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    Photoshoot: Battle of Tu Lê, Indochina 1952

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    Hi all,

    I've just joined this forum and have not posted previously. I believe this is the most suitable section to post this in. My apologies to the moderators if it is not...

    Over the last five years I have developed a keen interest in the French Indochina war of 1946-54 and the Algerian War of 1954-62. I also spent eight years as a 'reenactor' in a WWII Living History outfit called 'Thunder From Heaven'. During this time we put on many private photoshoots combining our vast collections of equipment - and skills we had learnt working as extras in TV documentaries. I believe that the coverage of WWII has now reached saturation point so have turned away from it to seek new challenges. I now focus my attention almost entirely on Indochina and Algeria.

    What follows is a series of photographic reenactments of the battle of Tu Lê in Northern Vietnam, October 1952. This depicts the French 6th Colonial Parachute Battalion and their fighting withdrawal from Tu Lê against 10,000 Viet-Minh soldiers. At the time the '6e BPC' was one of France's most experienced airborne units. Numbering some 600 men, half of whom were Vietnamese, they spearheaded the creation of the Vietnamese National Army, and showed Vietnamese soldiers to be every bit the equal of Europeans.

    I researched the battle as thoroughly as possible and tried to source clothing and equipment to make the scenario as authentic as possible. I am constantly finding new sources of information and photos that support, or contradict, my previous research so I will always welcome any constructive criticism. Although I have made every effort to make the photos as authentic as possible they are, of course, subject to unavoidable restrictions due to location, budget, and the availability of equipment.

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    Hello Cookie.

    Thanks for showing these pictures. Even though re-enactment and my computer's unwillingness to load all of them I must say that the environment, equipment and weaponry is right on the mark. I also appreciate your mention of the Vietnamese personnel who were part of the 6.BPC . They were present in practically all units plus there were formations consisting of nearly all Vietnamese personnel in the French Forces deployed in Indochina. Having been assigned to a French Foreign Legion unit strongly composed of Vietnamese personnel from 1951 to 1953 and again as of early 1954, your mention of my former comrades in arms was quite good to read.

    The 6.BPC as you know, was formed in July 1952 under the command of Maj. Bigeard who retained command through the battle of Dien Bien Phu. The battalion lost from the start of its deployment in Indochina until its dissolution in August of 1954 a total of 337 killed and missing in action. It earned citations at Army Level and the Fouragere of the Military Medal.

    Bernhard H. Holst

    formerly with the 2.Amphibious Group of the 1.REC

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    Thank you for your comment Bernhard, it is very much appreciated. I was particularly impressed by your accounts of the battles in Indochina you have posted here. Accounts like these are rarely translated into English.

    I have now conducted four photoshoots covering Indochina and Algeria. I have always sought to make the depiction as accurate as possible. This of course included the depiction of 'les Indigènes' within the French units. Having read all of the books available in the English language I was struck at just how reliant the CEFEO was on local volunteers.

    Marcel Bigeard and his 6e BPC and 3e RPC have been, so far, the main drive behind my photoshoots and are themes I continue to return to. I have immense respect for the accomplishments of General Bigeard, despite the complete lack of any of his works being translated into the English language.

    I am currently working on two projects, one of which I am sure will be most interesting to you. The first is the evacuation of Cao Bang via Route Coloniale 4 in 1950. I put together a photoshoot to depict a small group of survivors made up of the 3e Régiment Étranger d'Infanterie, Goumiers from the Tabors Marocains, and a Thai partisan guide - from the 'Charton column'. Unfortunately this photoshoot had to be cancelled due to an extreme amount of rainfall which flooded our location for some time. This will be tried again next year.

    The second is LtCol Chateau-Jobert's 2e Regiment Parachutiste Coloniaux at Port Fouad in the Suez Canal zone, 1956. This is to take place on 5th August. Hopefully the weather will hold out for us...

    Best regards

    Mark Allen

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    Hello Mark Allen:

    I wish you the best of luck in your plans. The tragedy of Oct.1950 along the Route Coloniale 4 was devastating and the sacrifice of some units memorable. The number of survivors of the battle and subsequent captivity was so small. That of Vietnamese personnel of French Forces then and of later engagements was close to non .

    Of books in English there are some worth the effort to obtain should these be unknown to you: Bernard Fall; Ted Morgan's Valley of Death about the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in my opinion the best I have read. Should you be restricted to reading in English there nevertheless are the two volumes in French but easily to follow:

    - Histoire Des Parachutistes Francais, 1975 Societe de Production Litteraire. Includes OoB, commanders, Engagements, maps, losses, unit citations etc. Begins with the formation to 1975.

    The short French-British and Israeli war with Egypt is to me an example of well executed land, sea and air operations on short notice by quite different military forces.

    Again much success, thanks for your kind words,

    Bernhard H. Holst

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    Thank you for the information and advice, it is very much appreciated. I will post some more of the photoshoots here in the next few days.



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    • 10 months later...

    I have immense respect for the accomplishments of General Bigeard, despite the complete lack of any of his works being translated into the English language.

    Dear Sir and all,

    SFJI. I am an Editor, specialized in "Memory" DVDs on military subjects about French Troops during the Indochina War (for the moment). I'm working these days on the "Tu Lê" battle and trip back (16-23 oct 1952), after having published 16 DVDs on General Marcel Bigeard, his officers and other witnesses (see http://www.lumierebro-editions.com - no advertising intended).

    I agree on the fact that there is not much litterature on Bigeard in English, but should you think something should be done to translate whatever seems appropriate to English, I'd be proud and happy to help, assuming that this work could be supported by a UK Editor (or anybody else).

    Warm Regards


    French Army, Signal Corp, 1971-1976

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    Hi Didier,

    I do not think there is anyone publishing works in the UK about General Bigeard. Most books only deal in general campaigns, and they are rare enough. There are only a handful of authors being published in the UK who write about French modern campaigns. One is Martin Windrow, who has published two books, and the other is Alastair Horne, who wrote his book back in the 1970's!

    I see it as an enjoyable challenge to find and personally translate French texts. It makes it worth the effort.

    Best regards


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