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1st Spahi Regiment

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Armored Reconnaissance

French Army

1st Spahi Regiment

1914 – present Régiment de marche de chasseurs indigènes à cheval R.M.C.I.C Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains R.M.S.M 21 Régiment de Spahis Marocains 21 R.S.M 1 Régiment de Spahis Marocains 1 R.S.M 1 Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains 1 R.M.S.M

Cavalry, Light Infantry, Armor (current)

Part of
6th Light Armoured Brigade

The 1st Spahi Regiment (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis) is an armored regiment of the modern French Army, previously called the 1st Moroccan Spahi Regiment (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis Marocains). It was established in 1914 as a mounted cavalry unit recruited primarily from indigenous Moroccan horsemen. The regiment saw service in both the First World War and the Second World War as part of the Forces Françaises Libres as well as post-war service in the French-Indochina War and elsewhere. The modern regiment continues the traditions of all former Spahi regiments in the French Army of Africa.


World War I

The Moroccan Spahis of the French Army were created in 1914 by Général Hubert Lyautey. The initial title of the regiment was that of the Régiment de Marche de Chasseurs Indigènes à Cheval (R.M.C.I.C). The French Army had already raised four regiments of indigenous Spahi cavalry in both Algeria and Tunisia, during the 19th century and extended this designation to the Moroccan mounted units recruited after 1908.

The first Marching Moroccan Spahi Regiment (Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains, R.M.S.M) participated in the First Battle of the Marne. Subsequently, sent to the Orient Front, the regiment served with distinction at Pogradec, Skumbi, Bofnia, Uskub and on the Danube. The regiment was accordingly awarded 5 citations and a fourragere with the colors of the Médaille militaire.

Inter-war period

The regiment was redesignated as the 21st Moroccan Spahi Regiment (21e Régiment de Spahis Marocains, 21e R.S.M.) in 1921 and served in the campaigns in the Levant from 1920 to 1927. The regiment was awarded 3 additional citations plus a fourragere in the colors of the Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures. In 1929, the regiment was renamed as the 1st Moroccan Spahi Regiment (1er Régiment de Spahis Marocains, 1er R.S.M).

World War II

On July 1, 1940, Captain Paul Jourdier, who commanded the 1st Squadron of the 1st Moroccan Spahi Regiment, (1e RSM) decided to defect from the Vichy-led Army of the Levant and join the British forces in Palestine. While on maneuvers in southern Lebanon, Jourdier succeeded in detaching a small contingent comprising half of his squadron. The 1st RSM at this stage in the war was still a mounted cavalry unit, consisting of mostly North African Muslim troopers under French officers.

Reinforced by a detached units that had separately crossed the border between Lebanon and Palestine, plus volunteers from London, the squadron undertook mounted operations in Eretria. The squadron conducted horse-mounted cavalry charges at Umbrega, still under the leadership of Captain Paul Jourdier. The defection of a regular cavalry unit of the Vichy forces was widely publicized by the British and Free French forces, making use of photographs showing charging spahis.

The regiment was subsequently dismounted and participated in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign on trucks, as part of the 1st Free French Brigade.

Other squadrons were created, forming first one then two army corps reconnaissance groups (GRCA), commanded by Jourider and Robert de Kersauson.

Reinforced by a company of the 501e Régiment de chars de combat of the Free French Forces, the 2nd Group constituted the Free French Flying Column which participated to the Battle of El Alamein. It subsequently was included in the advance to Tunisia, initially as part of the British 8th Army, then in 1943 in the FFF commanded by Général Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque.

On September 25, 1942, the two Groups were merged to form the 1st Moroccan Spahi Marching Regiment (French: 1er Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains, 1er R.M.S.M), under the orders of Jean Rémy.

Becoming a reconnaissance regiment of the 2nd Armored Division 2e DB, the 1st RMSM participated in the Liberation, suffering heavy losses in both France and Germany.

The original (i.e. non-regiment de march) 1e RSM saw mounted horse combat in Syria before being motorized in Morocco during 1943. The unit thentook part in the battle of Royan, France in 1945. It was then merged with the 8th Dragoon Regiment (French: 8e Régiment de Dragons).


The 1st Marching Moroccan Spahi Regiment 1er RMSM was awarded as a Compagnon de la Libération by decree of August 7, 1945 and cited twice at the orders of the armed forces.

Regimental Colors

The Regimental Colors of the 1e RMSM include in golden letters, the following inscriptions in the folds:

  • Erytrhée 1941
  • El-Alamein 1942
  • Tunisie 1943
  • Paris 1944
  • Strasbourg 1944
  • Between 1944 and 1945, at the corps of the 2e DB, the 1e RMSM endured the loss of 184 men out of which 12.5% where Moroccans.

    Post-war: 1945-62

    One squadron of the 1st RSM served in the First Indochina War, between 1945 and October 1946.

    During the post-war era the regiment underwent several changes in title, as well as being transferred between a number of different garrisons. In 1947, the regiment was designated as the 1st Regiment of Moroccan Spahis (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis Marocains, 1er RSM), a title it retained during its service in Morocco.

