1st Armored Division (France)

The 1st Armored Division (French: 1re Division Blindée, 1re DB) is a unit of the French Army formed during World War II that took part in the Liberation of France.

1st Armored Division
1re Division Blindée
Insigne 1° DB.JPG
ActiveMay 1, 1943 – March 31, 1946
1948 – July 1, 1999
July 1, 2016 – present
CountryFlag of France.svg France
AllegianceFlag of France.svg French Army
BranchFrench Army
TypeArmored division
RoleArmoured warfare
Size~ 25,000
Nickname(s)division Saint-Louis
Motto(s)Nomine et Virtute Prima
EngagementsWorld War II

The unit was dissolved for the first time in 1946, and was recomissioned in 1948. It was dissolved again in 1999 as a consequence of the professionalization of the French Military.

The 1st Mechanised Brigade (1re BM), created on July 1, 1999, inherited traditions of the 1re DB. The 1re BM was again dissolved on July 21, 2015.

The 1st Division (1re DIV) was recreated in 2016.

Creation and different nominationsEdit

  • The 1st Armored Division (1re DB) was created on May 1, 1943.
  • It was dissolved on March 31, 1946.
  • The 1st Armored Division was recreated in 1948.
  • On July 1, 1999, the 1st Mechanised Brigade (1re BM) inherited the traditions of the division.
  • The 1st Mechanised Brigade was dissolved on July 21, 2015.
  • The 1st Division (1re DIV) was recreated on July 1, 2016 part of the Scorpion Force alongside the 3rd Division.

Motto and designationEdit

The Latin motto of the division, Nomine et Virtute Prima, translates literally to "La première par le nom et la valeur" in French, and "The first by name and valor" in English. The choice of the insignia, the cross of Saint Louis by général Jean Touzet du Vigier, derives from Tunisia, the place where the unit was formed and also where King Louis IX of France was laid to rest in 1270.

The division is known and referred to as "division Saint-Louis".

The division was cited three times during the Second World War.



In 1943, Free-French armed forces were formed in exile in French Colonies of North Africa under the command of General De Gaulle. The units were equipped with modern equipment provided by the United States, and the program anticipated the constitution of several armed divisions. Following the arrival of equipment in North Africa from the US, only three divisions were constituted, each comprising the following units:

  • One command staff
  • One company of headquarter staff
  • Three command staff brigade
  • One reconnaissance regiment
  • Three tank regiments
  • One chasseur tank regiment
  • Three mounted infantry battalions
  • Three artillery groups
  • One engineer battalion
  • One group FTA
  • One repair group squadron
  • One transmission company
  • One service company
  • One medical battalion
  • One exploitation group

This division was organised on American lines, in three Combat commands. The three French divisions were organised in this way for the duration of their 1944-1945 operations.

Within this context, the 1st Armored Division (1st DB) was formed on May 1, 1943. The division was heir to the Light Mechanised Brigade (French: Brigade Légère Mécanique, BLM) which was engaged in combat in Tunisia. On January 28, 1943, General Jean Touzet du Vigier (promoted on December 25, 1942) took command of this unit as it was being formed. He had left the command of the BLM to général Brossin de Saint-Didier and installed his command post in Mascara, which was the training center for armored brigades.

When first established, 1st DB consisted of a reconnaissance regiment, the 3rd Chasseurs d'Afrique, of Constantine; two tank regiments, the 2nd and 5th Chasseurs d'Afrique, Oran and Maison Carrée; and a fourth Chasseurs d'Afrique regiment, the 9th, which was equipped with tank-destroyers. Adding to these four formations, were one mounted regiment, the 2nd Zouaves, of Oran, the 68th Artillery Regiment, of Tunisia; the 88th Engineer Battalion, recently created at Port-Lyautey, and the 38th FTA group, of Ténès. During May 1943, the transmission and service companies joined, and in August, the train and a squadron group reinforced them. Then, the 2nd Chasseurs d'Afrique was divided (doubled) to form 2nd Tank-Cuirassiers Regiment, a regiment that Général du Vigier commanded in 1940. The latter had just been promoted to a divisional general on August 25, and all the forces which were under his disposition were grouped around Mascara.

