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|13th Half-Brigade of the Foreign Legion|
(13e Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère)
Regimental Insignia of the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion, 1st Model "drakkar on the waves, surrounded from one part to another by the motto MORE MAJORUM in golden letters and underlined by a legion grenade seal with "13", all on a white background"
|Active||1940 – present
|Allegiance||French Foreign Legion|
|Size||evolving with 1300 as an objective by 2018|
|Part of||6th Light Armoured Brigade|
|Nickname(s)||The Demi Brigade (English)|
Phalange Magnifique (Magnificent Phalanx)
|March||Nos képis blancs|
(Sous le soleil brulant d'Afrique)
|Anniversaries||Camerone Day (April 30) and Christmas|
|Engagements||World War II|
*Battles of Narvik
*Battle of Dakar
*Battle of Gabon
*Battle of Keren
*Battle of Bir Hakeim
*Second Battle of El Alamein
*Bataille des Vosges
*Western Allied invasion of Germany
First Indochina War
*Battle of Hòa Bình
*Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Global War on Terrorism (2001–present)
|Lieutenant-colonel Guillaume Percie du Sert|
Gabriel Brunet de Sairigné
|Insignia of the 13 Demi Brigade|
The 13th Demi-Brigade of Foreign Legion (French: 13e Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère, 13e DBLE), was created in 1940 and was the main unit of the 1st Free French Division, Free French Forces (FFL). From the coast of Norway to Bir Hakeim, to Africa then the Alsace, while passing by Syria and Italy, the 13th Demi-Brigade would be part of most of the major campaigns of the armed forces of France during the Second World War.
After having been engaged in Indochina from 1946 to 1954, the 13e DBLE joined the Algerian War, and left in 1962. The 13e DBLE was based until 2011 at Quartier-Général Monclar in Djibouti, in virtue of an accord between France and the Republic of Djibouti in 1977. During 2011, the unit moved to the United Arab Emirates. In 2016, the unit returned to France, based at the same camp where it was first formed (and took its designation on March 27, 1940) – Camp du Larzac.
This unit of the Legion was created on March 1, 1940 within the cadre of the Franco-British expeditionary corps intended to intervene in Finland. The first designation of this unit was 13th Mountain Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (13e DBMLE).
On July 1, 1940, the 1st battalion, 900 men, were based in England as troops of the Free French Forces, the 14e DBMLE, while the remainder of the demi-brigade, 800 men principally from the 2nd battalion, returned to Morocco and preserved the designation of 13e DBMLE.
On November 4, 1940, the demi-brigade of Morocco was dissolved which allowed the troops which remained in England to readopt the designation of 13e DBLE.
The unit was constituted in North Africa from volunteers of other foreign units stationed there. The unit was then commanded by lieutenant-colonel Raoul Magrin-Vernerey and was compromised at the start of two battalions:
Starting May 13, 1940, the unit partook to the Norwegian Campaign at the troop corps of général Béthouart making way with Bjerkvik and Narvik. The operation was a success, however, with the invasion of France, the unit was obliged to repatriate to the national territory. Losses in Norway were 8 Officers, and 93 Legionnaires out of which Chef de Bataillon Guéninchault.
The unit disembarked in Bretagne on June 4 in light to reinforce the constitution of a reduced Breton in mid-June (French: réduit Breton). On June 21, the survivors of the demi-brigade succeeded to embark and joined Scotland. These troops which did not hear the Appeal of 18 June (French: appel du 18) joined other units of the French Scandinavian Expeditionary Corps (French: Corps Expéditionnaire Français de Scandinavie) in the region of Trentham.
Adhering to this appeal, recently promoted captain Pierre Kœnig adjoint (assistant) of lieutenant-colonel Raoul Magrin-Vernerey, convinced the latter to head to London, where they met général De Gaulle. Magrin-Vernerey met with général Antoine Béthouart, chief of the French Scandinavian Expeditionary Corps (French: Corps expéditionnaire français de Scandinavie), who allowed him to meet the men at the garrisoned camp on the night of June 30. Out of the 1619 Legionnaires present on June 28, 1940, a little less than 900 rallied to Free France (French: France libre), the others joined Morocco under the command of général Béthouard. Joining later the camp, where were regrouped the garrisoned Free French Forces, the 13e DBLE participated to the July 14 parade in London.
