The Second World War ended, France enjoyed the world, and the Foreign Legion, along with other military units (including units of the Zouaves, Tirailleurs and Gumiers), fought in Vietnam, crushed the uprising in Madagascar, unsuccessfully tried to maintain Tunisia as part of the empire (military operations in 1952- 1954), Morocco (1953-1956) and Algeria (1954-1962). For the period from 1945 to 1954. about 70 thousand people passed through the legion, 10 thousand of them died.
Uprising in Madagascar
Madagascar became a French colony in 1896. Contingents from several thousand Malagasy fought in the French army during the First and Second World Wars. Ironically, it was WWII veterans who were in the front ranks of the fighters for independence of Madagascar: having met closely with the colonialists in that war, they rated their fighting qualities low, not counting either strong warriors or brave men, and did not have much respect for them.
By the way, we recall that in the "Free French Forces" only 16% of soldiers and officers were ethnic French, the rest were soldiers of the Foreign Legion and "colorful" soldiers of the Colonial Forces.
The incident with one of the former soldiers of World War II served as the cause of the uprising in 1946.
On March 24 of that year, at a market in one of the cities, a policeman insulted a local veteran, and in response to the indignation of those around him, he opened fire, killing two people. On June 26, during a farewell ceremony for the dead, a mass brawl of local residents with the police took place, and on the night of March 29-30 an open uprising began.
About 1200 Malagasy, armed mainly with spears and knives (for this reason they were often called “spearmen” even in official documents), attacked a military unit in Muramanga, killing sixteen soldiers and sergeants and four officers, including the head of the garrison. The assault on the military base in the city of Manakar was unsuccessful, but the rebels who captured the city recovered from the French settlers - among the dead there were many women and children.
In Diego Suarez, about 4 thousand "spearmen" tried to seize the arsenal of the French naval base, but, after suffering heavy losses, were forced to retreat.
In the city of Fianarantsoa, the successes of the rebels were limited to the destruction of power lines.
Despite some failures, the uprising developed rapidly, and soon the rebels controlled 20% of the island, blocking some military units. But, since the rebels belonged to different tribes, they also clashed among themselves, and on the island a war of all against all began.
The French then were surprised by the unprecedented fanaticism of the enemy fighters, who rushed to fortified positions and machine guns as if they considered themselves immortal and invulnerable. It turned out that it was so: local shamans distributed amulets to the rebels, which were supposed to make the bullets of Europeans no more dangerous than raindrops.
The French authorities responded with brutal repression, not sparing the "natives" and not particularly bothering with the organization of trials. There is a known case when captured rebels were thrown into their native village from an airplane without parachutes - to suppress the morale of their fellow countrymen. However, the guerrilla warfare did not abate, for communication with the blocked military formations it was necessary to use Aviation or makeshift armored trains.
Train with soldiers
It was at this time that the compounds of the Foreign Legion arrived in Madagascar.
General Garbe, who commanded the French troops on the island, used the “oil stain” tactic, building a network of roads and fortifications on the territory of the rebels that “sprawled” like a drop of oil, depriving the enemy of the freedom of maneuver and the possibility of obtaining reinforcements
The last base of the rebels with the speaking name “Tsiazombazakha” (“What is inaccessible to Europeans”) was taken in November 1948.
According to various estimates, in total, the Malagasy lost from 40 to 100 thousand people.
Legionnaires during a parade in Diego Suarez, Madagascar, December 1956
This victory of France only postponed the time for Madagascar to gain independence, which was proclaimed on June 26, 1960.
According to the British-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, 10 thousand British soldiers were to guard the Suez Canal. After the end of World War II, the Egyptian authorities tried to revise the terms of this treaty and achieve the withdrawal of British troops. But in 1948, Egypt was defeated in the war with Israel, and Britain expressed doubt “about Egypt’s ability to defend the Suez Canal with its own forces.” The situation changed after the July revolution of 1952 and the declaration of Egypt as a republic (June 18, 1953). The new leaders of the country strongly demanded that Britain withdraw its military units from the Suez Canal. After long and difficult negotiations, an agreement was reached according to which the British were to leave Egypt by mid-1956. And, indeed, the last English units left this country on July 13 of that year. And on July 26, 1956, the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal.
Egyptians after the nationalization of the Suez Canal dismantle the statue of Ferdinand Lesseps, who led its construction
It was assumed that the proceeds from its operation would be used to finance the construction of the Aswan Dam, while the shareholders were promised compensation at the current value of the shares. British politicians considered this circumstance a very convenient reason for returning to Suez. In the shortest possible time, a coalition was created at the initiative of London, which, in addition to Great Britain, included Israel, dissatisfied with the results of the 1948 war, and France, which did not like Egypt's support for the Algeria National Liberation Front. They decided not to devote Americans to the plans of this campaign. The "Allies" hoped to crush Egypt in just a few days and believed that the international community simply did not have time to intervene.
