.IlHt·y.
commanding Ihe Ain Sefr.l sector ami lalt;r Ihe Oran di,·i'lioll.
Since 1907 open im':.lsioll from bolh t\lb.mic coa"! ancl Algeria
had extended France'" mililary control 01 \Ion1(-(0, nominalh' in suppor!
01 Ihe almO"1 I)()\\"er!e<;." Sultan. These: 111;!jt,r opcralion" had led in \ larch
IYl2 10 lhe dedaralion of a formal FrCllch proleC\(,,'ate on'r \Iorocco
under Cell, as Re..idt'nt-Gcllcml. Tribal n;: ..i,taIlCt'" rnlollhlnl:
but b} i\la\" IYI4 1ll01"(' or Fn'lldl-cc)Illrolll'd corric!()t.., hac! Iwell
l'stablishcd ill lhe north 1X'l\H?t"1l GlsahlallGI. Fe/, Tal.a, and the
AIg-l'ri;\I1 I'rol1licr. and a Illlrll!x'r of lwd !wen planted in
thl' far from p:lci/it'd south. "1"11(' flurhn',lk of \\'urld \\',11' I found rW()
Rt:g-iml'll1s dc .\larche ('fnarching regimclll". It'lIlpOl<lI} t:lsk in
i\'lorocco, drawn from Lht· Ier RE (II, III &: VII, plm t\\"o i'\,lolllltcd
Companic'l) and 2e RE (Ill! &: VII, pillS Dill' i\I')\lntcd COlllp.nly).
Mohi I ion in Franec broug-h t :1 Iide I ,I' if f"o!'l;il411 "olllilleers
d:nnouring to enlist under Lhc lriculollr. 11 derided to allow LIIClll
to \1P for the d\1ratioll of"hostilities, but on I}' in till' FOI"\.;ig-n Leg-ion.
The)' would form 'ICCtl1ld r-.Ltreil iIII{ Regi of Ill\' I('r and REs ill
1\'kt ropol il;lIl France, each of four let H;red b:lltal :. h:\t'khollC \l'Oll III
lx' prol'ided by \·t'"Iemns - cxcludinl{ t\u.'lriam. Turb, etc.
- from the African Thc' Ri\l/kr RE ami 2e
RM/2e RE wert" formed Oil .-10 per CCllt \ ctt'rill I and u':.lillec! at
i\ I:lilh-1c-Ca11lp in SeplemlX'r-OClolX'r 191 L
III the e\"t"nl ,ht" numlwr., Of\'O!lIl1tl'Cn- led to lilt: mising at I{ellillr.
l';u';'I. ofa thrcl'.. bat1aliun RE Iarg-dy flOlll
GrLocks alld iL had Ie,,' and Ihe cadre drawn from
Ihe Gendannclil' ;lI1d the I'aris lire brig;lc!e. the lIuet"-
battalion k RJ.\l/ler RE (almosl cnlin,h It;lli,lll) fOllllt"d al Kimes
and i\lonldimar.
-",__'ire, 2e Etran,er, Algerb,
2- Enlisted lot' 'i....-year
.... was jNlid 5 centimes •
toughly" per cent the pay
• contempofllry Brittsh Ann)'
He could march In 'ull
8nd equipment. minimum
, kftI ;I day _ ....ry day 10.
if nec...ary - under Ihe
African lun, on two yery
dall'y meals. He was a welt-
marksman, but his
It was lairty ""dlmeotary
_ _. lhla was not demanded.
.....fashion.d heavy
_ ........an could be trusted to
unhullatlngly Inlo the
in ranks unlhaken by
fiN and, In defence, to
-': to Iha last man and the
-one cartridge. An Iron
_ ...... WiI. uerc:lsed by
-.d .djudant, lwarrant
in garrison offic...
_I. tigur••• but In
_ onen risked their
... /llrint In an OHIeM's body
... The pre-war

.. great vic•• were
S, and olten h.are-
.uempts ., desertion
old $Oldierl might bot
__.. t.irty indulgenllvl.
4

Legionnaires of the RMLE in the
trenches, probably In summer
1916 before the Somme
offensive.
foreih'11 \'01-
are good for national
!Ilorale, but m I_JractiGll
tenns tlley can lx' a
Few of thc.:se had a
military background; their
was generOlls
but their cxpert:ltions llnre-
To edurated politicil
liberals lhe bruwl re<1lities
of old-bshiolled military
life rame as a shock, The
l.egioll had a grim repu-
lation - fostered by prl....war
German propagallda -
brutalised colonial merce-
naries recruited from the
scum of Enropl:, and many
\"Ollinleers resented lkillg cOlllpelled tOjOill their r.mks.
The \"ollilltecrs' integration was harnperc.:d by the French Army's
shortage of suitably experiellcc.:d The lllc.:n posted to le'ld these
volatile l11ultin,ltional \Il1its WlTc.: ulic.:n unc.:Cju.ll to the challenge tlwy
posed, being ageiu/{ TnrilOriah or of rigid outlook. ("nder the
special circuttlstances of 1914 (including the olwiollS prohlt'm of
language) lar/{c.: of nation,llitit's wert' allowed to sene
together - a llliMake which the Legion h:1(1 :woided since the I 830s, This
soon caused between compan it's, ,md t'ncollr<tged national
groups 10 make cOlH:crted demands for special treatment.
A.'i damaging was lilt' gulf betl,'een the new lolunleers and the l\orth
African n:teram. These rock-hard old drullk,lrds regarded the duration"
only volulHeers a.s whining civilians unworthy of the proud status of
whirh dwy themselves had earned tltroug-h hard years in
.\Ioroc.o; the \'ollinteers resented and feared the African veterans as
unromraddy brutes, Exposure to the new realities of warfare would
wf'ld the Sllrvi\'ors together soon ellou/{h.
THE WESTERN FRONT 1914-18
:\'lole detailed ballle histories will be fOllnd in 1,0 I.illff' If'Q,. :lIld partic-
ularly ill Garros (sec bibliugraphy): the following nOles ;]re a basic
only:
2e RM/ler RE :\IO\'ember 1914, four batt;llions posted to I'rllnay
sector, Champagne. ,vby 1915, committed to Artois oOensi\'f' with
l'VIOf(KGlll Di\"isi(lll near Neuville-Sainl-Vaast; were Ollvrages
Blancs and llill 140 on Vimy Ridge. Ass<lult bunched 9 I\by. I.ed by
special t.eam with grenades, wire-euttcrs, signal flags .wd white cloth
jXlck-nwers visible to artillery ohscn<el"S, regimen I :ld\'anced 3,000 yards
:!Cross open grollnd under heal)' lire. C"l.slI<11ties I,900-plus out of 4,000
,Ill ranks; objeni\-es taken, but lost to cOllllter-alWck, Ib-li June 1915,
1\\"0 Slllyivi ng bat lal ions <lu<lcked Hill Jig Ileal' SOlicheL: takcu,
but 10S1 to .ollnter-alla.k; 650 C<lsualtics.
.lul>' 1915, fo.luruccan Di\'. resTed in the Vosges:
2e Rf\! rC<:('in:d H97 l"Cin!l)l"c('men1.S from dis---
b.'1ndcd 3c lUI/lt:r RE. September. retllrned 10
ChampaJ{l1t'. 28 Sq)l',:1llher. attack near
farm; CIll"llly wire illlac!. (127 ,III 10.'>1 for no
gain. Octobl.·r. out of l;ne in \\'intcr qllarlers.
3e RM/lcr RE 1'0."led 10 Somme frOlll
December 1911. ;nto line twar hise.
malronlcllt ulli .. reduced to 1\\0 balLlliun.'> ;\larch
191:-, hy lram,fi.'rs to 0\\11 natiOnal armies. July
]91:-,. ami u.'>dlll remainder posted to
R;\l ler RE.
4c RM/ler RE Garibaldi Urig.ule - bore lhal
rille and the $;1\0\' 011 l.·uluur.... Posled lO
Argonne, Deccmber 1914: fOllghl al Mai-.on-
Boll;lllle W(JO(h 011 Cllli.'>tma.'> night.
and :11 and Four-de-Pari" 5
pUllan 1915. "Ilpponing 10th Colunial Oiv.: 101...'11
dead fA3tl. 5 M,lrch 191.?, di:.b;:lIlded al Itah's
R'que"l. mrn;1 Jliunivof" joining Italian A..nn\'.
2e RM/2c R£ Four hallahons at frolll lJdore
Cr.10IllW tlIirl-Ol.'Celllht:r 1911 with 361h Oiv.:
mo\{.·d Ma\' I!)J:-, 10 Rhdlll... hdd \,lriou'S July. re:.ted in tht'
OIle hall,llion and Russians. Bel!-,>ian'S alld Italian:.
lr.ln"terred 10 nalion;,1 annies: rq.,'iml.'llt joilK'd 2e R;\I/Il.'r RE ill
}{orOl.can Di\.,
22; September 1!)1.·I. 11'mpor;.lI'ilr altachn! (0 10th Colunial Oi\ ..
assaulted Wagram and defences north of N;:I\,lrin Farm: 1001..
5tH'I,tI lrench alld manr prisoners: when neighbouring
IClwpolilan unit fell hack 21' Rl\1 line: Gtsuahil.':'.
In October Ihl' Moroccan Oi\'ision was pulled oul of thc lillc.
and it decided. in vi('w of the casuahies - and lIw shortage of
R'Cnli11> as mol'C war - 10 merge all sllrvi\'ol'.'> iuto a
anglt' I{Cgill1t'l1l cle de Ia Leg-ion Elr;ltlgCt'c
R.\ILE). 11Iiti:lll) ((I1ll1l1:lI1(kd hy l.t. Col. Cot, witl1 71 ofliccrsalld
men. Ihe RMLE C:llllc into lwing on II NOH'lllher 1915.
The RMLE 1915-18
On 4.July 1916 dllrittg- the Anglo-French SOlllllle oO'ellsin' (h(' IU\'ILE.
wched to Culottial Di\,., attackeclthc fonifi('r! village of Bdluj'--t:tt.
ntern.:. Ad\'<tttl'ing' in the fain OWl' open fielels of long under
Wan cnliladt: machine gUll tire. the legionnaires lOok 111(' villagC' (and
;3Q priSOlll.'r.'» and hdd it unTil re!ie\l·d on lhe nighl of tlH' :llh-61h;
asualti('s. 2:, onker>; and 84-1 tnCll. Thc:y \\C:111 in again a( Chan('('lkr Oil
July. "ufTcring: allot Iter 400 ca.'>lIallic:s bUl making no .
.\fter a hrief re."1 Ihe reA'imc1l1 \\'elll back i11l0 the lrenches, holding
eral S('ClOrs Ihrougholll winl.er 1916-17: cOl11mand to 1.1. Col.
riel. In ;\Iarch 1917 th<: Cenll;ms pulled bal.·k from:l hup;t: salit:nl
l\\t:t:n ;111<1 Soi"'son... and Gl.·II, :'\i\elle's lIIueh-\,;1lI1Ued April
cmi\l.' fcllun Iheir lIe\\'I)' prepared Siegfried Lint-' ddclIct:'s.
:\1 da\\'n fill 17 April lhl' ;:Illaekcd lhe ruins of Auocri\'c in lhe
ppe" \'alky during the I'o-<:allcd baltic of U1l lhe righl
Adjudant-Chel Madel", LL Col.
Roll.t, and RMLE colour party at
Boi,.I'ElfflI_, 27 September
'917 _ probably the most famous
Legion photograph of all, The
colour was decorated wtth the
Le-gion d'Honneur aner the
flMlE's sldh citation; person<ll
awards were .1-50 made to Ihese
oth.r Ihre. soldie..... COrpol"ab
Rocas, Dleta and Leva. RoUet -
on. of whose eccentricities was
always to wear his pale khaki
Alrican uniform - would
command the 3. REI until 1926
and Ihe ter REI un1i11931,
when he was promoted
brigadier-general and became
the Legion's lI....t tnspector. Hts
tireless efforts on behalf of his
corps esrned him the undisputed
title 'Father of the legion'.
5

llank 01" Ihe Chelllill oflellsin;, The lenibk
of IqJ:l-Jli had heeu learned to some CXlc.;nl. and
wc.;re nnw a good dC:l) tllure Artilkry
prc.;p:u";lIioll tar more lhurough: c:-ell !Janalion had
o\\"n machine g-uu l.Onlp:l1lr; .:aell platoon had it.-> OWII
mall-porlablc lighl maehillc gUll: the IllCH wcre trailK'd in
dreeti\"(.' minor 10 co-ordiu:lte the IIrc and
IlIU\'enK'tU of tIIl11ually '<llpporLing machine gun le;ml'<,
rille· and h:md1-\"n'l1:Lde ;1Ilt! rinl.'lIIcn: and
tried 10 illliitrate octWl..'ell :.tubbolll pu:.itioll:'
r.uher Ih:1II allelllilling a sillgk-w:l\"l.' ach-.lIIce. Despitt.' :111
Ihis, the ol1t:n:.i\"(: a disa:'ll.T for mO:.t of tin:
di\ c()lllmltled,
Aher Ihree (1.1\":0> of clawing" their \\";1\' from 1>hellhole 10
shdlholc' ill rlc'l'p IllUri thc Icgionnilirl.':' took thc main
ellenn trench lim' at Auherin.', though figlujug continued
until tlw 221)(1: lht, n'gimclll IL-.crl more lhan r.,o,(X)(J
grenadc", in tlu'''t' fl\{, The lcgendal') A(ljudalll-Chef
.\1:I(I,'r, of hil'lh, won the 1.egion d'l-lonrwur
for drhing hack lIlosl of a company of Saxon infant'') *"
:md laking a h;l1len of six guns, al Ihe head of jU,,1 Il'l\
legio,\n,lirl".
,\fIl'r al .\Iaillycluring pas'\(.·d 10 LI. Col.
1';ull Rollel, a \,'II.'I";ll\ olll\e de'>CrI !\IOtllllcd Thc1>c \1l....C dlc
monlh, \\'IK'I\ 5-1 Fr,'nch II"C!"t.' shaken b} Illlliinil's amo"g mcn
dri\ en Ix·} Olld thc limil' or elldllrancc: units declared IIIell11>C·h·c)
\Iillillg lo ddl.'Ild their 10 lhc cnd, blll "01 10 allaek. and il took
tilllt.' luI' the nellll appoil1lcd GCll, Petaiu 10 lead Ihelll back to their
dUI}. Yel Ihe ollhc ItI\ILE were rock-:otl.'adr, ami ou 11.1111\
Rollel kd all hOllour gu:ud lo I';tri" fur Ihe Rl'olLE colour to he
dCCOl";lt(.'d - al that dale - wilh the .\lCdailie l'olililail"('
C'UIIIIIIl;lIlar\" 10 Plait.' (;3),
Oll YO-:ll AUg"II";\' at Cunlil.'rn Oil the Verdun front. tilt' R:\Il.E
adl':lIIced l:lr ahe;\d or counter·attacks and ht":l\')' air
straflllg", alld thcll cxplniled their al short noti("{, al Ilill Yti!'"J.
Tlw)' lwld lInril rdined Oil 4 SqJtcmht:r. taking fiHO :lIld 1'1
gl1m al lht, rdali\dy light ("{''>it dead and 271 1\"OI1nderi. I't'r:lill
!"l'I'i('\\'t'r11ht, Iinit while il t'e'>iwd nl';lr V:1llrolll('l1rs on 27 Scplciliber, Hc
lold lhe Ri\'II,E 111;\\ 1'01' riLltion h(" h;ld h<td lO ill\("lIl a IlCW
derorarion 1'01' Ihell) - Illc n·d 1:H1yard or the l.egion d'Hollllc.;ur - bUI
lhal lit, (I"ill' happy 10 go 011 illl'cniing: rewards a" long: as thcy kepi
Oil IIH') h:td al ClIllliC:·rcs.
From Octoher IVl7 unil W<lS in lrenchn inlhe
Flirey '1.'('101", lIIakillg" alluther allack Oil 8 .Ialluat): on the
Itlh. lIc':n-ily 1)\)lllb:tl'ded wilh g:1' ... 11<::11<;, the HQ and 1\\0
cOlllp:mies ig-nun::d order.<; to withdraw. The R..\ILE r<.'sling al Ihe
clld of 1918 I\hell the lasl great German ollcmin: pUllched lhe
A.llies !>aekwar<h, aud Ihe unit fll"hed lIonh to the Amicns .'>CClor of
Ihe reeling Ikilbh Irout.
ThL'\' attacked Ihe nallk of the c'nelll}" push at H;IllJr-lrd Wood on 26
April. Ihrough fog inlo a 'ihdl-ehurncd chaos swepl the
machine 01 Ihe (;enn:lII 191h Di\-ision. The banalions .....ef"(:
Workl War I saw numbers of
foreign ... granted
commissions in the Legion.