The units of the Free French Forces took temporarily, between July 1, 1940 and November 2, 1940, the designation of 14th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion 14e DBLE, while composed of the following:
Accordingly, the demi-brigade was strong of 25 Officers, 102 Sous-Officiers and 702 militaire du rang.
End of September 1940, the unit participated to the Battle of Dakar against Dakar. Following the failure of the disembarking in Senegal, the unit finished by disembarking, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Cazaud, in Equatorial French Africa (French: Afrique-Équatoriale française) to partake, in November 1940, to the Battle of Gabon (French: campagne du Gabon) and the rallying of Gabon to Free France (French: France libre), under the command of général de Larminat.
The unit accordingly assumed its original denomination, and at the corps of the French Orient Brigade, the unit circled Africa and disembarked at Port Soudan on February 12, 1941 to take part in combats in the East African Campaign. The brigade accordingly distinguished itself during the Battle of Keren, on March 27, 1941, then Massaoua on April 8, 1941.
In the following month, the unit joined Palestine in order to participate to the Syria–Lebanon Campaign. The demi-brigade entered into Syria on June 8 and following harsh combats, managed to enter into Damascus on June 21. On September 6, 1941, lieutenant-colonel prince Amilakvari assumed command of the unit. In December, the 2nd battalion (commandant René Babonneau (French: René Babonneau)) and 3rd battalion made way to North Africa where the unit, at the corps of the Koenig Brigade, front faced the forces of the Afrika Korps.
Promoted to chef de battaillon in September 1941, excellent instructor of men, René Babonneau assumed command of the 2nd battalion, which at Bir Hakeim, on May 27, 1942, held back more than 70 tanks of the division Ariete, by destroying 35 out of them. His battalion received a citation at the orders of the armed forces. Remaining at the rear to uphold the unfolding, in the night of June 10 and June 11, 1942, he was made prisoner and transferred to Italy, where he attempted to escape twice.
From May to June 1942, a part of the unit was successful at Bir Hakeim. This would be the occasion for Pierre Messmer, captain commanding a company to write later, a book: the lost patrol (French: La patrouille perdue). Then the "13e" took part to the Second Battle of El Alamein, during which the commanding officer of the unit was killed.
During the assembly of the 1st Free French Division (1re DFL), beginning of 1943, the DBLE disappeared as far as a troop corps and the three constituting units (1er BLE, 2e BLE and the anti-tank company) were incorporated into the 1st Brigade of the Division.
The unit later engaged in combat at the corps of the French Expeditionary Corps then disembarked in Provence within the cadre of Operation Dragoon in mid-August 1944. The demi-brigade took part in the Liberation of France (French: libération de la France) as part of the 1st Free French Division (1st Army) (French: 1re Armée française), notably during the course of the Battle of the Vosges (French: Bataille des Vosges).
During late 1944, a nominally Ukrainian battalion of the FFI – composed of recent defectors from the 30th Waffen SS Grenadier Division — was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade. Two groups from the SS division had defected to the FFI on 27 August. One included 818 Ukrainians based at Vesoul, under the direction of Major Lev (Leon) Hloba, who had shot their German officers and surrendered to the Haute-Saône arm of the FFI in the Confracourt Woods. They brought with them 45-mm antitank guns, 82-mm and 50-mm mortars, 21 heavy machine guns, as well as large amounts of small arms and small-caliber ammunition. That same day, a similar defection occurred near Camp Valdahon – hundreds of men brought with them an antitank gun, eight heavy machine guns, four mortars, and small arms and ammunition. The defectors became known as the Bataillon de Résistants Ukrainiens.
On April 6, 1945, the unit was seen attributed the Ordre de la Libération.
Destined to be part of the French Expeditionary in Extreme-Orient, the 13eDBLE disembarked of the SS Ormonde on February 6, 1946 at Saigon and garrisoned north of the town, in the triangle of Gia Định -Thu Duc – Hoc Mon.
