The pulp adventure for this month is entitled Sahara Squadron. It comes from the January 1951 issue of Adventure and was written by Robert Carse. By 1951 Adventure had become a slim shadow of what it used to be in it’s 1920-1940′s heyday as the premier fiction magazine of it’s time (in my opinion better than Argosy in many ways). In the copy I have there is no interior artwork and three of the stories are reprints from earlier 1930′s issues. Adventure had also become a bi-monthly digest (8 1/2″ X 6 1/4″) by this time with only 112 pages. By June of 1951 the magazine would switch to a bi-monthly schedule until 1955.
Sahara Squadron story is similar to many of Robert Carse’s other “last-stand” tales and again features the French Camel Corps and not the Foreign Legion (despite what the great cover art would have you believe). The protagonist, Lt. Moret, has just returned to his post in the Sahara after recuperating from a recent battle that wiped out his platoon and left him the sole survivor. He is emotionally scarred from that battle and is fighting an internal battle against the fear that grips him and prevents him from again leading men in the desert. Then the hostile Draa tribesmen decide to bring the battle to the fort.
As a bonus, in the back pages of this issue, where the editors entertain questions from readers under the heading “Ask Adventure: Information You Can’t Get Elsewhere“, a U.S. Marine asks about the Foreign Legion. I’ve included those pages as well. What a great cover BTW. I’ve seen pictures of the older Legion marching with their uncovered red kepis over a white cloth tucked in to form an improvised neck cover just like it appears in the cover art. It would have been nice to see some insignia though.
Sorry about the long waits between posts–I’ve been busy with some landscaping, gardening and assorted other projects I’ve put off for too long. So to pass the time I’m filling in this week with a short comic that again features Sergeant Luck of the Legion. This time it is The Fortress of Fear, a short adventure where Luck and his fellow legionnaires outwit two Bedouin tribes who besiege their column inside an abandoned Foreign Legion fortress. This one was found in the UK comic Eagle Annual #10 from 1961.
Luck of the Legion_The Fort of Fear
The following article/story originally appeared in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine in 1943 as My Favorite Assassin. It was written by George W. Herald, a little known journalist who’s other article on the Second World War was called “Sex is a Nazi Weapon”. Herald also had joined the Foreign Legion in 1940 and he relates in this article how he met Ernst Werner Techow, one of the assassins of German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau in 1922. Techow apparently had been was serving in the Legion as Adjudant-Chef Ernest Tessier. This small article, only 19 pages, makes for a compelling story of remorse and atonement. The article was republished as a slim book entitled Assassin after appearing in Harpers’s and the story became accepted fact for decades after the war.. Unfortunately, it seems to be a work of fiction.
German historian, Martin Sabrow, in a 1996 article, debunks Herald’s claim of meeting Techow. Sabrow had done exhaustive research into the Rathenau assassination as part another work. He took the time to layout all reported records of Techow during the time he was supposed to be serving in North Africa and found that it would have been impossible for him to have been in two places at once. The preponderance of evidence has Techow working in the German Resettlement Trust Company during the 1930′s and enlisting in the German Navy in May of 1941. Nevertheless, to keep the mystery alive, I would point out that there was time between his last public appearance in 1934 and his enlistment in the Navy in 1941 that he “might” have been in the Foreign Legion. He may not have had to serve his full five year enlistment–after the German defeat of France in 1940 many Germans were allowed to leave the Foreign Legion. Maybe Herald embellished Tessier’s life after leaving the Foreign Legion but it does appear that Tessier/Techow was somewhat remorseful for his role and was kicked out of the Nazi Party in 1931. Who knows? It’s a nice story anyways–change the names and events, add some conflict and it could have been a good filler for one of the pulps like Adventure or Argosy.
My Favorite Assassin
The Foreign Legion was founded in 1831 as an expedient way to remove “nefarious characters of questionable loyalties” from France by inducing them to join a military corps that had a very high chance of seeing immediate combat and great possibility of loot. Almost immediately this Corps was sent to North Africa to participate in the ongoing French conquest of Algeria. Four years, and several hundred casualties later, the Legion was sent to Spain to support the Spanish government against Carlist rebels. It was in Spain in 1839 that the first Foreign Legion was ultimately dissolved when their numbers were reduced to a couple hundred (63 officers and 159 of an original 4,000 returned to France). While the first Legion steadily deteriorated in Spain, having been sold (abandoned) to Isabella, their reinforcements were instead diverted to form a second Foreign Legion in 1836 and this new Legion was sent back to Algeria to continue pacification of the Berber and Bedouin tribes. Pacification and continued fighting continued in Algeria until 1848 but the Foreign Legion would remain based there until 1962.
