Part of: Type 107 AFN Infantry Battalion, or other mixed battalion/regiment
Type: Light Infantry
Time Frame: Late 1950s
Personnel: 152 total
In the 1950s, France was embroiled in several armed conflicts. The most costly ones which it ended up losing were the colonial First Indochina War and Algerian War. During the latter, the French implemented some lessons learned from the former. Among them were improvements to its primary "pacification" formation, which during the war in Algeria was the Type 107 Infantry Battalion (AFN). This was a lighter infantry organization modified from the regular Europe-type. Over 200 of them operated in Algeria, with many non-infantry organizations (such as cavalry and artillery) being converted or raised as Type 107 infantry to meet the demands of COIN.
This article will cover the organization and equipment of the Type 107 Combat Company. These were organic to Type 107 Infantry Battalions, but also assigned to different organizations, such as cavalry regiments.
Command Platoon / Section de commandement (28 men)*
⁍ Command Group
⁍ Administrative Group
⁍ 60mm Mortar Team
*Includes 2× 2.5-ton trucks (6×6) and 2× Jeeps
4× Combat Platoons (1 OF, 8 NCO, 22 EN each)
• 1× Platoon Leader, Lieutenant, armed with a Mat 49 submachine gun
⁍ Command Group / Groupe de commandement
• 1× Deputy Platoon Leader, NCO, armed with a Mat 49 submachine gun
• 1× Radio Operator, armed with a pistol (MAC Mle 1950 9mm or PA 35 7.65mm) and carrying an SCR-536 radio
• 1× Messenger, armed with a rifle (Mas 36, Mas 36/51, Mas 49, Mas 49/56)
⁍ Anti-Tank Team
• 1× Gunner, armed with a pistol and an M20 Bazooka M20 or LRAC de 73mm Mle50
• 1× Assistant Gunner, armed with a pistol
⁍ Grenadier-Voltigeur Half-Platoon / Demi-section de grenadiers-voltigeurs
• 1× Half-Platoon Leader, Sergeant, armed with a Mat 49 submachine gun
⁍ 3× Grenadier-Voltigeur Teams, each
• 1× Corporal, armed with a Mat 49 submachine gun
• 4× Privates, between them: 2 submachine guns, 1 rifle with rifle grenades, 1 rifle with scope
⁍ Fusilier Half-Platoon / Demi-section de Fusiliers
• 1× Half-Platoon Leader, Sergeant, armed with a Mat 49 submachine gun
⁍ 2× Automatic Rifle Teams, each
• 1× Corporal, armed with a rifle
• 3× Privates, between them: 2 rifles, 1 automatic rifle (FM 24/29, BAR, AA52), and 1 pistol
The Type 107 AFN Infantry Battalion, or Bataillon D’Infanterie (Type Afrique du Nord dit “107"), was the predominant infantry formation used by the French Army during the Algerian War. The structure was characterized by lower levels of service and support for the amount of combat personnel, lighter armament than a standard infantry unit, and a simplification and consolidation of logistics and personnel management at the battalion-level (Galula, 1963, p. 47). Cavalry regiments that either converted to the Type 107 structure (like the 2nd Dragoons / 2e RD) or were raised on it originally (like the 20th Dragoons / 20e RD) used cavalry terminology such as escadron à pied (foot squadron), peloton, and demi-peloton rather than compagnie, section, and demi-section as in the infantry (Aïcardi). Of the many such battalions in 1958, 12 were cavalry regiments fully on foot and 11 were cavalry regiments with a mix of armored, mounted and foot squadrons (Noulens, 2011, p. 118-9). Another 21 Artillery Groups deployed as Type 107 battalions. Artillery Groups (equivalent to a battalion) that were converted were referred to as groupe à pied. According to this article, only 45% of artillery batteries actually deployed with guns.
France formed 200 of these light infantry battalions (Jackson, 2005, p. 76), intended mainly for static security duties in a sub-sector (Peterson, 2015; Noulens, 2011, p. 70). This was broadly called quadrillage or “the grid”, which referred to the map grid squares that divided the country and areas of responsibility. In addition to ensuring the security of specific points, pacifying their assigned subsector, and interacting with the local population, the Type 107 infantry or "sector troops" would fix enemy forces operating in their areas to allow for their destruction by more mobile reserves (Jackson, 2005, p. 73). The idea was to separate the population from the enemy and deny them a safe base of operations throughout Algeria (Galula, 1963, p. 64, 181), while the airborne and cavalry sought out and destroyed them.
Type 107 battalions consisted of a Combat, Support, and Service Company or CCAS (Command and Service Squadron or ECS in cavalry organizations) and 4 Combat Companies. They could also be reinforced with native auxiliaries known as harkis, who acted as trackers or filled regular security roles. They'd often be assigned at company-scale (about 120 personnel) or smaller as commandos de chasse (Jackson, 2005 p. 83; Aïcardi).
