Away From Keyboard

I have been AFK for the last couple weeks due to the sudden hospitalization of a close family member.  “Take care of family first!”, I always say.  I hope to get some reading done at the clinic and I’ll return to this blog as soon as possible. 

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Legion Pulp: When the Dead Arise

When the Dead AriseHere is a Foreign Legion tale by J. D. Newsom that first appeared  in the 10 January 1930 issue of Short Stories and again in the January 1951 issue (when the dying magazine was relying on reprints)Newsom was a prolific writer of various pulp fiction genres but had an affinity for writing sometimes outrageous adventures set in the French Foreign Legion.  More so than Georges Surdez and Robert Carse, the other two major Foreign Legion fictioneers, Newsom’s tales would often depict fictional last stands of Legion detachments where there are only a handful of survivors left to be rescued by a relief column.  When the Dead Arise sticks to this formula.  (Thanks to SAS/JVH for the scan from the 1951 issue).

When the Dead Arise

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | 3 Comments

Hodgepodge for June 2015

End of the month again… just July and August left of summer and soon it will be fall again (for about 20 days) followed by our six months of winter.  Anyways, I’m enjoying what wonderful weather I have and trying to get caught up on my million projects.  Here are some of the Foreign Legion miscellany for June.

1.  Beau Geste Diorama.  Oliver, a long time friend of this blog, sent me some pictures of his display depicting dramatic scenes from Beau Geste.  “This is a diorama consisting of 150 figures. The model depicts the famous opening scene from BEAU GESTE. Men are defending the walls of Fort Zinderneuf (dead and alive) against hordes of Arabs besieging it. The desert is ordinary sea-sand. Bark from trees serves as rocks. The little bit of glass in the oasis makes a convincing pool of water. Approaching in the distance is the relief column led by Major De Beaujolais. Adjudant Lejaune can be seen on the wall standing over Beau Geste’s body, about to rob him of the “Blue Water” sapphire. John Geste is about to kill him. Unfortunately my camera has its short-comings.”

I feel like I’m looking at this drama in the desert from a slow flying Potez 25 on reconnaissance.

2.  The Foreign Legion Wine Bar, Minneapolis, MN.  I blogged about this establishment last year but I’ve not visited yet.  Check out the logo used behind the bar and on their website.  I’ve already advised them last year on their decor, now I have a strong desire to send the manager an email advising him to update his menu with a hearty Legion soupe that is served with dark bread for lunch and dinner in a metal bowl of some sort.  They should also add Kronenbourg beer and several Algerian and Moroccan wines to the drink list.  On Camerone Day they should serve free coffee but then have the waiter take it away before they drink it and give them a printed recitation of the Battle of Camerone to read before they get their java back.  Just some of many things I would do if I ran a wine bar called The Foreign Legion.


3.  Legion Photo-Essay.  French photographer Edouard Elias has won this year’s Rémi Ochlik Award for his work, called “The Foreigners”, covering the French Foreign Legion during their deployment to the Central African Republic.  The award is named after a photographer killed in Syria and is given to young photojournalists. You can see the photographs here (as well as his other work) and an interview here.


4.  New Recruitment Video.   If you have the courage, the will, a camaraderie developed, if you are VERY VERY disciplined and athletic, if you have the taste of risk; Finally, if you want to serve in an Elite Corps with elegance, honor and fidelity, so do not hesitate. Since 1831 when it was founded the Foreign Legion was covered with glory on all battlefields, why? Because the people who compose it are “chosen men” for reliable values and proven virtues. If you feel able to be part of this “Family” will open an exceptional life. change of life!

