Here is a wonderful find discovered a couple months ago, although it has been out there for a while. The item is a digital copy of a photo album produced for the 1931 Colonial Exposition-Paris. It portrays legionnaires from the 4eme Bataillon Format Corps (4 B.F.C) which, I believe, was the precursor to the 1BN, 5REI (5REI being the “Regiment of Tonkin” which was created April 1 1931). It was made available on-line as part of a number of items related to the exposition by the University Cote D’Azure at Nice, France. The annotation provided at the university site says “This album gives a glimpse of the daily life of the legionnaires of the 4th battalion of the 1st foreign regiment of the Foreign Legion: maneuvers, trainings, parties, views of the barracks, places to live, portraits of officers, etc. The legionnaires were stationed at the Tong camp, which must have been a few kilometers from Son Tay.”
You can download the entire album here or directly from this blog here. More importantly, the site also allows you to download individual photographs that were scanned separately from the album. The interface however is a bit problematic–you have to go to the first link for the entire album where it will start downloading the .pdf automatically but you will also see the links to the individual photos at the bottom of the page. Here are a couple of examples from about 137 photographs….
I’ve downloaded 130 of the 137 photographs and placed them in a compressed file here. You can also download a .pdf compilation here. I omitted some of the ones not really directly related to the Legion.
Now that I shared these pictures I want to direct you to a book that contains these and many other rare photographs and images about the Foreign Legion in Tonkin. Of course, I’m talking about Andrew J. Mitchell’s recent book “A Pictorial History of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina, 1927-1945“. Mr. Mitchell, who runs the page Collecting French Foreign Legion Badges, provides an excellent commentary on these photos and the others that he included in the book. Additionally he cleaned up the images from the faded gray to a crisp black and white. I highly recommend his other books as well, Tigers of Tonkin, The History of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina (a revised Tigers of Tonkin) and his two newer books on Foreign Legion Insignia. These are one of a kind and well worth the price.
Pictorial History of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina, 1927-1945 (link)
The Tigers of Tonkin: The History of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina 1883-1945 (link)
The History of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina 1883-1945-Tigers of Tonkin (revised) (link)
Collecting French Foreign Legion Insignia, Volume 1, 1st Foreign Regiment (link)
Collecting French Foreign Legion Insignia Volume II, 2nd Foreign Regiment (link)