Israel was to attack Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula (Operation Telescope). Britain and France sent a squadron of over 130 warships and transport ships to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, supported by a powerful air group of 461 aircraft (as well as 195 aircraft and 34 helicopters on aircraft carriers), 45 thousand British, 20 thousand French soldiers, and three tank regiment, two British and French (Operation Musketeer).
Soldiers of the Second Parachute Regiment of the Foreign Legion leave for Suez
Israeli soldiers welcome French aircraft, October 1954
Under the influence of such compelling arguments, Egypt was supposed to agree to the "international occupation" of the canal zone - to ensure the safety of international shipping, of course.
The Israeli army launched an offensive on October 29, 1956, in the evening of the next day Britain and France presented their ultimatum to Egypt, and in the evening of October 31, their aircraft attacked Egyptian airfields. Egypt in response blocked the canal, flooding dozens of ships in it.
Israeli medium tank M4A4-Sherman
Padded Egyptian tank. Sinai Peninsula, October 1954
On November 5, the British and French launched a landing operation to capture Port Said.
Suez Canal and Port Said, space photo
Port Said and Port Fuad
Scheme of the military operation of Great Britain, France and Israel
The first to land were the soldiers of the British parachute battalion, who captured the El Gamil airfield. After 15 minutes, Rasvu (the southern region of Port Fuad) was attacked by 600 paratroopers of the Second Parachute Regiment of the Foreign Legion.
Landing of the soldiers of the Second Parachute Regiment of the Legion
Soldiers of the Second Parachute Regiment of the Foreign Legion next to the British tank at Port Said
Among the paratroopers were the regiment commander Pierre Chateau-Jaubert and the commander of the 10th division, Jacques Massouet. These officers will play an important role in the Algerian war, and in the resistance movement who wished to give the government of Charles de Gaulle independence to this country. This will be discussed in future articles.
Colonel Chateau-Jobert with a cordless telephone at Port Said
General Jacques Massouux
On November 6, “colleagues” from the First joined the Second Regiment paratroopers - 522 people, led by the already famous Pierre-Paul Janpierre, which was described a little in the article Foreign Legion Against Vietnam and the Dienbienf Catastrophe.
Among his subordinates was captain Jean-Marie Le Pen, at that time he was the youngest member of the French parliament, but took long-term leave to continue serving in the legion.
Captain of the Foreign Legion Jean-Marie Le Pen, Port Said neighborhood, photograph of the Suez crisis
Le Pen entered the Legion in 1954 and even managed to fight a little in Vietnam, in 1972 he founded the National Front party, which since June 1, 2018 has been called the National Association.
With the help of paratroopers of the First Regiment, Port Fuad and its harbor were taken, three companies of commandos and a company of light tanks of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment of the Legion were landed from land on ships.
1er REP legionnaires during the Suez Crisis, Egypt, November 1956
Paratroopers of the Second Parachute Regiment escort four Egyptian soldiers
And at this time, British troops continued to arrive in Port Said. Despite the landing of 25 thousand people, 76 tanks, 100 armored vehicles and more than 50 large-caliber guns, they got bogged down in street battles, and did not manage to capture the city until November 7, when the “terrible” thing happened: the USSR and the USA joined the UN with a joint demanding an end to aggression. The war ended, and not having had time to really begin, but the legionnaires lost 10 people killed and 33 wounded (losses of British troops - 16 and 96 people, respectively).
On December 22, the British and French left Port Said, into which UN peacekeepers (from Denmark and Colombia) were introduced. And in the spring of 1957, a group of international rescuers unlocked the Suez Canal.
France's loss of Tunisia
Habib Bourguiba, who founded the Neo Destour party in 1934, which played a major role in the events of those years, was a descendant of a noble Ottoman family who settled in the Tunisian city of Monastir in 1793. He received his law degree in France: first, he studied in the class for the underprivileged at a college in Carnot, then at the University of Paris.
