Section d'épreuve

Joseph Cosgrove

What do you mean by discipline section? For guys who get in trouble? Or is it for everyone in 2REP?
Actually it was for those regiments based in France. It was for the real bad trouble makers. The REP had/has its jail, but in the olden days you were sent to the section d'épreuve for really bad things. The 2 REI were based in Corte for a while and Bonifacio (I think- not my forte). I know that they also did basic when Castel were too full. The REP jail was in fort Maillebois. You can still see the cells. Fort Charlie had some cells also, however both were ‘retired’ when the jail was moved to the camp. I spent a year as a jail warden in the new jail.

The prisoners slept on the floor in a big dormitory. On weekends, with the arrêts simples i.e. the prisoners who worked during the day and then went to the jail to work and sleep in the evenings and weekends, I'd have as many as 30 prisoners. And you are on your own during the weekends.

I must have done a reasonable job, because after a year I went on tournante to Djibouti with the 3rd Cie and stayed another four and a half years with them. I had a truck accident in Chad which left me inapt to parachute, two broken fingers which never set properly (or rather do the tests to qualify, rope etc.) so I was kept on until the company went overseas again and I went to 5RE - as a jail warden !

Before anyone thinks that you have to be the hardest guy around to be a jail warden, not true. You have to be able to earn their respect and be tough but fair. I'd met guys who had spent 20 days or more in jail out on town, no hard feelings, that's the Legion way. I didn't make them do a banane and I didn't put them in jail. But my job was to put them to work and make sure that they did not get any privileges.

Well... especially the so-called “mafia anglaiseâ€￾, there would be more supply dumps around the camp than the Germans had on the eastern front during WWII, that's the Legion way.
Wow, thanks for that info.

I honestly never thought about needing to be hard to run a place like that as much as I have about needing to be hard to survive a place like that.

Joseph Cosgrove

What would an average day look like for prisoners ?
Calvi and 5RE, up an hour before everyone else, breakfast wash shave, pack all your sleeping kit away and then start sweeping the roads before the wakeup bugle was sounded. Then I'd go and see the Adjudant chef Calvi -A/C Saurez, 5 RE - Major Falco, to get any specific jobs to send the Punis, as they are known, to. Otherwise it was up to me. There was always something to be done around the camps. In Calvi we cleared out a huge area behind the Sgt's mess to make a BBQ site. Then there was the Pilot's living quarters that was turned into an English garden. Or if you just couldn't be bothered on one particular day, just get them to pick up rocks on the DZ. As long as they were busy everyone one was happy.

In 5RE, it wasn't the same, as far as the company commanders saw it, we were all stuck on an atoll in the middle of nowhere, not really much point in sending them to jail. But in both places the punis would work until 21:00 have a shower and then go to bed. The meals were the same as the others and their pay was not deducted. I can see the point of not going overboard because in the legion you are going to end up in jail at some point.

The idea is that when you get out you sill still want to carry on. At the same time, when you see all your mates going to the foyer for a couple of beers or going out on town during the weekend you are not in so much of a hurry to go back in.


Former Moderator
Communication about Compagnie Discipline I sent a few years ago to our illustrious member Jonny:

Our regiment was on way to Sahara as a form of punishment opposed to be disbanded and we stayed for about two weeks near CD.

What i saw with my own eyes: prisoners walking behind a GMC (flatbed) carrying a huge slab of stone on their backs (walking in a 90 degree angle) coming from the quarry. I do not remember the distance from the quarry to the camp. Cleaning the chiottes in our camp (from a former French regular unit) with a toothbrush. They were barrels placed under a platform.

They had to fashion stones for building the camp expansions, or maybe for selling that I do not know about. A guard, usually a caporal would check each stone with a builder's square for exact measurement, square angles and evenness.

The prisoners had to do everything running, if not getting something, then running in place. They got served the best food I ever saw in the Legion, but not enough time to eat it.

I spoke to one inmate (a Belgian who had hit a lieutenant during appel before going on operations) of my Escadron. He said if you wanted to eat, you had to dig a hole and dump your food in. The caporal of that day must have been in a good mood because he looked the other way when I dropped a pack of smokes and some money to him. I must mention that the prisoners were not really allowed to speak to us, lest the time with elastic would be applied. Basic time in CD was six months with elastic, meaning it could be extended to what ever time.

I could not find out if the prisoners were getting cigarettes or if they where allowed to smoke while in their cells. I believe they were getting some money to buy some essentials

The way it went, they stood in front of the cells, the server would come by and slap the food (all mixed together) in their gamelle and as soon he was at the end of the line they went to collect the gamelles. Leaving no time to eat all their food.

If any of the cadre or visitors dropped a cigarette butt, they would nearly fly to pick it up, not to smoke it, just to avoid extra punishment. What I heard during our time nearby: when a work party came back into camp, a caporal threw a ball told an inmate to run for it and get it. He then shot him claiming that he tried to escape. I am not sure what became of that incident because we were there not long enough and I did not get to go there every day. Also during that time, a night guard shot himself, he had left a note that he could not handle the going on's in CD anymore.

If I end up remembering more, I will write again.

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