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Bataillon Janson de Sailly

Page Created
February 21st, 2024
Last Updated
March 3rd, 2024
French Flag
Additional Information
Order of Battle
En pointe, toujours
August 1944
October 1st, 1945
Theater of Operations
Organisational History

The origins of the Bataillon Janson-de Sailly lays in the Parisian uprising in August 1944 against the German occupiers.

The Parisian resistance is under the command of Colonel Rol-Tanguy, who serves as the regional head of the Forces Françaises Libres or F.F.L. for Île-de-France. He holds his command post on rue de Meaux in the 19th arrondissement in Paris. Colonel Rol-Tanguy is also one of the leading members of the communist Francs-Tireurs et Partisans or FTP. Additionally, Colonel Lizé (real name Jean de Marguerittes) leads the Forces Françaises Libres of the Seine region, with his headquarters situated at 1 rue Guénégaud at the 6th arrondissement, in close proximity to the Hôtel de la Monnaie.

Jacques Chaban-Delmas, serving as the national military delegate of the provisional government, plays a pivotal role in welcoming General Leclerc. Colonel Fabien, in command of the first regiment of the Forces Françaises Libres of Paris, is stationed at 34 rue Gandon in the 13th arrondissement and 12 rue de l’Abbé-de-L’Épée in the 5th arrondissement.

The Resistance, though poorly equipped and lacking even a radio link with the outside world, is characterised by its fervent enthusiasm. As news of the rapid Allied advance towards Paris spreads following the victory at the Falaise Pocket, various groups begin to take action. Railway workers initiate a strike on August 10th, 1944, followed by the Paris metro and the gendarmerie on August 13th, 1944. The police join the strike on August 15th, 1944, followed by postal workers the next day. The general strike erupts on August 18th, 1944, drawing support from other city workers.

On the afternoon of August 18th, 1944, Colonel Rol-Tanguy posts notices calling for the mobilisation of Parisians and the commencement of insurrection. In retaliation, occupying forces ruthlessly kill 35 members of the Resistance in the Bois de Boulogne.

On August 19th, 1944, two thousand resistance police officers seize control of the Police Prefecture, raising the tricolour flag over the Prefecture and Notre-Dame, and engaging in combat with the Germans. Rol-Tanguy, coincidentally passing by on his bike with the posters concealed in his bag, steps in to assume command. The police officers are integrated into the FFI, and under the leadership of Léo Hamon, they capture the Hôtel de Ville the next day. Barricades are erected, impeding the movement of German vehicles, while skirmishes erupt against the occupying forces and members of the Militia who remained in Paris.

Despite a brief truce on August 19th, 1944, that very same day the police headquarters is seized by resistance police officers.

On the august 21st, 1944, Colonel Rol-Tanguy issues the order to set up barricades, and as a result, 600 barricades are swiftly erected throughout the capital. With 100,000 men under his command, he orchestrates a general manoeuvre liberating approximately 90 percent of the capital by August 24th, 1944. Meanwhile, German strongholds across the city are besieged.

In the suburbs of Paris, partisans and resistance fighters organise skirmishes and ambushes. However, due to a shortage of ammunition, the insurgents face a precarious situation. Commander Cocteau (“Galois”), acting on behalf of Colonel Rol-Tanguy, is dispatched to General Patton on August 23rd, 1944 to inform the Americans that half of the city is liberated, but the resistance is in dire need. In response, General Leclerc, backed by de Gaulle’s approval, orders the reconnaissance elements of his 2nd French Armoured Division to march on Paris, despite objections from American General Gerow. Eventually, General Eisenhower agrees to send reinforcements, deploying U.S. General Barton’s 4th Infantry Division to support the French efforts.

On August 25th, 1944 the surrender agreement is signed by the German General von Choltitz and General Leclerc at the Parisian police headquarters. Colonel Rol-Tanguy requests to be mentioned in the agreement, but Leclerc, as the commander of all the forces in the capital, including the Forces Françaises Libres, opposes it. Von Choltitz, taking his copy of the surrender document, is promptly sent to General Bradley’s headquarters for interrogation.