Lt, Col, AJbert de Tschamer, a
S_otficer in Ihe Swiss
joined Ih. RMLE as a
captain in 1916, laking thoe
lirsl of his ......n wounds at
Selloy·en·Santen1l, He served
in Morocco with tM 3e REI,
commanding the 1I/3e for
.....en ••rs from .June 1925.
In this perIod several chefs de
batall/on .tamped their strong
pclrsonalitles on their battalions
like old·fashioned regimental
proprleto... ; the unit. led
these chllrlsmatlc caids became
known as e.g, 'Sataillon
d. Tscharner', 'Nicolas' or
'Melr.' rather than their
numbers,
RIGHT Legion ca...alry In
Morocco; c.ptloned etsewlMtre
•• dating 'n;>m t925, this photo
would In th.t C1Ise show IIl1ter
REC In the Tac:hoe de Tau.
-
The Legion alwil1S spent ;IS
lftUt;h ti.... in b;lek·b...ilkinll
"bour as in f"'llhtlng, and it W;lS
tjgionnalres who blJilt man, of
North Africa" roadL of this
scnzlf)' gang wean. slrip.ed
undershirt issued from French
Mval sl-. at Oran,
I
commitTed one aftcl" another. each pll,hing' lorward ,L' iL'i prcdccel',ol"
wa, pilllwd down: British GIlIIC up ill .:!IUppOlt. but the fil"t" was 100
hf'a\"'i for infantry to follow Ihem. The hallie la.:!lled ulllil the Ihe
Iwld tht" rClaken grolilld 1111<ler IH.':l\1.· :-hl'lling ;llld fi\{" COtlllll'r-
allad..:., al a CO'i1 of wille R[,O ca.,"altics: the 1 R_\ILE n.:duced 10 one
on-icer and lSi men.
III late lhe 7\loroccan Di\, mlihl'd 10 oIl threal
SOlllll-\\eSl of on 30-31 1\la\ the IA'giol1 'iIIO'erl'c1 100 casuahies
\\hi1c hulding lilt' de
a,gailhl l'qwaled attacks.
Reduced 10 1.200 thl'
\,<1" "hined ililo Ihe path of
olhl'" t'lH,,'tll> iniliative" ill carlv
.Junc, nUlahl> at Sailll-I\ardry. Their
openLliollS l>el\\c(:11 April and 12
.Julie co:.1 the RI\ILI:: a tOlal or 1,2.,0
cl'iualtic'i,
a raging siuntr on llw night
or IR.lllir rile R.\ILE ;Idv;[tlced 011 the
[)ullll11ins pblC;11I south of SOi.llSOIlS,
wirh Ill. prl'liminal")' hOJllbardJJJt:Jll
to alcn rill' t'l1Cl11}', Supportnl by
l{enaul1 lallb :tJ1d till.: slndltlg uf
the lO,k E'icarlrilk (Ie Cha'ise, the
Ley,-ion rc;u:hcc! tht, Soi'ison'i-CII:lleau
Thinr)' mad on TIll' hutcher'"
bill w,," anuth('1' iBO all ranh.
The final was an
at\;lck OJI Ihl.' Hil1denburg Lim' near
La/Tam; 011 2 Seplcmber 1918. The
regiment g:lilletl all their objecli\'t"",
finalh Alkmanl (and a bal·
talion of Ihe 131'0 Regimelll)
on I:') Septemher. TIIl'\' \\l,:rt" re1ie\'l,.'d 7
that II ig"h t aftcr [3 and II ts of vin ually COil tillllOliS ligh lillg; thcy
had ,",onc inlo hanle with "II l';:lIlb. and came Ollt wilh 1.130. Thc
Arlllbticc on t.he third alillilc'....lr) uf Ihe lorlll;ttioil fuulId
the Icg:itJnnaires in a Cjuiet seCtor Ilear Champl::noux.
I.cg:il,n show Ihat 11Iellllc'....ed on Ihe \\·c"tl.:nl FrOil1 in
Ihc :\larching Reginwnb of the ler and 2e RE ami the R:\ILE - 6.239
Frenchmen and 36.644 lurcil{lIc,.... Of Ihese 5.172 I\l·re listed killed in
action, anrl ahoLlt 25.000 woulldcd or (mam of Ihc 1;ll(cr
Illlc!nllhTedh- heing fut<llitiell): GlslIaltics were IhllS around 70 pl.;r cent or
the 10t.11 \\ho sc.... ed. III ?\o\'clllbcr 1918 Ilw R\II.E W,b tile "CCOlnt mosl
dccor,ucc! regiment ill the Frl'nch .\rIll'.
The Dardanelles, Serbia & Russia, 1915-19
In 1915 lhe kr Reg-illll'nt de \larch...• (rAJriqlle \l'a." formed
from til 0 battalions uf Zou;w("" alld 011,· of IcgiUllllaire.. - 1111· III/Ri\IA
(Ll. Col. ?\icl{er) - wilh 1\11' ,ompallit"s each from Llu; kr and 2\" RE.
T;(killf{ part will, The French I:Wllll ]}i\'. ill the Allied Lmdillgs around
(;allipvli. lhe lllliTbnd.... d al Sedd 111 [\;lllf Oll 27 April. Durillg the !lext
lIille 1ll0lllhs the Allies v<..;ry higlt lI'hilt' penned
imlllobile withill Iheir IOcky beachheads. Blond)'
illlhc r:l\'illcofKcrp\'cs Ikrc rcduced (IIC Ill/RMA hyJllllt· to al>OllliOO
men lerl by !\(UlId:llH-Chd Leun. By AllgllSI. whcll 700
n:illforcemcllIs fina[1\' arrhcd IrOlll Illdnchina. the hallaliOIl had ahllosl
cea'iCd In exist and mam llICl! ill Ihe line were Ifl·'lIed
WC)llllf!t·d.
Tlu· 1!"'Olh Oi\,. W:'b 10 Salonika in OClolX:I' 191510 liglll
til(" in Serbi:.l. ;U1d Ihe RMA endured a \lr...·tched willieI'
n'lreal. In aulumn 1916111e dwindling hallalion rought at ami
in "pring 1917 at Tr;ma Stell:.l. WiTh onll' <;ome 200 dTeCli\e" left Ihe
[II Ri\IA was dillbanded in Octohc'r 1917, e\en!lIall)
jl)illinl{ the R..c\ILE.
fU, pan ohhl.-· Allied illle....·cntion dliling the RlISlli:11I Civil War
8 a batlalioll llolllinallr aITili:l1c.:c! 10 IIw IeI' RE "'<tS rccruiled locally
Rare Morocco action photos:
the Mounted Company, 2e REI
in SeptembM 1932 near
TaUgZ.ltOusl in lhe Hi9h Atlas
during the .d........ on the
Plat"u des LIles. They cany
M1S92116 carbin" .nd Wear
M1901 Colonlallth.ki drill
{_ Plate C21. Kepi cove......
rss.ued • cre.my unbleKIMId
shade, were ordered dyed pale
Ith.ki for lICti..e service; bLlt
memoi..... sU9901lt that lor
reason$ 01 '$prit de corp$
most legionnaires $ported the
fortlldden while-bleached cOl/ers.
tn c.1928-30 lhere was ttIIen a
..ogue in e.;. lhe 4e REI .nd
1er REC for eddin;" cut_out
red 9renade to the cower.
(Courtesy Jim Worden)
This alpine terrain gives an idea
why such high casualties were
suffered when advancing against
the determined Berber riflemen
01 the Moroccan highlands, The
soldier on the rock parapet at
near right is Legionnaire Bobby
Lincoln, who brought these
photos back. (Courtesy Jim
Worden)
<lfOU11d An.:h;lng-d in autulllll 1918: a slTlali Leg-iult Gldle from France
W<lS by Cdt. :\lollod. One machine g-un and
lhree rille companies wellt into the line g-radually between October
aud July 1919. The Allies evacuated in October 1919. thl: local
pel'sollllel passing- into various \Vhite Russian units complete with their
French uniforms and equipmc11l.
COLONIAL CAMPAIGNS 1914-1939
Morocco 1914-1919
[II Aug-usl 1914 Gen. Lyaurey, st ripped of most of h rroops. was ordered
10 withdraw the resl into qff" coasul cuclaves. I)ererrnirwd to
whal had taken so long to win, he insread an exh:ltlsting" four..
year campaig-n wirh rhe lell to him. Somc 20
lCg-ionnain:s. criminals of thc Baraillons d']nfanlerie Leg(:rc d'Afriqtlc,
Tirailkurs Sellt:gabis. French Terrirori<ll reseryisrs - aud local itTegular
l,'(J!lmil'fI slrugg-led to hold and supply thc remotc pOSh planted among
hostile trihes all o\'er this country. \"'hile the \\'orld\ altentiOll was
fixed on 111(' Western Frout a dwindling" force of mainly Germall and
Austrian k'giot1naires fought mall) despenl1e, forgotten aClions.
A purt.'ly defensivc pOSllIr(' would have been mobile columns
had ro circulate through the wild 1l10\lnL<lin letT<lin of lhe .\liddle Atlas
in n0r11wl'Il and centr<lll'vIOfocco, while MOUtHed COtlipallies patrolled
'0
Bobby Uncoln" hon_rllbte
discharge ..e"ifieale, issued
iilt Mel<nes on 6 september
1935 after fi"e ,ea... Hrvke,
and si9ned by Lt, Col. lmhau.,
2e REI, (Courte., Jim Worden)
till..: t'j01hilb and al'Olllld the huge. I;lrgely
unp.u:ified eOlllplt'x uf Iht' 'I',Jlibl1 in the
TIl(' siralegic nunllenl curridor
from al h'l lo 'I';l/a (ill Iht'
celllre or lhe 'o<"lkd 'behe de Tala,;, t1oloriollsl)
mOllluain rq.:ion). and bo;.·)olld to AJgeria.
had to he ck'ared limo;.· ami again. A sublle and
dU"ive leadtc'r named ,\bd d Maid.. :\leheddill W,ls
cOllslalllh up Ihe nunht'rn nib...'S. The dis-
sidellls In'n: armed b' Gt'rman ag:ellls, and Iret· to
COlllt' and l{o Irom '.lle rcluge' in the Alias I,mg:t·s.
O\('r tilt' border ill and in the
Tafilah,
These ;lCliulIS \Iere uot :Ihl'\\s un a small scale.
On 13 I':JII. at EI !-IelTi ill Ihe
Atlas. Z,lia \\"ip...·(\ out a Freud, column from
KJll'nilra l..illillg:;\;\ uOice'" and {lOO men. The \'1/2e
l{E marcht'd with tht, rdkf column ,elll from :\lrirl
tu Khenih.. ami fought at EI Ilammarn and on the
Qum er R'bia: in IIII' imlllt'diate afH'nmuh all thr('c
IeI' RE 1."lIl..lliol1s had 10 he commilh'r! af.,raiml tJilx"S
altackinl.(" the T.Il',1 corridor from lilt' '\Olllh.
Of Ihe uniu inilialll ,I\';lilahlr (see.: al)O\e, The
Lel.("ion in 1914) Ilw \'1 2e I{E \muld lx' broh'n up
late in Ihe \\,11' 10 rl'illl(IJ'('(' thc' (l!la'l"s. :\ Mixt"d
Ibualion from !\lgC'ria \\:1$ to Bou Denib
whell llIlre't broke.: (lilt tIn Ihl' lJ'olllier in
1916, COIl!>isling of 1\\0 cOllipanie' eaell of kl.("iOllllaircs and
from the /lall (rAt ,hi.\- tOO was disbamkd ill 1919. Starn::d of
[he I.c..·gioll in .\Iurucco wa.' dUWll to :111 en"t'Clivc LOlal
ofaboul "ix companie.:s by llle elld ufWodd War I.
Allhough all thest.' on'l-.;trl'lcltl'l1 saw hard marching and
fighl ing (particularly d [Iring lhe.: fUllr-year funning: balilc to fighl
IIlrotlgh lO Khenil;,;\, which involw:d alllhl' llurthern battalions in [Ilrn).
II It' iIldependelll ,.,1 oUllte.:d pI 'rllaps delll:llid 'pecialmentiotl.
With onc mule In c\'cr) l\l'o lUCIl, rider ;11\(1 lllarcher changing places
e\cry Iiour, thcy could cO\'l.:r ,i'iOkm, lip to iOkm, in 24 hours,
This valuable Illobilily condemn('d IIH;m [0 [hc mosl exhausling
opcrations ill lhe T:Ii':a c:orridol', 1111' ;1l1d IIH' SOlllll('rn dcsert, Thcy
spcarllcaul.:d mobile coil scizi llg lilt' crests on eit her f1an k; ('sconed
VUllll.:l'lbk COI1I"O)"; and fnITt'-t1l,lrclwd 10 lhe re,cue of dcspcralc
in choking Sllmmer heal ;\lld icy \,inter "lin and mud.
Fur Spa(T rca.\ollllS a single I>ng:agemellt mllSI ,erye to Sllggl.:.\ol Ihl.:
flavour of t111.:se missions: that fOllgll t hy tllC 2e Compagnie 1I,IOlltCI.:/ Icr
RE on 9 August 191 R at GaOlI/, a village be{\\'cen the Oucd Rheris and
Geud Ziz in Ihe Tafilalt, A war part)' - probablv of Ait Khabbash Berbers
- h:ld heen inlercepled and p"t to flight al ncarb\ Sefalat bY:I mixed
column. was di\·ide.:d in twO to givc ch:bC; CdL Pochdu led:l mixed
TiraillCllr battalion and the 2c C:\1j IeI' RE (C,"lpt.
Timm) inlO the palm groves ofCaou/- a lal'&c, thickl) grown plantation
\\'ho<;(" Ire(':. :.hadO\lcd \cge.:table gardcns divided b\ <I maze of irrigation
ditches and lllud \\';llb,
Legion marc:hing c:amp in
Moroc:c:o. The office... tit at
mess; between the piled ann.
and the grazing mules al right,
note the dryslone parapet. The
Legion always buill then
murai'hts d'Alrique around nlghl
enc:.....p...... ts wl>en on adl",e
service.
A legionnaire (note lunic 01
darker kJlaki drill shade than
Ioose·c:ut troU""') hands a spit
of siming meat _ a jNIrapet to
his officers; 3e REI, Morocco,
earlv 1930s..ICourtasy .tohn
Heal)
I-Iea\)' firing" g"reeted the
Tinli1lcul'>: mall)' kIf. amI the
Leg"io1l came up in support
lx:tWCt-'ll lIn: Tunisian ami
cc11l1panies. Fil;llg:
;", tilt-, ellelllY fell
hilck, The
n'd al-folill. \\;Ih the 2e Cr.1
IX'hind t1wm; hili ant-T abolll
:1U minuh':- they ran ill10
Tllllch Ilt'a\'ier The
on Ihe right
rt.'("()ile<l; tIll: 2(' (;.\1 charged
,md a line.
;tnacker! again.
infilll,lIillg: the Senegalese;
allotlu'r Legion
lharg:l' dro\(: tlwlll bacL. 'l1w
Wl'r(' l,iTlllt:d down
II\' Cllelll\ lire: ami Illllkr
furfher the Seneg:ale<i(· hruLe.
The 2e C.\l's alllom,uic Wt'apon, had all jammcd the
Cll;lllchat I.\IC: mIller than the reliahle and
tIl(' last ten rine wert· fin·d. Tht-' 110\\ infiltratt-'d tht-·
Ttlni..ians on the left. \..ho al.;;o fell back: till' made a third
b;1\Ollet charge while the SeneRa1c:-e \\crt' At aoom
p,lII. a bullet broke Capt. left arm. I.I..Iol'c1 look 0\"('1'. only to
1:,,11 ill his tunt; Ikrbers lurwanl 10 him orr with kni\'c",
SuIlYh, Frcycon gr.\blxd a carbinc :llId ddcllded hinN.'lf lik(' a liger
ulltil hc tou \\'<1:' killed by a bullet ill Ihe head.
SC11cl-follcse. Tllllisiam. ami Ikrbc..T hccame mixc'd together
ill chautic hand-to-hand lig:htiu).{. Olll} the i\lulltltcd held
tog:clher u11der lhe leadership of Roqlll.'ptrul and uf the
b;ldly wounded Clp!. Tin1l11, who had hilll"clf Ikd inlo thc :.addle of a
mille. A second bllllctstrllck him ill the bn', bllt he l"t-'I11ililled
ilnd controlled a disciplined n'treat arou1Id whieh the survivi11g:
Tirailkllrs r;ll1icd. TIlt' [\{'rhcr", ('agl'r 10 1001 till.: dC;ld, oncc
the)' rt';1('I1('d tht' ,'dge urthe palm A bkw IIp;lI around
:, p.I11., con:ring the painfld four-flollr n:ln';ll 10 Tif.(hillarl post. Leg-io11
Wl're IWO orficers and .I'll) NCOs ilnd mCll d(';ld, with SC\Ttl sur-
\-iving WOllIHkd (Ihc Tirail1curs 10sl ;l hllmln'd),
On 10 Septcmber lhe comp;ll1y was recalled to T:17:1, IwinJ.\" replaced
al 13011 Denib b} lhe:: ltore:: eM/ltr RE. The chicftilin who had mauled
lhell1 paid lor it 011 15.1anuary 1919 at i\teski. allhe I\lixed
l},lltaliull froll1 BUll Denib.
