This month’s pulp story is from Adventure magazine published in September of 1933. It is another Georges Surdez story featuring another one of his unusual characters–this time a young French Lieutenant who is posted on the edge of the desert where he can’t get into gambling or woman trouble. He arrives at the post at Bir-Radir like a movie star to take command of his small detachment and quickly settles in to avoiding anything dangerous or threatening to his career. He is perfectly content to play cards, ride his horse and let the senior NCO take care of the legionnaires. In fact, Lt. De Monfort is not so much lazy as he is merely biding his time until his “inheritance” is assured which is contingent upon him staying an officer until age 30. It’s part of his father’s way to ensure his wayward son grows up and gets serious with life. Of course the legionnaires need some action and the restless tribesmen need to be punished for their raiding and stealing. De Monfort eventually gets up off his behind to show his men what he is made of.
Legionnaires Must Fight
Note: Sorry for the lack of posts over these past months. I’ve been sorting out a lot of things on the home front since there are now only two of us living at home. I’m soon to be quitting my job and joining the ranks of those who work at home (in my basement to be exact). This involves moving lots of things (furniture, boxes, etc.), getting rid of old possessions, building shelves, rewiring, and some other odd home repairs. It’s hard work building a man cave but very soon I will be back to the computer more often than ever before and I will get caught back up on Monlegionnaire.
…and thanks to the original scanner – sas.
This short story comes from Adventure and was found in the May 1st issue of 1933. The author, Pierre Mille, was a fairly well known French writer and journalist, born 1864 in Choisy-le-Roi, died January 12, 1941 in Paris. “His name remains attached to the Pierre Mille Award for Best Report, awarded by the Syndicate of the French Press of Overseas and intended to reward a journalist of the written or audiovisual French-speaking press.” Mille is also the author of several books and many stories featuring his fictional hero of the French colonial wars– Barnavaux of the Colonial Infantry (Troupes Coloniales, later known as the Troupes de Marine). Much in the same way that Legionnaire Thibaut Corday retold stories of his strange adventures for pulp writer Theodore Roscoe, Barnavaux is used to communicate Mille’s take on French colonial misadventures in foreign lands. He had many short stories published in Argosy, Adventure and other pulps but was mainly featured in the New York Tribune and magazines of the very early 1900’s such as The Smart Set, Century, and Ainslees. I’m not sure if Mille wrote directly for these publications or simply had a smart agent who was able to peddle translations of his stories to eager markets in New York where were always looking for stories of French origin to add sophistication to their fiction line-ups.
At lease two of his Barnavaux books have been translated into English and are available at the Internet Archive–Barnavaux (here) and Louise and Barnavaux (here). I read some stories from both books and found them interesting but not full of many military insights.
Today is the 156th anniversary of the famous Battle of Camarón (Bataille de Camerone) that took place this day in old Mexico.
Ceremonies are held to commemorate this event wherever there are Foreign Legionnaires while the official event is held every year in the quartier Vienot, Aubagne, France. Here is the official web page on this year’s Camerone Day and the official press booklet can be found here. The theme of this year’s celebration is esprit de sacrifice / spirit of sacrifice. (We speak of the spirit of sacrifice when someone is ready to devote himself to a being or a cause. The word spirit, from the Latin spiritus meaning sentiment, is used here in the sense of a feeling that directs the action of a person or a community.)
The official Porteur de la Main (the designated veteran who carries the wooden hand of Captain Danjou) is Colonel Loïc Corbel. As a young lieutenant, Corbel joined the Foreign Legion at Sidi Bel-Abbès in August of 1952. Then he leaves for Tonkin, where he is assigned to the 1st BN of the 2nd Regiment (2REI) and what followed was an amazing record of valor in both Indochina and Algeria and a long military career association with the Foreign Legion. Colonel Corbel will be accompanied by Major William Istre, Chief Warrant Officer Viktor Brabec, Warrant Officer Sébastien Raynard and Brigadier-in-Chief Nassufou Abdallah. All have eloquent service records. An interesting note from the article above: “according to an unwritten rule, Captain Danjou’s hand-carrier and his escorts must have left active service.”
If your French is up to it you can watch this bit of history on Youtube and this is a good article on the battle as well. Also, I received this link from Olivier (thanks). Already there are videos up on YouTube of the ceremony. Thanks Hugo.