The 2nd Zouaves Regiment disappeared and was replaced, as the infantry of the division, by three independent battalions, belonging to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Zouaves, forming a demi-brigade. The division became part of the First Army (then designated Army B) and which would participate in the amphibious assault on Provence. The initial embarkation commenced in Oran and Mers-el-Kébir at the end of the month of July 1944, after several manoeuvres. The Naval ships lifted anchors on August 10 and 11. The disembarkment should have taken lieu between Saint-Tropez and Saint-Raphaël. At the dawn of August 15, an enormous naval fleet was assembled north-west of Corsica steering and heading north.

The operations of the 1st Armored Division throughout the course of World War II comprised three phases:

  • From the Mediterranean to the Vosges, August 15 to November 13, 1944
  • Combat in Alsace, November 14, 1944 to February 9, 1945
  • February 10 to May 7, 1945

From the Mediterranean to Vosges, August 15 to November 13, 1944Edit

Throughout the course of the first phase operations, the CC1 was engaged in battle, then the entire division complemented by the VI Corps, fought in the siege of Toulon, Marseille and the liberation of Provence. The unit reached the Rhône in a series of rapid advances then regrouped, west of the river, for fifteen days. After disembarking, the Division engaged in an advance of 600 kilometers, which would bring them to the footsteps of the Vosges, following an uninterrupted series of combat engagements, which lead to the liberation of Saint-Étienne, Lyon, Anse et Villefranche, Chalon-sur-Saône, Chagny, Beaune, Dijon and Langres. Next began the hardships of a slow and difficult climb into the valleys of the Vosgues, in the mud and the rain and snow. After 54 days of marching towards Le Thillot, liberating Mélisey, Servance, Haut-du-Them-Château-Lambert, Ramonchamp, Cornimont, Travexin, Fresse, la Chevestraye, Recolonges, la Chapelle de Ronchamp, colline de Bourlémont, the division finally entered the Trouée de Belfort on October 18, 1944.

Following this first phase operations, the 1st DB was mentioned in dispatches for its combat performance.

A group of German snipers, taken during the fight for a road leading out of Belfort, France, is led through the streets of the city by members of the 1st French Armored Division. 22 November, 1944

Combat for Alsace November 14, 1944 to February 9, 1945Edit

During the course of the second phase of combat, the 1st DB was the first to penetrate Alsace and the first to reach Rhin. Advancing on November 14 from the high valley of Doubs, the 1st DB mounted an offensive on Belfort. With the division operating under the command of the 1st Army Corps (général Béthouart), it manoeuvred to Héricourt along the French and Swiss border and captured Delle on November 18. The next day, the CC3 was in Alsace and, at 1800, the tank platoon of Lieutenant Loisy was able to raise its standard on the banks of the Rhine, at Rosenau. The latter was part of the 4th squadron of the 2nd African Chasseur Regiment. This officer would meet his end on the November 23, when his tank was hit by an anti-tank launcher during the attack on Caserne Lefebvre at Mulhouse. On the 20 November, Colonel Caldairou entered the city. Nevertheless, despite the success resulting from the rendezvous of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps in the region of Burnhaupt, Colmar remained well protected. For the next two months, the division held a defensive sector in the snow at Dollar, south of what would be later referred to as the Colmar Pocket. On January 20, the 1st Army relaunched an assault on the two northern and southern flanks of the pocket, in the middle of a snow storm. Following a three-week struggle, Alsace was liberated and Colmar seized on February 2. The division, which had engaged in combat since December 5 under the orders of général Sudre, following an annoying delay in two minefields, achieved a breakthrough which led to the capture of Chalampé on February 9 in the morning. Accordingly, the division completed its role in the campaign of France, which started on August 15, 1944 and which ended six months later on the Rhine.

Following this second phase of operations, the 1st DB was again mentioned in dispatches for its combat performance.