Although the organizational situation was somewhat fluid with the nature of unit conversions, disbandments, and mergers. The 19th Mounted Chasseurs (19e RCC) for example was initially organized on a North Africa-type cavalry structure, with an ECS, 2 modified M24 Chaffee light tank squadrons, and 1 M8 Greyhound armored car squadron. But when the 7th Hussars were dissolved in March 1959, its 4 foot squadrons were transferred to 19e RCC (Aïcardi). This was done to cope with a manpower shortage in Algeria. Disbanding battalion/regimental Command, Service and Support Companies/Squadrons freed up personnel to be redirected to the Combat Companies (Galula, 1963, p. 200). But the reorganization put strain on the regimental headquarters and introduced command and control problems, since the armored cavalry organizations used radios in different frequency ranges from the infantry organizations (Noulens, 2011, p. 110). Companies transferred from broken-up battalions also sometimes struggled to get a fair share of support from their new parent battalions. In some cases, companies were meant to be logistically supported by their parent battalion, but operationally supported by the battalion controlling the area they were physically operating in, which sometimes meant they received support from neither due to buck passing (Galula, 1963, p. 201).
Type 107 Combat Companies each consisted of a Command Platoon and 4 Combat Platoons. Combat Platoons in turn consisted of a Command Group (with the Platoon Leader, Deputy Platoon Leader, Radio Operator, Messenger and 2-man Anti-Tank Team with a Bazooka), a Grenadier-Voltigeur Half-Platoon (with 1 Sergeant and 3 teams, each of 1 Corporal and 4 privates, one acting as rifle grenadier), and a Fusilier Half-Platoon (with 1 Sergeant and 2 teams, each of 1 Corporal and 3 privates manning one FM 24/29, BAR, or AA-52) (Aïcardi; Rabbe). These teams could be task organized by the Platoon Leader depending on the mission requirements (Jackson, 2005, p. 76). Galula (1963, p. 48) lists a platoon based on 3 squads with a mix of light machine gun and smaller rifle-grenadier teams in his account of the Type 107 battalion, while Jackson (2005, p. 51) states that the 2-squad platoons pioneered by the French SAS "sticks" allowed for independent tactical employment at small scales.
The half-platoon (demi-section) structure was fairly similar to the regular infantry platoon of the time, although those had 2 Anti-Tank Teams at the platoon-level and 6 grenade launchers in the Grenadier-Voltigeur Half-Platoon instead of 3. However, armored infantry platoons, then mounted on American half-tracks, were based on a more conventional 3 Combat Squad (Groupe de combat) plus 1 Anti-Tank Squad (Groupe antichar) structure, which all infantry not deployed to Algeria would move to (minus the Anti-Tank Squad) with the 1959 reform (Rabbe).
The company’s Command Platoon meanwhile consisted of a Command Group (likely including the Commander and Signal Team), an Administration Group (likely including the Senior NCO, Clerk, Medic, and Cooks), and a 60mm Mortar Team (Aïcardi; Galula, 1963, p. 48). This amounted to about 28 men and also included 2 2.5-ton trucks and 2 jeeps (Galula, 1963, p. 48). Key radio equipment included 2 SCR 300s, 2 SCR 536s, and a SCR 694 in the Command Group (each Combat Platoon also had an SCR 536 handie-talkie) (Aïcardi). The company in total had 152 men (Galula, 1963, p. 47).
At the battalion-level, the Command, Support, and Service Company included the Company Commander, Signal Platoon, Service Platoon, Support Platoon, Protection Platoon (same as Combat Platoon), and a Medical Platoon (with 2 ambulances). Of note, the Support Platoon served 2 81mm mortars and 2 57mm recoilless guns. These were the heaviest weapons in the battalion. The Service Platoon meanwhile had 6 half-tracks, 1 5-ton truck, 6 2.5-ton trucks, and 4 1.5-ton trucks. The Battalion Commander, Deputy and Intelligence Officer were technically outside of the CCAS, administratively (Galula, 1963, p. 48). This made for about 812 personnel and about 40 vehicles in the battalion (Jackson, 2005, p. 76), meaning the CCAS would have approximately 204 personnel.
These battalions were notably weaker on firepower than a Europe-type infantry battalion, which had a dedicated Support Company with 4 75mm recoilless rifles, 6 81mm mortars, 4 M16 anti-aircraft mount half-tracks, and 6 dedicated 12.7mm machine gun teams (Rabbe). However, as France prevented the delivery of arms to the National Liberation Army (ALN) and forced them to fight dispersed, and a 353-man battalion was the ALN’s largest unit, the limited support weapons were enough to have a superiority in firepower (Jackson, 2005, p. 78). Mobility, although significantly worse than the mechanized cavalry and airmobile units, was not altogether abandoned. Trucks, part of centralized logistics units providing area support to a sector, could provide tactical transportation to the footmobile units. In fact, over half of logistics trucks were available for tactical movements as logistics requirements were low compared to a conventional war (Jackson, 2005, p. 77). As capability is framed in reference to the enemy, and the ALN was inferior to the Viet Minh who had just beaten the French, the lightness and leanness of the Type 107 battalion was not the detriment that it might’ve been during a European war.
Galula, D (1963). "Pacification in Algeria, 1956-1958"
Jackson, P (2005). "French Ground Force Organization and Counterrevolutionary Warfare 1945 - 1962"
Peterson, G (2015). "The French Experience In Algeria, 1954-1962: Blueprint For U.S. Operations In Iraq"