Monclar’s Winchester

Raoul Charles Magrin-Vernerey was born in Budapest, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1892 to French parents. Accepted to Saint-Cyr, France’s West Point, in 1912, he was rushed to graduation in August 1914 and joined the 60e régiment d’infanterie (60e RI) the day the Kaiser’s troops entered Belguim, with the rank of sous-lieutenant. Finishing the Great War as a captain, he had been wounded seven times and earned the Légion d’honneur and a whopping 11 Croix de Guerre.

Carrying his wounds with him the rest of his life– including having to wear glasses due to mustard gas scarring on his eyes– Magrin-Vernerey spent the interbellum period in North Africa and the Middle East in a series of postings commanding Foreign Legion and colonial troops. Real “Waiting for the Barbarians” stuff.

By the time Hitler sent his stormtroopers into Poland, he was a colonel and was given command of a scratch unit of two light battalions termed the 13e DBLE, the now famous 13th Demi-Brigade. Fighting at Narvik, he joined the Free French after Paris surrendered and headed to Africa, using the assumed nom de Guerre of “Ralph Monclar” where he was involved in the campaign in Eritrea and elsewhere.

Finishing WWII as a Major General with three additional Croix de Guerre, Monclar volunteered to train and lead the French Bataillon de Corée to Korea in 1950, commanding the unit with the U.S. 2nd Infantry Battalion (and adding an Indian Head combat patch to his uniform) after fighting at Wonju, the Twin Tunnels, Chipyong-ni, and Heartbreak Ridge.

Raoul Magrin-Vernerey, AKA Monclar, in his progression from 1916 to 1946 to 1951

Hanging up his uniform in 1951 due to reaching the mandatory retirement age, he died in 1964 in Paris, aged 72, and is entombed at the Église du Val-de-Grâce de Paris.

However, his preferred battle rifle, a French-contract Winchester 1907 chambered in .351SL, was recently placed on display at the Musee de la Armee as part of a showcase on the 1941 Eritrean campaign.

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