It is within this historical setting that we find the following two articles that appeared in Fraser’s Magazine in 1848 (v37 1848 Jan-Jun). Both relate to a pair of books (Bilder aus Spanien und der Fremdenlegion and Bilder aus Algier) written by a young Danish journalist and former soldier named Von Rosen who endeavors to join the Foreign Legion and make his career as a fighting man. The first article entitled “Modern Condottieri” appeared in the January 1848 issue and recounts Von Rosen’s experiences fighting in Spain with the Foreign Legion. The second article–”A Campaign in Algiers“, that appeared in the May 1848 issue, is the more insightful of the pair and relates more to his time in the Foreign Legion.
In June of 1834 a young Von Rosen enlisted in the Foreign Regiment at Toulon, posing as a Dane named Frederick Frederick, and three weeks later is sent with 60 replacements for the Foreign Legion battalions in Algeria. He promptly experiences much drudgery and toil in Algeria and very little fighting while serving in a Foreign Legion that is remarkably consistent in so many ways to the Foreign Legion of more modern times. We have an account of his enlistment and service which sounds very much like that written by other Legionnaires such as George Mannington or Frederic Martyn. There is the obligatory carousing in Marseilles, the attempt of a senior officer to warn and discourage enlistment, the initial reaction to fellow recruits and the account of his arrival and experiences in Algeria. He toughs out soldierly privation in North Africa as well as plenty of hard labor with pick and shovel but being a man with some money to spare he is able to influence his immediate superiors to make his life in the Legion a bit easier than his comrades. He also relates his encounters with amazingly diverse number of fellow Legionnaires with several cutthroat NCO’s and humble noblemen hiding among the ranks. Eventually he is shipped off to Spain to fight against the Carlists and expresses some regrets for ever thinking that service for Isabella would be better than drudgery in Algeria. He was wounded several times in fighting against the Carlists but would finish his three years in the Foreign Legion in Spain as a Sergeant. He was one of the few survivors of the original Foreign Legion to make their way back to France. Upon crossing the frontier the Legion remnants were approached by a recruiting officer enticing them to enlist in the “new” Foreign Legion then embarking for Algeria but after being abandoned (sold) to Spain the veterans were not quite ready to be fooled again and Von Rosen made his way back to Denmark. He eventually tried again to make a military career in the civil wars of Spain and returned there to seek a commission but this didn’t pan out for him and he returned again to his home country and wrote his two memoirs of his time in Algeria and Spain.
One thing I find remarkable about this account is that the German-Danish journalist is named (Von) Rosen. Rosen is the same surname adopted by a young German-American named Erwin Carle when he joined the Foreign Legion in 1910 almost for identical literary and personal adventurous reasons. No mention of the earlier Von Rosen can be found in Carle’s book In the Foreign Legion but I surmise that this name was chosen by Carle based on his knowledge of the writings of the earlier Rosen. These two articles provide a unique and seldom found insight into the very first nucleus of the French Foreign Legion–those 4,000 men who first fought in Algeria and were then left to fend for themselves in Spain as ill paid mercenaries. Von Rosen’s books are available but they are in German.
A Campaign in Algiers
This short story appeared in the November 1947 issue of Adventure. I thought it was another Georges Surdez story about the Foreign Legion and scanned it before reading it. It concerns a French desert outpost manned by Tirailleurs Sénégalais and a strange visitor that arrives there one day. It’s a nice quick story (that Surdez translated) written by French author Bernard Simiot who was a Free French soldier in WWII and wrote fiction based on his military experiences and medieval historical fiction.
In most of the general fiction pulps such as Argosy, Adventure, and Blue Book there was a need for only one or two stories over 40 pages and these were usually featured on with a cover illustration. The rest of the issue was filled with serials or shorter works of fiction such as this story. In 1947, Georges Surdez was well enough established and respected as a writer that he could submit translated works for publication–especially if it helped fill up the issue.
Fakir of Marrakesh
This post is a little bit late for Camerone Day but better late than never.
