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.
Wishing all visitors to this blog, past, present and future, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
…and lets raise our glasses and toast those who serve in the armed forces and protective services of our respective countries. “You are not forgotten or taken for granted and we are eternally grateful for your sacrifices, hardships and devotion to duty.”
Que Dieu nous bénisse, tous.
Here is a story from Theodore Roscoe that appeared in the September 1932 issue of Action Stories. Roscoe is the author of a series of pulp stories featuring grizzled legionnaire Thibaut Corday who relates some hard to believe tales from his adventurous time in the Legion. Twenty of these stories appeared in Argosy from 1929 to 1939. This story is not a Corday story but it features some pretty dangerous type of characters–murderers actually, who boast about their crimes committed before they sought escape in the anonymity of the Legion. In addition to some grim characters there is a furious assault on the desert fort by the local Bedouin tribes and a plot twist at the end that you may have to read through a couple of times to follow. Not bad overall but I like the Thibaut Corday stories by Roscoe a bit better.
Blade of Justice
Exciting news (at least for me). There appears to be four new sets of Foreign Legion themed 1:72 scale plastic miniatures coming out in the near future. These are from the Russian company Strelets. For now these sets are in production status and not available but hopefully might appear in hobby stores by early next year.
Foot Rif Rebels (Set 185): This product will provide a great number of combatants to face off against the Foreign Legion. The figures represent the Rif rebels from northern Morocco that fought so savagely against the Spanish and then the French in the 1920’s. The Rif were very much a rebel force without much continuity in their uniforms so I have no problem with the figures depicted below. They did have a mix of older and modern rifles and their headgear was mostly absent or made of simple cloth. Many of the men kept their heads shaven and they were well supplied with captured ammunition and this set’s figures show plenty of slung bandoleers and other captured web gear. I would have liked to see more figures wearing the traditional hooded woolen djellaba. Definitely going to purchase a couple of these and experiment with putting together a large force by combining some of the figures from the already released Strelets Arab Uprising sets (Set 172, Set M127, and Set 115. You might also use these figures as Druze rebels for the Syrian uprising which occurred in the 1920’s as well.
French Foreign Legion Early XX Century (Set 186): This is the first time I’ve seen Foreign Legion figures in this scale that have been issued the colonial helmet (though it does appear in some Red Box Boxer Rebellion figures for the French Marines and Infantry). This set’s masters look very detailed and will be fun to paint. These legionnaires will be appropriate for fighting the Rif, the Druze in Syria or against any generic foe besieging their forts or ambushing them in the Sahara. My only nit-pics are that these poor guys are fighting wearing their large backpack which is a bit unrealistic. Also I’m not that keen on the fact they are all wearing the greatcoat which was most often not the case when they had perfectly decent tropical uniforms during that conflict (see picture below). Perhaps this set can be supplemented with another with legionnaires in their tropical uniforms (I can dream can’t I?).
French Foreign Legion WWII (Set 187): Getting away from the Rif War, Strelets also has this set of Free French legionnaires fighting in North Africa (Bir Hakeim). This is a very good set with much detail and accuracy. Most of the figures wear their kepi but two have the tropical helmet. None have the British helmets or French Adrian helmets which were seen occasionally. Also a good touch was the long scarf that was common to the Legion in the desert. If the sizes match, some of the heads from this set could be used on British 8th Army figures from ESCI/Italeri or even the old Airfix figures to create new poses.
French Foreign Legion on the March (Set 192): This is the latest announced set that features eight marching and six mounted legionnaires. Not sure if the mounted figures are riding mules or horses but either would be fine. I suppose the Legion cavalry units would have had the smaller Berthier carbines but these appear to be adequate.
I’m really getting to like Strelets products. They have an amazing variety of figures from so many different eras (which increases each month). Some of their older figures appear to me a bit bulky but the latest ones are really good. I bought the Arab Revolt figures and am pleased with the detail and variety of poses. I also have the Crimean War French Light Infantry and Zouaves, each of which contained 44 different poses (1 of each) which I found unusual. Admittedly I have not been indulging in war gaming or miniature painting for some time but these figures will surely get me motivated once again.