Hodgepodge for August 2014

Another month gone by.  It’s realize its been kind of slow for this blog this summer.  I think I’ve been doing too many other projects lately that has taken it’s toll on my posting here.  It’s amazing that when you finally have more free time (summer vacation) you somehow find more things to occupy that time.  (I need a vacation from my vacation I suppose.)  I’ll try my best to step it up a notch…the Monlegionnaire blog is over four years old and it’s not going anywhere.  Thanks for your patience.  Now here are the odds and ends I found this month…

LeGrandHomme

1. Le Grand Homme.  This is a recently released movie from director Sarah Leonor that features a former Foreign Legionnaire as the lead character.  The plot is set in contemporary France and revolves around a wounded Legion veteran who repays his comrade who saved his life in Afghanistan by looking after his son.  A decent review and Youtube link are here.  I haven’t seen it yet but will add this to my list.

StupidSocialists

2. The French Foreign Legion: A Negative Reflection of France’s Values.  Here is an interesting article I found at IILIR.eu (The European Institute for International Law and International Relations).  It’s a disjointed piece all together, written by one of the many verminous pseudo-intellectuals who tend to gravitate towards organizations such as IILIR.  The author, whoever it may be, digs up some old and new incidents of severe hazing and criminality that has cropped up over the years in association with the Foreign Legion and attempts to use those incidents to declare the Foreign Legion incompatible with the ideals of French justice.  Also cited is a book written in 2010 (Foreign Legion: the lost soldiers of the Republic by Stéphane Rodriguez and Benoist Simmat) that was highly critical of the Legion.  In typical socialist fashion the intent of the article is to promote the reform of certain Legion practices such as naturalization given to those discharged with a Certificat de Bonne Conduite and the practice of issuing new identities (anonymity) to recruits.  ….because, you know, the poor, poor immigrants have it so hard in an organization bloated with the “pregnancy of racism” and it should be easier and fairer to become a French citizen.  More at cervens….

3.  Atherton Scenics Classic Foreign Legion Fort.  These pictures were found on eBay.  I have no other information about the company (Atherton/Formtech/Quartermaster Corps) other than they also make WWI trenches and other scenic terrain at 54mm.   Nice reference for building your own.

 4. Assignment Foreign Legion.  I’ve about given up on ever seeing an episode of this 1950’s UK television show There seems to be no links to any copies online either for sale, or download or video streaming.  There were twenty six 30 minute episodes made staring Merle Oberon as a foreign correspondent who is doing research into the Foreign Legion.  Like the American kids show Captain Gallant, this show also had the cooperation of the Foreign Legion in North Africa and much of it was shot on location and features some real legionnaires in some scenes.  Due to the Algerian FLN insurgency later episodes were filmed back in the safety of Great Britain.  An episode guide can be found here.  I mention it only because it’s frustrating to think how much good television is seemingly out of reach.  Any tips would be appreciated. 

MPW-732895. French Foreign Legion War Game.  A couple of quick shots of a convention war game that merges the Yaquinto Album war game rules with a 3D Foreign Legion fort and miniatures. From the colonial war gaming website Tanzanica.

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Legion of Outcasts by Hurk Davis

LegionofOutcastsFC Legion of Outcasts by Hurk Davis (as told to author by Peter Reeves).  313 pages.  1969.  Holloway House Publishing Company (HH-161).

Legion of Outcasts is another “Foreign Legion Memoir” that generally follows the same pattern set so many other literary minded legionnaires; general descriptive accounts of early wandering, joining & assessment, travel and arrival to the Regiment, training, some tall tales, and either disillusionment and desertion or completion of the five year contract.   The time frame for this book is roughly 1960-1962 which is a bit outside the scope of my blog but I felt I should make note of it because it’s a damn good book.  In fact, it was so interesting and descriptive that I finished it in two days.

