French Foreign Legion, Indochina
Légionnaire, 13e Demi-Brigade de la LégionÉtrangère; Cochinchina, 1948-50
This man wears a US Army ‘chino’ shirt (here an officer’s type with shoulder straps) and matching shorts; the US leggings are worn over French leather M1917 brodequins. For local operations the necessary minimum of equipment was carried and infantry often wore only belt order; here we see the US M1923 cartridge belt, M1936 suspenders, field dressing pouch and two-pocket grenade pouch, and a slung British water bottle. Like most units, the 13e carried at this period a mixture of small arms: photos show this .30 cal M1903 Springfield rifle as standard, alongside the .30 cal. M1 carbine, .45 cal. M1928A1 or M1A1 Thompson, and .303 Bren LMG. For lack of anything better French infantry were also widely issued with the French M1931A2 Reibel, a machine gun designed for tank and fortress mounting and awkwardly adapted to an infantry tripod.
The 13 DBLE were proud of their distinction as the only Legion unit to fight on the Allied side throughout World War II, and this man wears the khaki wool beret, originally pre-war French Army fortress troops’ issue but worn by the 13e for the Narvik campaign in 1940, and retained (or improvised) as field headgear whenever possible until the late 1950s – often pulled right in the British style. He also carries slung round his neck the French khaki drill bush hat which spread rapidly throughout the Expeditionary Corps from 1949. Photos show some men of the 13e wearing their metal regimental breast badge on operations.
Section light machine-gunner, Legion infantry; Tonkin
Until nearly 1960 the standard French section light machine-gun was the 7.5mm FM.24/29. This gunner wears the US M1 helmet with netting, French M1947 fatigues, M1917 boots, and M1945 canvas anklets – copied from the British type but with only one strap and an internal tongue-and-pocket fastening at the bottom corner. His equipment is based on the French TAP M1950 belt and suspenders. His ‘all-arms musette M1950’ is attached to the suspenders by the same system as the British M1908 pack. He carries slung the smaller of two types of FM.24/29 magazine pouch. His belt order is typically mixed: British M1944 canteen in a French M1950 carrier, British M1937 universal pouch retained for FM.24/29 accessories, pre-war leather case for the LMG cleaning rod, and a French billhook.
Legion infantryman; Tonkin
During this period a degree of standardization was achieved in clothing, though never in personal equipment and weapons. The bush hat became universal; although US M1 helmets were widely issued they were carried slung whenever possible. The French M1947 treillis or tenuede campagne was now becoming the standard combat dress; note four internal jacket pockets with pointed external flaps, two large leg pockets, buttoned tabs at wrist and ankle, and concealed buttons – here the legs are tabbed at the ankle over pataugas. The French web equipment designated M1950 type TAP – ‘airborne troops type’ – was slow to reach Legion infantry, and a mixture of US, British, and French webbing remained in use; this man wears all US items. His dagger is a cut-down M1886 Lebel bayonet; and he carries French OF37 ‘offensive’ blast grenades, although US fragmentation grenades were also widely used. His rifle is the standard French type from before World War II until the late 1950s: the 7.5mm MAS.36, with a five-round fixed magazine, which had largely replaced foreign rifles by the second half of the war, although the M1 carbine remained common.