Hạ Long Bay Vacation, 70 years ago

From the French military archives, this group of photos of the Marine Commando de Montfort catching some rays in Hạ Long Bay, in what is now Northern Vietnam, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from mainland China, October 1950.

Just 60-strong, the Montforts had been formed in Indochina in late 1947, named after the late Ensign Louis de Montfort, a commando killed in Haiphong in March 1946. Using a mix of German, French, U.S., and British gear, they fought the Viet Minh extensively along with the coastal and border areas, carrying out various raids and reconnaissance operations borne by local craft and LCIs.

Like their companion unit, Commando Jaubert, the Montforts integrated local Vietnamese volunteers into their ranks, which at times accounted for half of the unit.

Their heaviest artillery were 60 mm mortars

…as well as lots of submachine guns, with the German MP40 being preferred.

Their go-to infantry arm was the U.S. M1 Carbine, light and handy for jumping around out of small boats for coastal operations in the jungle area

Note the M1 Carbine over the Marine’s shoulder, French OF37 ouef (egg) grenades on his pockets, and twin mag pouches. You would hope to have more than 60 spare rounds and a couple of grenades for a firefight in Indochina…

Montfort Commando-marine Moïse Saillant with a Châtellerault FM 24/29 LMG, in Ha Long Bay, circa 1950, note the cross draw pistol, which could be a MAB Model B. The FM 24/29 would remain in French service well into the 1970s, although it was a forerunner of the BREN

When it came to uniforms, you can tell their old WWII Commando Kiefer origins, as they made extensive use of the green beret with left-oriented cap badge and Denison smocks.

Note the flatbottom punts, possibly bridging pontoons, being towed by launches

After seven years of combat, Commando Montfort was disbanded in December 1954, its Indonchines members dismissed. It would soon be reformed in Metropolitan France, as a new war was brewing in Algeria.

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