Morocco 1919-1924
Although lhe Armistice hrouKht a 1I00d 01 enli:.tll1ellts the LA'giOll ill
Morocco faced a difficult period. largely due to lite short;'g:t-' of l'\CO:.
ami olTiccl-" \\ith solid experience of colonial :-oldieling:. ;lIId tht-, reI)'
different of recruit compared \\-jth the touKh hilt obedit-'nt prt-'-war
volullteers. 11
NEAN SEA

Mritl_
• El Harrrrnarn

,!f,
'U'
-1"-1
12
"'hik JX'g-illllillg" lill.: painful uf rc-<-'stahlishing: <:OIuml ill
northern Morocco the cOlllpkldr Thl' 1f'1" RE
became the l<-r REI - 'Rq.;:illlclIl of Fureign InEmery' - and II hit!,
lielding' im\hidll:d illilililkd central (kpo! rune,iom al Sidi
hd Tile 2(' REI rnon.:d from Saida to i\lorncfo \\·jlll thrt'{'
hallaliom. A h;l1lalinn of the Ri\lLE shipped hack 10 Morocco
IWC;lIlW lilt"" hasis fn!' a IWW REI in :\O\'f"mher rakillg 0\'1..'1' tIll:
111'0 1\'!olll1l('d ill Ill(' north. The hallalioll'i or til(> old il'1'
and 2e ill Mol'O((,o and dw i\'!ollll(ec! Company al Ikllib
fornu:d the -I(> REI ill 1920: til(' IV/ ::lnd V/'k wen,:
later.
Durillg' tlte 'prillg/sulllllll.:r cIlllpaigning se,lSOllS all-anlls ,\Iubill.:
GlOups wuuld dril'l.: IlI.:W roads inlo till.: T,Khe de 'Ell.a ami the r-.liddlc
Ada,. 1.:11<:irdilll{. cOllwining .old fighling llieir way illlo lht: lribal
IK"artbll<l, of llll" lilt: roads crept illlO tll(: pusts
had lO be built W H'llard 111t:1l1. III wililer the POSLS had Lo 1.)(:
h)' disper,,(:d COlllpallles. alld this fr.l!{ile infrastructure had 10 hl" kl.:pl
sllppli<:rl. Trih\.:1> Ihill "ublllined had 10 be proleclt:d. ;lIld
pursucd and punished. DozellS of uH'ly linle hattles were fought; agolin.
space allow" ouh :1 represelllalin: example.
On fi !\I,I\ I dllring :"Iobile Group operations soulh of T:.u..a. \.cll.
!\'kol.as wilh :\00 llwn of hi, 1I1/3c REI W.lS ordered to occupy the rocky
pblt":UI of -r;ldoul somh-l'il"l of Scoura. "'hen scollting
S«etch map 01 part of northern
and eastern Morocco; only major
leaturel are named, to locate
Iitel of lome mentioned Legion
actlonl. Frontiers, river COUrsel,
and limits of mountain ranges
are appro.imate only. Northern
Morocco's valleys a.e often
e.tremely IUlh and the Atlas
ranges well wooded; even In
the louthern delert fringe the
major watercOUrlell - e.g. the
Oued 0'1111, Rheris, Zil. end Guir
- Rill lined with many densa
palm Oalel. However, much of
the fighting In the 1920s-30s
took place In the more arid
mountain refugel of the tribes,
in a.tremel of aummar end
winter climale.
reported enemy approaching lhc 1001.. (I)\"er amid s,rllh
and rocks on a lighlly wooded slope, ;1I1d 11'('rt' M)OIl ;11l;},ked hy
1,200-1,:.00 well-armed and shocking-I} dl'l(;l'lllincd Ail
Ikrhcrs, who came quickly to hand-Io-hand I":lng<' Wllh lIlt:" Cie. on
111<' righl nank. Ground I,'as 1o,1. bill r(·t:lk(;11 Ililh lht'" The
\Ioroccans fell back only -;lighll\'. bringing IIw whok pO'ilio!l under
lwaw and accurate lirt:" which pin1led the hall:,lic)ll dOl11l Ilhik
infiltrated Ihrough cmer 011 each It\llk.
Arter '('\eral hours· \-:lin for rdicf :\ie-olas prep;lrillg" for the
dangt'rOLls manO<::U\Tt:" uf di"C-'IIJ.::'g"l·IIIt.:1I1 lludc. lirt.: Whl'lI thc ge Cil'.
was oulll:lllk".'d and beatt.:lI b;.ck \Iith h".'an illdudillg-
Duchit'"r. Tht'" olher lWO cOlllpanic<; ,hudek-red. ;Iml lhl' HQ
plaloon·s COlllHlT-auack MUToumkd and lIearh
m("rrunl>t:'fun.' 'upponillg-lirl' frolll ne:ub\" ,1I1il1en and lI1i1chilll: g-lins
boughI tllt:"IU a liule tillll'. Nicolas e"'l.icalell his <;lIIall battalion
under rdcllIlcs<; thi<; hallk of 1:\.<;ll'(l 12
hour!:>. and lost 36 dead and 61 woulICkd.
Half a dOll·ll Lq.,.-ion ll<lIl;llion<; lOok pan in upt:r.llillll' '>Outh of Ta/';:l
in 1923 i\lobi1c pClwlralcd ('XlrCllll'h· difficult 11l011lllain
Il·'Tail' ag-;:.in,>t .. tllbborn "ircrart, allillulrcd c;lrs and arlillt· .....
\\l·n..' of limitl'C1 me in thi.... 10rlUrt·d l:lIId!\("apt·. ,\ 1);11'(' of a few
gi\e Ill{' tempo. Tht' " REI (Cdt. N:wgt'lin)
disti'l1{llished itself dearing [kni hOll Zen holding: Ilw 'Ilmmit
of \11. Talr;.ll1t on ?J \1;1\. The I (Cdt. Ibrrii:n') "",1\1' h;lrd fighling
alr-.im! the Ait Scghmshin al BOll "halliouclj 011 9 .Inll€': ami again.
along<;ide the 2e REl"s three hall:.lion<; and \lcllllllNI C.ompanv. at EI
\kr" 011 2lJune. On 2fi.-27.Jllllt' the \'lIkr (Cdl. "1';11/"'1'1) amill/!W
ck!wl'{1 lheir on to the plaleau of T,.r1olll. \\'hich h,ld delied the
Balaillon Nicolas the year h,,·fon·. The ('n,ampu\t'1lI of 1I1l' 1/21' REI
(Cdl. Bll'>chellSchlUl). <;upp0r!el! hy a pl:ll'}()ll of tht' <:\1, held oIT a
heal" altad at Ail Joolaklollf on 17JIlIy. Tht· I/:lt' ( :dt. Sll.. ini) and [II/'ll'
REI (Cdt. .It::noudel) headed 111"0 COltllllll<; all:lt'king thc
trihal stronghold on the [llllllOlI/('r phl1t':lll 011 2:l .lilly. rlw brter
2?) dead and 49 \1·0l11lded. On I I rhe II/'ll' REI (Cdl.
Janson) lo<;t 22 dead and :,1 1,'oUIl(kd on till' Ihlanc: Iwarhy
1IH' 1I1/2e \\'as heal'ily cOUlller-<ltlackc·d ;11 dlJSc' rangt' ;l1ld 10Sl 12
killed ;llld IR \\·0l11lded. One of rhe lalter \\'a.... <:dt . ./"'nouck-t, I"t'pl<lced
hy Cdt. /-.birf': the 11/2(' remained to estahlish 11('11' pmL<; lin Lilt:'
and the Groupes Illoved (.n. Hy rhe cnd of 1929
til\' whole Tichoukl massif \\'a<; surrounded with nt'w hilt L1w
had cosr lh(" French Arlll}' at 100 and :-1,000 Illen
dt';ld.
A lull in m:ljor opel-:ltioliS 1"ollo\l't.'<1 ill hUl the
in do/ellS obmall :lmlll1tcrlr dl',olalt· could Ilel'er relax.
Ft:"11 I\el"t:" forI!:>: 1I10,t wen: lillk mOl"l.' 111;111 vlIlgars
01 piled roeI;.-,. g-ra\"d-lilkd oil drulll.'> :uld a lillk· barbed wire. Thc\-
h;,d to b<.· buill hig-h. for good lidds of firc: Ihat mcant the little
J.::uTbol'.'> had 10 scnd OUI reg-Illar ami fircwuod p;U·til·S. The
lIenled fre(lllClH rc!<oupply b\" <.·oll\"0Y.'> along-
lIIolllHain tracks. Since the "'cre maMer" of
cOllcc·akd approach and ambush tht.: Frellch !<oullcred a Me·ad\· d'-'lin of
13
\ \)
\
.BmlMdlal
G

.

-
14
Morocco 1925-1935
A ranor ill I ':,,> was always his llorllwrIl rrolllkr
Il'jth lhe (0;15Ial strip of.he ProleCl.Orate.
All Ik.-bel' \H'n" dangerous t>llcrnif"s; or lht' Rif
!\[oulilains weI'C.' cOl1lpamhlt.· in COil rage, flf'lflrrafl and cruelty \0 lhi'
!'athall' of the Indian/Afgh;l1l horder: [n July Wltlc 13.000 of
Spain':,,> lH..:/-{kclcd and ill-kd had been bUldwrcd l.X:l\H-C1l
fo.lt:lilla and Allowd by half [11;\1 many lighl1y armed Rifs. led by 11'1.'11-
cducau.:t! ;lIld far·sig-hll·d former colonial fllllC1ioll,l1)', Abd d
Krirn urlhe lklli Urriag"hcl. His dauling" I'lelory illspircd a pan-tribal W,lr
of imkpclldcllcc; ,1lHI Abd d Krilll [lintel! his volatile.: coalitiOtl uf dallS
inll1 ,til ilnn}' willi (J[ fOnlll:d Ullils. ratlks. paid alld
:lnr! Thl: booty of AtlOllal inc!mkd 20.(J(J()
f\bltsel' 400 Ill:tdlilH.; g-UIlS and Illure than 120
Schlwid('l' artilkry ami the Rils hircd EUropl':1ll
(including. Ill<' J..<"g-ioll dCS<-TlerJosd KIl'mm!'».
political anarchy hampered her response: grottnd won
ami lost, hilt lile Rif" kepI Ih(> illiti:lli\·c. and innicted furlller huge C<l.'U-
altil:' durillg thl' Spani,h ft.'lreal from Chaollen in f)pCt'lnber 192-1.
;\1:u"lIal k!'ww Ihat the Rif rising would Im'lilably ,pill imo
French :\Iorocco. hill his appeals for n'inforcelllenl1> \H:re igllored h}
1>;lIis. The lla1>hpoint a French norlh of the Ouerghla Ri\t.·r
ill IY2-1. to ilblall a lille of pOSlS br:lITi.soned b} Tirailleurs ill tht.:
di1>J>IIlI·d of the lkni Zel"\l'aJ.
ABOVE Sketch mllp of PlIrt of
southem and e.stem Morocco.
TM legion's area of operations
In the 1 Is too ".eat to
Inclu.de at this scale: e."., the
Vlhr REC ba.. at Tata is off the
mep so.... 160km south-west of
OUllll1[az.erte. The Saha,"n base
at Tindouf Is pertlaps 400km
south-south-west of Oua'uzlIrte
and Tabelbala, patrol blll$e of the
CAller REI, Is about 280km
south 01 Sou Oenlb.
RIGHT Compagnie Montee,
probably of tM 3e REI, marching
past In Morocco, earty- 19305.
Hllif tM men march on foot,
rl"ht, followed by the mounted
officers and warnnt ollicers and
the mule-mounted h.alf of the
company. Under magnification
the Iegionnai..,. can be seen to
wear darllish khaki jKke15 and
Ii"hter bllfly trousers "athered
at tM ankle; they CllrTy'
carbInes. (Courtesy
John Nellil
Man; Volokhoff, a former Tsarist
officer, may stand for the many
foreigners who found new lives
through the Legion.
Commissioned in the 3e RM/1er
RE in December 1914, he fought
in the Dardanelles and Serbia
with the III/RMA and a Bosnian
battalion from Augu"t 1915 to
September 1916; in 1917 he
qualified as a military pilot.
Joining the RMLE in February
1918, he was badly wounded
and won the knight's cro"s of
the Legion d'Honneur while
leading an MG platoon in the
night attack on the Dommie....
plateau on 18 July 1918. In
1923-25, while a lieutenant in
first the 1er, then the 3e REI, he
was on detached flying duty with
the 31th Aviation Regt. in
Morocco. A captain from Man;h
1925, he flew throughout the
Rif War, being wounded again
and twice decorated; One
citation mentions his gallantry
In low-level bombing runs over
Bibane on 13 May. Granted
French citizenship, he retired
In 1930 but wa" recalled in 1939
and "ent to Baca..e" to help form
the 22e RMVE; the photo date"
from that period. Dismi""ed early
in 1941, he was arrested for
Resistance activities In January
1943, but survived the war, and
died aged 93 In 1979. (Courtesy
Ro"emary Weekley)
On 13 April
8,000 I{ib laulldled cOlllTrted
atlacks on Ihe French line: and
the combination of inLdligent
leadership. great hranTy,
guerrilla skills ami a degree of
modern f"lrepowcr prm'cd de\'-
"staling. PUSIS \\"('re rtll orc
heavily or mortarpd,
and Ihen sLormed with
Illediev;l! ferocity; dozens of
heroic laSt ;l11(f ghaslly
massacres into French
ArrllY legend. Hig-hlr mubile.
the sep;n',Hed Belbel fUIlTS
dismantled the French line in
ddail ami fluuded thruugh the
By 27 April were
only 20 from Fez. and 39
of fiG had been o\'CITUIl
or ab'll1dont'd.
i\'lust Legion units were tied down in the Tache de Tal.a, bUI
were rushed north to help skill the lidc inclllding thl' 11/, VII and
V[I/ kr REI, 11/2(' and Ill/!k. Ag'lill.:1 rouple (If cxamples mUSI stand
for allihesc anions.
The POSI al changed hands rour times during I'vlay aL a
100ai cost of more th;ll1 400 Flench dead. The fourth aClion was its
reraplllrcon 2.-) May brthe 1[/lel (Celt. Deslandes) anel line RU (Cdr.
COlel). Successive assaults welt pillnec! down by heavy fire; filially CdL.
his I"tlll;lining- oHictrs. ill\'iled thelll to cupy
him in slinging OIl ha\'tI"Silcks full of and kd them ami his
men in <1n up-hill charge which LOuk Lite Verdun-slyk. The cost
that day was 103 dead ;md IIIOIT tli;)]) 300 wuunded. On :; .JUIlC the
Berbers rttook L\ibane yel ag;lin. and hdd it until finally bumbed out
that September. Deslandes was killed on IR .July at Bab llaceine ncar
Ouezl.an. In the same area the Mounted Company/4c REI was
surrounded while eO\'ering the e";lrtl,uion of fkni ROll her pos!. elll off

15
irllho.: Illiddk of'lht, t'IH'm},
the [('frihly \\"(l(lIHled
LCg:iollllain: Si"g"cl
up ;u](1 hllrled hb c<\rhilH'
0\('1' Ilwir Iw:!cb [0 his
so lhal lht"
... r1wrs ,houlrl no[ lake il
Irolll corp;w.
The dian 01 Cdt.