Congrats to the Legion on their very unique and solemn traditional celebration.
This story is from Adventure Magazine published 01 February of 1929. It is a great story about the evils of strong drink and the weaknesses of two American Legionnaires whose paths are entwined from the moment they met at Fort St. Jean in Marseilles. Legionnaire Mason embraces the lusty, wine soaked life of the Legion while Haywood becomes a teetotaler determined to reform Mason’s bad habits. J. D. Newsom does a good job in describing life at the Legion depot at Sidi-Bel-Abbes and (as is his style) has a couple hundred of the Legion killed in a chaotic battle at a desert oasis.
An Enemy of Society
Note: If anyone wants to know where to find the entire magazine from where this story was pulled then check out the Pulp Magazine Archive. You will find all sorts of vintage reading material here–lots of Science Fiction, “Weird Tales”, fanzines, and many copies of Adventure. Thanks again to “sas”.
The Nine of Spades appeared in the April, 1938 issue of Adventure. The byline is Pierre Chaine and Georges Surdez. I have no idea who Pierre Chaine is but we all know by now that Surdez’s specialty was tales of the French Foreign Legion. The story is quite remarkable for in only fourteen pages Surdez captures so many elements of the Foreign Legion ethos–the swaggering bravado of elite fighters, their rivalry with other French units, their camaraderie, honor and self-sacrifice, and their dark lust for strong drink that is so often their undoing. This one is purely, 100%, the work of George Surdez. (…and thanks to “eric” for the scan.)
The Nine of Spades
NOTE: Sorry for being so tardy on posting to this blog. We had another death in our small family that hit pretty hard and it was appropriate to take care of more pressing matters first. My mother-in-law lived with us for well over 20 years and will be greatly missed but now her pain is gone and she is in a better place.
This month’s pulp story was written by J. D. Newsom and appeared in the 16 February 1935 issue of Argosy. This is an interesting tale of how the French higher-ups and officer class deal with Legionnaires whose battlefield deeds were slandered and who were punished to protect a peculiar former commander of SenegaleseTirailleurs. Only another battle can clear their record.
Grenades for the Colonel
Here is a mixed bag of inspirational items related to miniatures (mainly 1:72 scale).
1. Plastic Soldier Review (PSR). Two of the three new Strelets figures have been reviewed by one of my favorite web pages…the Foot Rif Rebels and the French Foreign Legion Early XX C. PSR has not reviewed the French Foreign Legion WWII figures but these are now out in stores. I got a couple of sets in the mail yesterday and am pretty pleased with the figures although I’m thinking of adding some green stuff to make a hood for the native djellaba. The other Foreign Legion set (French Foreign Legion on the March) is “in preparation” according to the Strelets website. When this get’s released it will add some nice figures to this mix including 6 mounted figures.
2. Umpapa’s Blog About Games. Here is a great set of ESCI Foreign Legion and some Hat WWI French Infantry (Early) figures that have been converted to Senegalese Tirallieurs. Mixed in here are also some figures from Early War Miniatures. Wonderful job done on the uniforms, red fez, and weapons. When you are done looking at the Senegalese check out Umpapa’s work on some Foreign Legion figures here. What is amazing is the work put into the conversions for the heavy weapons teams (MG and Mortar) and artillery section. The setting is the interwar years so the uniforms are spot-on. There is also a Flickr page that has these pictures at a slightly higher resolution.
3. Airfix Fort Sahara. This Work in Progress post on Benno’s shows a masterful conversion of this venerable plastic fort set. A bit further (on page three) you will see some wonderful work on figure conversions. Keep your eyes out for the Legionnaires engaged in their favorite activity–drinking. On page four you can see some familiar ESCI figures converted to ride camels.
4. French Legion at Bir Hakeim. Here are a couple of other posts found on Benno’s showing some very nice figures of Legionnaires in the Libyan Desert. They both are using larger scale 28mm figures from various sources and involve some conversions. Here is some work by “kaktus” and this post has some great work by “ADM”.
Note: Mother Nature has been a bitch lately and has been dumping snow on Wisconsin at a furious rate. Last night we got what looked like well more than a foot of the white nasty stuff and this morning we got another 6 inches. Schools are closed so I hope to get my paints out from storage and maybe get back into these miniatures.