Peter Reeves was a Dutchman who was raised in a large family but somehow become the family’s black sheep.  At the first opportunity he leaves Holland to travel the world and eventually works in the United States for 15 years.  A family wedding draws him back home for what he hopes would be a happier reunion with his estranged parents and siblings.  When this doesn’t work out as he hopes he travels to Paris (for his very first time) to see the famous art museums there.  In Paris he quickly runs through his money and finds himself joining the Foreign Legion at the age of 37.  After some funny accounts of time in Marseilles and Side Bel Abbes he is assigned to the Legion base at Saïda for basic training.  He is awarded his Kepi Blanc and selected for follow-on medic training at Sidi Bel Abbes.  He effortlessly fits in despite not speaking French very well and seems to thrive under the hard training in North Africa.  Upon completion of his medical training he returned to Saida and functioned as a Battalion medic–now wearing the green beret that was adopted for regular wear in 1959.

All was not well in Algeria however.  During Reeves’ time in the Legion the country was being torn apart by an Arab nationalist insurgency that started in 1954.  Reeves was a witness and to a certain degree a victim of the 1961 rebellion against President DeGaulle  by various paratroop and Foreign Legion units.  His own Battalion commander sided with the rebellious OAS (Organisation de l’armée secrète) during the “Generals’ Putsch” but quickly jumped back to command when the revolt fizzled out.  Hundreds of regular legionnaires had switched sides to the OAS or simply took an opportunity to desert what was becoming an unrewarding military obligation.  The very future of the Foreign Legion was in doubt (everyone thought DeGaulle would disband it for good).  Peter Reeves decides one day that he too should desert and never returns to his barracks from an errand.  He prepared well and has the intention of walking to Oran or Algiers and hopping a ship to Europe.  This was a very exciting part of the book and he gets quite some distance before being ratted out by a local and arrested by French military.

It was only after being captured did Reeves’ stint in the Foreign Legion turn from boring garrison medical duties to an unbelievable six months of beatings, abuse and torture at the Disciplinary Company at Aïn Séfra.  His incarceration covers only the last sixth of the book but it was the most startling to read.  Endless make-work projects in the broiling Saharan sun coupled with brutal and senseless attacks by the sadistic guards pushes Reeves to his limits and it was his body that ultimately fails and almost kills him.  After six months of living hell he finishes his sentence and faces his fate at the hands of the revolving door Legion Courts Martial: either complete his five years of service in the Legion or be dishonorably discharged.  He has no kind words to say about the Legion to the presiding officials and they decide he should be discharged.  Adieu! 

This book is billed as Adult Reading by the publisher but there really was nothing obscene in here and it all came across more like a Real Man Adventures pulp type of story.  Lots of information on brothels and prostitutes and some early chapter encounters (one with another man!) but I’m not sure this warranted the “Adult” label at all.  What I liked most is the accurate, well written description of just about every aspect of the Foreign Legion that he encountered.  I guess this would be due to author Hurk Davis but Reeves evidently has a great memory.  Legion of Outcasts is a real straight forward memoir full of anecdotes, detailed descriptions of garrison and field life and populated with those amazing personalities you seem to find only in the French Foreign Legion.

LegionofOutcastsBC

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Legion Pulp: Affair of Honor

AffairHonor (Cvr)(Today’s post is a little late again–it’s August and we took a small vacation.)  But anyway, this is another Georges Surdez short story which appeared in the April 1937 issue of Adventure.  The plot concerns a young, fiesty lieutenant, newly assigned to the Moroccan front, named d’Herviller.  He is quickly awarded for valor and wins the respect of his hard-bitten legionnaires.  However, when he meets his Battalion commander, just before a big offensive, it is revealed that the two men are bound one’s actions from the distant past.

Affair of Honor

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Grit Gregson: Will the Arabs Revolt?

GritGregson_WillArabsRebelHere is another short story from the pages of the UK comic Lion.  This one appeared 06 February 1954.  Grit Gregson, Fighter in the Foreign Legion, infiltrates an Arab rebellion and almost loses his head to Al-Qaeda fanatics before calling in an airstrike.  No–not really.  Actually, one well placed rifle shot and some Legion back up actually get the perpetually aggrieved hotheads to put up their hands and meekly submit to captivity.

Grit Gregson_Will the Arabs Rebel

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Hodgepodge for July 2014

Some of the odds and ends related to the Foreign Legion that I discovered this past  month…

1.  Regiments of the French Foreign Legion.  Here is a very nice documentary on the Foreign Legion.  Though titled “Regiments of” it is really much broader in scope and covers modern deployments and training interlaced with bits of Legion history and plenty of interviews of legionnaires and coverage of day to day life.