However, Colonel Rol-Tanguy manages to have his name included in General Leclerc’s copy of the surrender document, but von Choltitz’s copy remains unchanged. The addition made on a single document without the agreement of both contracting parties will therefore remain legally worthless.

Bataillon Janson de-Sailly

After Colonel Rol-Tanguy calling for the mobilisation of Parisians and the commencement of insurrection during the afternoon of August 18th, 1944, a few hundred students from the exam classes of Lycée Janson-de-Sailly and workmen from Western Paris join the Forces Françaises Libres or F.F.L.. They gather at the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly. The Lycée Janson-de-Sailly is located in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. During the uprising of Paris, it is transformed into military barracks and serves as a training ground for the men who have gathered there. They are preparing to defend and liberate the city of Paris. However, many of these individuals, confined to the capital, harbour aspirations for heroic deeds to liberate the country.

The battalion must improvise everything; they make extensive use of the German depots in the Paris region, seizing canned goods, bedding, weapons, etc., deemed “war prizes.” Those involved who have the opportunity are “invited” to take their meals with their families.

With the means at hand, a lot of initiative, and imagination, the officers do their best to instruct the student non-commissioned officers and the enlisted men. This includes handling weapons, initiation to the school of the unarmed soldier, tight order, and conferences on service in the field (due to a severe lack of manuals). Sections and companies conduct exercises in the Bois de Boulogne near the barracks high school. Additionally, enlisted personnel provide numerous services such as guarding the barracks and public buildings, particularly the War Ministry hotel. They are available for duty as needed.

However, the initial enthusiasm diminishes over time. Military clothing is slow in coming, and there is a lack of individual weapons. Discontent is evident, especially among the executives, where doubt begins to surface.

During an inspection conducted by Colonel Rol-Tanguy at the Lycée Janson de Sailly, he is astonished by the discipline and progress of the training of the young recruits, which he finds superior compared to what he usually observes elsewhere.


Since the landing in Provence, General de Lattre de Tassigny has been promoting what he terms “amalgamation” in the troops under his command. This involves integrating soldiers and officers from all backgrounds—those from 1939-40, volunteers, and Forces Françaises Libres members—to create cohesive units capable of effective combat. Colonel Rol-Tanguy, seemingly eager to maintain continuity in his approach, informs battalion leaders that Forces Françaises Libres formations in the Paris region will be dispersed among the communist patriotic militias responsible for policing and law enforcement. The intention is clear.

This decision sparks discontent among the general staff. They feel it goes too far and is unacceptable. They do not wish to be assimilated into an organisation aligned with a political party, especially one involved in policing and law enforcement. Shortly afterward, General De Gaulle dissolves the patriotic militias without further comment. But before that happens the leadership of the Bataillon Janson-de Sailly takes measurements on their own.

Captains Fougerolles and Brassens are then tasked with making contact with the 1er armée of General de Lattre de Tassigny, headquartered in Dijon. However, they lack a car and fuel for the journey. A resourceful member of the battalion is enlisted to acquire a car, despite the questionable means by which it is obtained. Fuel is sourced by siphoning from cars parked in affluent Parisian neighbourhoods.

On September 20th, 1944, the two captains and their driver set off for Dijon in the borrowed car. When they find General de Lattre de Tassigny, they explain the purpose of their mission to the General, who listens intently without interrupting. His stern gaze scans each of them, probing deeply. As they finish, the General rises from his seat, approaches them, and places a hand on each of their shoulders. “You’re both good men. I’ll take you with me, on one condition: you must be present next Tuesday, with your battalion; I will see if you are men of your word,” the General declares before the two messengers.” At that moment it is Thursday evening.

Upon returning to Paris on September 22nd, 1944, the messengers report their mission to the “secret committee.” Decisions are swiftly made, initially, only the 1er Batallion will depart, consisting of approximately five hundred men.

In a matter of hours, what initially appears almost impossible is resolved through voluntary generosity. Commander Berger, the battalion’s second in command, secures trucks and cars through a Parisian contact who had connections supplying the city during the occupation. Supplies for the men for three days of travel, as well as the necessary fuel for the journey from Paris to Gray-sur-Saône, are also obtained.

