As in the Days of “Beau Geste” by P. C. Wren

This one page article came from The Illustrated London News of 13 November 1926.  It’s a unique instance of a writer of Foreign Legion fiction commenting on the writings of another author’s non-fictional memoir of actual experiences in the Legion during WWI.  In this case P. C. Wren (of Beau Geste fame, writing here to promote the first movie) who writes critically of the American author Maurice Magus and his posthumously published book Memoirs of the Foreign Legion (1924).

Reading this piece for the first time I immediately felt that Wren may not have read the book he is commenting on or that if he did his opinions of the author were nonetheless entirely prejudiced by D. H. Lawrence’s long and boorish introduction to the book.  Wren casts doubt on Magnus being fit for the Legion by noting what  him old, fat and short and attacks his character as dishonest, mean and lacking mental, moral and physical fiber.  Wren gives zero credit to Magnus, who at first, in late 1915, tried joining the Red Cross efforts of Italy, Russia, France and Serbia before deciding on serving with other noble foreigners in the Foreign Legion.  His mind made up to join the Foreign Legion and in early 1916 (not late in the war as Wren states) Magnus traveled from Italy to Tunis and persistently made his way to Sidi Bel Abbes presenting himself to the surprised staff of the headquarters there and signing enlistment paperwork without really having a clue what he was getting into.  He had just joined the rear-rear echelon of one of the most hard-fighting and bloodied units of the Allied forces.  Almost immediately, Magnus was made very aware of his personal and physical failings and this experience quickly cleared his head of all patriotic notions of serving in the multinational Foreign Legion.  Yet, despite being a duck out of water, he stuck with the Legion and was eventually sent onward to France.  However, after spending months in squalid camps nowhere near the front, his disillusionment in the Legion became total and he deserted across the border into Italy.  Wren then delights in taking his “high horse” and trampling all over the straw man he builds of Magnus and his book for the remaining 3/4 of the article.  This is pretty bold for Wren–a man who quite possibly never served a day in the Foreign Legion himself but somehow was given the popular mantle of “Foreign Legion Expert” for decades based on his fiction writing.

To clarify things a bit more…Magnus went to Africa in the naive and completely mistaken belief that this was the proper route to take to enlist in the Foreign Legion.  Along the way he was fed some high grade bullshit (misinformation) by an American diplomat in Algiers and a Dane he meets on the train.  He did not, as Wren states, join the Foreign Legion to take refuge there.  His motives to “do something in this great struggle” were genuine and he anticipated joining a force of honorable volunteers from all over the world.  Wren is correct that Magnus complained bitterly throughout his book about the Germans and German culture he encountered in the Legion and Magnus also wrote a scathing commentary about the “dregs” he encountered there.  Yet, contrary to what Wren claims, Magnus DID write that within days he realized he was in the wrong place.  He found out that the RMLE (full of those fellow Americans, Swiss, Scandinavians and other nationalities he was hoping to join) fighting on the front lines in France and the Legion Headquarters in Algeria were not the same thing.  Magus was very specific about how disappointed he was about this.  Also, most German Legionnaires were indeed kept away from the front lines for obvious reasons and Magnus wrote about this as well yet Wren calls him unfair and not impartial for not mentioning this.  These are some pretty baseless and cheap points for Wren to make which, to repeat, makes me wonder if he actually read the book.

As in the Days of Beau Geste

Advertisements
Posted in Articles | 5 Comments

Legion Pulp: By Special Request

This month’s pulp fiction story featuring the French Foreign Legion is from the January, 1932 issue of Adventure.  Georges Surdez, the specialist in this unique sub-genre of adventure fiction, is the author.  It is another one of his tales of Legion loyalty forged in combat played out by well crafted and complex characters.  The setting is a dingy mountain top blockhouse whose previous occupants were wiped out and reoccupied by a section of Legionnaires.  The Riffian tribesmen quickly close in and besiege the outpost.

This story is closely based on the actual combat, in April 1925, between the French and Rif rebels in northern Morocco when those Berbers led by Abd el-Krim crossed the boundary and attacked the string of French outposts just north of the Ouergha River.  Several outposts held out for several weeks before falling.