Operations commenced, with June 19, 1946, the first combat at Mat Cat (Cochinchine). The 13e DBLE was engaged in the frontiers of Siam until Tourane, while passing by the fields of Joncs. The battalions were spread.
The 13e DBLE participated to operations « Vega », « Dragon II et III », « Geneviève », « Jonquille », « Canigou »… with the adversary often leaving combatants behind, such as at Largauze on March 26, 1949. In 1950, the 13e DBLE, assembled in Cochinchine and received in support a 4th battalion. The latter was destined to join the units that had for mission to clean up the fields of Joncs.
The rhythm of operations accelerated with the beginning of the dry season: « Potager », « Normandie », « Ramadan », « Trois Provinces », « Tulipes », « Ulysse 3 », « Neptune », « Revanche ». Following this operation, the 13e DBLE was again split. Three battalions remained in Cochinchine where they participated to different operations: : « Araba », « Mandarine », « Pamplemousse », « Caïman ».
On January 31, 1953, the 4th battalion was dissolved and the 3rd battalion transformed into an itinerary battalion: the latter would be found in Tonkin, then at Hué, Na Sam, Xoang Xa, at Than Hoa, engaged in a series of hard combats.
The 13e DBLE participated in the Battle of Hòa Bình from 14 November 1951 to 24 February 1952. Hòa Bình (the name means "peace" in Vietnamese) was the capital of the Muong ethnic minority. By road, Hòa Bình lay a mere 67 kilometers of map distance from Hanoi via Colonial Route 6 (Fr: Route Coloniale 6). The Việt Minh had controlled Hòa Bình since October 1950 and used the district as a logistics staging area for operations in north central Vietnam. The French commander in Indochina, General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, ordered the retaking of Hòa Bình in late 1951.
The 2nd Battalion of 13e DBLE fought in a key engagement at Xóm-Pheo from 8–9 January 1952. The legionnaires held a vital hill at Xóm-Pheo astride Colonial Route 6, and they fortified their positions with trenches, bunkers, barbed wire, and minefields. On the night of 8 January, troops from the Việt Minh 102nd Infantry Regiment infiltrated through the minefields and attacked the 2/13e DBLE positions. The Việt Minh forces overran the 5th Company position and destroyed bunkers with TNT satchel charges and Bangalore torpedoes. With many of their officers and NCOs killed or wounded, and half of their position overrun, the legionnaires counterattacked with fixed bayonets and hand grenades.
The legionnaires later counted 700 Việt Minh dead around the position at Xon-Pheó.
End of 1953, the 13e DBLE assembled at Tonkin, the 2nd battalion in the Delta, the 1st and 3rd battalion (French: les 1er et 3e bataillon) where at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, where they respectively held « Claudine » and « Béatrice ». On the night of March 13, 1954, after five assaults, « Béatrice » was submerged. The 3rd battalion was annihilated with Lieutenant-colonel Jules Gaucher, the regimental commander. The survivors barely represented the numbers of an actual company, and in the rear, efforts were made to reconstitute the battalion, however, time seemed to be missing. on May 7, all was finished. The camp of Dien Bien Phu was submerged and 1st battalion disappeared to the turn. The Fanions of these units were destroyed at the last minute. Only a couple of fragments of the 2nd company were able to be brought back to Sidi bel-Abbès by a couple of legionnaires, whom share it before falling in the hands of the enemy.
Lieutenant-colonel Gaucher was killed on the first day of the battle (13 March 1954), when his command post suffered a direct hit from Việt Minh artillery. Suffering from serious wounds – the loss of both arms, severe injuries to both legs, and an open chest wound – he died at the hospital. Gaucher was replaced as 13e DBLE commander on 23 March by Lieutenant-colonel Lemeunier who was helicoptered into the fortress. Until the end of the battle, Lemeunier would be the most senior Foreign Legion officer present at Dien Bien Phu.
The unit suffered heavy casualties during fighting in March and April. On 14 April the Dien Bien Phu garrison reported that I/13e DBLE was reduced to 354 effectives and III/13e DBLE was reduced to 80 effectives.