2.  French Foreign Legion Miniatures.  A couple nice reviews of several sets of Foreign Legion related miniature figures can be found on the Bolt Action.net website.  The first article reviews Gorgon Miniatures which depict members of the 13th DBLE figures from the 1940 campaign in Norway.  There are two other articles which introduce WWII era Foreign Legion and Senegalese figures.  There is also a great article on painting the Senegalese figures from Griping BeastGorgon

FFL_2_IMG_2630

 

3.  World War One and Harvard.  I actually remembered to tell my wife and kids a couple days ago that in Sarajevo about 100 years ago on 28 June, World War One was sparked by the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife and that the big shooting match began in earnest in August.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming documentaries, articles, book releases and other commemorative events related to The Great War.  One of these appeared on the Harvard College website entitled “The Choicest of their Kind” and is about those “Harvard men” who fought.   The first Harvard man to die was Edward Mandell Stone.  He was serving in the Foreign Legion at the time as were many others such as Alan Seeger.

4. Valiant Hearts: The Great War.  Speaking about The Great War, here is a new video game from Ubisoft that fellow grognards might enjoy.  The graphics are kind of odd to me but it looks very nice and features a composite American Legionnaire.  Game review hereVH_SC_14_Freddy_Marne_148647

 

 5.  Black Hat Miniatures.  There are five sets (Exotic Adventures) of 28mm Foreign Legion miniatures available from Black Hat that look very nice and appear compatible with figures from other manufacturers.  Link  They also have some Tauregs to do battle with the legionnaires.  They are produced under license by Unfeasibly Miniatures whose press release notes: “The range depicts the French Foreign Legion at the turn of the 19th Century in Northern Africa, immortalized in the stories of Beau Geste by P.C. Wren. The range includes Tuareg’s, who resisted the French colonial invasion of their Central Saharan homelands. We have two more packs of Legionnaires with improvised weapons which will be released as soon as production moulds have been made.  Mark at Unfeasibly has plans to expand on the range to add mounted troops.”

FFL_1 FFL_2 FFL_4

 

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Romance & Revolt in Under Two Flags

Poster - Under Two Flags (1936)_06

I found a very informative and entertaining article on this movie in the June 1936 edition of Romantic Movie Stories (a movie/romance pulp of the time).  This 1936 version is the fourth film adaption of the famous 1867 novel by Ouida (pseudonym of the English novelist Maria Louise Ramé) which actually featured the French Chasseurs d’Afrique and not the Foreign Legion for it’s romantic setting.  This article gently weaves together the action and plot with anecdotes about the making of the movie and the directors, actors and actresses involved.  They also seemed to have found the same spot in the California desert that was the filming location for other Foreign Legion films such as Beau Geste and there are references to the Yuma set.  I smiled a bit when I noticed the town name of Saida corresponded to the 2nd Regiment’s insignia on the legionnaire’s collar–as the Algerian town of Saïda was actual location of the 2REI until the 1960’s.  I haven’t seen the movie as it is hard to find a copy but there are some Youtube videos (Making Under Two Flags & another short clip) that give some further insight.   Like other features in the magazine this one begins with a nice double splash page as seen below.  (the poster came from the wonderful Dr. Macro site)

I can’t help but speculate that it was Ouida’s novel that ultimately gave us rough around the edges pied noir cafe girls, dingy Legion drinking joints, and garrison town intrigue and romance that are such common features to Foreign Legion stories and movies.  P.C. Wren certainly found this setting suited many of his novels as did many other early writers and film makers.

Image 0016 and 0017 join

 

Under Two Flags

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Legion Pulp: Outguessed

LEGIONNAIRE_2This short pulp story comes from the pages of Thrilling Adventures fiction magazine–specifically the July 1936 issue.  It was written by Ralph Milne Farley which was a pen name for Roger Sherman Hoar who wrote for several pulp titles between the two world wars and after his early career in Massachusetts politics.  Thrilling Adventures was a late competitor to the long running Adventure but only lasted from 1931 until 1943. This is a quick read and says much for planning ahead.  (Picture is not from the story.)

