Legion Pulp: Unconquerable Jennings

This J. D. Newsom story appeared in the 21 December 1926 issue of Adventure.  It’s another tale featuring Newsom’s duo of unreformed Legionnaires Mike Curialo and Albert (Berty) Withers.   The setting is World War I and several Legionnaires are billeted in Madame Loppard’s farmyard a couple of kilometers from the front-line trenches.  Jennings, an American ambulance driver working in the same sector, has an odd infatuation with the Foreign Legion and insists that his two new friends regale him with tales of fighting and life in Africa.  Jennings spends freely but this is not enough to win the veteran soldiers over and they try their best to avoid him and at one point “forcefully” remind him his company is not welcome. When word comes down that the Legion will be moving up to the front, Jennings demands they take him with and show him what things are like.   Their adamant refusal does not deter the young American and he convinces the Legion commander to order Curialo and Withers to give him a tour of the trenches.  So begins Jennings’ tour of hell on earth.

Unconquerable Jennings

Although there are humorous parts to this story its actually pretty grim.  I think Newsom may have been trying to make a point that those who think war is all tales of gallantry and heroism should get a chance to see first hand what goes on in the meat grinder of trench warfare.  I also found it exceptionally well written–I was instantly transported to the farmyard in the first page and Newsom’s account of the trenches was also very descriptive.  I think this is only the second story featuring Curialo and Withers posted on this blog–the other being “Mumps” which was published in the first issue of 1926.  NOTE: The graphic came from elsewhere and not from this story.

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | Leave a comment

Auto-mitrailleuse

I hope everyone had a great New Year’s celebration and are well recovered from your hangovers (gueule de bois).  This post began when I noticed several recent pictures on Gallica depicting a certain Captain Genty tooling around Morocco in what is likely the very first “technical” to appear on an African battlefield.

The very early automobiles, as they progressed from slow moving, cumbersome shaking piles of junk to light, quick moving reliable challengers to horses, were immediately put to use by the French military.  As early as the late 1890’s they could be seen in military maneuvers and exercises as a courier vehicle and to a limited degree a command vehicle shuttling staff between various vantage points and command posts.   It was only a matter of time before some real man of genius thought of arming the vehicles with a machine gun.  By 1902, the Charron Girardot Voigt (later Charron) Company began to study self-propelled machine guns.  The model first presented at an early Salon de l’Automobile (auto show) is the first known French armored vehicle and involved the innovation of placing an armored tub in place of the rear seats of an ordinary car and mounting a Hotchkiss 8mm machine gun.  A field test was completed in 1903.

In 1904, the French army decided to use a 1,200 kilogram, 24hp, Panhard & Levassor civilian car for military reconnaissance missions.  This vehicle’s high chassis enabled it to travel over rugged terrain and it’s impact-resistant, reinforced-wood frame gave it flexibility and sturdiness and it could travel at a speed of up to 70 kph. This car was delivered to a detachment of military motorists of the artillery company of Vincennes commanded by Captain Genty.  Genty then improvised two truncated cone-shaped aluminum columns to be placed behind the front seat and behind the rear seat, so that the vehicle could be used in the attack or securing a withdrawal.  The bucket seat next to the driver had a swivel stool so that the gun could be fired from any position. The weapon is an early air-cooled Hotchkiss model 1900/1901 machine-gun weighing 24 kilos.  Thus the first Panhard self-propelled machine gun was born and inaugurates a long line of Panhard military vehicles.

The Panhard-Genty model self-propelled machine gun was sent on a mission to Morocco in July 1907 following an attack on Europeans in Casablanca to participate in law enforcement operations.  It was on December 7, 1907 that Captain Genty received the order to go urgently to Oran with a reconnaissance car, accompanied by a platoon of two vehicles mounted with machine guns. He arrived in Morocco on December 18, when the political situation worsened, and the following photographs depict Genty and his vehicles in various locations in Morocco during the beginning stages of the Moroccan Campaign (pacification du Maroc).