C'II..aban', \'1 ler REI ill
'I;n-June COlI\l'" ,hl.'
prc"Ulc Oil lill"'C
bcn :luioll imohl'd IU:;I\...
lighlillg" ag.lin'l ClIl.'lIlie,
who h.ld a proud Ir:'l<li,iUII
uf' lllarl..,mall,hip: who had
.tdclt:cI a J.{uud lltunlx'r 01
llMchille and j.:n'n:lde" to Iheir rifle.;; and kniu-'s; \\ho e,lgl'r 10
come 10 hanft-In-hand: and Ilho tre:tte<1 wounded and pri'>Ulle.....
h;'trll<lrou"h, On I :\Ia\ IIw h:lltalion relie\ed Taounal POSI ag;lin'l the
re.;;islance or .;;onw 1..-,00 I\(·rl)(-'r.... On Ihe .-,Ih lhe\ C(}\l'rl,d Ill('
of n,lh on tht" 61h-71h Iht"\ reJie\ed and l ....lcll.lIed
Bah 11I)1l ,\nd,lr: and almosl claih missions rollO\\ed from lhl' 9lh to till'
22ml. 011 lIMI dah' 111('\ el.\CLl:I[I·d the garrbon of OUl'd AmlOll, ,lIId
ariel" a d:I\'" flllIning h;tlde ,,[oorl on a nighl attacl.. 011 tlu.. ir (,lIllp.
launching a <;IICCt.''l>fLlI coun[er-altark oUlSide the perilllt'Lcr, 011 -1.JulIe
lh(', !"l.'-lK"cupit·c1lhe ,lballdOlwd 1)0<;':11 r\st.:lr. lighling Ihd. I\a\ ill ,111(1
lIoldint(" il 10 rowl" Ihe (·I<KLlalion or Sker, lx:lon." lig:btillg: lhd.
way out again on 111(' ull(kr lIlachine gUll fire,
On the niJ.{llI or 10-11 .June Cdt. G:\laban calk'd lor \·OhUll(TI.... to
bre;.l.. lhroug:b ;ll1d 1;.'\<I(:lI:1le a despo.::r:.tte al till..' airlicld or
Mcdiolll1<l. It i, r('corded Ih;u men quarrtc'"Ut·d mer ill 11K'
pan)', 1"<.1e("[('" inlo lile under cover 01
Machine gun platoon, CMAl4e
REI, Foum el Hassan, 1937
(_ Plate G3). This ....rd-bitten
c..w show wide variation in the
shades of their uniforms lind
cap cowers.. lCourtesy Charles
Milassln)
Part of 2.e Peloton, Vll1er REC,
the Legion's first motorised
.quadron. raised In 192.9 OIl
Colomb Bec:har. It patrolled from
Taghil in 1932, fOU9ht in the
Djebel Samro in February 1933;
and In 1934 both Vand VI
Escadrons MOlorisees look pari
In the occupalion of Tindouf.
In October 1934 the VII was
di,banded; the VIler REC
remained at Tata. Equipment
wa' very mixed - Renault and
Citroen reconnai,sance cars, a
few Whlle-Laffiy armoured cars,
troop-carrying, lanker and
sl9nal, trucks. etc. _ bu1 about
15 of lhese Berliet VUDB 4 JI 4
armou..d patrol cars formed Ihe
baekbone. eaeh with a erew of
three and a mounted FM24/29
LMG, With a 40tlp engine the
4-ton ear was grossly under-
powtlf'ed, and the chassis too
weak lor the weighl of the
armour. ISIHLE)
Light platOOfl, CMAl4e REI,
Foum el Hassan, mid·t930s;
o;;omoulLage finish is French
Army green and $and. Thi. "
the troop-canyi"$ cOrt\le",ion
of the Pannai'd AMD t651175
TOE armoured car, with turret
removed and a Hotchkiss
mounted beside the driver.
Motorised Mounted CompanieS
had 280 all ranks, with a
command and urvk:es pl..ItOOfl,
a 120-strong Iorried Infantry
element. and lighl and heavy
armoured pgtoons with
turrelless and turreled
Panhards. Mounted Companl••
took to their primitive,
uncomfortable armoured ca",
with greal reluctance; Ihey were
less mobile, more fragile and
more demanding than mules.
(Courtesy Charles Mitasslnl
It seems lhat they fought their way in IllnJllgl1 lWO lines and
started back wilh the sllr\,il'ors before beil1g" o\'erwhelmed; the
bodies of the four officers and 60 llwn were l1t:ver found.
In 192G a massil'e dTorl (including eight I.egion
b,llWliolH from the lee 2e, ami 4e REb.) broughl !inal \'iclOlT in lhe
Rif. and Alxl d Krim surrendered 10 Ihe Frendl Ih,1I B} this lime
I'elain had 300.000 men ;n the licld, amI French Aml} dead
- 1101 ollicially admilled for 20 years - tOlalkd at leasl 12,000,
Till' Frel1ch lurned immediatel" 10 Ill(' filial n:ducliol1 of lilt." r\IIaS
r.mge:.. Irl.lUllt" 19261he \\hole 3<.. REI fOllghl 011 IIll: olilhingTichoukl
l11a.'>sir. dde:tling Iht" Ail lohand and Ail Seghrllshin. Thc.'y \\'l:l"e joillt"d
b\ lhl: 1/ alld \'l/kr and l/ and II/'k for llll' .lui} opC.. \\hich
C;lptllfl'd thl: maill ranges, Successi\'e :ul\"l1lct:'- in 1927-29 \\l:ft" nOl
,,'ilhoU! cost; the 1I/3e REI lOok ... ignilkanl casuahil's dd"l:1ll1illg
El Bor(!j allli Ail Yakollb in June 1929, lht' kr in an
at Ojihalli that OClolx.... the It":-re CM/2e againsl the Ail Ihullmou al
T<lrda-Tadij.;"llOlist ill AlIj.;"lISI 1930, :tlld Ihe 2(' REI :u TazigL.;uHISl whill-
;uhdllcing on the Plateau des Lac.'> ;11 Sq)lernlll'r
In the 'ffilltherll deSl:rt the stubborn T;llilalt 1\':1:. finally IJ;(cified. Earl)
in 1913 inEllury, ;lI1d Ihe ('.omp:mies or Ihe In, 2e alld
1e REI ....\W h:lrd fij.;"hting ill Ihe Djdx:l S.II'hm. ill'affland of the Ail AlI:l
Herhers, who h:ld dominaled the .'>vulh for CCIlI urics; :Iml the 2(' :\Ild Ie
Wt'ft'" slronglr repreSl:ntcd in opefativn;; Ihal ,unUl1('r which forced the
... hi('f Ouskollllli and his last 10 finalh slIbmil at B:lddou.
The p:\Cific:uion of was cOlllp1t:tcd b\ a final push through lh('
Allli-,\tlas far 10 Ihe in early
Cavalry, armour and artillery
Despite> some misgi\ings on.... the..' for desertion
\\ hich \l"el"t' olTered hI' pUlling on h(II'S('S, Ill(' I"... RCl{imcll1
fit'" started fonllitlg at s.m,sl", in 1921. The
17
The Mounted Companies
Nov. 1920 2e CMller R£ bocamo 28 CMI3e REI, baS<ld
GoolTama, Jan. 1922 20 CMi3e REI became CM!3e REI,
1933-40 based Ertoud. Nov, 1940CMi3e REI became Be Oe,
Mixle Montool3e REI
Ier REC had mimr former \Vhite Russian
cavalrymen. some sel"ving in ranks far more
humhle dun lI1f'y had achiewd in the TSilr's
sen'lce.
During the Ri f crisis the 111/ leI' REC rough tin
the Tache de 'Iaza; the 1/ and 11/ were reduced to
cadre, men being transferred to reinforce the IeI'
REI. The regiment's first mounted senice
was the IV/leI' REC's tour in Syria in The
Ill/leI' !lIO\nl south to Bou Denib in and
sa\1" sottle brisk dashes during- escorts and patrols.
The other squadrons rotated through the
southern station in succeeding years; and the IeI'
REC was aniYe in the final penetration campaigns
of the eitrly 1910s. In 1929 t.l1f' regiment formed
6th and liHer 5th r-,·lOlorised SfJlladrons, with
reconnaissance Cilrs, trncks ilnd a few ilrmOllred
rill'S.
[n January 1930 the first fel\' trucks were
c1eli\'Crecl to the 2e Compilgnie REI at
This began a gradual process of lllotori-
sation which by 1934 \I"ould see mixed'
u'uck/armoured car units taking o\'(;[" the role of
the old mule companies in patrolling the
southern wilderness. The 2e CM/2e REI was
redesignated i\lolOrised (later, Automobile)
Company/ler REI. In January 1932 it saw action
against a war parly led by one Bdkacem at Mecissi; and in F'ebn.lill!, 1911
its CO Lt. Brenklc and II men were killed at. Bon C,afer in the Djchcl
Sarhro (the same banle which cost the life of the famous Homme Houge,
Capt. Ilenri de Bourtlilzel of the Spahis). With improving equipment
and practice the armoured ilnd motorised cavall"y and mounted units
took part in all the main operiltions of rhe later pacification
period.
The of these lrits IS C01tLlSed by me.-gEl<1;. ;nter-
regme<11al transfers and many changes of titko AJI !hlJ lo1Jo'wing
mfamnc::oes am trom vaoous artdos in K$pi Blanc;
1913 146 CMl2e RE bec<Jme 3utooomous Compagrw
Jan, 1922 CM d'AattachOO to ter REI: took
over il1f'..age of all eMs in tllfJ SucHJmnais sil'ce 1881 J,JIy
1931 28 CMi2e REI became OOIN Cie, MotOlisOO/l81 REI:
retitled Feb 1933 Gte. Automoblle/le< REI, based Boo Den1b,
laler Tabehala, 1934--39. eM d'A baseo Khenche!a. Jan.
1939 eM d'A became CH'i. Portoo/le< REI
1913 3e CMi2e RE became autonomous
Montee du Maroc, NaY, 1920 eM du M became lere CM/30
REI. Jan. 1922 ,e.e CMl3e REI became eM du M attached to
26 REI. OCt, 1923CM du M became CW2e REI: 2e
CM/2a REI tWffld. Jan. 1930 2e CMl2e REI at Ouida roceNed
first II€ttms, OCI, If!3(hJuly 1931 20 CM!211 REI becan'le Cie
/IAltOllsOO/ler REJ: lere CM/2e REI became CM/2e REI,
1934-37, CM/2e REI based Kzar es Souk. OCr. 1940 CM/2e
REI became 12e Cil:!. Mixfe MonfOO/3e REI
Sept. 1920 lore CM/1or REt becarnB CM!4e REt, based
Sou Dmib, Aprii 1933 CMl4e REI becane CM Automobi1e!4e
REI, May 1934 CMN4e REllxJi" "rXl occupied JX)Sl at Foum
Hassan Nov. 1940 CMN4e REI becan-.e 12e Cle. Mlxto
Mootoot"2e REI.
Legionnaires probably of the 2e
REI serving an M1897 75mm gun
in Morocco, 1932-34; they wear
M1914 khaki drltt uniforms,
brown three-pouch equipment
and slun9 M1892116 carbines.
tn May 19321he 2e formed a
four-gun, 60-man 8atterle de
Man;he d'Artillerle at El Hajeb.
The battery wore red-backed
collar patches untll1935, tater
replaced by a scartet diamond
with btue 9renade and double
btue ptping to the upper edges,
worn on the teft steeve. Another
battery formed the same month
at Ouarza>:arte by the 4e REI
supposedly wore a steeve patch
from the start. Both units fought
throughout the tater Moroccan
campaigns. Redesignated
Batteries Portees, both were
attached to the 4e REt from late
1939, soon forming a third. All
three were dispersed along the
Moroccan coast from November
1940, affiliated to the 2e REI until
AprH 1943, then to the 3e un11t
disbanded in February 1944. 18
Sidi bet Abbes, 2 MardI 1MO:
1er among the draft
Ieavi"ll lor France to fonn the
lV13e DB de Marche. He wears
the M1926 helmet, M1920
grealcoat, and leather equipment
with HI34 modification.; ltMt
chkhe and medill. give a
propert, d;oshing air -ltMt Legion
h.as alwa,s been concerned to
appear to best lldvanlil9" In front
of lesser troops. (ECPAJ
LeKiull llsualh ill Morocco in all-anns column.;
includillg Colonial anilkf); bu! an 80mm IllUlI1l!ain"'b'llll seclion formed
in I\LI}" 1925 hy !he It-r REI saw action OIl Ih(' Oller! Cuir Oued
ZOllsf;1I1a, In I it tI1()\'I;U 10 Ihe High Atlas, pa 1'1 UiSlilll{uishil1l{
iLSeif 011 Ih1-' Oued on 22 Jill) 1933, ami -..'cil1J.; anion thai
AUh'lIS! ,II 1\.1.ddon. In OCl()h(:r 1934 it became lilt" Company of
Ill/Ier REI.
In hoth the 2(' :"Illd 4(' REb fOl"l1ll.:d 7:CJ1l1l11 l{1l11 h;:ltIcri('s
II'hich aniol] in The.: laler \!ororCIlI campaig"lls; carly in World \Var
[I furthe.:1" Saharan \\'('re fOl"llll.:d, as \I',IS a full battalion hy the
6c REI ill S\Ti:t, 19
20
Syria
After 1918 former Turkisll possessions in Syria and ].ebanon passed
under French m<llldalc. The IV/4e REI landed :11 in \olarch 1921
as part of the new garTison. followed in AUgllSI by the V/ 4e and later by
the lV/leI' REC. French rule was tiercely rcsenled by the warlike Druzc
tribes of the inland hills; bUI for lhe first three YC:lrs French columlls
and posts were not seriollsly attacked, amllhe IV/4e REI was disbanded
in November 1924. InJuly 1925 a major rising broke 0111 in the Djebd
Druzc.
On Z! July Capt. Normand's company of the V/4c sllrrered Il.l
casualties Lo an attack on Kafer south-casl of Suueida. the main base in
the wuthenl qjcbel SOllcida was Cllt olT, and a relief column was
lhrown back wilh heavy loss on 2-3 August. The rising spread;
meanwhile a seconu relief column set. ofT for Soueida, led by the V/4e
REI (Cdl. Kratzert) alld lV/leI' REC (Capt. Landriau), plus a Glv:llry
annoured Glr squadron. \V,\rned when Iw re;lChed the old walled villag..
of on I () Scptcmber Ihat some 3,000 Druze were
approarhing, Kratzer! set his legionnaires 10 slrerq';lhening the
perimeler for defence; llnknown to them, many rebels were already
inside the village.
A pre-dawn prohe on the northern wall was beat.en ofT, but first light
on the 17th brought heavy attacks from all sides. The infilt.rators opened
fire from the rooftops, amhushed lCgionnaires in the alleys as t.hey ran
to lhe perimeter, and h\Hchered 1llost of the REC's t.et.hered horses.
Eventually improving light enabled'the armoured C:lr gunners to dear
France, 1939-40: equIpment
issue. The recruits, above,
wear M1930 kepis and darkish
blue denim fatigues; at ri9ht
foreground note M1918 khaki
bonnet de police, and the brown
fall-collar M1936 jersey. (ECPA)
138 DBLE otrlCf!t" in 1he 1ren<:1as
at Sir Hakeim. In 1he unl_ of
May-.June 1942 the Fr.. F..
Brigade repulsed repeated he.."
attacks by Rommel's 90th Ughl
and ttall8fl Ariete Diyislons
supported by air raids, and the
B.en carrie.s of the 111113e
Ipellme..ded the succeSltul
break-out on the night ot
10-11 .Iune; the 'Ilglment
suffered Ilbout 30 pe. cent
ea_tU.. in all. ldentilied by a
as a 'Cdt. Babonneau'
tpossibly Cdt. Sablan, who took
command after El Alameinl, this
major wears an M1931 off;,;.....
keplllnd Brttistl banled.eu with
tokt-on-khaki collllr patches end
gofd-on-black rank slides. (The
commandant is tM rank
equiyalent to major, but when
appointed to comm..nd 0' a
baU.. llon he is styled chef
de batail/on.)
the roofs. Successi\'e anacks wcre beaten oil during me lIlorning; the
afternOOIl broughl French air support. and Ihe Oruze "ithdrcw le:wing
some 500 dead. Legion casualties were 47 dead and R3 wOlllu.led.
TIlc other Jll<90r Legton action W,lS the dcfence of by the
rv/ler REC and a squadron from tht-, SI)''1his on 20-2·\ Novcmber
192.). Auother old. labyrinthine ...tone \illagc, It'1chap. OlleR'f! no dear!)
dcfillCd perimeter: during Ihree day... and nights of attacks the Dru7.e often
penclr.ucd parlS uf the defencC'>, leading to hand-tn-haml
fighTing. LHldliau's troopers were down IU their lew rounds ;md
preparillg- 10 'do a C;lllleronc' when. on the 2'lth. "ircmf! and the 6c
Cl!lle to the The l.egion squad run lost 58 dead ami
wOlll1ded,
Th<:.' I)nli't: revolt petered Ollt, and sllccnsh'c Leg-ion had
a n:lati\'cl)' <juici life in III October 19!J9 thosc cUTTently in the
Levant -1/, IVI ami VII kr REI illld 11/2{' REI - were iunalhr.llllatcd into
the 11(:\\ lX- REI.
Indochina
Tht-, Le/{iun bran;wn reduced and withdrawn inullcdiald}
aflcrWorld War I. In 1920 lilt' rv/ler REI rt;wmed; in 1921 thc IV/:!e,
rede"ignaled IXI Itr in 192(1: in 1927 the VIII ler: and in 19!\O till' Iller.