(Thanks to EXciter for sharing the scan)

By Special Request

NOTE TO READERS & FOLLOWERS:  I’ve been a bit slow to posting items here–pretty much this entire year.  My recent efforts and how I have been approaching this blog are getting a bit disorganized and frankly I’ve also been a bit lazy.  I’ve started so many posts that remain just drafts and dozens of projects that remain unfinished even years after starting them.  I see slowdowns happen to many blogs I follow so I guess apathy or boredom might slowly build up over several years (I started this blog back in May of 2010).  However, I’m aware of this and know I can do better so I’ve taken to (re)organizing and indexing all of my books, digital files & pictures, magazines, miniatures and everything else I have on this subject.  I’ve been building an actual planner for future posts, backing up my hard drives and previous postings as well (I’ve seen some blogs get hijacked or hacked). 

So for the future there will still be a monthly pulp fiction story around the middle of the month but I’m going to discontinue the monthly “Hodgepodge” usually posted at the end of the month.  Instead of the Hodgepodge post, I’ll post an occasional “wrap-up” as needed to bring attention to smaller items I think might be of interest and related to one of the most interesting subjects of all–The French Foreign Legion.  So expect some changes soon and the frequency of the posting to start picking up over time.  Thanks for reading.

Posted in Admin / Blogging / Stuff, Pulp Fiction Stories | 3 Comments

Hodgepodge for August 2017

Sorry this is a bit late.  I’ve been busy enjoying the last days of summer before school starts next week.  Here are some interesting things about the Foreign Legion I’ve came across this month (not much).

1.  Foreign Legion Visits America (1918).  The photograph below depicts several of the officers of the Foreign Legion delegation that traveled to the United States in late 1918 to promote the Fourth Liberty Loan.  They are meeting with various representatives of the Native American tribes during one of their stops at Oklahoma City.  The picture was kindly brought to my attention by Leonard and it was posted to this Facebook page “World War 1 Native American Warriors“.  There were some questions as to it’s origins since the press annotated the event as taking place in Dayton Ohio but this was actually taken at the Fairgrounds of Oklahoma City with the grandstand seen in the background.  I’ve also attached another photograph from the February 1919 issue of Le Miroir that shows Captain Chastenet de Géry greeting one of the chiefs.

2. Action in the Desert.  The following pictures depicting a tabletop display of some hot desert combat were provided by “Villou” a follower and frequent commentator on this blog.  You can see two classic terrain pieces–the Airfix Foreign Legion Fort and Italeri’s Arab House.  Also waging war are figures from several lines of miniatures to include Hat Zouaves (I think), Airfix Legion and Arab figures, ESCI/Italeri’s Arabs and ESCI/Italeri British (Zulu) Infantry converted to artillerymen and officers.  Well done painting job on all.  Thank you sharing these.

3. Afghanistan War . French Foreign Legion . French Restrepo. This is a four -part video posted to YouTube that gives some interesting views of Foreign Legion Operations in Afghanistan.   The quality is not so great but worth a quick look.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Legion Pulp: Combat Groups, Forward!

This month’s pulp fiction story is a “fact story” written by Crown Prince Aage of Denmark that appeared in the January 1933 issue of Blue Book.  Definitely a Foreign Legion pulp story written by an expert on the subject as Prince Aage spent 17 years in the Foreign Legion and attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  It tells about his time fighting the Rif in Morocco in 1925.  I believe some of this story was from his 1927 book A Royal Adventurer in the Foreign Legion or at least from his notes (this does not appear to be a 100% cut and paste from his book).  A downloadable copy of his book is located in the Monlegionnaire Library (see the tabs above).

Combat Groups, Forward!

Note: Not my scan…thanks again to “sas”.

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | 3 Comments

Hodgepodge for July 2017

It’s been a hot and humid month of July with unprecedented rainfall amounts.  Where I live this is a recipe for bumper crops of mosquitoes and gnats.  So there was plenty of time spent inside on the computer and here are some links I’ve gathered over the past month.

1.  Bastille Day Parade.  It’s not every day that two of my favorite things intersect but on the 14th of July President Trump was in Paris for the Bastille Day parade and reviewed the Foreign Legion as they marched their way down the Champs-Élysées.  Not sure what the French President told him about the Legion but Trump looked pretty impressed.  More videos can be found at Foreign Legion Info.   (NOTE: I only voted for Trump because the alternative was far worse but I’m now happy that I did because despite his flaws he is doing a good job.  …and also I love watching our left-wing loons get triggered just about every day).  