To completely inspire you all, here is a photo sent to me by Olivier V from France depicting a lone “méhariste” on patrol in the frozen Saharan Desert.
It’s a nice balmy -7 degrees (windchill -22) here in south central Wisconsin. Tonight however, the temperature will be approaching -31 degrees with a windchill of -57 (that is -31 Celsius with a windchill of -49c). Could there be a better day to read a story about fighting in the broiling Saharan desert?
This story appeared in the DC comic Danger Trail (Issue #3) which was a title that only lasted for five issues and appeared in the comic racks from 1950 to 1951. Too bad, it was a very nice series and featured stories of adventure from around the world. It appeared there were going to be several recurring figures in this comic to include the beginnings of King Faraday, Radioman Ross and a poor investigator of the Foreign Legion known as Francois of the Foreign Legion who appeared in issue 2. Many of the stories in Danger Trail seemed to be of the exotic private eye, reporter, or adventurer and their sordid dealings in the underworld of Egypt, Malaya, Paris and other exotic locales.
battle flag of the foreign legion
This story comes from the July 1952 issue of Adventure Magazine. The author, George C. Appell was very prolific in the pulps from about 1944 to 1957 (which was pretty well past the heyday of the pulps). He wrote in many genres but mostly westerns. Soul of the Legion is surprisingly on the bloody side and the descriptions of various Legionnaires and Bedouins getting slain or grievously wounded are pretty grim. The story is about a column of camel mounted legionnaires attempting to make a forced retreat to Fort Flatters after rescuing several civilians from hostile Bedouin tribesmen. Harried by relentless attacks and skirmishes the column also has to contend with incompetent leadership and secret vendettas among the officers. This situation rambles on for several pages without much plot development but lots of action and the conclusion seems to be a bit sudden. Also, although the fighting takes place in the Sahara, one of the hottest places on earth, the desert never presents an obstacle. Overall Appell provides really good story telling but not a great story.
soul of the legion
Thanks again to Eugene for providing this story.
To close out 2018 here is an article from the British “true-life” adventure publication The Wide World Magazine. I only have the seven pages of the article so I’m not sure what date this issue was but my best guess is sometime from 1953-1955. The author joined the Foreign Legion in February 1952 and the decided to “leave” that September while in en-route to Indochina. So Jones did not spend much time in the Legion–perhaps 7 months, yet he provides a richly detailed account of that time as well as his escape. He relates yet another grim story of abuse and the blind bureaucratic ineptness of the Legion at this time; poor equipment and uniforms, filthy quarters, lack of proper hygiene, inadequate food, arbitrary rules and distant, “hand-it-all-off-to-the (German) NCOs” type of leadership of the French officers. Speaking German and Spanish and with an adventurous spirit, Jones had a promising future in the Legion as an NCO but after witnessing the brutal way that recaptured deserters were treated he vowed to desert himself. He decided to make his break during his journey to Indochina hoping the transport ship would berth at a friendly port. As luck would have it there was a UK Frigate also at Columbo, Sri Lanka and Jones made good on his decision not to make the Foreign Legion his new career.
My Life in the Legion_S. H. Jones
Jones’ short account of his short time in the Foreign Legion is very similar to that related by other former members particularly those from the UK, the U.S., Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. These who had prior military experience in their own services noted repeatedly how poorly the Legion recruits are treated and how inept their logistics and basic services are. But, it appears to me that what they are describing is a system that is not unique to the Foreign Legion but is the same pattern of blind, corrupt, and often malicious indifference that the entrenched French government bureaucracy shows to it’s own citizens, colonial subjects and military men. To understand the ineptness of the Foreign Legion one has to understand how extensive the French civil service is–with millions of government clerks and administrators (fonctionnaires) enforcing thousands of petty rules and regulations. These employees have long since stopped caring about the populace they supposedly serve and view their jobs as an inconvenient way obtain a government paycheck and pension. Even today, 1 in 5 workers in France is a government employee and helping them keep their useless sinecures are a multitude of militant labor unions. (For us Americans it would be like the DMV had taken over every level of our government). It is no wonder that in the old Legion the ineptness of French civil service would have spilled over into the military (especially at the logistics and depot levels).
Happy New Year everyone!
Note: The article was provided to me earlier this year (along with many other news clippings, stories and publications) by a loyal follower of this blog. Thanks Eugene.