February 10 – May 7, 1945Edit

At the beginning of the third phase, since April 5, the CC2 was in Germany. Combat engaged with the 9th Colonial Infantry Division, the path throughout the Forêt-Noire was cleared, to deliver to the 1st Army the important routes. Later to the turn, the CC3 combat engaged supporting the colonials. Following a march on Kehl and Offenburg, they made way south to apprehend Fribourg on April 21. They rejoined the division on the 28 south-west of Ulm. The 1st Armored Division crossed the Rhin on April 17. Général Sudre regrouped means at the exception of CC3 around Freudenstadt, and while acting with the cadre of the 1st Army Corps, his unit mounted the assault. The division accordingly made way to Danube by Rottweil and Horb, crossed the river on April 21 at Matulheim and Tuttlingen, and while engaging Stockach, pushed back all along the Danube by Sigmaringen until Ulm which was apprehended in liaison with the American 7th U.S. Army arriving from the North. The 1re DB apprehended Immenstadt on April 30 and reached the same day the Austrian frontier to occupy Aach and Oberstdorf. With only the field of mountains in plain sight, the division opened the way for the infantry and regrouped around de Biberach. First in the Rhin, first in Danube, the division with the Cross of Saint-Louis reached objectives following a sequence of successful event combat engagement series. The division played a decisive role towards the final campaign. The CC2 in Forêt-Noire, the CC3 in the fields of Bade, then the entire division engaged in combat until May 7.

Following this ultimate and third phase operations, the 1e DB was cited for a third time at the orders of the armed forces.

End of the warEdit

Following the cessation of hostilities, the 1ere DB joined Palatinat, around Landau. The division remained there for two months. The division sent to Berlin the first detachment in charge of representing France, on July 1, composed of : a squadron of the 3rd African Chasseur Regiment, a squadron of the 9th, 2 companies of the 1st and 3rd Zouaves, and a train detachment. On September 5, the headquarter staff of the division garrisoned at Trèves. The 1re DB, with reduced effectif by the demobilization, returned to France and garrisoned, October 1945 to March 1946 in the zones of Bourges, Châtellerault, Nantes and Angoulême. The division was dissolved on March 31, 1946.

Composition in 1944Edit

The 1re DB which disembarked in Provence in August 1944 was composed of 73% Europeans and 27% Indigènes.

Organic units:

Organization of the mounted Zouaves battalionsEdit

The infantry of the 1re DB was constituted of three mounted Zouaves battalions (French: bataillons de zouaves portés, BZP) organized within the following:

One BZP was assigned to each of the three CC which composed the 1e Armored Division. The effectif was almost 800 men (Pied-Noirs, Metropolitan French and Maghrebis) and consisted of 3 combat companies with almost 180 to 200 men each. Each company consisted of three combat sections (platoons) of almost fifty men mounted by 5 half-tracks (armed with machine guns, mortars and cannon 57 anti-tank).

Different and various circumstances governed combats of St-Loup-de-la-Salle, on September 6, 1944, almost 30 kilometers east of Tailly. The entire BZP endured the heavy attack. In other circumstances, road combats were also expected, which led the Zouave to often progress through mounting tanks. Nevertheless, Zouaves also often mounted assaults by themselves. Such various governing circumstances were taking place on September 9 in front of Nuits-St-Georges. A company of the 3rd BZP was ordered to apprehend Nuits-Saint-Georges. Tanks were occupied in Beaune and could not provide fire support. The resistance was strong and companies without rear support endured heavy losses. As tanks were made available again, assaults were relaunched. These were, briefly evoked, the types of various circumstances in which the BZPs conducted battle. Losses were heavy. The infantry accompanying the 1e DB endured killed in action and wounded, 1700 men out of 2400, the initial effectif. Almost 72% of the effective. Losses were compensated by reinforcements sent from North Africa as well as numerous volunteers who engaged as villages and cities were being liberated.[1]

1948 to 1999Edit

The 1st Armoured Division was recreated in 1948.