2. 14 July Press Release.  Here is the official press release for the parade.  14 July Dossier De Presse

3. A Canadian in the Legion.  This is a series of three YouTube videos made by the “Littlest Viking” that describes his five months in the Foreign Legion.  He apparently made selection, got through The Farm and landed at Castelnaudary (what he calls Castel) for basic training but in the end he left (more to follow on his departure in the fourth video which he has not posted yet).  This was pretty informative.  UPDATE: Part 4 is posted–well worth a look.

4. Légionnaire, mon frère.  Another video–this one is an official documentary produced by the Journal of Defense media team.

5. Boutique de la Légion Etrangère.  Here is the official commercial website of the Foreign Legion “old soldiers home” at Puyloubier.   “The Legion never abandons its own, Neither in combat, nor in life.”  I’ve always admired how this institution works.  It is nice to see how the old legionnaires are involved in something other than staring at a wall.  (There is a VA Hospital down the road from my house and it is a really sad affair–a miserable government run warehouse for our sick, old and mentally challenged veterans.  I believe the VA exists for the benefit of the government employees and not the veteran.)

 

 

 

Posted in Hodgepodge, Video | 3 Comments

Previous Rank…

Here is an early pulp fiction post and another gem from the British Newspaper Archive…a short story by American author Van Wyck Mason that appeared in the 01 August 1934 issue of Britannia and Eve.  This story was previously published in June 1928 issue of The Danger Trail pulp magazine .  Mason is a really good writer and this story is a great example of his ability to enter into any genre, master those elements and turn out a great and authentic story.

Previous Rank_Van Wyck Mason

NOTE: The illustrations, as well done as they are, were actually derived from photographs that appeared in other articles by Britannia and Eve.

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | Leave a comment

The Life of the Legion

The other day I decided to check out what could be found at The British Newspaper Archive.  This site has a modest paywall for access and I purchased a single month.  After spending several days browsing and searching I can say it was money very well spent. I’ve found numerous articles on the Foreign Legion as well as several fictional works that appeared in the weekly editions.  There were several reviews of Foreign Legion books with titles that are new to me as well as many movie and theater reviews and factual news tidbits about the Legion fighting in Morocco or Indochina.  One surprising theme that kept appearing were numerous articles featuring stories of various “escapes” from the Foreign Legion.  Most of the deserters fled North Africa as stowaways on freighters while others made their way via cross country travel and then were assisted in their travel home by various British diplomatic offices.

The one page article below is dated 30 November 1929 and appeared in The Sphere Magazine which was an illustrated British newspaper that ran from 1900 to 1964.  It is a nice example of the clear quality of the archive’s scans.  Articles can be downloaded as .pdf files which are titled with date and page references.  In this piece the pictures are clearly the highlight of the article.  It is interesting to see legionnaires wearing their side caps (bonnet de police)  undergoing machine gun training…and I wonder what the exceptionally tall deserter was thinking when he was told to pose for a group shot.

The Life of the Legion

Posted in Articles | 1 Comment

Legion Pulp: Desert Finale

This short story appeared in the April, 1943 issue of Argosy.  There is no mention of the Foreign Legion in this one but there is a besieged desert fort, some Méharistes, a battery of 75’s, spahis and a generic force of French regulars holding out against a German Mechanized force.  This motley force is led by a French Colonel of the Reserves who gets mobilized from his civilian job as movie director.

Desert Finale was written by the the movie maker Charles Marquis Warren.  It was released in 1943 at the height of the war and at this time Warren was still starting out in the movie business.  He also wrote fiction for the pulps and several of his stories became best sellers.  He joined the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater and returned to Hollywood after the war where he would be involved in either writing, producing or directing several movies as well as the first two seasons of the T.V. show Gunsmoke.