It should be said that, like many nationalist politicians of modern Ukraine, Habib Bourguiba did not know the language of the “titular nation”: in his youth (in 1917) he was not able to get a state post in Tunisia because he could not pass the exam for knowledge of the Arabic language. And therefore, at first Bourguiba worked as a lawyer in France - he knew the language of this country very well. And least of all in the world did this “revolutionary” think about the “bright future” of ordinary compatriots: after Tunisia gained independence, the welfare of the nationalist elite, which gained access to the resources, sharply increased, the standard of living of ordinary people, on the contrary, dropped significantly. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Bourguib met the beginning of World War II in a French prison, from where he was released during the German occupation of this country - in 1942. In 1943, he even met with Mussolini, who hoped for cooperation with the nationalist circles of Tunisia, but showed rare insight, saying to his supporters that he was confident in the defeat of the Axis powers.
After the war he was in exile (until 1949). Returning to Tunisia, after the outbreak of unrest in 1952, he again ended up in prison. Then, after the mass arrest of members of the New Destour party in Tunisia, an armed uprising began, to suppress which French troops were thrown with a total number of 70 thousand people, including units of the Foreign Legion. The fighting against the rebels continued until July 31, 1954, when an agreement was reached on the autonomy of Tunisia. Bourguib was released almost a year after these events - on June 1, 1955. After the signing of the Franco-Tunisian protocol on the abolition of the French protectorate and the official declaration of independence (March 1956, 20) in March 1956, Bay Muhammad VIII declared himself king, and Bourguibu recklessly appointed Prime Minister. But on July 15, 1957, Bourguiba led a coup d'etat, ending with the proclamation of Tunisia as a republic.
A sharp aggravation of Tunisia’s relations with France occurred on February 27, 1961, when Bourguib, who was dizzy with success, demanded that Charles de Gaulle not use the naval base in Bizerte in the Algerian war.
Bizerte, 1961 photo
Work on expanding the runway in Bizerte, launched by the French on April 15, provoked an acute crisis and the outbreak of hostilities. On April 19, Bourguib, clearly unaware of the true balance of power, ordered the three Tunisian battalions to block the base in Bizerte. The French on the same day threw soldiers of the Second Parachute Regiment of the Foreign Legion there, on July 20, paratroopers of the Third Marine Regiment also added to them. With the support of aviation, the French drove Tunisians out of Bizerta on July 22, losing only 21 troops, while their opponents - 1300. The base in Bizerta, which lost military significance after the end of the Algerian war, the French left only in 1963.
Tunisia Bourguib was president for 30 years, until in 1987 he was removed from this post by the younger and greedy "associates."
Zin el-Abidine Ben Ali, who succeeded Bourguib, held the presidency for “only” 23 years, during which time the family clans of his two wives took over almost all sectors of the economy that bring at least some profit, and Ben Ali and his second wife Leila was called "Tunisian Ceausescu." By December 2010, they had successfully brought Tunisia to the second “jasmine” revolution.
The "home" of the Fourth Infantry Regiment of the Foreign Legion was Morocco.
4e REI legionnaires ready for an operation in Morocco, mid-1950s
The aggravation of the situation in this country dates back to January 1951, when Sultan Muhammad V refused to sign a petition on his loyalty to the French authorities of the protectorate.
Muhammad V, photo taken in 1934
In response, the French authorities arrested five leaders of the Istiklal (Independence) nationalist party, banned meetings, and imposed censorship. The Sultan was in fact under house arrest, and on August 19, 1953 he was completely removed from power and sent first to Corsica, then to Madagascar.
The French “appointed” his uncle, Sidi Muhammad Ben Araf, as the new sultan, but he did not rule for long: in August 1955, unrest began in Rabat, resulting in barricade battles. Soon, an uprising swept the whole country. On September 30, Sidi Muhammad was forced to abdicate and go to Tangier, and on November 18, the former Sultan, Muhammad V., returned to Morocco.
The return of Mohammed V to Morocco, November 18, 1955
On March 2, 1956, the French protectorate treaty concluded in 1912 was canceled, and on April 7, the Spanish-Moroccan agreement was signed on Spain’s recognition of Morocco’s independence, according to which the Spaniards retained control of Ceuta, Melilla, Ifni, the islands of Alusemas, Chafarinas and the Velesde peninsula La Gomera. In 1957, Muhammad V changed the title of sultan to royal.
Left the Morocco and the fourth regiment of the Foreign Legion. Now it is located in the barracks of the Danjou of the French city of Castelnodari. Check out the 1980 photo:
Units of the fourth regiment of the Foreign Legion leave the barracks, the city of Castelnodari, France, 1980
The tragic events in Algeria in 1954-1962 fundamentally different from what happened in Tunisia and Morocco, because in this French department for more than 100 years there was a significant French diaspora and many local Arabs (called evolvés, “evolved”) did not support nationalists. The war in Algeria was not so much a national liberation character as a civil one.
In the next article we will talk about the war of 1954-1962, and also through the prism stories French Foreign Legion.