Tag Archives: chad military

Bon 14 juillet à tous! (With Echos to 1941)

Of interest to military history buffs, the 4,400-strong French military parade down les champs Élysée to celebrate the 232nd anniversary of Bastille Day yesterday was led by a 232-member company of the famed “Les marsouins de Leclerc” of the Régiment de Marche du Tchad or RMT.

Régiment de marche du Tchad leading the parade. Respect aux anciens, et vive la France!

The full, 2 hour parade: 

As discussed before here, today’s RMT shares the lineage of the old Senegalese colonial infantry regiment of Chad (Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Tchad, RTST), from which a young Major Philippe Hauteclocque (under the nom de guerre, Leclerc) handpicked a column of 400 to strike out from that rare Free French colony against the key oasis of Koufra in Italian Libya in January 1941. They went on to win other honors fighting alongside the Allies at Fezzan (1942), Tunisia (1943) Alençon (1944), Paris (1944), and Strasbourg (1944).

Les marsouins de Leclerc is also the name of a popular French military graphic novel series covering the regiment’s history, from “Koufra to Kabul.”

Those who are students of military history will also appreciate the irony that the RMT is carrying France’s new infantry rifle, the Heckler und Koch HK416. Seen here in rehearsals last week: 

Also note they wear the fouled anchor badge of the Troupes de Marine on their kepi, although they are a mechanized infantry regiment in the French Army, another throwback to the old colonial days. Their unit patch is the old Free French Lorraine Cross. 

Vale, Idriss Déby, Emir of the Toyota Wars

The Chadian government last week reported that recently reelected six-time president (!) Idriss Déby, 68, died of injuries following clashes with rebels in the north of the country at the weekend. Deby’s son, leader of the Presidental Guard, has been installed as the country’s leader.

The Deby government came to power in 1990 as part of a military coup while he was head of the military. Although we aren’t in the habit of celebrating African authoritarian strongmen, it should be noted that Deby was a legend of asymmetric warfare.

He was the head of the Chadian National Armed Forces (FANT) during the Toyota Wars of the 1980s.

Trained in a series of French officer schools to include the prestigious École de Guerre, Deby’s Mad Max-style troopers pulled off a French-funded Deserts Rats-esque campaign against Gaddafi’s set-piece Libyan armored columns in Chad’s northern deserts, pitting 400 Milan- and machine gun-armed technicals against T-54s– and coming out on top. 

Since literally taking office 30 years ago, Deby has remained a big friend to Paris in backing up the old colonizer’s fight against Islamists on the Continent and setting up Chad as the model of stability in the region. 

With that, there should be no surprise that France– who has long looked the other way on Chad’s intermittent border clashes with Nigeria– is supporting the Chadian military’s seizure of power following Deby’s death on the battlefield.

Speaking of which…

Chad and France have a unique bond that goes back to WWII.

On 26 August 1940, just two months after the fall of metropolitan France to the Axis, Chad was the first French territory in Africa to break with the Vichy government and join De Gaulle’s Free French movement.

With the blessing of colonial governor Felix Ebouse and Lt. Col Pierre Marchand, commander of the Senegalese infantry regiment of Chad (Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Tchad, RTST), the local unit, DeGaulle sent a young Major Philippe Hauteclocque (under the nom de guerre, Leclerc) who handpicked a column of 400 to strike out from the colony against the key oasis of Koufra in Italian Libya in January 1941 to aid the British push in the Western Desert.

1940 uniform of Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Tchad, via the Musee d’la Armee

Free French infantryman, a native of the Chad colony, who was awarded the Croix de Guerre, 1942 for combat in North Africa. Note the tribal face scars, British helmet, and fouled anchor insignia common to French colonial troops (NARA)

Leclerc’s truck-borne unit, augmented by some old armored cars and a couple of 75mm guns, kicked the Italian Sahariana di Cufra around the desert for two months and, upon victory, which was hugely symbolic to the Free French, Leclerc and his men (some 3/4ths were Africans from Chad), took the so-called “Koufra Oath,” promising not to lay down their arms until the Free French flag flew from the Strasbourg Cathedral.

Fast forward to 23 November 1944 and Leclerc, then general in charge of his own armored division of Sherman tanks and on his way to becoming a Marshal of France, liberated Strasbourg.

The Régiment de Marche du Tchad still exists in the modern French Army today, based in Meyenheim in Alsace, as a mechanized infantry unit of some 1,200 soldiers. 

Keeping that in mind, the odds of the French ever quitting Chad are somewhat lower than zero.

If offered a chance to see beautiful Mali, think twice and bring kevlar

Mission des Nations Unies au Mali (MINUSMA) suffered the loss of 10 Chadian peacekeepers and another 25 wounded in an attack at a United Nations base near Aguelhoc, a village in northern Mali over the weekend. This, coupled at attack that killed two Sri Lankin peacekeepers and injured six when their convoy hit an IED near Douentza in the Mopti region, brings to a total of 189 blue helmets that have lost their lives to action in Mali since the UN mission began in 2013, leaving it one of the most dangerous in the organization’s history.

The attack at Aguelhoc was, by all accounts, a classic defensive operation that involved the Chadians standing their ground for hours against determined insurgents attempting to snuff them out. According to MINUSMA Force Commander Lt. Gen. Dennis Gyllensporre, Swedish Army, the defenders fought “for hours” until the attackers broke off the engagement and retired.

Gyllensporre, in the beret, inspecting the damage (Photos: UN)

That’s an RPG hit for sure

Note the UN-marked technical gun truck with an AAA gun in the bed. Keep in mind the French-trained Chadians were involved in the Mad Max-style Toyota Wars in the 1980s against Libya

The Chadians of the Forces Armées Tchadiennes have lost at least 57 men alone in the country. This video, from 2017, highlights a patrol by a Chadian unit in Mali.

“Many of my friends have died here in Mali. We lived together, ate together. Unfortunately, they lost their lives here,” says Chief Sergeant Mahamat Tahir Moussa Abdoulaye.

The UN has posted vacancies for the mission