At this stage of the project’s progress, Lieutenant-Colonel de Gayardon, the commanding officer, confides in Captain Jouandet under the seal of secrecy.

Escape from Paris

That evening, the battalion is officially scheduled to conduct a night exercise, which consists of a march through the Bois de Boulogne. The men, confined from 16:00, are granted permission to go home, with the advice to provide themselves with food and blankets. At 17:00, each company commander gathers his officers and shares the secret plan with them, which is met with enthusiasm by all.

At 21:00, the wires are cut, and two officers kept away from the preparations are “neutralised”. The battalion then marches in close ranks, past the somewhat bewildered head of the post. In the darkness, shrouded by blackout, five hundred young men and their officers silently proceed towards the Place du Trocadéro and the Place d’Iéna, where thirty-five trucks and around ten cars await to transport them. This cohort, partly composed of gas-powered vehicles, sets off on the road.

The weather was dreadful; the rain persisted, and unfortunately, several cars are left uncovered. By morning, they reach Colombey-les-Deux Églises, a small, unfamiliar village, where they paused for a snack while waiting for the stragglers. The column stretches over one hundred kilometres, so they couldn’t afford to wait for the last trucks, which eventually catch up with the rest. Captain Jouandet is tasked with advancing to prepare the encampment at Gray. The Battalion arrives here during the evening of September 26th, 1944.

Under command of General de Lattre de Tassigny

On the morning of the September 27th, 1944, the battalion assembles along the Saône at the scheduled time, awaiting General de Lattre de Tassigny’s arrival. Despite his serious lateness, he reviews the battalion meticulously; it was no ordinary inspection.

Arranged in two rows, the General approaches each man, inquiring about their name, age, education, and place of residence. He commends our efforts, noting that they far exceed all expectations. However, he expresses disappointment in our numbers, stating that five hundred men is insufficient to form a battalion. “You must increase your numbers to 1000 men,” he instructs the officers, “find a way to manage it!”

With the battalion officially taken over, they receive orders to proceed to the Camp Valdahon , where they would undergo further training.

Fortunately, the General’s wishes to increase the numbers of the Battalion almost solve themselves. Many of those who stayed behind in Paris also clandestinely join the Battalion, either on foot to depart Paris or in trucks. Eventually, around 950 men fromParis are gathered at Camp Valdahon.

General de Lattre de Tassigny closely monitors the progress of the Battalion and pays them a visit a few days after their arrival. At that time, the camp is nearly set up, and he instructs the officers to undergo eight days of rigorous weapons handling and parade exercises. He emphasises the importance of their performance, stating that their behaviour will be scrutinised when they enter Germany. The General stresses the need for discipline, asserting that their strength and orderliness will earn them respect.”

The men face harsh conditions in the camp. They lack amenities such as windows and electricity, but the men are determined to make the best of it. After some initial discomfort, efforts are made to improve the living conditions, albeit modestly.

Commander Quinche, a seasoned veteran is entrusted with the task of preparing the battalion for combat. Quinche’s methods, honed under the leadership of General de Lattre de Tassigny, aims to mould the diverse group of recruits into a cohesive unit. Despite the gruelling training regime, the men exhibit resilience and camaraderie, evidenced by their spirited singing during breaks.

For weapons handling and exercises, the men are issued Russian rifles recovered by the Germans. This speaks volumes about the precariousness of their training material conditions, a precarity that doesn’t dampen their youthful enthusiasm.

After two months of this regime, the men, well-fed enough, are in good shape. In summary, an exceptional battalion, composed of men as one never finds assembled in a training battalion, both for their training, their intelligence, and their courage and ardent desire to serve; non-commissioned officers, not highly trained militarily, but very intelligent, full of dynamism, on whom one can absolutely rely.

During that time, the battalion receives its final weaponry, the French MAS 35 7.65mm pistol, the MAS 36 submachine gun and the British Bren light machine gun. A big disadvantage is that the ammunition of the Bren isn’t interchangeable with that of other rifles.

Machine guns and mortars do not arrive, and the Compagnie d’Accompagnement (Heavy Weapons Company), for lack of better, becomes a normal company.