In St:'ph-'mb('r 1930 till:' laSlthr('c hattaliom were amalgamalcd into the
new .le REI. Apart f"(J1ll occasional expeditiom against ·pirates·
and the brief bill hloody rising in Yen Itlr
provil1Ct· in 19RO. life for tile Legion in lndodlina peaceful. II, was
regarded a luxull' posting' for men with good IT('ords; pay anrl
allowanc('s w(>re hard physical work was inli-eqllcnr, and
channing f('male campan> plclltiful,
CAMPAIGNS 1940-42
The prt-'·wal legion garri'lnn'l rem;linl'd in :\'onh Africa. Ihe lc"ltlt alld
Indochilla. but the} prmided cadres and btxc drafts for a number of
lit'\\' Ihm \n:rc cOl1l11liuc.;d tu comhat against the Axis. As ,,·ith
World War L space oul)" brid nOles hen: on well
dncLllllt"llted in standard hi<;tork1>:
Narvlk
\Iarch 19"'0, ht Fn.:ndl Light Di\'. (Cen. BCthouart) ..hipped to
:"IIon\';I\ illduded 13c Ocmi-8rigade de la Legion Etrangerc (1.1.
Col. Magrin-Vt::rnert-'\' - 'Mundar'), a t\\o-b.tttaliull ullil miser! from
Afric.1Il g<trrisolls. lr..tinccl :tnr! equipped ill Fr..mcc fur mounlain
Landed HaafjdrlC't llf'ninsLlla 6 att:tckcd Gcmlan troops
al \I;-n. and :\'anik. 28 2(' (;it". losl all
22 onicers and 60 men: b..'ld. to from ieI'.
The .tart of th<t 13<11 DBLE's long
journey: Gen. de Gaull. inspects
a guard 01 honour In Whl1ehall,
London, In .July HMO. The
Ieogfonnal... w.ar M1926 and
MHI15 helmeb, the shirt
and 'goff' trou..... 01 the
French ,,""y Ml lt38 unifonn,
brown mountain boot. and
whit.·o......khakl double socks.
The cl'tkhe and blu. ush are
the only Legion touch...
75mm c_0' the Battene
S;tharieflne Portee. probablv at
OutJl"llIa, Algeria. wt>ere it wa.
formed in October t 940; • 2.
8SPL was formed at Fort Flatters
in April 1941. TheV _ar M1930
kepis and khaki 9reatcoats with
'ulkut ..fOCI" desert IroYse..
In khaki drill, and the traditional
red·brown leather bandoUer
equipment of Saharan units. The
B$PLs fought with the Allies in
louthern Tunisia In winter
1942-43, disbandln9 In
December 1943,
In January 1941 the 6e REI
tormed a Groupe Autonome
d'Artil'erie du Levant. with three
tOU"1lUn 75mm batteries;
person.....1wore red-backed
collar patches. They fought
courageously against Allie.
in June t 941, suffering some
25 per cent casualties. The 13e
D8LIE took over four 0' their
guns and used them against
enemv armour at 8ir Hakelm,
transporting them en port".
On Ford 3-ton trucks.
Division withdrawn at 11('\\" of German blil::Jm'rg in France. illlcIH!c:·d
10 reinforce Renncs. Britlanr: arri\'ed Brest 100 Iale: 13c DULE
wilh full C<llliplllelll for UK.. 30.June. unil
by Gen. de Gaulle. then unknown FrCt· French It-arlcr, f\bulli
half of I opterl for rqlatrialion 10 I\loroc(;u, remaind('r to light
on with British. (Free Frellch unit hrif"nv 14e DOLE.
rC:Slllllillg" Ilwnbcr 13(' in NO\"l'lllber 19--10.)
The Battle 01 france
r:dsl,.'d in J\letropolil<l1l FralK(;' included Ill' REI (Nu\'elllbC'l' 19:i9
- \'olunlt'ers from 1.q.(ioll garrisons. plus !'lOO Frcnch
with r01"1nCr service); amI 12c REI (F(-hrllary -
French pIllS 400 lWW \·ollliltcers).
re;lwnahly well C(luippeo, moslly \\itlL material. 1("1' ami
2e KE(' provided 673 all for Groulle de Reconnaissance
Damasc:.... summe.. 1941:
an officer of the 13e is decorated
by Gen. Catroux. Note British
khaki drill clothi"!l 1'0..... iss..ed;
and cont ...st between offICer's
M1$31 .nd sokIie..'$ M1930 kepi
proportions. (Imperial War
24 M.......m)
Oi"isionnairc 97 (Fdllllar)' 19·\0 - one mUlIllted. one lon'jed
illf:mtrr, one Ilrc support :'>qllarlroll, with 11lolOrqcle elclll('llt).
Ahoul 6.000 ncw were 'lur the duration',
..en·ing with 21e :UH.1 22c RCl,olmcllts de l\brche de VolOlltaircs El.rangers
(O('tol)("r 1939) ami 23c RMVE (l\b}' 19-10): 111;\11\ Spani'lh r:i\'il War
refugee'l rcrruited ;11 l-{rim I\acart-s int<... mtl1cI11 (';1I11\> in Ill(' P\'l'clle(':>.
;lIul lllany [;:LSlelll EllropC.';Uh At lirst neglcl·tcd. Ilw r('C(";\l"d
IWller clothing in ...-\plil I ..W. (. \Ithollgh a(kquatch armed, t"(luipmclIl
\\':1.. lIlll"leU - 22e R.\I\"E 1'';1.. nicknamed 'the lotring rt'gimcnl', as ahnusl
compktc bll: of equip11lt'1lI lotl'lpS fOrCl"d men tu impro\'i:.c all
frOIll curd.. )
lIe REI (CuI.. Roh""l"I) with 61h (N. African) nil. I,'hen German
olkll:>i\'C.: ulX'ned 10 1\la> 19-10: IIIU\'('(llu Stena\ h('lwC('n R.. l\lell:>e and
R.. Chin..: 27 holdillg d'll1ur when enemy :11'J'ill"ll. Held out
under repeated attack.. ulilil ordered to n:ln'al 11 June: It! .Julle..
2

,
1: LegiQflllaire, en. C, 2e RM/2e RE; France. OCt. 1914
2: Lt. Col., 4l!! RMller RE: Franee. Nov. 19U
3: Porte-tanlon, 8n. C. 28 RM/ler RE: France, June 1915
A
B
t: klvalid, 4e RM/ler RE: Ltons. SJlrin9 1915
2: Capclf'3l. RMLE; Wesll!'fn Front, .arty 1916
3: LMG learn No.2, RMLE; assault o.-der, Aug. 1917
,
-
1: Legionnaire, 1I1/RMA; Dardanelles, spring 1915
2: Capoi'"al, 2e CMI1er RE; Morocco, Aug. 1918
3: Sergent, RMLE; Lorraine, Nov. 1918
3
c
1: Legionnaire. Vll1er REI: Morocco, June 1925
2: Legionnaire 1/1re cl" V!4e REI; Syria, Sept. 1925
3: Brigadier, IV/ler REC: Syria, Nov. 1925
D
1: ClIpitaine, 1er REC: Morocco, c.1930
2: Sergent, CM/3e REI; Morocco, early 19305
3: Capt. Prince Aage, 11/3e REI: Morocco, earty 19305
3
E
E' Meknes. summer 1934
1: Bugler, 1I1/2e R I, er 1932
3e REI' Fez, SUmm
2' Drummer, , 37
. I ~ - REI' Hanoi, (:.19
3: Capora, "" ,
-I '
~ !
IV
,
.,
'.l
"
-
,
,
I
!
/
1
I
-1
I
\
F
I
I
lIII!"'-
3
I
I
)
1: Legionn<We, t3e DalE; NOfWay, May 1940
2.: ~ tere ct... 12e REI; France. June t940
3: UgiolVlaire, CMAl4e REI; Morocco, t 9 3 7 ~ t
G
1: Sergei'll, 13e DBLE; Rome, June 1944
2: Adjudal'll, ler REC: Germany. April 1945
3: Sectiol'lleader, RMlE: Alsace, Jan. 1945
2
H
North Africa, 1943-44: the
1er REC parade in their new
American armOUr - an M8
Howitzer Motor Carriage (1!5mm
tu......t On Stuart tank cha"ls) 0'
the tire support eklmanl, and M8
Greyhound cars. The
HMC has a green Legion grenade
painted on to the 58 08 sign on
the side of the engine. (ECPA)
encircled;1I Sailu..('oermaiIH;ur-Mcusc: II I il- \;nually wiped OUl, Pulled
1,.,d.lol\'ardsToul. lie REI had 1;lken iO h, cea<;("-lire
011
12e REI (Col. Iksson) with 8th Oil'. ill :-ector when lir...t
allad.ed GJune. CoullIer.auacking. 11I/12c I\'i)x'd nut ill tCIl
rc..'maillder or regiment encircled hv nightfall on ;th: r.500 men
managed to brcak out: (,300 with 12c Ilcar Lim0J.;i's at armistice of
22.1
une
.
GRDI 97 (LI. Col. L.combe de la Tour) recce clement of ;th
(N. African) Oi\".; fighting on Somnle "olllh of I"i'mnlle 011 IRl\.lar alld
thercaftcr in slllbborn ITtre:,t ul1lil22JlIne. Ihis IInit ilSt-'lf
in haifa dozen conly dcfensi\"c haulcs heavy ()(hk The colonel
died among the rearguard cO\"L'rill!{ lhe cro... .. of the Oisi'. and only
262 all mnks sul·...i,·ed al the alllliMin',
21c RMVE (LI. Col. Debuiss),) hea...ily ,ul:I.ckcd 011 9-10 .June al
and in sa\\' 110
further action.
22c RMVE (1.1. Col. Vil1iers-\lor) made coutller-aWI,k al
Villiers·Carbonnel Ilf'ar Ppronne on 24 May; look, and retook village.
bUl t:\'enlu;\lIy on:'rrun by German l;\llb ;,lkr impn..:ssi\'c resislance,
23c RMVE (Ll. Col. AlIllloillt') to <lela>' (;CI"IU;\l1 armuur
for 1\1'0 days at 1'0111-sur'Y0l1nc sOlllh 011 1!'>-IG.lulle.
The 13e Deml-Brlgade, 1941-42
Thc Edl of France condCllllwd lhe 13(' to <I 10llely exile as the only
1.l'g-iul1 unit ;\mong Ihe Fighting French, hut ill lhi' proCl'SS the)' \1'011
Lliliquc
After the snows or Nor\l';\Y 'heir ncxt liJ.;ht lhe British was
amUll!{ Lhc baking: rocks of Italian Erilrea in Africa, The I:k landed
al Pun Sudan 011 15 Februal"): iiI(') captur{'d f.nghiahal 011 27 .\Iarch,
elltcrinl-: Kt:rell the next da} alld l'lking l\!onteClll1o 011; April. In
actions ;u\{1 II Ie subseqllt-'Ilt c;'plllrt: 01 j\ tilt· l:k look more thall
15.000 prisoners.
There now followl.-'d a episode when I<'gionnaire fought
legionnaire. On 8.June 1911. alonbrsidc ;In(\ the 33
I;k DIKE [he frontier from Bri[ish-held Jorcl;lll ill[o Syria.
which was Iwlrl hr Fn'nch troops lopl [0 Vichy - inciliding Ihe IX: REI.
Both units fought I,'i[h courage. discipline alld decene). alld I'ere
The of Saim:leall-(rAcre f'nded 011 1·1
.Iulr: the IX: w('re allowed to choose repatrialion or eniisuneill. ,lIld
ahou[ 1,000 jOill('d Ill(' l.1e DBLE. which formed a third batt:\liOll. Till,;
relul'll('d t'\'t'ntlt:lllr to Norlh Africa, mosl reinforcing lhe deplcled
IeI' REI.
Commanded from Augusl 19... 1 b> Ihe Ge.·orgian priUll.' Lt. Col.
Amilakxari. Ill(' l.1c' OI\l.E mo\'ed 10 Empt late in 19... 1 to sene.' uuder
the Rth Anm: [Iley halfthc infalltl"} OfGt.'ll.
Koenig's ht Free Frellch The 11/ and 111/13<..· grc.·atl\' dblin-
guished in lht.. epic defence.' ofBir (27 \la\,-I0.JulH·
19"'2) al thf' '>Olilhern end or tile Ga";lla Line b;lltlC a
defining 1I1t)lIlelll for lht· Frce French
During the EI Alalllein fighting in hue Oetolx.. r 1912 Ihe
commillcd to ,I cO"II) al [I J-1i1l1cimat 011 the BI;tish left nan),.: ('.01.
Ami!.I),.".ri was among' the fallen. LI. Col. Babloll kd the l:k during
pur'Suil 10 Tllllllii<t: the 1st Fn:e Frellch Hrig;ult'
upgraded to slallls DFL) while the 131.: "ere r(',ting;1I
TobwJ....
CAMPAIGNS 1943-45
Tunisia
SillC(' the fall of F'-.lllce the j.pn;som. in \'ichy-gm'ernecl 1'\onh AfriC<1
had beell stan'ed of recruits and equipment. and to pcriodic
hal";\::.Mlll·llt br Ge.'l"lll;l1l ;lllthorities Irring 10 repatriate their
and hUlil down allli-Reich in tilt' L('gion's 1";l1lls.
There ,,'ere ugly epismks il1\'Oh-ing 'c1llr:l.lion only' recruits: ;lItd
lip to 2,000 German \\'ere forcibly remo\'ed, llIallY later
...'illg under Ronunel in the \\'ehnnadll'S IlIj Ugl, Afrika (11/01) JM.
Ikfore ho\\'('\'('r. [he I.egion became adepl al poslinA' vulnerable
men 10 far-nllng hefore the illspt'C\ors arri\ed.
The it'r REI had relllailwd ill i\lgeria, the leI' REC i11 Tunisia, the 2\;
,mel REI ill .\olol'oc(o, The 2e IU:C and 'Ie REI il:; AlllOmohik
C()lllpaIlY) had h\'Cll di:.b;uHh.:d in 1940, tlte oc REI ill 1941: bill a n('w
'Ie DBI.E was raised ill August 1941 <lnd shipped 10 Senegal III Fn'nch
\VeSt Africa. Ell' fl'Ol1i prying Germall eyes.
After Some bl'id' the Attglo-AmeriGlll bndings in Frellch
Nonll Afric;, ill i\'\JI'l;mbe.'I' allowed I·A.nnce d'Afri(jlle II) join Ihe
Allies ill time fur the cl111paigtl in From December mriulls tidd
- llalidiGlpped br their alld -
"'cre hurriedlr [hrOIl'II into action ag;linst lhe HIII::.J'ffll'l/IlY'
Afriha, All three hatlaliollS oflhc so-called.1e REt de \'ery
lIean (anel, hridlr. [he cherished regilllemal colour) on tht· qjdx:1
in lIIid:lallu,1I1' a mOlorised foret' from the ler REC
did \l'dl at Foom d COllafel. In April Ihe 2e REI di1>hallded. il1>
r.... maining: the .1e. The IeI' R.EI de :\Iarche (frolll lhe
1/ ler REI and .It- DBI.E) fought :I[ POIl[ du Fahs ami z:'lghou;m in :\1;1\'
19... .1. lilt' 1;\... Dm.E. coming up the coasl from 1'ollgl1t
34 al Djehcl Card on 11-12
Men of the 13e DBlE and one of
the non.European units of
Koenig's Free Freno;h Brlgllde lit
fhe Well of fhe Dog _ Blr Hakelm,
-.pring ti42. Freno;h
kepis, field equipment and
weapons were used with
o;omplete British dothlng ls_.
Note the Mt914 Hoto;hkiss MG
o;arried in the 3·tonner; the neart
indK:ates 1st IIWM)
" ,
..-' .-' .
. -
'.
Reorganisation, 1943-44
Victon in :"onh Africa allowed 11u- reorg;lni'l;:llion and whoklo.'1I('
rL"-ecpliprnenl of Ill(' French garTi"Oll w'ilh lJS mal<'rial, to lake part in
Ihe Allied liheratioll of Europe the folll)\\'ing }<,ar. This ("xercise
Ir;msfonned lhe L.egion for the fil"'ltime into a modern lighting force.
