1st Spahi Regiment

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1st Spahi Regiment
Insigne du 1er régiment de spahis.gif
Official Badge, combining the Cross of Lorraine with the Pentagram from the Flag of Morocco
Active 1914–present
Country France Flag of France.svg
Branch French Army
Type Cavalry, Light Infantry, Armor (current)
Role Armored Reconnaissance
Garrison/HQ Valence, Drôme, France
Equipment 48 AMX 10 RC, 90 VAB and 110 Trucks
Engagements World War I
World War II
French Indochina War
Opération Daguet
Decorations Médaille militaire
Croix de guerre 1939-1945
Croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures

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 (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 service[edit]

In 1915

The regiment was organized from existing cavalry squadrons under General of Division, later Marshal, Hubert Lyautey in 1914. It saw service on the Eastern Front and the Western front, including the Battle of the Marne. The regiment also served in Greece, capturing the standard of the 1st regiment of Evzones. The initial title of the regiment was that of régiment de marche de chasseurs indigènes à cheval (RMCIC). Later it was renamed régiment de marche de spahis marocains (RMSM). The French Army had 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.

Inter-war service[edit]

Between the First and Second World Wars, the regiment was deployed in Syria as part of the post-war occupation of parts of the Ottoman Empire. It received a battle honor at Beirut in 1920 as part of the pacification efforts. As before, the regiment was organized during this period as the 2l e régiment de spahis marocains (2LE RSM or 21st regiment of Moroccan spahis) as well as the 1er régiment de spahis marocains (1 RSM or first regiment of Moroccan Spahis).

World War II service (Vichy France)[edit]

During 1939, the Regiment first organized two units of light infantry scouts for reconnaissance. The main part of the 1st Regiment served in Syria under Vichy command. It was subsequently deployed in Morocco where it resisted the allied invasion Operation Torch. After the defeat of the Vichy Forces in Morocco, the regiment fought near Royan, France in 1945. It was eventually dissolved and merged with the 8th Regiment of Dragoons.

World War II service (Free France)[edit]

At the beginning of July 1940 less than half of the first squadron and a few other spahis joined the British in Palestine to become part of the Free French forces. After being expanded and mechanised this part of the regiment fought against the Italians in Eritrea and against the Vichy French in Syria.

In 1941, the squadron was mechanised, losing its former role as a horse mounted unit made up primarily of Berber and Arab troopers with mostly French officers. The effect of these changes was to greatly increase the proportion of French personnel and the squadron become a regiment.

The regiment was then organized as the 1er régiment de marche de spahis (1st regiment march regiment of spahis). The regiment then joined the British 8th Army fighting in the North African Campaign before becoming part of the column under Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque. Eventually it became the reconnaissance regiment of the French 2nd Armored Division, participating in the Liberation and taking heavy casualties in France and Germany.


The 1st Spahis in the Bastille Day military parade of 2008

As an armoured unit the regiment was sent to French Indochina in 1947, but was returned briefly to Morocco and Algeria before serving in the occupation of West Germany as part of the French zone of occupation, and then the North Atlantic Treaty Organization serving in Germany. The unit returned to France in 1984 as part of the French rapid reaction force where it is headquartered at Valence, Drôme.

The regiment was also part of Opération Daguet in 1991 as part of the French contingent in the 1st Gulf War.

Following the end of the Algerian War in 1962, all but one of the North African Spahi regiments in the French Army were disbanded. The one exception was the 1er Régiment de Spahis Marocains, which was retained in service both because of its distinguished record in World War II and in order to preserve the traditions of the entire Spahi branch. Features such as the white burnous (cloak) and red sash of the historical Spahi uniform are still worn by the modern regiment on parade.

The regiment is currently part of the 6th Light Armored Brigade as it has been since 1999. It remains headquartered in Valence. 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.[1]