On 30 April, the legionnaires at Dien Bien Phu celebrated the anniversary of the Legion's historic Battle of Camerone. The celebration took place at the 13e DBLE command post where Lieutenant-colonel Lemeunier read the traditional Camerone proclamation over a radio hook-up that could be heard throughout Dien Bien Phu.
The 13e DBLE was the only French unit present at Dien Bien Phu that saved one of its battle flags from destruction or capture. The guidon of 4th Company, III/13e DBLE was initially captured by the Việt Minh during the assault on "Béatrice" on 13 March. On 19 May, while the Việt Minh were celebrating Ho Chi Minh's birthday, Sergeant Beres, a Hungarian legionnaire serving with 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1er B.E.P), crawled into a Việt Minh command post and rescued the flag. The seriously wounded Beres was evacuated by helicopter from Dien Bien Phu on 24 May with the guidon hidden under his clothes.
During its 9-year service in Indochina (1946–1955), the 13e DBLE suffered 2,721 killed in action (2334 Legionnaires, 307 Warrant Officers, 80 Officers). This included two commanding officers – Lieutenant-colonel Brunet de Sairigné and Lieutenant-colonel Gaucher.
In 1955, the 13e DBLE was found back on the African continent. Engaged in the operations of maintaining order (French: opérations de maintien de l'ordre en Algérie), the regiment disembarked in Tunisia on June 28, 1955. Based in Guelma, the regiment radiated in Constantinois, North and South in the Nemencha. Hiding places were found but no combatants. Accordingly, the phase of "pacification" commenced.
The 13e DBLE constructed or restored posts: Khsirane. The fight followed in the djebels, marked by hard combats: Zaouia, Bou Zakadane, Ouindj, djebel Seike. In July 1957, a combatant group of the ALN was destroyed.
Leaving then Nemenchta, the 13e DBLE reduced to two battalions garrisoned at Aurès. Steep pitons were succeeded by wooded massifs. At the beginning of 1958, three combats against the ALN, obliged the latter to refuse to get in contact, and accordingly reacted by taking up violence on the civilian population. Nearly 800 families came, in the middle of the winter, and massed around the post of Bou Hamama. Accordingly, On May 7, 1958, the unit responded and combat engaged at Oued Kelaa with firm resolution.
In October 1958, the 13e DBLE became an intervention regiment. The regiment was articulated into eight combat companies, including the mounted company, support company, employed at the exception, as companies of Fusiliers–Voltigeurs. Two tactical headquarter staff (EMT) mounted several companies on demand. In general, the first three were subordinated to FEMTI, the 4,5,6 to FEMT2, the CP and CA often in support of one or the other EMT. The composition number was 1778 men : 57 Officers, 249 Sous-Officiers and 1472 men. Such was put into effect for the officers due to a dozen of volunteers, out of which three were from the medical service, and lesser than a couple of dozens for the sous-officiers and the legionnaires. They had of a little harka, which was dissolved in June 1961.
The mission of this itinerary unit covered all Algeria, in a series of operations: « Emeraude », « Dordogne », « Georgevie », « Isère ». From Kabylie to the Atlas Mountains, Algiers to the Challe Line (French: Ligne Challe) designated as « Barrage est » at the Tunisian frontiers, then in the Aurès, where on February 10, 1961, the unit placed out of combat some 49 combatants and recuperated some 29 arms. The unit made way back to the « Bec de Canard », on the « Barrage est », where operations, patrols and ambushes succeeded until the end of combats in March 1962. At the independence of Algeria, the regiment left 214 tombs.
A first detachment joined Bougie (French: Bougie) to be embarked at the end of April 1962, destination French Somaliland (French: Côte française des Somalis) (Actual Republic of Djibouti). Progressively, the remainder units would follow. The regimental colors arrived on the territory on October 15 of the same year. The companies disembarked one after the other in the new lieu. Having not known peace for the last 22 years since existence, the "13e" was at last able to justify reputation as "bâtisseur" which other units in the Legion rejoiced of.
