The Armored Marine Regiment (or RBFM) is a former unit of the French 2nd Armored Division. It belongs to the marine rifle units which are French military navy units
The RBFM was made up of French sailors, whose ships had been immobilized or destroyed, and equipped with American equipment.
Role Tank Destroyers
Strength 300 vehicles and ? 1,200
Equipment TD M10 US, Half-tracks, Armored cars, Jeeps
After the British attack on Mers el-Kébir on July 3, 1940, some of the sailors joined Free France. In Diego-Suarez, sailors were taken prisoner by the British and interned in England (in Grizedale Hall internment camp No. 1).
American landing in AFN
On November 8, 1942, Anglo-American troops landed in North Africa; it is a new momentum that arises for this handful of sailors (45 officers, 333 petty officers, quartermasters and sailors) who want to do battle with Germany. The imprisoned men indicate their desire to reach Algiers where they will be sent in order to create a battalion of marines to capture and hold the marine artillery batteries of Bizerte. If there is no lack of sailors to embark, many are those who will go to fight on land, in the great tradition of the marines.
They are armed but quickly, this surveillance role weighs on them in the "Bizerte battalion". Some re-embark, others are offered to join a regiment of tank destroyers being formed. On September 19, 1943, the Bizerte battalion became the Armored Marine Rifle Regiment, the RBFM (by decision 97 EMG/3 of September 19, 1943). They are then sent to Casablanca (Morocco) where they will receive American uniforms1 and their future equipment. They are joined by many volunteers (escapees from France, etc.).
It is in Berkane that they leave to finally train on the TD M10 tank destroyers. This instruction will be done with the 11th RCA (African Hunters Regiment). First equipped with old RCA equipment, they end up receiving new equipment, with a view to their integration into the 2nd DB.
Integration in the 2nd DB
Under the command of Captain Maggiar, assisted by Lieutenant Commander Martinet, a unit was formed comprising 300 wheeled or tracked vehicles. Four combat squadrons, under the command of naval lieutenants Pauly, Guillon, Bonnet and Richard are equipped with armored cars, half-tracks and tank destroyers, accompanied by protection jeeps.
Tank destroyers have names reminiscent of naval vessels national ship, some of which are famous such as the battleship Dunkerque or the torpedo boat Siroco. General de Gaulle's son, Philippe, joined the regiment with the rank of ensign.
The tank destroyers are additionally equipped with French “naval” sights2. They will allow the US 76.2 gun to hit a Panther from 3,000 m away.
The RBFM consisted of five squadrons3:
Staff Squadron:LV Brisset and Carsin
Hors-Rang Squadron:LV Ollieu and Mounié
First Squadron:LV Pauly and Divorne
Second Squadron:LV Guillon and Gélinet
Third Squadron:LV Bonnet
Fourth Squadron:LV Richard
The Outstanding Squadron includes a female ambulance platoon, the Marinettes, counterpart of the Rochambelles, commanded by the female EV Carsignol. They are "the girls of the 2nd DB" belonging to the 13th Medical Battalion of the 2nd Armored Division of Leclerc.
The men of the RBFM are sailors, and therefore take over the ranks and headgear of this body of troops. The officers wear the caps of naval officers and the men of the rank the bachi (with red pompom). The paramedics/nurses attached to this regiment are the Marinettes, who also wear the effects of the Navy uniform.
Arrival in Normandy
The 2nd Armored Division finally touched down on French soil, at 1:30 a.m., on the night of August 2 to 3, 1944, at Saint Martin de Varreville, the beach at Utah Beach where the 4th American Infantry Division landed on June 6. The RBFM will follow the course of the 2nd DB of which it is an important component, due to its firepower against the German Panther and Panzer IV tanks. Indeed, the 75 gun of the American Sherman tank with which the 2nd DB is equipped is insufficient to pierce the shielding of the Panther. The TD M10's 76.2 barrel can. The gunners of the Navy will recover the right to wear the red fourragère.
But the equipment of the RBFM is worn by training and travel. It is necessary to "return" the tracks of the TDs while waiting for new undercarriages. The 2nd squadron will be equipped with new tracks on August 20.