Desert Finale

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | Leave a comment

French Business Signs

Something different today.  I found this book (Attributs au pochoir, modèles d”enseignes et inscriptions) on Galica last week and thought it might be useful for war game terrain or diorama builders.  It’s from around 1914 and shows 28 different generic (model) designs for French business signs.  You can download the .pdf book from the Galica page (click the Téléchargement icon on the left) or you can download this .rar file where I have saved the .pdf and the illustrations separately.  In this download I’ve rotated several of the images and bumped up the contrast.  You can then use MSPaint or Photoshop to crop off the edges of the image (see above) and create your own paper signs or decals that might spice up your wartime French commercial buildings from 1870 to 1945 or later.  From the butcher shop graphic above I made some smaller bits of signage and if you have good graphic skills you could probably make several more from this one sign or even try changing the colors. These can be resized as needed the same way you would for model railroad signage.  A good program to do this is PowerPoint.  Using some “old time” fonts you could also add a family or owner’s name to these signs as that is one thing missing on all of them.

 

Posted in Wargame Terrain | 1 Comment

Hodgepodge for June 2017

Ah, summertime is here.  One would think blogging and summer go great together yet I’m finding little time for either.  Probably something to do with work, my son’s high school graduation and party, an out of town wedding, too much stuff on the spring cleaning list and most recently a week-long visit by relatives.  So, my apologies for not posting more frequently. Here are some random items (mostly books) on the Foreign Legion that I’ve come across this month.

1. Foreign Legion Facebook Page.  I’m just posting this link here for those who didn;t realize there was an official Facebook page of the Foreign Legion.  Lots of videos, photographs and posts can be found here.  If you visit there now you will find a great post linking to an article on the Kepi Blanc Magazine turning 70 years old and publishing it’s 800th issue.

2. 10 Noblemen who Served in the Foreign Legion.  I think this article has been around a while and I’m not sure I ever linked to it but here it is again on War History Online.  Ten sounds like a low number and the list could probably double with a bit more research.  I think they may be leaving out several lesser-known European royals.

3. Some New Books.  Looking around Amazon recently and found several books of interest.

The White Kepi by Walter Kanitz.  Not really new and also not the greatest book on the Legion but one for the collectors.  This book must now be in the public domain as it seems now you can get it in an overpriced paperback or in kindle format.  Or you can go the Monlegionnaire Library and download the one posted there.

My Camp: Life in the French Foreign Legion by J. R. Lawrence.  A fairly new release that I have not read yet.  Memoir of Legionnaire Lawrence who served in the 2REP from 2007 to 2011. 

Code of the Legion by David Hardy.  This is a short pulpy adventure story set in the Foreign Legion as they fight savage Berber tribes in Morocco and a mysterious killer inside the walls of their fort.  Not a full book but but it was a well done story in the classic J. D. Newsom style and well worth $0.99.

The Texan Legionnaire (Series) by Gordon Landsborough. This series consists of four books by Gordon Landsborough and published by Endeavour Press.  The titles include Legionnaire from Texas, Renegade Legionnaire, Back to the Legion and The Spahis.  These were originally written by Landsborough from 1950 to 1953 under the pen name Mike M’Cracken and in their original forms are extremely rare and expensive.  These are not short stories either but fully developed books that run over 150 pages (for example The Spahis in the original paperback (Panther) format was 158 pages).  I was tipped off to these books by a couple of readers years ago but never really made the connection correctly.  In summary, these are a real good deal at $3.99 each for the kindle book version when you think of what you would pay for the paperback (if you could find a copy).  I read the first one and it is pretty good if know what you are getting into–Adventure fiction set in the Foreign Legion and the Sahara that stretches facts to their breaking points….like much good pulp fiction does.

Diary of a Legionnaire. My Life in the French Foreign Legion
by Gareth Carins.  This is a Kindle only publication that has been out for a couple of years by an English Legionnaire who served in the 2REP from 1996-2001.   A very good read. 

Legionnaire Mackenzie: Harmony in Modern Warfare by Mark Morgan.  Another kindle only memoir that has been out for a while (2012).   As many of these kindle book there are some minor typos but they are so minor as to be meaningless.  Morgan was an Irish Legionnaire in the 2REP as well.

4.  Kickstarter.  This Kickstarter page is to raise money for professional editing of the French Foreign Legion military fiction novels written by former Legionnaire Ricky Balona.  His first three book are out on Amazon.  

 

 

Posted in Articles, Books | 2 Comments