2ème Division Blindée (2nd Armored Division), 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique (RCA) and the Spanish 9th Company of III/Régiment Mache du Tchad (RMT)

In late August 1944, Free French General Leclerc was growing rapidly concerned about the fate of Paris. Like General de Gaulle, he feared that the communist-lead French Resistance in Paris might begin a pre-mature uprising that could result in the Germans taking revenge on Paris as they had on Warsaw—slaughtering thousands and desecrating a historic city. A successful communist uprising would create long-term political problems for the ambitious de Gaulle, who despised communism and feared the growing rise of militant leftist political parties in France. Yet standing orders prohibited any attempt to liberate Paris, still miles behind German lines.

Nonetheless, Leclerc told Captain Raymond Dronne, commander of the (mostly) Spanish 9th Company of III/Régiment Mache du Tchad (RMT) “Nonsensical orders need not be complied with” and sent Dronne’s unit to take Paris at any cost.[1]

On 25 August 1944, Dronne lead his rag-tag group of former Spanish Republicans nicknamed “La Nueve” into Paris. Many of these men, represented in the picture on the left, had fled Franco’s Spain, been interned in Vichy French concentration camps, and then joined the Free French to continue their fight. Equipped with American gear and uniforms, many hoped that the Allies’ struggle against fascism would not end in France, or Berlin, but rather in Madrid. Indeed, in some of the original photos of the liberation of Paris, you can see half-tracks bearing the names of some of the great battles of the Spanish Civil War and even a Spanish Republican flag. After the liberation, a few anarchists in La Nueve had to be talked down from destroying a Spanish Embassy with an AT Gun.

In the picture above, I represent a member of the 12ème Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique (RCA), Division Leclerc in dress uniform.

Originally organized by the Vichy government in response to the British attack on Dakar in September 1940, the 12ème RCA joined General Giraud’s Free French forces as the last tank squadron of the French Empire” on 6 January 1943.[2]

By 1944, the 12ème RCA had become part of General Leclerc’s 2ème Division Blindée (2nd Armored Division) and equipped with American vehicles, uniforms, and weapons. They landed on Utah Beach in early August 1944, experiencing their first combat during the Battle of Mortain and the Falaise Gap.

The 12ème RCA followed behind the III/RMT with orders to take and hold Paris. After some bitter street fighting, on 26 August 1944, Paris was liberated and the 12ème RCA paraded along the Champs Élysées.

Whether career military or former Spanish Republican, the Division Leclerc took Paris and fought bravely all the way to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.
If you want to read more about this crazy history, check out the sources below!

[1] Raymond Dronne, A Spanish Company in the Battle for France and Germany (1944-1945), trans. Paul Sharkey (ChristieBooks, 2014).

[2] They were originally part the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique, renamed the 12ème RCA in February 1943 after they joined the Allies.


Dronne, Raymond. A Spanish Company in the Battle for France and Germany (1944-1945). Translated by Paul Sharkey. ChristieBooks, 2014.

Robinson, Merlin, and Thomas Seignon. Division Leclerc: Free French 2nd Armored Division, 1943-1946. Illustrated by Raffaele Ruggeri. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2018.

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