TIlt" main IInil Ill{' lhrcc-ballaliotl rc\,i\'ing Ill(' lille of
191:)--18 and formed from the formcr 2c. :lc. 4(.' and {it' KEls at Sidi!lel
in 1943. Destined 10 prmidc the armoured infantry of lhe
nell' 5th Armoured Di\'isiun (JC it wa!'> ol"!{'llri"<:d. equipped and
lmincd along US lines. The ler REt:. with all I [Qsqll<1dmll, a light lanl
squadron and fOllr ;ll"lllOUl"cd (,n' was thl' divisional
recce regiment. Till.' 13c DHLE abu el\jop'd a ;UllJ
J"t'-(:quippillg- with US lll;lIl.'ril.'l. There was SUllll.' IIlutU;ll war-illess
bc1wl.'crllhc [3e and thl.' ex-Vichy
Italy and North-West Europe
The DBLE (C:dt. de Sairignt·) [al\(kd ill ha[y in bIt' April 1944.
taking pan in the forcillg or the Garig-Iialll) and fighling al \!onle
Pcncio hefore hypassillg Rome. TIl\' I/l:k \,'011 a srnal1 bill hril1ianl
hall[e at Rarlicofani on 18 .lulle, dirnbing a rocky hill IlIleler [](';1\,' UrI"
rrOlll :, German company dllg inlo the old ca.'llt' 011 lIlt' summit with
anil1l;n' and lank support.
TIl(' lere I)FL (later renamed lCrt' 1)[\1. bot r\10tori'cd Jnf:mtry
Di\-ision) was soon withdrawn and cOlllmilled to lhe t\lli('d [anding.. in
southern Fr,U1ce: lhe 131.' DBLE di'ell1l)arlt'd l1l'lU S:lillt.Tropt:1 iII mid·
Allgllsl Iy+t. Tilc 5..., DB also lallded in Proll'lln: ill Illid·SCpl .... lllbcr. TII('
initial ad\'allce jwailicd the Ilicknallle 'Ch;ullpa/-;Ile C.ullp:'i/{Il·: bUI all
lhrl'l' Legion saw 1'1.'1) hard lighting- in I,'inter 19--14-'-15 ill
AIs<ICC'. Tile 13<.' fought around Strasbulll1{ :1I1l1 Cullllar. ,llld ill till' laM
\\·cek.s or Ihc war in the AJps around bola. 35
36
Beards we..... wQrn in the field by
many men of the 13e; this
splendid legionnai..... at Bir
Hakeim is identified as an NCO
by his uncovered midnight blue
and red kepi with a gold grenade
badge, and gQld chevrons Qn
shQulder strap slides. BefQre
cropping the phQto showed that
he still carried the M1892118
carbine. (IWMj
The squadrons of tilt' REC (Col. fdicluel) and the battalions of the
(Col. Tritschler) - divided belween US-Slyle Cumbat Commands
grouping- half-tr<lck inf<lIlTry. tanks aud arlillery - were heavily
engaged in IIw Vosges thl"Ougholll November. In .1;lllllilry and
early Fehruary dwy saw biller fighlinK in tlle snow-bollnd COIITl;lr
Pocket. assaulling stubborn Cermall positions In one village after
anoTher.
C:ol. Tritschler died of sickness; Col. Olic led Tlle' RMI.E inTo
Germ;myon 19 and in a raging: advance all tIle' way 10 AUSlria.
They crossed lhe Rhine all April. The NecLir at Tllhing('n on the 1Dlh,
reached SIUllg,H"t all lhe 21st. lhe Danube;1I TutTlingen on Ihe
;md lhe Arlberg: fvlounlaills ill the Tyrol by I 1\:by.
Indochina
The main European uniLs In garnson were lile' 0e ,lnd I It-
d'lnbnlelie Colonialc and the three-halL1Eon 5e REI. In September
1940 lhe 1I/5e saw action when J<lp<ln bunched a surprise allack OIl
Frelleh posts around Ling SOil e1mf> 10 Ihe Chinese border: bUl <I lreaty
soon obliged the French colonial aUlhorilies to co-opel,lle with Japan.
The [/ and [11/5e saw action wlle'n. with Japanese encouragemenL
Thailand auacked the westf'rn borders of the colony between
September 1940 and .lantJ:lry 1041. Japanese Iroops ,Hid airliekls were
installed in Indochina, 'llld the lightly equipped French garrisons,
thoug-h left in place, were limited to operations againsl bandil gangs.
In l\bn:h 194.1) Japan dema nded the disarming ,\lId illten uuenl of all
French troops. The refuS:ll of this ulTimatulTl triggered siulldlalleoLls
auacks on most French posts on:J March; hundreds were killed in Iheir
defence or massacred after c:lplilre. 1.uckily the three field ballalious of
the .I)e REI were on column up counlry around TOllg Phu Tho on the
Red IInder command ofCen. Alessandri lhese and ulher
made an epic lIghting ret real 01'800 km lhroughjung:le and mountains,
crossing the C:hines(' frOlltier 10 safety aher .::i2
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Dunn. Ross L, Heli:>laf/c( in lI'I'I)(:.lI:rl, Croom Helm. 1977
Carras, LL Col. Louis (cd.), La L(1!;ir)J/ Itfrtlllf.,l"h"(', \'/"{lIIdl'lll" & SI'TJlilude.
Hislorailia magazine, Hurs Serie 3. 1967
Geraghly. TOllY, Morcll or Dil'. Grafton. 1986
Guyader. Raymond. La Lrgir)J/ Iflrflngi:rl' 1831-1945, Regi'Arln, 1907
La Livrf' !lVr (If: itl IJf(ion Itlrtlllgh"(', 1931
Lfl Lilli,' dVr til' lf1 Ugion It/mngh"(', Ch;lrles·L:l\"dllzf>lIe, 10S1
l\bkros. Christian, Imigun tie Ifll.rgion hmngh." Kepi 1981
Porch. Doug-las, Tltf "',"('nrll Ffm'ign '-I'gion. Mannilbn, 1001
Windrow. \bnin, & Ch<lppeiL i\'lichael, l./nijonll.s (lIlhl' 1'l1'lIlh FOI'l'igll
I.fgiol/ 1831-1981, Blandford, 10S1
\o\'oolman, David S., in Iltf Hif Oxford Universil} Press, 10({)
KI;J!i Blal/r magazine, passim
Mililflr1a magazin(', passim
Illag:lzine, p:lssim
THE PLATES
Note: These plates and commentaries correct. where
possible. errors in our book French Foreign LegKJfI Uniforms
1831-1981 (Blandford Press, 1981).
Throughout, the term 'khaki' has its European meaning of
drab mid-brown as used lor wool uniforms (US equIValent
'olivil drab', French moutaroe): the BntJSh lerm 'khaki drill'
means IlQhlweight cotton uniforms in pale sandy shades (US
equlV3lenl 'khaki' or 'suntan', French khaki claire or khaki
,.".,).
Pattern dates, e.g. M1920, refel" to the authorising order or
first offICial description, usually predating actual issue by
months in wartime or years in peacetime while previous
stocks were used up. Later- modifications were otteo ordered
without changes of designation. so in any particular case
different sources may attach different dales: e.g., the khaki
dnll tunic equivalent 10 the M1920 wool version is usually
termed the M1921, although neither appeared in numbers
before c.1927; but the half-breeches - changed only in details
from those ordered in 1914 and issued In 1915 - are termed
in one important French source 'M1915127'. The point of this
laboured explanatioo is to warn readers that absolutely rigid
pattern/date identifications are rare. They should also
remember that soldiers often disobey ollicial regulations.
either through failures to Issue the ollicial pattem Items or
through simple defiance.
A1: Legiomaire de 2e classe; Bataillon C, 2e Regiment
de MarcheJ2e Regiment Etrallger; Mailly-Ie-Camp,
October 1914
Volunleers were outfitted from french Metropolitan stores
exactly like Line infantry. though with a red cloth grenade for
the front of the '-11884 kepi. and the LegIOn's blue sash !of
wear over the greatcoat 00 parade. In fiekI order. with the
M1912 kepi cover in bleue-mecaniclefl ('wOOOTlan's blue'),
only the red collar l'lOOlbefs on the M1877 greatcoat in gris de
fer blecJte identified the unn. Red Ml897 trousers were worn
WIth Ml893 boots and '-11913 garters; bell and braces
supported three M1888 cartridge pouches. one central at lhe
back. and the frogged bayonel; the Mt892 haversack
(etui-musene) and one-.-litre 1877 waler bottle were worn
slung - lhe African ve!Elrnns brought their field equipment
from Algena, so had two-litre bidons. The black leather
M1893 knapsack was initially stowed only with spare boots In
a bag, M1852 mess-tin (angled back to allow prone firing),
and one 01 the squad's tools and cooking uteoslls. The rifle
was the 8mm bolt-action M1888/93 Lebel With eight-round
magazine. (From a photo of the American volunteer and later
air ace Killin Yales Rockwell, courtesy Paul A. Rockwell.)
BELOW RMlE recruits receive rifle Instruction behind
the lines. A date of 19161s suggested by the m l ~ t u r e of
clothin9 worn: the light colour here is hori:ron blu.e, the
....rker shade mustard-kl>aki. Note both kepis (second from
left shows the M1914 shape well) and bonnets de police
worn Indiscriminately.
37
A2: Lieutenant-colonel, 4e Regiment de Marche/1er
Regiment Etranger; Mailly-Ie-Camp, November 1914
The red and black kepi is the so-called Saumur style - there
was also a shorter, more rigidly cylindrical 'Polo' shape. The
lace rank stripes are in infantry sequence (gold/ silver/ goldl
silveri gold), above the Legion's grenade in gold. The
Noriolk-style field jacket, which officers were ordered on 8
October 1913 to acquire. is in one of the tolerated shades of
'blued-iron grey', supposed to match the troops' greatcoats;
the collar bears the Legion officer's large gold-embroidered
grenades. and the sleeves full-size rank galons. The red
culotle with 45mm black seam stripes were worn with either
these laced gaiters and ankle boots (with spurs for mounted
field officers). or dark blue or blue-grey pultees. (From a
photo of Lt, Col. Peppino Garibaldi; regulation sword belt,
M1892 revolver holster. and Galilee military binoculars are
reconstructed.)
A3: legionnaire de 1ere classe, porte-fanion; 8ataillon C,
2e Regiment de Marche/1er Regiment Etranger; Artois,
June 1915
The French Army ordered 'horizon blue' uniform in December
1914, but the quantities required meant that the Legion did
not start receiving it until June 1915. The greatcoat had
priority; this is the M1914, single-breasted with two breast
pockets; note that rolled shoulder straps (for keeping
equipment straps in place. and sometimes worn on the right
38 only) were not always of matching cloth. Yellow collar patches
LEFT Reconstruction of an RMLE legionnaire, 1916, with
original items: khaki-painted M1915 Adrian helmet, light
khaki stock, khaki M1915 greatcoat with green collar
insignia, the Legion's 4.2m blue sash worn outside the coat
for parade, brown leather equipment, M1893/14 grey-green
canvas knapsack with heavy stowage, Croix de Guerre
lanyard and personal medals. See Plate 82. (Courtesy
Franlj'ois Vauvillier)
were ordered in December 1914, with green distinctions for
the Legion, but as the yellow was ordered changed to horizon
blue in April 1915the Legion probably never wore them. Rank
and trade badges were ordered in green for the Legion from
May 1915, and forearm ranking was reduced to 35mm
diagonals. The simplified M1914 kepi is made of an imported
cloth called 'English blue-grey'. Since late 1914 the red
trousers were covered by salopettes in toile bleue-
mecanicien. Puttees were made from anything available.
Rolled blankets. tent section, pegs, cord. etc. had now been
added to the knapsack; the M1879 spade is one of the
squad-issue tools and utensils divided between the men.
In this unit national companies and even national flags
were tolerated; after one was made for a Polish company by
the ladies of Bayonne the Czech volunteers asked the mayor
for one of their own-it survived the war, and is illustrated
after E. Fort in Le Passepoil (although we have reconstructed
a different uniform for the bearer for this date). There is
evidence for a Swiss company fanion carried within the RMLE
as late as April 1918.
81: Invalid, 4e Regiment de Marche/1er Regiment
Etranger: military hospital, Lyons, spring 1915
This convalescent's Legion sash is the only wholly regulation
item worn. He has added an Italian cockade, and an unex-
plained pom-pom, to the M1884 kepi. The barracks dress
veste is virtually unchanged since the 1860s, but instead of
regimental numbers he wears red collar grenades. In 1915-16
much clothing in non-regulation fabrics - e.g. brown or grey
corduroy and 'moleskin' - was issued throughout the Army;
these grey corduroy culottes are confined by puttees of old
greatcoat cloth. Note the (unexplained) brassard edged with
the Italian cOlours and bearing a misspelt ARGONE, in ref-
erence to the sector where this regiment fought the previous
winter. (Published by Boisselier in Le Passepoil.)
82: Caperal, Regiment de Marche de la Legion
Etrangere: marching order, Western Front, early 1916
The M1915 helmet was issued in time lor the Champagne
offensive of September 1915, painted in general issue horizon
blue, A khaki uniform for the units of the Army of Africa had
been prescribed in the December 1914 orders, arriving with
the RMLE piecemeal from January 1916; greatcoats came
first, and it was several months before the RMLE were com-
pletely in khaki with repainted helmets. Headgear, ordered in
May 1915. was officially a plain khaki M1914-style kepi; but
the troops preferred the khaki bonnet de police. A new cut of
greatcoat was described in October 1915: double-breasted,
without breast pockets, but with a deep fall collar. No specific
collar cypher was ordered for the RMLE and at first 1er and
2e RE veterans kept their respective numbers; but before
long '1' became standard (the RMLE had taken over the
regimental colour of the 2e RM/1er RE). Until early 1917 the
ABOVE Portrait autographed In 1('23 b ~ allOYs-lieutenant
of the 1er REI, who still wea... the double lanyard of the
wartime RMLE on his khaki ,",,,,Ic:e dren tunic:; the
<Semi-san c:ollar bea... g<>kI grenad... on gold-piped khaki
patc:hes. Infuriatingly, the In"",rlption i. o n l ~ Pillrtly legible;
it SU9985ts that this offk:er Is an English 10........ R o ~ a l Navy
IieYtenant-c:ommal'der. (Court...,. R.C.Harris)
patches remained this rectangular snape: thereafter they
became lozenge-shaped to match tM collar points. This old
soldier has personal awards of the Croix de Guerre and a
pre-war MadaHie Coloniale.
M1914 modification brown leather belt, pouches and
braces were now appearing: the M2 gasmask is eanied in a
rectangular tin. The M1914 canvas version of the M1893
knapsack has the usual heavy stowage. including hen:! the
blankets rolled in a personally acquired black rubbensed
groundsheet. The rifle is an eany 8mm Berthier Ml907I15,
loaded with three-round charger clips. (After- reconstruction
using original items by Laurent Mirouze & Franc;:ois Vauvillief.)
83: 1er poorvoyeur, CSRG light machine gun team,
RMLE; assault order, Yffdun-Cum.eres, August 1917
By mld-1916 the introduction of the M1915 CSAG (Chauchat)
light machine gun - although unreliable and inaccurate -
helped transform infantry tactics. The nfle company's tour
platoons now each had support from the 'walking lire' of one.
later two LMGs rTlOVlng into the assault WIth them. By mid-
1917 the LMG section had a corporal, three rif\e-greruKllE!fS.
and a three-man flt8 leam: tJreur (gunner), premier pour-
voyeur (fIrSt ammo number), and deuxieme pourvoyeur.
Officially the first ammo number carried eight magazIneS in a
special knapsack and fOlK in a specl3l haversack; this soldier
has dumped the heavy. awkWard knapsack as soon as It was
empty. The gUfYler and first ammo number each carried a .32
Ruby semi-automatic pistol and magazines in an enlarged
cartridge pouch on the back of the bett. From October 1917
the platoon had two LMGlnfle-grenadM!f sections, one hand
grenade section and one rille section.
In warm weather men went into action in the M1914 tunic
- single-breasted. with rounded stand collar. five front
bunons. two real" vents. plain shoulders. and inlemal or
visible skirt pockets with rectangular flaps. The small green
chevrons on the left sleeve were introduced in April 1916 to
mark service at the front: the first 'sardine' for 12 months and
one for each six months thereafter - sometimes they were
also worn on the upper right sleeve to denote wounds. The
December 1914 order had specified yellow seam piping on
the culottes. but this was not always present.
A 'lightened' assault order was in use by June 1915. the
knapsack being replaced by a tent cloth roll. The addition of
a second haversack and second water bottle to carry neces-
sities for a day or two of unsupported fighting: two M2 gas
masks (one in the ready position. one in a tin box): tools like
an M1909 folding pick/shovei: extra ammunition and
grenades, and sandbags for consolidating the objective - all
this still made a heavy load for even strong men to lug across
No Man's land under fire. (Reconstruction from photos of
original items.)
C1: Legionnaire, III Bataillon, ler Regiment de Marche
d'Afrique: Dardanelles, April/May 1915
The Legion battalion seems (from a photo published with a
memoir by Gen. Jean Regnaull) to have landed with the
Ml886 colonial helmet With its separate khaki cover. the paler
khaki ventilator being removed and replaced through the
cloth; the kepi with pale khaki cover was also carried. The
M1877 greatcoat bore red reglfTlE!f1lal numbers of the 1er or
2e RE; thiS veteran 01 Morocco also has a marksman's red
buglehom badge on hIS left sleeve. Other clothing was khaki 3.