This distribution of weapons is somewhat of a disaster, due to lack of time and ammunition. As a result, no one in the battalion is able to truly test their weapon before leaving camp. Everyone is barely able to learn the assembly and disassembly of the new equipment.

Battle for Masevaux

Halfway November, the Bataillon is on its way to its first assignment. They are transported to the Masevaux area where they become part of the Demi-Brigade de Choc of Lieutenant Colonel Gambiez. Together with the Commandos de France and the 1e Bataillon de Choc their participate in the liberation of Masevaux. The battalion suffers heavy losses, with 45 soldiers killed and approximately a hundred wounded. Nevertheless, supported by tanks, they continue their advance in the forest overlooking Thann, although the difficult terrain resulted in further casualties.

On December 2nd, 1944, the 4e Compagnie is transported to the Hundsruck pass to relieve two companies of the Bayard battalion. Despite encountering strong resistance and facing tragic losses, they eventually seize Hill 757. The company establishes connections with other units and conducts patrols, resulting in engagements with the enemy and casualties. Material conditions worsen due to rain, but valuable information is obtained from a captured German liaison officer. On December 5th, 1944, the company is relieved amid mortar fire, and it returns to Bourbach.

During this period the rest of this battalion engages in a succession of battles in Upper Alsace between Belfort and Mulhouse. They are relieved on December 6th, 1944, and sent for rest. The month ends with celebrations for Christmas and New Year’s.

On January 1st, 1945, Captain Audray assumes command of the 4e Compagnie.

During that period, General de Lattre de Tassigny decides to establish a school for non-commissioned officers in Rouffach. He utilises a former psychiatric hospital previously occupied by the Waffen-SS. Later that January, the first men of the Bataillon arrive to prepare cantonments in the villages surrounding Rouffach. Part of the group are an officer, a non-commissioned officer, and few enlisted men, including a Lorraine native who serves as interpreter due to the prevalent dialect in Alsace.

They travel to the surrounding towns visit each farm and start assigning accommodations, leaving a mark on the doors indicating the occupants.

Soon, the training of non-commissioned officers starts, focusing on indoor exercises and weapon handling. Despite the slow and meticulous cadences, it was considered beneficial and did not result in any adverse effects. In hindsight, it contributed positively to their skills and discipline.


Meanwhile, on January 5th, 1945, several units are reorganised into six Bataillons de Choc. The original Bataillon de Choc becomes the 1er Bataillon de Choc, 1er Choc. The Bataillon Janson-de Sailly is reformed as the 2e Bataillon de Choc, 2e Choc. The Commandos de France are transformed into the 3e Bataillon de Choc, 3e Choc. The Commandos de Cluny establish the 4e Bataillon de Choc, 4e Choc. The Groupement de Commandos d’Afrique is reorganised into the 5e Bataillon de Choc, 5e Choc under Commander Ducournau, while the Groupement de Commandos de Provence and the Commandos de Paris/Bataillon Désiré become the 6e Bataillon de Choc, 6e Choc.

On 18th, January 1945, these six Bataillons de Choc form three Groupements de Commandos de Choc, each comprising two Bataillons.

  • The 1re Groupement de Commandos de Choc, led by Lieutenant Colonel Gambiez, includes the 1re and 3e Bataillon de Choc.
  • The 2e Groupement de Commandos de Choc, under Commander Quinche, consists of the 2e and 4e Bataillon de Choc.
  • The 3e Groupement de Commandos de Choc, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bouvet, encompasses the 5e and 6e Bataillon de Choc.
Colmar Pocket

By the end of January, the 2e Bataillon de Choc moves back into action again to help and clear the Colmar pocket. On January 21st, 1945, the 2e Groupement de Commandos de Choc, under Commander Quinche to reinforce the 9e Division d’Infanterie Coloniale. They help the Division to counter the French attacks. Two days later, the 9e Division d’Infanterie Coloniale and the four Battalions of the two Groupements de Commandos de Choc encounter fierce German opposition at the cities of Anna and Kuhlman. They manage to occupy only the Meyershof farm and reach the city of Richwiller that day.