Departure from Lastelle on the evening of August 6, direction Coutances, La Haye-Fresnel, Avranches, Ducey, Saint-Laurent-de-Terregate where the bivouac is located. The route will be that of the 2nd DB, except for the episode of the Royan pocket.
The TDs face their enemy, the German Panther tank. It will be 75 mm gun against 76.2 gun of the TDs, a flexible, manoeuvrable machine, protected by its escort jeeps against the German voltigeurs.
“It was on August 12, 1944 that the Regiment recorded its first victory. Vilarem, ensign 1st class who commands the 3rd platoon of the 3rd squadron (a former battalion from Bizerte) receives the order to 'monitor' the road to Alençon, there are reports of quite a lot of traffic [...] . He sends the "Strasbourg" and the "Jean-Bart" to occupy this position. The "Strasbourg" is under the command of the quartermaster mechanic Le Roux. the TD "Jean-Bart" (commanded by Passaquet - a telemetric optician) of the 3rd Squadron destroyed a Panther in 3 shots and 800 meters away (after lighting 3 trucks full of German infantry as they passed). »
TDs have light armor and an open turret but are fast and maneuver quickly.
The campaign will be that of the 2nd DB, of which the RBFM is an essential element against the powerful German Panzers.
Liberation of Paris
The RBFM will take an active part in the liberation of Paris by the 2nd Armored Division. Three axes of penetration will be chosen.
Jouy-en-Josas and Viroflay to enter by the Sèvres bridge, the latter will be reached on the evening of July 24, despite strong resistance. The 4th Squadron is part of this column.
Arpajon, Longjumeau, Antony, Sceaux, to arrive through the gates of Orléans, Gentilly and Italy and progress towards the Town Hall to finish at the Hotel Meurice. The 3rd squadron is part of this column.
Trappes, Voisins-le-Bretonneux4 and Guyancourt 5. The 1st and 2nd Squadrons accompanied by the regimental CP move with the third column.
“Strong resistance at the corner of Avenue de Madrid and Boulevard Barrès:two armored cars from the 1st squadron were destroyed there. Vassal who commands a platoon of armored cars accompanied by 2 TDs from the 3rd platoon is responsible for dealing with the German resistance, located in the acclimatization garden. The lieutenant of Vaisseau Vassal and the quartermaster Le Bourdiec are killed during the assault. 800 prisoners are taken here, including a hundred officers, as well as a thousand individual weapons, ten tons of ammunition and around forty vehicles. It was during this action that Commander Maggiar was injured in the right eye (a priori a bullet which would have ricocheted off the armor of the TD "Jaguar" and a fragment of grenade in the right arm, he was evacuated and will be operated by renowned physicians from the Paris Academy of Medicine.”
The squadrons will distinguish themselves in Luxembourg, at the Pont de Sèvres, at the Concorde (a Panther at 1,800 m)... The Germans attacked at night at the Pont de Sèvres:
“[...] At the Pont de Sèvres, we were attacked around 4:00 to 1/4. WARTER was on duty 2 to 4. He was warned by German voices that said "Stautzer" but did not stop. He fired into those closest to him and his rifle jammed. He called us but already Hetuin was mortally wounded and his leader. The Germans tried to bring 3 guns including 1 anti-tank and 2 of 40 mm D.C.A.
They were about 20 meters from the tank but were dispersed by our 50 machine gun fire, carbines and grenades.
The Germans had 18 killed in the night and around 30 taken at daybreak.
With us, CREPELLIERE, KERLAU and the other chef who was with them (DREANNO).
HETUIN died among civilians around 4:1/2 or 5:1/4 a.m. to whom we had taken him ............... »
— story by Paul Watel, driver of the Mistral tank
. The Germans will leave 40 dead on the ground, the sailors will lose three of their own.
Then the 1st and 2nd squadrons will be positioned at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, the 3rd squadron is at Le Bourget while the 4th squadron is locked up at Fort de la Briche, in Saint Denis.
The division and the RBFM left Paris on September 8, heading east. No matter, the sailors have confidence in them. Their speed, the precision of their shooting, the sureness of their eye have always triumphed over the colossal power of the heavy Teutonic mechanics. Everywhere they imposed themselves on the Germans.