5.  Foreign Legion Figures.  There is an interesting figure posted at Joy and Forgetfulness blog.  I don’t think I ever saw this one before.  Over on Benno’s there are some pictures of both Airfix and ESCI 1:72 plastic Legion figures.  Incredible brush work.  54mm Armies in Plastic figures here.  Over at TMP there are some pictures of WWII Legion.

ffl-81mm-mortar blogger-image--333949545 DSC_0153


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MoroccoPosterMorocco.  Released 1930.  English.   91 minutes.  Directed by Josef von Sternberg; Cast: Gary Cooper (Légionnaire Tom Brown), Marlene Dietrich (Amy Jolly), Adolphe Menjou (Kennington La Bessière), Ullrich Haupt (Adjudant Caesar), Francis McDonald as Caporal Tatoche, Eve Southern as Madame Caesar, Paul Porcasi as Lo Tinto. nightclub owner.

Morocco is one of the all time classic Marlene Dietrich movies, her Hollywood debut in fact, that also starred a young Gary Cooper (nine years before his staring role in the 1939 Beau Geste).  The plot is an early boiler plate Foreign Legion romance.  Think of the story as two intersected romantic triangles and you will get the picture–there is Tom, Ceasar, and Madame Caesar and then there is Tom, Amy and Kennington La Bessière.  Perhaps not a great movie for Foreign Legion battle scenes though there is an odd ambush on a Legion column towards the latter part of the movie, it is great

Morocco originates from a 1927 novel that was written by French-German author Benno Vigny (28 October 1889 – 31 October 1965) entitled “Amy Jolly, the Woman from Marrakesh”.  In this novel, Dietrich’s character, Amy Jolly (pretty friend) was not only a cabaret singer but also a part time prostitute, cocaine and ether addict.  She fails at love in Morocco and travels to her demise in Buenos Aires.

There are several interesting side-bars about Dietrich’s connection to Vigny, his novel and this movie.  She had met Vigny during a vacation in Berlin and read his book when it was released.  She likely passed the book on to the director Sternberg.  The movie rights to the book were sold by Vigny to a German company but later resold to Paramount in order for them to make Morocco.  It is believed that Vigny wrote about a love affair he had had with the real life Amy Jolly in Morocco during his service there in the Foreign Legion.  After Morocco became a big hit Madame Jolly, of Agadir, Morocco, wrote letters to Marlene Dietrich asking for money that was promised to her by Vigny.  There was some further correspondence with Jolly thanking Dietrich for an anonymous donation and a request from her for an autographed photograph.

Marlene sent a friend, Charles Graves, to find out more about the family owned pension at Agadir that Jolly invested her money in.  In a short note he says “At her bordelle she hires out small girls of 8 + 9 years old to soldiers of the Foreign Legion, Maroccan Tirailleurs and Spahis–which makes me feel rather sick.  But I had drinks at the café where Amie Jolie danced + gave her key to her boy friend.  It is the Grand Café de France.”

Screenshots below.


Also some ad pages from Hollywood film magazines of 1930.

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Legion Pulp: The Legion in Spain (Warriors in Exile)

LESpainThis story comes from the August 1937 issue of Blue Book Magazine.  It is the third installment in the “Warriors in Exile” series written by H. Bedford-Jones that ran from June 1937 until October 1938 (17 separate stories).  This might be one of the very few stories ever to appear in the pulps that is set during the Carlist Wars that took place in Spain during the early 19th century.  Bedford-Jones does a great job of weaving history, romance, drama and Foreign Legion lore into a compact 11 pages. 

Warriors in Exile_The Legion in Spain

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Post Card from Legionnaire Charles Sweeny (to Mom)

Here is an interesting bit of history that I acquired via eBay last week…an actual post card written by Charles S. Sweeny while he was serving in France with the French Foreign Legion in WWI, to his mother in Spokane, Washington.  There is no date but I presume that it must have been late 1914 or very early 1915; well before the Second Battle of Champagne which took place from 25 September – 6 November 1915.   During this offensive, on September 28th, a newly promoted 2nd Lieutenant Sweeny was shot through his left lung by a German machine gun and evacuated to a military hospital.  Most of his friends thought he was a walking dead man.  It took him over five months to recover and he was eventually able to travel home to the United States for three months leave before heading back to France and the rest of the war.  He would eventually become a Captain in the Foreign Legion before transferring to aviation.