On January 25th, 1945, the city of Anna and the two Kuhlmann wells are secured the 2e Bataillon de Choc. The 2e Bataillon de Choc also successfully captures the city of Richwiller that day, facing heavy machine gun and mortar fire. The road to Rouffach is about to be open. However, this battle stretches on for 9 days.

On February 9th, 1945, they reach the river Rhine, clearing the Colmar pocket from Germans. The battalion mourns the loss of eleven soldiers, with 70 others wounded or suffering from frostbite.

In February-March 1945, following a period of rest, the 2nd Shock underwent a phase of refinement and training in Rouffach, where General de Lattre had recently established a leadership school to educate new officers and non-commissioned officers. As per General Malézieux-Dehon’s account, the training was rigorous and true to life, incorporating exercises with live ammunition.

Crossing the Rhine

During the late evening of March 30th, 1945), with the aid of 3 or 4 inflatable boats ferrying back and forth, an entire company of the 3e Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens starts crossing the river near Speyer and established a small bridgehead. Similarly, near Germersheim, elements of the 151re Regiment d’Infanterie crossed. Despite vigorous enemy counter-attacks, these bridgeheads hold firm. Karlsruhe is seized on April 4th, 1945, at which time three infantry divisions and one armoured division (totaling 130,000 men and 10,000 vehicles) are widely dispersed on the right bank of the Rhine, linked to the Palatinate by a 10-ton bridge at Speyer and soon, a 30-ton bridge near Germersheim.

The 2e Bataillon de Choc crosses the Rhine on April 3rd, 1945.

On April 18th, 1945, General Eisenhower orders the 1er Armée to halt, but General de Lattre de Tassigny refuses. The aim is to outpace the Americans, catch them off guard, cross south of the Danube, and advance towards Ulm to bypass the Swabian Jura, where the Germans might defend themselves. General de Lattre de Tassigny orders General Béthouard to cross the Danube on the April 22nd, 1945 and take the cities of Constance and Ulm by the April 25th, 1945.

Approaching the Black Forest via Baden will allow the Germans time to fortify and organize. However, the French 2e Corps d’Armée enters the massif from the north, seizing Freudenstadt. They advance towards Stuttgart, with the 1e Corps d’Armée following suit. Starting from Freudenstadt, they encircle the Black Forest cutting the German Troops off.

On April 23rd, 1945 the 2e Bataillon de Choc departed Karlsruhe at 07:30, arriving in Messkirch by 21:00, travelling 250 kilometres, passing through Baden-Baden, Freudenstadt, Obendorf, Roteweil, crossing the Danube and Donaueschingen, and finally reaching Tübingen. On April 24th, 1945, the 2e Bataillon de Choc reaches Biberach, 50 kilometres south of Ulm. Between April 25th, 1945 and May 2nd, 1945, the 2e Bataillon de Choc scoures through 120 localities in the region and the surrounding forests of Biberach, capturing numerous prisoners. Although witnessing the defeat of their country, the German population seems relieved to see the cessation of hostilities. They greet the French troops with some apprehension.

On May 8th, 1945, the war comes to an end. General de Lattre de Tassigny travels to Berlin the day before for the signing of the German surrender.

The troops received Order of the Day No. 9 the next day, signed by their leader. It was read aloud to everyone during the day.

For a short while, the 2e Bataillon de Choc is part of the occupational force of Germany. The 2e Bataillon de Choc is on the list to be disbanded. The enlisted soldiers have the choice to either be demobilise or go to Indochina, where the war, is not yet finished.

Following Germany’s capitulation, the Groupements de Commandos are stationed in the Ravensburg area until late 1945.

On October 1st, 1945, the three Groupements de Commandos de Choc are reformed to the three Bataillons of the 1er Régiment d’Infanterie de Choc Aéroporté, 1er RICAP near Wurtemberg, Germany.

  • 1er bataillon: consisting of the 1er Bataillon de Choc and 2e Bataillon de Choc
  • 2e bataillon: consisting of the 5e Bataillon de Choc and 6e Bataillon de Choc
  • 3e bataillon: consisting of the 3e Bataillon de Choc and 4e Bataillon de Choc.

After this date the units move back to France, to the vicinity La Pallu near Bordeaux.