From Normandy they destroyed more than 60 enemy tanks; they didn't lose 10 tank-destroyers.
The 2nd DB has reached Lorraine with the Vosges and at Dompaire awaits the 112th-panzer-brigade ambushed in the woods. At dawn on September 13, the patrols will test the waters. Several Panthers are affected. The Germans hesitate and the American planes intervene with rockets. The Germans flee towards Épinal, leaving a tank graveyard6. Planes and tank destroyers will have made this day a great victory. Three Panther tanks will be listed on the hunting list of Quartermaster Warter and his "Mistral" tank.
At Ville-sur-Illon, the Germans counter-attack with Panzer Mark IVs. Planes intervene again. Night falls which will allow the German withdrawal.
Liberation of Strasbourg
The units of the RBFM are grouped together for the charge on Strasbourg (see 2nd DB). The articulation is as follows:
1 squadron of tank-destroyers assigned to the Dio Group,
1 squadron of tank-destroyers assigned to the Langlade Group,
1 squadron of tank-destroyers assigned to the Group Guillebon.
The RBFM is part of the charge which starts from Baccarat, pierces the Vor Vogesen Stellung, rushes towards Phalsbourg, through the passes of Dabo and Petite-Pierre, in the forests, by roads difficult for armored vehicles. Marines capture German General Brühn, stunned at his fate, and send him to Leclerc.
The RBFM is always at the forefront, its detachments accompanying and protecting the other armour. At the Guards Barracks in Strasbourg, the TD Marsouin attacked, broke down the door, fired cannons and machine guns and provoked the surrender of 320 German soldiers, including 15 officers. It is an episode among others in this charge which will stop at the Kehl Bridge, the heavily defended gateway to Germany.
Liberation of Colmar and Royan
Philippe de Gaulle
The RBFM welcomed into its ranks the man who would become Admiral Philippe de Gaulle. He had joined Free France as an ensign of the Vaisseau.
It also hosts a petty officer, Petty Officer Jean Alexis Moncorgé who had just made a long journey to rejoin the Navy. This former sailor battalion in Lorient, rejected because of his age, will succeed in joining the RBFM in January 1945. He is integrated into the 2nd Squadron (Ensign Gelinet), 2nd Platoon as Commander of the TD SOUFFLEUR II. The second master Moncorgé is better known by his name of great artist, Jean Gabin, now deceased. In February 1945 he participated in the reduction of the pocket of Royan. He will then be confined to the Château de Bouges before leaving for the German campaign, which will take him to Adolf Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden.
"In 1945, the "oldest tank commander in France Libre" was demobilized at the age of 41 and returned to the world of entertainment. He has white hair. »
A restoration of the "Souffleur II" tank was presented in 2007 in Voisins-le-Bretonneux (near Versailles-Guyancourt).
The RBFM is not a unit of the FFL of the first hour, their members are therefore not entitled to wear the Perchoir or the France Libre badge, more commonly known as:Mosquito. However, he will end the war with many miscellaneous citations. Let's look at his track record:
The 4th squadron is the subject of a special citation:
"Account officially to his credit:470 enemies killed - 430 prisoners 41 tanks destroyed - 16 guns destroyed - 43 trucks and various vehicles put out of action.
In particular, destroyed 13 Panther tanks in forty-eight hours of combat, on September 13 and 14, around Dompaire. »
— General De Gaulle, 09/16/1945
Sailors regain the right to fodder:
“During the battles in Normandy and Lorraine, the Régiment Blindé de Fusiliers Marins gave proof of its military value and the bravery of its crews.
The General is happy to authorize them henceforth to wear the fourragère of the Legion of Honor of the Fusiliers Marins de Dixmude, fourragère which had been awarded to them in May 1944 by the Minister.
The Officers, Petty Officers, Sailors of the Armored Regiment of Marine Fusiliers, will be proud, alongside their comrades currently on board, to have contributed to restoring the prestige of the French Navy, after so many painful memories. »
— General Leclerc, Agenda No. 53 of September 16, 1944
Disbanded, the regiment will be reconstituted as an amphibious regiment and engaged in Indochina in the French Expeditionary Force in the Far East. It will prove worthy of its distant and near past.