His amazing biography is fodder for several more posts here but for now I wanted to share the post card and some interesting pictures of him found on a web site called Ancient Faces.

SweenyPostCard_1 SweenyPostCard_2

Darling little Mother,

I have written you five or six times in the last month but I hardly think you have received the letters.  The postal service has been very irregular from the camp where we have been.  I hope you receive this but I hardly think yhou will.  I am very very well never been better in my life – we are now very close to the first line in thei battle that sems without end.  I am doing my duty as I see it but taking no useless chances so do not worry about me.  It is all in the luck and I think mine is good this year.  We are doing very well, the life is not too hard and the spirit and moral are wonderful.  We are sure to win with such men.  Eva writes me that she hears from you frequently and that you are very very kind.  We are both very grateful to you and Father. Love to all from your loving son         Charles.

The following pictures show his family, Sweeny posing with some Foreign Legion friends (he is the tall guy in both), in a hospital bed and a couple of shots of him in February of 1916 when he was sailing home on the French Liner Lafayette after recovering from his wound.



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Hodgepodge for May 2015

Sorry for being AWOL for a couple weeks…spring cleaning, home repairs and yard work (and my day job) kind of eat away my free time.  Anyway, here are some odds and ends related to the Foreign Legion.

1.  Motivational Videos.  There are several Foreign Legion videos posted to YouTube billed as “motivational”.  The creators merged some epic music with video clips of the modern Foreign Legion and in some cases added some inspiring dialog.  Just what you need to get you going in the morning.

2.  More (Exotic Adventures) from Unfeasibly Miniatures.  More miniatures in the Exotic Adventures line-up… to include some Beau Geste characters and a Foreign Legion 80mm cannon and Meharistes.  They also have a full array of Taureg warriors to go up against the French and their Bou Denib blockhouse is to be released in June.  Except for the newer items all are available from Black Hat Miniatures.  To see their whole production effort you should visit their Facebook page.

3.  New Foreign Legion Fiction.  …written by a former member of the Foreign Legion no less.  Ricky Balona, who served with the 2REP in the 1990’s has two books out on Amazon that feature the Foreign Legion as a backdrop.  Sergeant Steele is a character similar to Casca Rufio Longinus–Barry Sadler’s paperback series known also known as “The Eternal Mercenary”.  Steele is immortal and fights in the Foreign Legion against traditional enemies as well as a darker, secret organization known as “the Brotherhood”.   I’m almost halfway with Steele’s Dien Bien Phu and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it so far.

Steele's Verdun DBP Steele's Verdun










4. Alex Rowe.  Alex Rowe is a highly decorated and long serving (28+ yrs) Legionnaire who just happens to hail from the UK.  In 2010 there were several news articles about him and the fact that he had became one of the highest ranking British Legionnaires (Sergeant Major), one of the most decorated members of the Foreign Legion and the first British legionnaire to be invested into the Légion d’honneur, which is France’s highest gallantry medal, for action in Afghanistan when he came under fire during an operation with American Special Forces.  I believe he is still serving as a sniper instructor in the Legion with the 2REI. Definitely a legend according to what I’ve been reading on the web.  Just thought I’d share his name and some pictures below…


Posted in Books, Hodgepodge, Miniatures, Video | 1 Comment

Legion Pulp: One Night in Alsace

One Night in AlsaceThis month’s Foreign Legion pulp story comes from the November 1949 issue of Blue Book Magazine.  It was written by Georges Surdez and illustrated by Hamilton Green. This story would be one of the last ever written by Surdez as he passed away the same month that this story appeared in Blue Book.   The setting is December 1944 as the Allied forces slowly push the Germans out of France.  The French 5th Armored Division (including the First Foreign Legion Cavalry Regiment/1REC and a Motorized March Regiment composed of the 3rd Foreign Legion Infantry Regiment/3REI) of the Free French Forces finds itself along the front lines in Alsace.  (Thanks to “saskia” for the scan.)