The unit constructed and ameliorated various existing posts:
During this époque, the numbers in the regiment reached almost those of a sizeable battalion. On October 1, 1968, the regiment integrated a reconnaissance squadron. The 1st company ceded the respective lieu of implementation and went on to garrison in Dikhil. The 2nd company left Obock, took the denomination of 2nd works company (2e CT) and joined the headquarter staff and the CCAS at Gabode, Djibouti headquarters.
On August 25, 1966, the President of the Republic, général de Gaulle, visited the territory. The units of the regiment in parade uniform rendered the respective honors of homage. Following the appearance of a banderole reclaiming the territory, manifestations were launched, and the sections of the 2nd company intervened in their parade uniform at 2000 and 2200 respectively. A dozen of ranked and legionnaires were wounded in the confrontation which caused officially thirty-six wounded with forces of the order and nineteen wounded with the manifesting groups.
The next day, after the death of two manifesting individuals in the morning, at 1400, the regimental commander received the order to evacuate the place Lagarde where général de Gaulle was supposed to pronounce his speech. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th companies as well as two section of the CCAS were designated. The place was cleared in twenty five minutes starting at 1620. The confrontations continued at the level of blocked « Bender » by forces of the police reinforced by the Legion. In total, there were one killed and forty-six wounded in the forces of the order, three killed and two hundred and thirty eight wounded among the manifesting contingents.
The following days, a cover fire was established on the « ville indigène », which was quarantined and searched by patrols. Starting September 14, the « 13e » as well as the 5th Inter-arm Oure-Mer Regiment (French: 5e RIAOM) installed a barrage which encircled the town to filter the exit and entry points. Composed of rows of barbwire (« ribard ») and miradors stretching over 14 kilometers, this barrier was maintained until the independence and beyond. The number of individuals killed trying to cross it remains undetermined. On March 20, 1967, the following day of a referendum on the autonomy of the territory, independent manifestations were suppressed again by the men of the 3rd company. The end of 1967 and the year of 1968 were again occasions of numerous tensions and operations of maintaining order.
In 1976, the regiment and notably the reconnaissance squadron intervened during the Loyada Hostage Rescue Mission (French: Prise d'otages de Loyada).
Following the independence of the Republic of Djibouti in 1977, the 13e DBLE participated regularly to military or humanitarian missions at the profit of the territories or in the Horn of Africa.
In 1979, the 4th company was dissolved. The company's post of Holl-Holl was ceded to the National Army of Djibouti (AND). The regiment then conserved only of the 3rd company, the 2e CT, the CCAS, the squadron and a turning company of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment 2e REP (company detached for 4 months), based in Arta.
The operational engagements succeeded. In May 1991 the regiment assured the control of country's border, which were submerged by a massive influx of refugees coming from Ethiopia, while simultaneously rescue collecting some, welcoming others and disarming an Ethiopian division (Operation Godoria (French: Opération Godoria). In March 1992, it would be the turn of Operation Iskoutir (French: opération Iskoutir). In December 1992, its Operation Oryx (French: opération Oryx), in Somalia, then a couple of month later, Operations of the United Nations in Somalia (French: ONUSOM II), where the legionnaires of the "13e" served for a first time in their history under the Blue-Helmets (French: Casque Bleu) of the United Nations U.N. In June 1994, the third company was rushed to Rwanda within the cadre of Operation Turquoise (French: Opération Turquoise) and the regiment participated also to Operation Diapason (French: Opération Diapason) in Yemen. During the same year, in May, the COMPARA (paratrooper company), stationed in Arta and which was armed by the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment 2e REP was dissolved.
It is convenient to add to all these operations, of the punctual assistance brought forth by the regiment to the young Republic during natural catastrophic disasters which saved the latter regularly. The legionnaires intervened also within the cadres of assuming relief measures, facing flooding disasters, but also facing dryness, to aid humanly populations affected harshly by weather circumstances as well. The 2e CT (works company) was regularly placed on call to execute diverse works, including various numerous constructions on the territory. The commemorative steles of the Legion marked the efforts of a section which worked for collective goals and these commemorations can be seen across all routes of the territory.
in addition, this last specialty, the 2eCT would assume the denomination of 2e CAT (support and works company) by adding two support sections, one composed of six-120mm mortar and the other section composed of 8 missile launcher posts.