Outguessed

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Grit Gregson Fighter in the Foreign Legion: The Wine Barrel’s Secret

GritGHere is a short story featuring the Grit Gregson, a British legionnaire who gets mixed up in many North African adventures.  Grit was a popular feature in the early issues of the weekly UK comic called Lion (King of Picture Story Papers).  This particular issue, #100, came out 16 January 1954.  It’s obviously tailored to the junior ages but I give it credit for at least making the kids read something other than comic dialogue balloons.  The plot is somewhat exciting too and actually has some hard lessons for modern counterinsurgency.  I took some liberty with the illustration as it struck me that it depicted three very thirsty legionnaires.

The Wine Barrel’s Secret

 

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Hodgepodge for June 2014

Not much to post today in this month’s random collection of Foreign Legion related news, products, stories, pictures and what-nots.

1.  Agony of War.  Here’s a great story about Vietnam War veteran and former French Foreign Legion member Ruediger Richter.  You have probably seen the famous black and white photograph of SP4 Richter watching a descending helicopter while his comrade looks over a body bag prepared for evacuation.  Before this iconic picture was taken Richter had served in the Foreign Legion for five years in the early 1950’s.

The_Agony_of_War.JPEG-075db_tx495I’ve read many books on the Vietnam War (and had a decades long subscription to Soldier of Fortune Magazine) and am always amazed when I come across stories of foreign born American soldiers who fought in that conflict.  Rick Rescorla comes to mind as well as the many Canadians and scores of Hispanic and Asian immigrants.   During my first assignment in the Army, in 1984, I knew a Sergeant Major Van Dam–a Dutch immigrant from Indonesia who (according to everyone I knew) had spent time in the Foreign Legion after WWII before moving to the United States, joining the U.S. Army and fighting in Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division.   Even to this day there is still a large percentage of foreign born soldiers in the U.S. armed forces.  During the Iraq war, more than 30,000 non-citizens were serving in the U.S. military, accounting for close to 2% of the total 1.4 million active duty service members.  Roughly a third of the non-citizens in the armed forces today are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many others are from Canada, China, Africa, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Turkey, Korea and the Philippines.

2.  A Tale of the French Foreign Legion.   History.net has a very good on-line article about the Foreign Legion during World War II written by by Edward L. Bimberg (and originally appearing in World War II Magazine in 1997).  It relates the story of the 13th Demi Brigade (13e DBLE) during the early years of the war and also how the 6th Regiment of the Foreign Legion of the Vichy government fought against it’s Free French counterparts in Syria in 1941.  Be sure to read the interesting comments that follow the article.

3.  Sidi Bel-Abbes, March, 1940.  The pictures below relate to the article above as they depict the assembly and departure of Legionnaires from Sidi Bel Abbes to France (and the “Metropolitan Front”).  The newsreel where these pictures are taken from gives a wonderful view of the Caserne Viénot and the legionnaires in full battle-rattle as they say farewell to their Algerian home and in come cases their wives and children.

4.  T-Shirts.  Lastly, here are some links to web sites that sell Foreign Legion apparel such as t-shirts, sweat jackets, and polo shirts.  The Red Rubble shirts support the fantastic web site Foreign Legion Info and the ProArt site supports the Institution des Invalides de la Légion étrangère (IILE).  I have no commercial interest in any of these–I just keep seeing them pop up when I browse the web and thought many of the designs are pretty cool looking.  I also promote free market capitalism and am pleased to see people making money in a niche that I’m so fond of.  Now, if I could just get my cheapskate kids to buy me something for my birthday….

Cafe Press

Red Bubble

Zazzle

ProArt Shirts

SpreadShirt

Top Military T-Shirts

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Legion Pulp: Born to Fight

img293The Foreign Legion pulp fiction story for June is Born to Fight by Georges Surdez.  It appeared in the January 1937 issue of Adventure (Vol 96, No. 3).  I haven’t even had time to read this one yet but a quick scan tells me it is boilerplate Surdez–American mercenary, Frenchman and German all compete for the attention of a young dark haired local beauty.  Thrown in is some personal mano-a-mano fighting, desert combat and conspiracies to kill a commanding officer.  This looks like a good one.

Born to Fight

Admin Note:  Sorry I’m late with this as I usually publish the monthly pulp story on the 15th of each month.  I was on vacation however and didn’t take the right preparations to post remotely. 

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