One Night in Alsace

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The Road of Death

FranzBeigelHere is a short article written and illustrated by Howard Brodie for Collier’s, January 1951 issue.  It is illustrative of the French position in Indochina in 1950 as it became increasingly dangerous as small scale combat flared up along the essential lines of communications (LOCs) that linked the larger garrison towns throughout the country.  One road along Colonial Route #4 was nicknamed “The Road of Death” and security was effected by French blockhouses, forts and observation posts along the route.  These postes were magnets for Viet Minh attacks while unsecured lengths of other routes were routinely places of ambush.

I am curious about how these forts were constructed and I will follow up with pictures I have in a later post.  As Brodie describes in his article here these forts reminded him of American frontier forts of the old west.  The French also had relied on fortified blockhouses and highly secured LOC during their campaigns in Morocco as well as their forays further south into the Sahara.  So why wouldn’t this work just as well in Indochina?

The Road of Death

Posted in Legion Forts, Tonkin | 1 Comment

Camerone 2015

“They were here less than sixty, opposed by an army.  Its mass crushed them.  Life, not honor, abandoned these French soldiers, April 30, 1863.”

Well, Camerone Day again…bonne fête!

Here are some related items presented in a hodgepodge manner.

1.  Le Boudin. One of the best YouTube videos on the Foreign Legion…

2.  The Wooden Hand of Captain Danjou.  Here is a timely release from Pulp Action Library…a set of war game rules for the Battle of Camerone.  You can get a copy from the Wargame Vault.

“”””On April 30, 1863, 3rd Company, 1st Battalion of the Legion Etrangere fought hordes of Mexican Regulars at the Battle of Camerone. They Lost. But in losing they created the legend of Camerone, of single-minded dedication to the cause, even in the face of insurmountable odds. Camerone Day is celebrated by the Legion every April 30.   In celebration of the 152nd anniversary, Pulp Action Library is bringing out The Wooden Hand of Captain Danjou, a game about grit, determination, and terrible accents. The players take on the personae of the French characters, and have all the odds stacked in their favor except one – there are too many Mexicans.  The idea is not to survive, but to die in the best way possible! Only $4.99.””””””

Hand of Danjou3. French Foreign Legion – An Adventure In The Desert!  Over at Jay’s Wargaming Madness they held a really awesome looking game involving a archeology expedition in peril and a Foreign Legion rescue.  This is really a nice set up and original scenario using some house rules.  (Note: when you see back corner of Jay’s garage you just just might weep a bit and kick the dog for no good reason.)










4.  Camerone Day Blog.  Don’t forget to check out their pictures from the 150th Anniversary game held in 2013.  I never get tired of looking at these in full screen mode.



5.  The Day of the Legion.  From the pages of Blue Book Magazine of April 1935 comes a 2-page article about Camerone Day and it’s significance to the Foreign Legion.  It was written by Captain Richard Ernest Dupuy (1887-1975) a journalist and writer with a historical bent who wrote a couple dozen pulp stories in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.  What is interesting about this article is that it was only four years previous that the Foreign Legion celebrated it’s 100th Anniversary.  Credit is due to Général Paul-Frédéric Rollet, the Legion’s first General-Inspector and Père de la Légion étrangère.  He organized the 100th Centennial celebration then and also did much to institutionalize the formal celebration of Camerone Day throughout the Legion.  There were scattered Legion traditions before Rollet and many exist today as unit celebrations, but he was the one who really breathed new life into the entire corps and what we see today on the parade grounds at Aubagne was established in the 1930’s. 

The Day of the Legion

Posted in Camerone, Hodgepodge, Uncategorized | 1 Comment