- Published: 26 January 2011 26 January 2011
- Last Updated: 07 April 2012 07 April 2012
The Allied forces land in French Morocco and Algeria in November 1942. Immediately, German and Italian reinforcement troops land in French Tunisia. On November 14, the idea of an “African Phalange” is launched in Paris with the support of the 3rd Reich Ambassador Otto Abetz. In December, German authorities approve the plan and the related logistic.
A mission commanded by Pierre Simon Cristofini was sent to Tunisia Dec to raise volunteers. Cristofini was wounded during training on 23 Jan 1943 and was evacuated to Sicily. He was arrested by Free French forces in October, was sentenced to death by a tribunal in Algiers and shot while trapped to a stretcher on 3 May 1944.
330 volunteers are recruited and instructed in the Bordj-Ceda camp, ending with the constitution of a Company with 212 men, 42 NCOs and six officers, called Franzosische Freiwilligen Legion and incorporated into the 2nd Battalion, 754. PzG Rgt, 334. PzG Division, 5. Panzerarmee (von Arnim).
The Company is engaged on the 7th April 1943 in the Medjez-El-Bab area against British forces (78th infantry division), under command of Captain Dupuis. Its value earns it the congratulations of the German General Weber who distributes several Iron crosses.
9 days later, allied forces launch a general offensive on the sector. The Phalange positions are destroyed by artillery and tanks fire. In one hour, the unit lost half of its men. However, the survivors resist and retreat in order. It is the end of the battle, allied forces are at the gates of Tunis.
The 150 survivors have the choice between “disappearing” or placing themselves under the protection of the Tunis Bishop. The officers are evacuated with the retreating Germans.
But most of the volunteers are arrested by the Gaullist troops entering Tunis. A dozen will be executed, other condemned to heavy jail sentences.
Amazingly, about 40 survivors of the Phalange, who had the luck to surrender to non-Gaullist troops, were incorporated in the Free French Army and fought well up to Germany.