- •
ABOVE The white bourgeron fatigue blouse and matching
trousers dating from 1882, worn here with the blue sash by
No. 2388 Legionnaire de 'ere classe Robert LinGoln, a
Londoner who served with the 28 REI from 1930 to 1935.
(Courtesy Jim Worden)
drill; later photos show the uniform worn by Plate 02, but it is
unlikely to hove been available by the unit's embarkation in
March 1915, and the M1901 Colonial outfit was probably
issued. By spring 19161he unit wore the same as the RMLE in
France. In a battlefield emergency this man is carrying one of
the battalion machine gun company's M1914 HotChkiss guns.
C2: Caporal, 2e Compagnie Montee, 1er Regiment
Etranger; G C l O U ~ , Morocco, 9 August 1918
The Livre d'Or (1931) mentions that Vivien Bessier rifle-
grenades were used in this action. A bulleted round projected
40 these from a discharger cup fixed to the muzzle of the Lebel,
and tripped a live-second fuse This corporal has snatched a
discharger rifle and haversack of VBs lrom a fallen man; his
own M1892/16 carbine - an increasingly popular alternative
in the CMs - is slung. The Mounted Companies wore a variety
of clothing, but normal field dress at this time was either the
Ml901 Colonial khaki drill tunic and straight trousers or the
old white fatigue blouse and trousers: the M1877 greatcoat;
and either the covered M1884 kepi or the M1886 colonial
helmet. In this reconstruction we follow group photos since
c.1910, showing junior NCQs wearing the M1901 Colonial
tunic (with buttoned-on ranking) with the white trousers when
their men were in complete white fatigues. In the field the
stand collar, with patches removed, was worn folded open.
C3: Sergent, Regiment de Marche de la Legion
Etrangere; Chateau-Salins, 17 November 1918
Six days after the Armistice the RMLE made a ceremonial
entry as liberators into this town in Lorraine. This sergeant (a
composite reconstructed from photos, drawings and sur-
viving items) has just come off duty: his field equipment was
not worn on parade and he has swapped his khaki-painted
helmet for the bonnet de police. For parade he wears his blue
ceinture de tradition over the M1915 greatcoat: note his
single 90ld rank stripe and the four green chevrons marking
BELOW Trooper of the 1er REC, late 1920s to early 1930s,
wearing khaki drill M1921 uniform with khaki bonnet de
police and green Insignia on khaki wool backing; his left
sleeve bears a marksman's crossed rifles badge.
ABOVE 1er REC on mounted par.tde in winter, SouSH,
Tunisia, early 19305. Note red-badged M1930 trQ09$' and
taller, sit'ler-badged M1920 SOCs' kepis worn uncoYttred. On
the M1920 tunic REC ranken wore dat1l bh.1fI collar patches
wIth. green '1' over a green grenade. NCO. wore a larger
Illver grenade only _ note men at lett and third left; they
allo have silver chlnitrapi worn up and second, silver-
bordered black straps WOrn down when mounted. The
mnr'chal des logis chef, left, has three sliver cuff chevrons
ot 'scooped' M1931 shape. (Courtesy R.O.Harrls)
lWO and a half years altne front HIs personal awards are the
Medaille Mihtaire and a CrolK de Guerre With two citations.
Buttoned across hiS chest In parade POSitIOn IS a doublefouf'
ragiJre Of co!lectlVe unit crtation lanyard. in the nbbon coIoors
of the Legion d'HorvletK and CrotK de GuetTe. The system
was instrtuted in April 1916. Two crtatlOflS in Army orders
brought the Croix de Guerre IaflYard (the RMLE had three
before its formation on 11 Nov. 1915); the fourth, one in the
colours of the Mooaille Militaire (RMLE. 27 Aug. 1916); the
sixth. the red Legion d'Honneur lanyard (RMLE, 20 Sept.
1917): and the ninth. the double lanyard illustrated (RMLE. 10
Oct. 1918).
Infantry r a n k e ~ ' uniforms c.1918-27:
Until the late 19205 uniforms Wafe so motley that general reg-
ulations can hardly be quoted. The Freod1 Army faced an
economic crisis; the European war had forced major changes
in Legion uniforms, yet the bulk of the corps was now
returning to North Africa; and recruits were flooding to join the
LegtOfl at a time when pre-war uniform stocks were low.
'Nllile a commission dIscussed future uniforms the Army was
ordered to use up wartime stocks. Units and indMduals were
outfitted on an ad hoc basIS, and many local practices
evolVed. From published documentary and pholo research
(particularly by Guyader) we may geoef8lise as follows:
Headgear
The kepi, universal throughout the Army in 1914. had been
replaced as the rankers' headgear by the bonnet de police.
ABOVE MQruc:co, early t930.: posed group ot 3e REllqion-
nalres wearing white cap covers, M1920 khaki wool
uniforms and the regimentel double tourragere. (Courtesy
John Neill) 41
ABOVE 1(1.8, .. SoYtt, Morocco, Mareh 1935: the white
regimental walklng-oul dl"eH ollne 3e REI 1- Plate F21.
It ra worn here by, lett, No. 3254 Leg, de 1ere cl, Albert Neal,
and hi. comrade Cyril Conway; they enlisted togethe, at
MaraeiUes in FebRlary 1931. Neal won the Croil( de Guene
TOE in Mareh 1935, and wa. promoted sergeant shortly
b e t ~ his discharve in May 1lt3G. [Courtesy John Neal)
Red and blue M1884 kepis, with pale khaki covers for field
dress only, had been retained in Africa but were now in short
supply; many rankers wore only the khaki bonnet de police
until at least 1923 (sometimes even with a neck flap tucked
under the back when in the field), or the M1886 colonial
helmet. Legion colour parties, honour guards, etc., received
kepis 01 various types - Mt 884, M1914 khaki or horizon blue
- achieving uniformity by now adding the pale khaki cover for
all orders of dress. In practice this was almost invariably
bleached white - the first use of the kepi blanc for other than
field dress.
In about 1923 large stOCks 01 M1914 khaki kepis arrived in
Morocco, and the (non·regulation) use of the whitened cover
soon became almost universal. Since the Legion was the only
French corps whose rankers were still wearing kepis, this was
the foundation of lhe Legion's specifIC, exclusive association
With lhe white cap,
In June 1926 the repeated appeals 01 its senior officers
brought the Legion a new midnight blue and red kepi, the soft
crown slightly higher at lhe back Ihan lhe front, without side
ventilators. wilh a 20mm cut-out red grenade badge, and a
42 two-piece cover and neck flap issued in unbleached conon
{though the Ilap was hardly ever used}. Late in 1927 a second
pattern was ordered: this was more cylindrical with a flat
crown, the blue band now two-thirds of the total height. This
is usually termed the 'M1930' in reference to a confirmation
of these changes published on 9 April 1930. In April 1932 the
grenade badge was enlarged to 3Omm.
CoIcJ woother uniforms
The M1914 mustard-khaki tunic and half·breeches were used
alongside large stOCks 01 surplus US JVmy olive drab M1912
and M1918 unifOlTlls. Both displayed green-on-khaki collar
patches and sleeve insi9nla; full-size 90-degree rank
chevrons replaced wartime diagonals in 1920-21. The M1868
green and red fringed epauleftes de tradition were retained
only by the tete de coIonne 01 the ter REI, and the blue sash
was also rarely seen: even Legion buttons were usually
replaced by plain half-ball types lor most of the 1920s. The
khaki greatcoat was the all-seasons field dress - either
M1915, or Mt920 (with belt loops both sides and two-button
slul1 pocket tIaps) - usually worn over a blouse or undershirt.
Hot weather uriforms
For fatlgUe5 the M1882 white /xlurgeron blouse and trousers
were stll issued, and often seen WIth the blue sash. There
were two malO khaki driM uniforms. The Ml901 Colorl1a1
BELOW The U$e 01 ....tal brent badge. began unofficially,
at unit e.pense; the earliest Legion eKample was sup-
posedly that ollhe 3e REI, $Bid 10 haWl originated in
Morocco In 1928 (_ Plale E31, Si......r apart lrom the red-
painted C8flIl"e 01 the bomb, It resembles a death's-head
made up 01 the l.eglon 9renade, lhe regiment's double
lanyard, and a aablmander, the motto is L81Iio Palria Noatra:
'Tl>e Legion i. Our Fatherland'.
pallero had six front buttons, SQuare stand c o l ~ . patch skirt
pockets with or without rectangular naps, and shoulder
slraps: ItS origtnal straight slacks were now recut as haIf-
breeches. Thefe was also a light dnI ver5ior1 01 the December
1914 muslard-khakl unIform (see Plate 02), as worn in the
Dardanelles and Macedonia; some photos seem to show thIS
with shoulder straps.
01: Legionnaire, VI Bataillon, 1er Regiment Etranger
d'lnfanterie; Ai' campaign, Morocco, June 1925
A composite reconstruction: though we choose to place him
in the Batailloo Cazaban Ihis legionnaire could stand for any
of the Rif War unIts. His M1914 khaki or honzon blue kepi has
an unbleached cover (codfe eave): against the chill of night
he wears his M1920 greatcoat over Ml901 Colonial khaki dOli
uniform. By the Rif War infantry on o ~ b o n s replaced the
knapsack wrth the barda - their blankets and spare clothIng
rolled in the tent section. His nfle is a late Berthler M1906115
wilh straight bolt and a needle-bayonet without quil!ons: this
took five-round clips. After the Great War hand grenades
were used enthusiastically in the Legion's Moroccan and
Syrian battles: this soldier flings Fl fragmentation grenades
during a dawn bfeak-oot charge. This battalion was awarded
the red-flecked pale blue fourragere of the Croix de Guerre
TOE ('lor external theatres of operations', introduced July
1925) for actIOns dunng this campaign.
02: Legionnaire de 1ere classe, V Biltaillon, 4e Aegiment
Etranger d'infanterie; Mousseffre, Syria, September 1925
The troops sent to the Levant wore the Ml886 colonial
helmet. with or WIthout the separate cover; and the khaki drill
version of the M1914 uniform with the usual regimental
patches for stand collars. His greatcoat is rolled in his barda,
which has the mess-tin strapped high on the back. This bat-
talion was awarded the fourragere of the Croix de Guerre TOE
for the action 01 17 september. (After Guyader.)
03: Brigadier, IV Escadron, let" Regiment Etranger de
Cavalerie; Rachaya, Syria, November 1925
The REC wore vanoos uniform IIams in 1922-1939 (see
Guyader, Unifotmes no. 45 and Kepi BJanc nos. 454 & 455).
but during the IJnJze nSlng their field dress was apparently as
Illustrated for this corporal. The M1886 helmet was issued but
unpopular; the khaki M1918 bonnet de police was preferred.
Cold weather tunics were either surplus US Army olive drab
(illustrated) or French M1914 mustard-khaki: khaki wool
Chasseur d'Afrique breed1es with dark blue seam piping
were wom with M1916 three-buckle gaiters and M1917 boots
filted WIth spurs. Hot weather mounted dress was the Ml901
Coloniallunic or. for fatigues, the while Ml882 blouse. both
worn wrth the khaki wool breeches. Collar patches were blue
with green pipings and regimental number. In the ~ the
loose linen gandourah (mentioned in orders of September
1923) was ollen worn over the uniform, with ranklrtg on a
buttoned chest lab. Leather equipment was standard, with
the frogged bayonet for the Ml892116 carbine. At this date
kepis were seldom seen: by about 1927 they were more
common, complete with cover and neck flap. A pale khaki
cMche or desert scarf became popular. worn in various ways
at the commander's whim - either looped round the neck,
crossed on the chest. or wrapped all round the head and
neck a la Tchet1cesse.
ABOVE Sgt.. Chartes Mi....in of the CMAl4e REt wearing
khaki drill walking·out drns at Tindouf, Moroccan Sahara,
December 1939. Note the caree' NCO, kepi and fou....
pocket tunic wom oPtln ove' a while shirt and black tie,
with double gold chevron" hooked 10 the forea,m".
(Courtesy Charlea MII.nin)
The squadron consisted 01 a command and services
platoon, and two sabre platoons each dIVIded into two
groups, each of two SQuads. One squad were scouts, one
man c:arryng a VB grenade disctlarger. the other squad
served an LMG carried on a pactdlofse. The 4th Squadron
had been cited for rts behavIour at MoosseIh'e Ifl September,
and a second citation brought the Croix de Guerre TOE four-
ragere for its desperate defence of Rachaya on 20-23
November. (Composite reconstructed from notes and sur-
viving items, after Guyader,)
Infantry rankers' uniforms c.1927-39:
Although a new uniform was ordered in July 1920, with a
detailed recapitulatIOn In September 1923, it was about 1927 43
44
before deliveries allowed the beginnings of uniformity. M1920
cold and M1921 hot weather tunics were cut the same, in
khaki wool and pale khaki dnll respectively, the latter having
all Ir1SIgnla detachable lot' Iaunderlng. Bolh had Ioose-cut fall
collars wrth rounded pomts, seven lront buttons, slurt pockets
wrth rectangular flaps, and an upward-buttOOlng belt loop on
the left side (wool tunICS allen had brass belt hooks let into
the seams Instead). They were worn With wool Of khaki drill
pamaJon-eulotte basically unchanged Since 1915, puttees.
and M1917 boots. The wool unliOfTTl came from the manu-
facturers in various darker or lighter, yellower, redder or
greener khaki sI1ades-to the lury of commanding officers.
Lozenge-shaped, green-piped collar patches bore green reg-
imental numbers, sometimes (particularly in the 3e and 4e
REI) above a small disc In blue, red, yellow or green indicating
I to IV Bataillons respectively; a green grenade instead of the
number was worn by Ihe central depot at Sidi bel Abbes.
From c.1925 lhe blue sash became more common again for
parade and walking-out, but hardly ever for oper.ltions; in
most units (except the 3e REQ the tunIC was tucked IfIto the
half-breeches and the sash wound round on top.
NCOs' unifcxms:
Ser1Kll" NCO ranks were sergent, sergent-foomer and sergent-
major until 1926: thereafter, only sergent and sergent-ehef.
ABOVE 4e REI, Morocco, 1938: a Htre ctasse _ ..ring
M1921 khaki drilt .ha..lng .. m..te wearing the khaki
greatcoat. Unde.. mltgniflc:atlon the I..tter .....al. green
piping al cuff lop. lind ellch side of Ihe epaul.tt. loops,
and a battalion-colour spot under the collar patch number.
ABOVE Walking-out dress, 1er REI, late 1930s; oddly, the
soldier al left has breast pockets although not apparently a
care.r NCO. The ..eteran " right sports the Medaille
Mllitalre, two campaign medals and three seNice che..mns
on his M1921 khaki drill; note tunic skirts tuck.d Inside the
halt-breeches under the sash.
The Army had two categories of senior NCO. but the Legion
only one: career NCOs (until 1928. SOA, soos-officiers
rengages; thereafter. SOC. sous-officiers de carriere). Insignia
were. before 1928. respectively one 9O--degfee chevron of
8mm button-colour lace above !he cuff; one chevron plus a
diagonal on the upper sleeve: and two chevrons. After 1926
the sergent wore two 55-degree chevrons, the sergent-ehef
"'....
After 1921 these ranks were authorised a special unifonll
resembling that of officers and adjudants: the seven·button
tunic had fOlir pockets and a stand collar. In time it became
faShionable lor saCs to have stand-and-fall dem;-Saxe
collars; from the mid-1930s these were sometimes worn
open over a collar and tie. Straight slacks were worn for
walking-out. panraJon-culotte with puttees when on duty. For
remarks on the SOA/SOC kepi see under Plate E2 below.
E1: Capitaine, 1er Regiment Etranger de Cavalerie;
Morocco, c.l930
In !he field offICers ollen wore the gandourah; this personal
example, with added pockets and green bfaidlng, survives in
the LeglOO UMOfTTl Museum. Rank was worn on a chest lab,
and the hanging end 01 the cheche was often slipped behind
thiS and/or !he belt. On operatIOns the kepi often had a pale
khaki cover, WIth inSIgnia exposed by a hole cut in the front
motoring goggles were also popular with all ranks. This
M1919 officer's kepi. With its characteristic 'pushed up from
inside' look, has silver cavalry lace. The officer's M1921
stand-collar tunic in light khaki cotton has (hidden here)
ABOVE 12e CMMI2e REt (formerly CMAl4e REI), Foum el
Hassan, December 1941; part of a group wearing the khaki
drill tenue d'eltercise d'ete _ (see under Plate 031, (Courtesy
Chartes Mllassin)
midnight blue patches With silver grenades and green
pipings, Pale twill riding breeches are worn With Chantilly·
type boots; the M1918 officer's belt supports the M1876t93
holster for the regulation M1892 revolver, and a mapcase: a
binocular case could be slung or worn 0fI the belt. In the field
both officers and men carried the straight 1822/83 light
cavalry sabre uOOet" the left saddle flap. (Reconstrue\lOfl from
SUrvMog rtems - see Guyader-l
E2: $ergent with company flag, Compagnie Montee, 3e
Regiment Etrangef d'infanterie; south-east Morocco,
earty 1930s
From 1920 this taller, sliffer kepi was the Anny-wlde headgear
01 the SORISOC - see above. It was midnight blue WIth a red
crown. one 3mm royal blue piping round the top, a 20mm
butlon-colour grenade badge and a 1Omm bunon-colour lace
cI1instrap (a 1933 order adding a 2mm bulloo-colour piping
be!1eath tna royal blue strip seems nol to have applied in the
Legion). Normally it was worn uncovered as an NCOs' dis-
tinction; but the subject photo shows non-regulation white
covers on both troops' and NCOs' kepis In this unit.