    In 1956 the 1st RSM was transferred to Algeria. The regiment was then re-designated as the 1st Regiment of Spahis (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis, 1e RS). In October 1958 its title was again changed to the 21st Regiment of Spahis (French: 21e Régiment de Spahis, 21e RS) - in order to avoid confusion with the 1st Regiment of Algerian Spahis (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis Algériens, 1e RSA).


    The 1st Spahi Regiment continued in the French Army after the end of the Algerian War in 1962, although most of the other units of the former Armee d'Afrique were disbanded. Reportedly one of General Charles de Gaulle's ministers urged that the 1st RSM be retained in service because of its distinguished role in the Free French Forces during World War II. De Gaulle responded:

  • " On ne dissout pas un Compagnon de la Libération. " ("One does not dissolve a Companion of the Liberation").
  • In 1961, the regiment was transferred to Spire Germany, as part of the French Forces of Germany (French: Forces Françaises en Allemagne, FFA). Its role was that of a reconnaissance regiment of the 2nd Army Corps 2e CA.

    In1965, following the dissolution of the 1st Regiment of Algerian Spahis, the regiment was given its present-day title of the 1st Spahi Regiment (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis, 1er RS).

    In 1984 the regiment was transferred from Germany and the FFA, to be incorporated in the 6th Light Armoured Division 6e DLB and garrisoned in Valence.

    The regiment participated in Opération Daguet during 1991, as part of the French contingent in the Gulf War.

    In 2009, the regiment left the 6th Light Armoured Brigade 6e BLB and joined the 1st Mechanized Brigade. On August 1, 2015, the regiment was reintegrated in the 6th Light Armoured Brigade.

    The regiment's armored vehicle core consists of 48 AMX, 90 VAB and 110 trucks. The regiment trains new recruits at headquarters; including armored vehicle crewmen and various mechanical trades as well as musicians and non-commissioned officers.

    The most decorated unit of the modern Armoured Arms and Armoured Cavalry branch of the French Army, the regiment carries 14 battle honors on its colors.


  • Escadron de Commandement et de Logistique (ECL) – Command and Logistics Squadron
  • Escadron d'administration et de soutien (EAS) - Administration & Support Squadron
  • 1er Escadron – 1st Squadron (4 combat troops)
  • 2e Escadron - 2nd Squadron (4 combat troops)
  • 3e Escadron - 3rd Squadron (3 combat troops)
  • 4e Escadron - 4th Squadron
  • 5e Escadron - (reserve)
  • Escadron d'instruction - Instruction Squadron
  • Uniform and insignia

    As mounted cavalry the North African personnel of the regiment wore high turbans, red jackets, wide blue-grey trousers and a white burnous (cloak). A dark blue over-cloak with hood was worn over the burnous, to distinguish the Moroccan spahis from their red-cloaked Algerian and Tunisian counterparts. After mechanization, features such as the double burnous/cloak and red sash of the historical Spahi uniform were retained and are still worn by the modern regiment on parade. A red forage cap of a model worn since the 1940s, is another present-day distinguishing feature.

    The regimental insignia is a combination of the Cross of Lorraine with the Sharifian Pentagram from the Flag of Morocco.


    The Regimental Colors of the 1st Spahi Regiment is decorated with:

  • Croix de la Libération
    (historically linked to the 1er R.M.S.M)
  • Croix de guerre 1914-1918 with:
  • 5 palms
    (historically linked to the 1er R.M.S.M)
  • Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with:
  • 2 palms
    (historically linked to the 1er R.M.S.M)
  • Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures with :
  • 4 palms
    (historically linked to the 1er R.M.S.M)
  • Croix de la Valeur militaire with :
  • 1 bronz star (awarded May 8, 2014)
  • Mérite Militaire Chérifien - Military Sharifian Medal
    (historically linked to the 1er R.S.M)
  • Médaille de la bravoure Serbe - Medal of Serbian Bravery
    (historically linked to the 1er R.S.M)
  • Ordre Serbe de Kara-Georges de 4e rang, avec glaives - Serbian Order of Kara-Georges 4th order
    (historically linked to the 1er R.S.M)
  • Croix de Guerre Serbe avec une citation à l'ordre de l'Armée Ordre Roumain de Saint Michel - Serbian Croix de Guerre with citation at the orders Romanian Order Army of Saint-Michael
    (historically linked to the 1er R.S.M)
  • American U.S. Presidential Unit Citation
  • Fourragere with:
  • colors of the Médaille militaire, with olives of the Croix de guerre 1914-1918 and Croix de guerre 1939-1945
  • colors of the Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures
  • colors of the Croix de la Libération since June 18, 1996
  • Battle Honours

  • La Marne 1914
  • Pogradec 1917
  • Skumbi 1917
  • Bofnia 1918
  • Uskub 1918
  • Danube 1918
  • Levant 1920-1927
  • Erythrée 1941
  • El Alamein 1942
  • Tunisie 1943
  • Paris 1944
  • Strasbourg 1944
  • AFN 1952-1962
  • Koweit 1990-1991
  • References

    1st Spahi Regiment Wikipedia