I came across some very nice color uniform prints of French and Mexican military uniforms worn in the Mexican Campaign (or what is often called the French Intervention in Mexico or the Franco-Mexican War) on a blog maintained by Belgian author and artist Michel Provost. It features many of his very accurate (if somewhat whimsical) color illustrations and some pages referencing his graphic novel Tacambaro–a story featuring Drum Remi of the Belgian Army and his companion Pharaoh Lempereur who seem to be mixed up in several colonial conflicts of the 19th century. Very “Tintinesque” this book and it shows that Mr. Provost was influenced by his correspondence with Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi). There are some depictions of the Foreign Legion which I’ve highlighted below.
I’ve recently found some great items on Amazon for fans of P. C. Wren (the Beau Geste author who started a century of popular fiction and film about the classic French Foreign Legion). It is a series of five volumes of the Wren’s short stories, compiled by John L. Espley and released back in September of 2012. They are available on Amazon in both hard copy ($10.00) and Kindle format ($7.00). Previews are available for each and you can peek at the Table of Contents, the Preface, Introduction as well as the first story.
At first I thought this was another type of rip-off you see lately at Amazon’s Kindle Store–where folks have been selling public domain works by the story and you wind up paying $1.99 for a 17 page story or $9.99 for a poorly assembled and converted Frankenstein of an eBook. This item however is an amazing collection put together by a dedicated and knowledgeable fan of P. C. Wren. I’ve bought the first volume and found it an excellent value. It was very well done with an introduction to the volume as well as for each story that explains when it was first published and how it relates to other Wren works. Lots of effort was put into these volumes in order to track down, find and gain access to actual copies of some very obscure stories written by Wren. You also get a lot for your money here–all volumes are over 300 pages and contain well over a dozen short stories…and it has been proofread and converted to kindle format without those annoying formatting problems you often encounter.
The following is a list of the stories in Volume One. Those in red are about the Foreign Legion and many of these can be found in copies of Wren’s own short story collections such as Flawed Blades, Dead Men’s Boots and Stories of the Foreign Legion but there are some here and in the other volumes that I’ve never seen before. I’ve only just started reading Volume 1 and intend on buying the other volumes at a later date and will be sure to give provide my reviews of each at this blog.
Ten Little Legionaries
A La Ninon de L’enclos
An Officer and–A Liar
The Dead Hand
“Here are Ladies”
“Vengeance is Mine…”
Sermons in Stones
The Coward of the Legion
The Saxon and the Gael and Things
Ancient Britons and Modern
Tosh and Funny-Dog
Concerning William Henry Winterbotham
The Stuart Queen
The Virtuous Tiger
Bobball Again, and a Study in Contrasts
Drummers and Rummers
The Vegetarian Mugger of Soni
The Royal and Ancient Game at Karabad
At Oxford: Innocent Ernest and Artful Eintz
The Merry Liars
The Double Saddle
Here is a short comic strip featuring Sergeant Luck of the French Foreign Legion. It was found in the UK comic Eagle and featured in the 1962 Annual. In this four page spread Sergent Luck outwits a marauding band of Bedouins intent on wiping out the Legion outpost. He utilizes a trick often seen in B-grade Western movies and television–substitute REAL ammunition with BLANK ammunition–then allow the bad guys shoot at you, they become confounded because you remain untouched, you then arrest them with handcuffs. Works every time!
Luck of the Legion 2
Michael completed a real nice looking desert outpost for his intrepid Legionnaires from Thomas Gunn Miniatures. The first four pictures are the “work in progress” and the following four show the finished fort. He also provided some great action shots of his Legion squad in action at the edge of a Saharan Palmeraie. These are really detailed figures and look perfect with the fort.
This build reminds me that I have a 1:72 scale fort that needs completion as well as a tray of twenty Armies in Plastic 54mm Foreign Legion figures that are very close to being completed–only faces, rifles and some shading remain.
Also—don’t forget to check out some of the videos now being uploaded to YouTube on this weeks Camerone Day ceremonies.
Something different today. Below are some black and white images you can print off for the kids to practice their coloring skills. Crayons. Colored Pencils. MS Paint. Their choice. I found most of these in great book French Foreign Legion: An Illustrated History. You can see a preview at Google Books.
Also here is a .pdf file you can use to print them all off at once. Coloring Pages