The M1915 greatcoat is worn over the half·breeches 01 the
M1921 khaki drill uniform. Abandoned since 1905, 9O-degree
service cheVrons on the upper lett sleeve were reintroduced
uniquely lor the legiOfl by an order of september 1929, in
green for pnvates and corporals and butlon-colour lor senior
NCOs: one marked six years' service, two 11 years, and three
16 years. Note two 55-degree rank chevrons. regimental collar
patches, and 3e REI double fourragi!re WIth tour de breis.
His men wear puttees and black boots; this mounted NCO
has acquU'ed leather garters (non-regulaflOll tor hiS rank); the
SOC's offIcer-style belt supports hiS holstered Ruby
automatIC. The cMeIle is W<lm crossed by 8V8fYOOO in the
subject photo.
Legion units 'formrng corps', i.e. independently deployed
battalions and some companies. had lhelr own faJllOflS,
normally in I/arious green and red designs incorporating the
gold seven-flame grenade. This company bore the lineage 01
the old 2e CMll er RE; the flag was awarded a Croix de
Guerrewith palm for the action at Gaouz in August 1918, and
a Cl'OIx de Guerre TOE for another at Taslert 0fI 14 July 1927
~ note both medals pinned slantwise to the tncotour canton.
(ComJX)Slte from photo and survIVing flag. Guyader & Kepi
Blanc 355)
E3: Capitaine Prince Aage of Denmal1l., II Balaillon, 3e
Regiment Etranger d'lnfanteOe; service dress, Fez,
Morocco, ealty 1930s
A legendary figure, Prince Aage of Denmark, Couol of
Rosenborg, was inspired as a boy by tales of the former
DaniSh Royal Guard officer LL Selchauhansen, killed at EI
Moungar In 1903 With the 22e CMI2e RE. Prince Aage (pro-
nounced Oo·weh) was commissioned Cap/tame a tifre
etranger into the 2e REI in December 1922; he setIIed in
Morocco lor most 01 fhe rest of his life with the 28 and 3e. He
was promoted chef de balaillon of the 11/3e, aged 47, in March
1935; and died of pleurisy at Taza in February 1940. Upon
Algerian independence in 1962 his body was moved from Sidi
bel Abbes to lie - with those of Gen. Rollet, and Legionnaire
Zimmermann (the last legionnaire killed in Algeria) - in the
cemetery of the legion's retirement home at Puyloubier.
His service dress Uniform (from a pholo and surviving
items) IS conventional. The M1931 officer's kepi was essen-
tially the same rigid design wom today; officially the grenade
had a regimental number in the 'bomb' from 1931. By 1935
the regulation khaki had become darker than the old
'mustard', and the long"poInted collet aI'aig/otl was replacing
the shorter demi·5axe; the midnight blue patches bear the
LegJon infantry's two green pipings and regunentalty
numbered gold grenades; for field use the cuff rank stnpes
were replaced by short bars. The tunic, W<lm WIth pale mashc
breeches and brown nding boots, dIsplays the 3e REI's
double fourraghe and - Pinned to it in the s1yle of the panod
- the eal1iest known example of a Legion unit badge III melal,
dated by MaJcros to as earty as 1928 (see photograph 00
page 42), Most of Prince Aage's ribbons were Danish and
foreign orders awarded In compliment to hiS royal blood, but
his Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerra TOE were earned
the hard way.
F1: Clairon·trompette, III Balaillon, 2e Re9iment Etranger
d'lnlanterlej summer parade dress, Meknes, 1934
The run-up to the corps' centenary in 1931 was used in many
imaginative ways by Col. Rollet, commanding the ler REI, 10
enhance the Legion's image. in November 1930 he got autho-
risation lor lhe legion - uniquely - to reintroduce lor parade
and walking-out the fringed epauleltes; from thiS date
garments with shoulder straps had them replaced by
transverse brides (retaining loops). ceremomal was
encouraged, and uml commanders introduced special
Uniforms for their lilIes de coIonne_ For mUSicians handsome
IIlstrumenl banners were produced, III the red and green
whiCh the legion was qUIetly making ItS 'traclilior'lal' colours
(from the epaulettesj, Designs varied, but aI featured the
grenade: a badge WlCleIy used for generatIOnS by many types
of French 1roOpS. this, too, was soon to appear in a desfgn
special to the Legion - WIth seven flames. lhe outer pair hor-
izoota! or recurved. 45
ABOVE Beni9ni drawin9 of a soldier of the 5e REI in
Indochina, 1938. This is the M1921 khaki drill with M1931
sun helmet, M1892/16 carbine and full marching pack. In
theory this is the outlit wom on column; in practice soldiers
in the exhausting heat and humidity of tha Far East usually
46 had coolies to carry their packs. (Livre d'Or)
The buglers of the 2e carried both a bugle and a trumpet. This
soldier (after Benigni, and Guyader in Kepi Blanc 378) wears
M1930 kepi and summer-weight M1921 uniform, its cOllar
loose over a pale khaki stock. A single green service chevron
is hooked to the left sleeve, and strips of musician's tricolour
lace are sewn to the cuffs; only bandsmen wore a green lyre
trade badge on the upper sleeve. The absence 01 even a first-
class private's chevron during his second enlistment
suggests that this legionnaire has had disciplinary problems.
The battalion is identified on the grenade of the trumpet
banner; and by the fourragere of the Croix de Guerre TOE,
marking the 11i/2e REI's second citation for the battle of Djebel
Iskritten in May 1926. The 2e and 3e REI heads of column
used whitened leather equipment. He has a slung M1892/16
carbine.
F2: Tambour de 1ere classe, 3e Regiment Etranger
d'infanterie; summer parade dress, Fe:t, 1932
White walking-out dress was introduced in North Africa by
the 1er, 3e and 4e REI in the early 1930s, and was also worn
as summer parade dress by musicians. Details varied; the cut
of this drummer's uniform generally resembles the M1905
Colonial troops' whites long worn in the Far East. Officially.
from 1931 rank (but not service) chevrons were made from
12mm rather than 8mm wide braid. and were shaped en fer
de lance - slightly 'scooped'; but these did not appear in
numbers before 1933. Note the parade arrangement of the
regiment's double fourragere. (After Guyader, Kepi Bianc 482
& 483.)
BELOW Syria, May 1940: a corporal bugler in M1920 wool
uniform with parade epaulettes and his battalion's Croix de
Guerra TOE fourragiJre - note U6e REI identification on the
bugle banner (and cf. Plate F1). Just visible above the left
cuff are two green diagonal rank braids above one of
musician's tricolour lace. The cuff top is piped dark green;
ordered in 1935 for tunics and greatcoats, this is seldom
seen in photographs. (ECPA)
ABOVE Sergent, 13e DBLE, Bir Hakeim, spring 1942. The
khaki wool beret of Fortress Troops, Issued before Narvlk,
bears a numbered gold 9renade cut from an officer's or
adjudant'!. dark blue collar patCh, alld two diagonat 90td rank
bars; shoulder allde ranking is double gold cheyrotls. (lWMj
F3.: caporal, 5e Regiment Etranger d'inianterie;
walking-ollt dress. Hanoi, c.1937
In tndoctllna the Legion had long been permUled a white
walklng-oul uniform of 1895 Colonial cut. and in the interwar
years this evoIv9d 10 match the style of lhe 1.41920121
uniforms. One difference is the doser cut of the collar, wiIhouI
a VISible stock Of shirt and tie; in NOOh Africa the collar of the
M1920121 uniforms was becoming progre5S1vely more open.
Insignia are green on khaki; note the rank chevrons en fer de
lance, and a green strip added to the while epaulette loops.
The white 1.41931 colonial helmet has a 13Ige brass badge
lr'Ilroduced in 1935 by Col. Despas. (Aeconstrucllon from
notes and photos, Kepi Blanc nos. 453, 486 & 487.)
G1: Legionnaire, 13e Demi-Brigade de Marche de la
Legion Etrangere: Narvik, May 1940
Various protective clothing and alpine equipment was dis-
tributed to the 13e for the Norwegian campaign, but not
consistently. Less often illustrated than the sheepskin cana-
dianne. the dark khaki M1935 veste d'automitrallleuse or the
dark khaki hooded pullover pal1\a (bIouson avec capuchon)
was this reyerslble khaki/white cagoule, here With a black
field recognition band added. These garments were all worn
over the French Arrrr{s new Ml938 khaki wool uniform The
canvas overtrousers (salopettes M1938) covering his
'pantalon golf, puttees and heavy white ovefSOCks certainly
reached some companies of the 138; and snowshoes were
standard Issue. TlIlted goggles were not; the LeglOl1's leg-
endary s k ~ 1 at SCfOUfIQu'lQ no doubt provlOed these, as well as
RIGHT Ltilionnalre, Bir Hakelm, 11142:. good profile 01 the
M1830 k'pt TIMI collar p.atch on his British 80 Is. green
c u t ~ u t grenade on khaki. (lWMj
the overboots, aflOther scarce item. HIS helmet has an issue
drawstring cover. and he wears a khaki wool toque and
trigger-mittens. His eQuipment IS old apan from the
haversack lor the ANP31 gasmask.: the M1892116 carbine
rather than a MAS.36 nfIe suggests a member 01 an MG
platoon. (After photos, Militaria 20)
G2: Legionnaire de 1mclasse, 12e Regimeflt ElTanger
d'infanterie; SoisSOrts, June 1940
This North Africa veteran in sfandard French IVmy marctuog
order be'ongs to the only wartIme-raised Legion regiment
which seems to have beefI issued the M1935137 leather
equipment and 7.5mm MAS.36 nile. The 11e and 12e
received the 1.41938 uniform In dark khaki wool. featunng a
slK-button tunic with a wide-cut fall collar eKposing a pale
khaki bullon·down shin and tie; long, straight 'golfing
trousers', and shorter puttees. The greatcoat IS the M1920;
officially the collar patches wem supposed to be coverable by
a small coat-cloth flap sewn along the outer collar edge and
fastened across by a small button, The M1926 helmet is
painted dark Khaki. The bonnet de police was often dec-
orated with non-regulation grenade badges, or even
regimental numbers. The new haversack and water bottle are
attached directly to the belt, and flOW in reversed positions;
the MAS.36 needle bayonet was stowed under the barrel
rather than in a frogged scabbard. The ANP3t gas-mask is
slung benealh the pack. sleadied by a web waist strap.
(Composite, after Guyader, Kepi Blanc 459, & Vauvillier.
Mllitana 20.)
G3: Legionnaire, Compagnie Montee Automobile, 4e
Regiment Etranger d'lnfanterie; Foum el Hassan,
southern Morocco, 1937-41
In t935-38 the new khaki drill tenue d'exerclCfJ d'ete reached
Africa: a short-sleeved 1"JI\over shirt with open notched collar.
shoulOer straps and breast pockets. worn With shorts and
long khaki socks or puttees. Arab sandals were popular In
desert-based units. Hem the shor1s are worn With hiS old
M1921 khaki drill tunic, the cheche. and a M1930 kepi with a
khaki cover in preference to the iSSue khaki drill M1931
Colonial helmet.
47
48
T r
,
The M1892116 carbne had increasingly replaced the Lebel
and Berthier rifles as the standard pet'SOOal weapon dunng
the 19305, at first in the Mounted Companies and later III
several infantry units. This sectIOn light machIne gunner
carries instead the fM.24129 in a canvas and leather pr0-
tective cover: his left ammunillon pouch IS replaced by a
holstered Ruby automatic. He is dressed for duty close to the
fort: on palrol the waler bottle, haversack and tentroll barda
would be carried on the man or the truck. (Composite from
photos courtesy the late Charles Milassin. & Benigni.)
The units thaI saw action in 1941-43 (the 6e REI in
Syria/Lebanon, and the REIMs in Tunisia) wore pre-war
uniforms: M1926 helmet, greatcoat. M1920 khaki wool or
M1921 khaki drill tunic and half·breeches, M1935 shirt and
shorts. with some late 19305 general issue items like a brown
sweater With fall collar. khaki Ioog-sleeved shirt with button-
down collar. ele. Equipment and weapons were also 01
pre-war vintage.
H1: Sergent, 13e Oemi·Brigade de la legion Etrangere;
Rome, June 1944
When the 13e DBlE exchanged British for US Army clothing
in 1943 it proudly retalOed the regllT'l8fll's khaki beret of
Fortress Troops' panem: here thIS bears the gold diagonal
braids of his rank_ US Army 'chInO' stull and slacks are wom
WI!tl Ml923 web rifle belt and M1938 leggmgs: Itle French
ExpeditlOOalY Corps in Italy also made much use of US her-
ringbone twill fatigue clothing. The standard weapon was the
LEFT Moroc:co 1944: Sgt. Charles Mllassln, RMLE, poses
'01' a portrait during the regiment's wol1dng-up phase,
wearing the taller kepi of the CJlrQr NCO with a cut-out in
ils while cower 10 show the gold grenede, Hi. US Army shirl
and lie are sel off by the regiment's double Lanyard, and
non· regulation pin-on b""ss chevrons, Mil"sin had been
..Iiousty wounded in Tunisia, iH>d would be ;l9ain in Alsace.
(Courtesy Ch.artes Milassin)
US PH nfle. For the parade to wek:ome Gen. de Gaulle to
Rome on 28 June photos show colour party NCOs weanng
this Cross of lOlTaine sleeve patch. now the insignia of the
1ere DIVIsion Fran<;aise Ubre; and a fOlJrragere in the red
flecked with light green of the CI'OIX de Guerre 1939-45.
separation from the central adminislratlOfl had not prevented
the Free French forces awarding decorations and citatiOns.
and the 13e certainly wore this lanyard before being up-
graded to that of the Mooaille Mllitaire (of which this NCO
wears a personal award).
H2: Adjudant, 1er Re9iment Etranger de Cavalerie, 5e
Division Blinde; southern Germany, April 1945
The crews of the 'Royal Foreigners' armoured cars and tanks
were issued the US Army ooe-piece herringbone twill work
suit. 'M1941' olive drab field jacket and standard web
equipment (but not the tanker's winck:healer jacket). While
the US Ml942 armoured crewman's helmet was slandard
issue photos also show a number of these French M1935
steel and leather motorised troops' pattern. Out-Qf-action
headgear included some kepis but also a vanety of bonnets
de police. Like many items acQuired 01' improvised at unit
level by l8gionnaJres in 1943-45 these followed no rigid
pattern. SurvMng examples wom by the REC are in vanous
shades of dar1<; green wrth dafk blue top folds or dar1<; blue
piping. ThiS one (from the stores of the Vichy youth
movement Chantiers de JetJnesse. whICh also provided Itle
green neckties thatltle RMLE started to wear 101' parade and
walklng-out in 1945) is in emerald green Wlltl a blue-piped
tum-up folded 00 the right front: our warranl officer has
added at left front a silver grenade cut from an old collar
palch. sewing a complete collar patch to the left sleeve was
typical of French troops of this date. A photo of the crew of
one REC Me in a quiet moment shows two white-covered
kepis, one bonnet de po/ice, one French M1935 and one US
M1 helmet. (After Guyader,)
';13: section leader, Regiment de Marche de la legion
Etrangere, 5e Division BUnde; Alsace, January 1945
The RMLE were equipped as US armoured infantry of
t942-43: M1 helmet (note painted insignia of 5e DB in non-
zantal presentation, applied to both sides), 'M1941' lield
jackel. 00 wool trousers, greatcoat and/or raincoat. web
equipment and leggings. A suNiving jacket has this Legion
grenade left sleeve patch. In winter 1944-45 the urnl was
issued these US overshoes. which they packed with straw
and tied around WIth knotted cord. The P17 remained
standard, alongside the MtA1 Thompson, BAR. M1 carbine
and M1911A1 pcstol. The RMlE bonnet de police was green
with a red top fold: when wom, the kilpl's white cover often
had a clfCUlar hole at top centre. tightened wrth a drawslnng.
through which Itle red cloltl of the crown was exposed. (After
Guyader.)