In 1951, the general headquarter staff garrisoned at Trèves in Germany. The division was part of the French Forces in Germany (French: Forces françaises en Allemagne, FFA).

Composition in 1985:

  • 1er Régiment de cuirassiers de St Wendel
  • 6e Régiment de dragons de Saarburg
  • 8e Groupe de chasseurs de Wittlich
  • 16e Groupe de chasseurs de Saarburg
  • 153e Régiment d'infanterie de Mutzig
  • 9e Régiment d'artillerie de marine de Trèves
  • 61e Régiment d'artillerie de Morhange
  • 13e Régiment de génie de Trèves
  • 1er Escadron d'éclairage divisionnaire de St Wendel
  • 1er Régiment de commandement et de soutien de Trèves

From 1993 to 1999, the 1re Division Blindée was part of the Eurocorps.


On July 1, 1999, the 1st Armored Division became the 1st Mechanised Brigade. The general headquarter staff garrisoned at Châlons-en-Champagne. The 1st Mechanised Brigade was dissolved on July 21, 2015.

Since 2016Edit

After the 1999 reorganisation, EMF 1 was created on l July 1999 at quartier Ruty in Besançon, as a NATO type division headquarters that could supervise 20-30,000 personnel. EMF 1 was dissolved in 2016 and the 1st Division recreated from it.

The 1st Division was recreated on July 1, 2016. The division, a combined arms formation, comprises three brigades as well as French units of the Franco-German Brigade and is part of the Scorpion Force alongside the 3rd Division.

Composition 2019Edit

Organization of the 1st Division.

The 1st Division is based in Besançon and is subordinated to the Commandement des Forces Terrestres (CFT). The division counts 25000 men in :

Badge of the 7th Armored Brigade
Badge of the 9th Marine Infantry Brigade
Badge of the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade
  • 27e Brigade d’Infanterie de Montagne (27e BIM) – 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade, in Varces
    • 27e Compagnie de Commandement et de Transmissions de Montagne (27e CCTM) - 27th Mountain Command and Signals Company, in Varces
    • 4e Régiment de Chasseurs (4e RCh) - 4th Chasseurs Regiment (AMX-10 RC, ERC 90, VAB, VBL vehicles), in Gap
    • 7e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (7e BCA) - 7th Mountain Infantry Battalion (VAB, VHM vehicles), in Varces
    • 13e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (13e BCA) - 13th Mountain Infantry Battalion (VAB, VHM vehicles), in Saint-Alban-Leysse
    • 27e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (27e BCA) - 27th Mountain Infantry Battalion (VAB, VHM vehicles), in Cran-Gevrier
    • 93e Régiment d'Artillerie de Montagne (93e RAM) - 93rd Mountain Artillery Regiment (CAESAR howitzers, RTF1 mortars, Mistral missiles), in Varces
    • 2e Régiment Étranger de Génie (2e REG) - 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment, in Saint-Christol
    • Centre de Formation Initiale des Militaires du rang 27e Brigade d’Infanterie de Montagne / 6e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (CFIM 27e BIM - 6e BCA) - 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade Troops Initial Formation Centre / 6th Mountain Infantry Battalion, in Gap
    • École militaire de haute montagne (EMHM) - High Mountain Military School, in Chamonix
    • Groupement d'Aguerrissement en Montagne (GAM) - Mountain Acclimatization Grouping, in Modane
Badge of the Franco-German Brigade

Only the French units of the Franco-German Brigade are listed below.


  1. ^ Texte émanant du colonel ANDERHUBER, ancien du 3e BZP, Amicale des Anciens du 2e Zouaves 20 juin 2011 - Bulletin n°45

Sources and bibliographyEdit

  • De Lattre de Tassigny, Histoire de la première armée française, Plon, 1949.
  • Collectif, La première division blindée au combat, Malakoff, sur les Presses de Théo Brugière, le 30 juillet 1947
  • Revue Ligne de front, Hors série numéro 5 de septembre octobre 2008.