In 2000, it is the turn of the 3rd infantry company to disappear, also replaced by a turning company, armed however alternatively by units of the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment 2e REI and 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment 2e REP. This last infantry company of the "13e" had a unique character. In fact, at the instar of the companies of the 2e REP, each section had a specialty. The command section consisted of an 81 mm mortar group. The 1st section perfected the savoire-faire in the domain of sabotage and manipulation of explosives. The 2nd section regrouped the reconnaissance divers which were charged with infiltration missions by maritime means utilizing pneumatic boats or palms. The 3rd section regrouped the elite snipers of the regiment, equipping 12.7 mm Barret and 7.62 mm FRF2. The 4th section, consisted of 5 Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé VABs out of which two were equipped with 20mm cannons.
In 2001, the maintenance company of French Forces stationed in Djibouti (French: Forces françaises stationnées à Djibouti, FFDj) was attached to the Demi-Brigade.
After an intervention of a humanitarian character, where a section of the engineers were projected to Indonesia in 2005 (Opération Béryx (French: Opération Béryx), to assist and aid the victims of 2014 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean (French: Séisme du 26 décembre 2004 dans l'océan Indien), the "13e" revived operational capacities in March 2007. The tactical headquarter staff, the infantry company and an engineer detachment were sent in urgency, north of the Central African Republic to secure and contain the propagation of violence in the zone of the three frontiers (Tchad, RCA, Soudan) to Birao.
In addition, the legionnaires of the unit are, since the beginning of the years 2000, regularly engaged under form of instruction operational detachment (French: détachements d'instruction opérationnels) (DIO) assisting neighboring countries (Ethiopia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and numerous others).
On July 31, 2011, the 13e DBLE left Djibouti and garrisoned in the United Arab Emirates at the French military implementation in the United Arab Emirates as a result of a defense cooperation agreement with France. This move was at the occasion of restructuring, the unit passing from a unit status of combat operational arm to that of a projected support force unit. The unit also bridged operations around the region in 2012 (Operation Tamour (French: Opération Tamour) in Jordan) and sent a quick detachment of almost 50 personnel to assist the counter-terrorism units of Iraq.
On July 30, 2015, the transfert of the 13e DBLE at Camp du Larzac in Aveyron, was announced in 2016. As of January 2016, with a demi-command company and logistics (CCL), two combat companies, numbers will pass from 69 to 390 then 450 legionnaires, followed in 2017 with the remainder of the CCL and two other combat companies, and in 2018 of a fifth combat company and the company of reconnaissance and support.
In 2018, the constitution should reach 1200 legionnaires at the corps of five combat companies, one support company (CCL) and one reconnaissance and support company.
The unit became, in 2011, the support corps Groupement terre of the French Military Implementation in the UAE (French: Forces françaises aux Émirats Arabes Unis)). The unit is decomposed of a support unit as well other units sent on the spot in short duration (4 months):
In 2018, as an infantry regiment within the format defined in the cadre plan of the French Army « Au contact », the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion will be composed of 1300 men grouped in eight companies:
Chant de Marche : Nos Képis Blancs (Sous le soleil brulant d'Afrique) featuring:
Sous le soleil brûlant d'Afrique,
Une phalange magnifique,
A fait flotter nos étendards,
Sa devise «Honneur et vaillance»,
Forme des soldats valeureux,
Son drapeau celui de la France,
Est un emblème des plus glorieux.
Vive la Légion étrangère,
Et quand défilent les képis blancs,
Si leur allure n'est pas légère,
Ils portent tous tête haute et fière,
Et s'élançant dans la fournaise,
Le cœur joyeux jamais tremblant,
Au son de notre Marseillaise,
Savent combattre les képis blancs.
C'est une chose d'importance,
La discipline à la Légion,
L'amour du chef, l'obéissance
Sont de plus pure tradition,
Et pour notre France chérie,
Tous ces étrangers bravement,
Viennent défendre la patrie,
Avec honneur et dévouement.
The Regimental colors of the 13e DBLE is decorated with the following:
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