By 1908 these fast moving vehicles were used in several locations during French operations in Morocco and the mastermind of the encroachment into Morocco, General Lyautey, is seen in these vehicles as early as 1907.  Other manufacturers, such as Clément-Bayard, were asked to replace one of the Panhards which had been damaged (possibly the second one that Captain Genty rolled off a road in as many weeks and in which he was very seriously injured) but their models could not deal with the rough terrain. Lyautey was impressed enough to request the purchase of 3 new Panhards in 1911 and in an amazing record setting time of three weeks the first car was delivered.  French General Alix was also seen in 1912 in a well tricked out machine gun car.

In Morocco, the self-propelled machine gun cars transports and escorts the authorities throughout the country as described in the Petit Journal: It was in a self-propelled machine that he made the whole trip under the astonished eyes of the desert riders. Impressive, she is locally nicknamed “the Mahboula” which means “madwoman” or “go-getter.  NOTE: The link below is a .pdf of the pictures in this gallery. 

Auto-Mitrailleuse

 

Posted in History, Photographs, Research, Weapons | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! Srećan Božić / Срећан Божић

Merry Christmas to everyone who follows this blog as well as the regular readers and many visitors who stumble in here from a Google or Duck Duck Go search.  Thank you for coming by.

I also want to wish a special Merry Christmas to the Legionnaires, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors out there guarding our civilization, as sentinels, from the barbarians of the world.  You are always in our thoughts and prayers of this veteran’s family.  Also, this year I particularly want to say thank you and God Bless You to our Police, Firemen and other Emergency Responders.  Thank you for what you do–you are never taken for granted and Monlegionnaire supports Law Enforcement 100%.

Here is something I enjoy reading each Christmas time.  It pops up frequently on social media this time of year.  A bit corny but it illustrates a good point that we should always remember those who are away from their families during Christmas and understand the sacrifices they endure to secure our way of life.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE.

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.

WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.

THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
SILENT, ALONE,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I’D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.

I COULDN’T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.

THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
“SANTA DON’T CRY,
THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;

I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
I DON’T ASK FOR MORE,
MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.”

THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN’T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT’S CHILL.

I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, “CARRY ON SANTA,
IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.”

ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.”

Posted in Christmas | 6 Comments

Legion Pulp: Inco

This Georges Surdez story is from Adventure Magazine (15 May 1928).  It’s not technically about the Foreign Legion as it concerns the unique corps of troops known as the Bataillons d’Infanterie Légère d’Afrique (Battalions of Light Infantry of Africa) or simply the Bat’ d’Af’.  They are also known as Biribi, les réprouvés, Zéphyrs or les Joyeux (the merry ones).  Back in the day, in France, nobody escaped their military duty.  All able bodied males were called up for service for several years and those who were of age but were sitting in jail with sentences over six months were sent to Africa to serve out their military obligation in one of the five Bat d’Af Battalions.  The Bat d’Af is basically a penal unit but with the intention of segregating the bad apples who need to do their military duty from influencing the non-criminals doing their duty in French regiments.  The units were created in 1832, just after the Foreign Legion was established, and were stationed in North Africa like the Legion until the 1960s.  The last remaining units, less than a company, were finally disbanded in 1972.  Many people confuse the Bat d’Af with the Foreign Legion but there was little connection between the two.  During the classic era of of the Foreign Legion (before WWI) the Legion wore the regular blue capote while the Bat d’Af wore the same jacket but theirs were dyed brown.   Also, the Foreign Legion, like many military organizations had it’s own disciplinary units and for the most part did not send their trouble makers to the Bat D’Af.  Those malcontents unfit for service in the Legion would be separated from that corps and then moved into the Bat d’Af if this was thought to be necessary or sent back to prison in France.  The odd thing was, the Joyeux were expected to train and fight as infantry–and they did so very well in Algeria, Crimea, Mexico and World War I.

This story actually concerns the worst of the worst–the trouble makers from the Bat d’Af who are sent to their own discipline detachment (at Sidi Okba in north eastern Algeria) and put to punishing work making roads.  It takes place during the WWI when the only French elements left in Africa were portions of the Foreign Legion (where they kept their German legionnaires under close watch), native detachments and bits of the Bat d’Af.  Surdez does a great job with this story and it clearly shows he is an expert on the French military and the situation in North Africa.

Inco

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | Leave a comment

Grit Gregson: “Mahmoud the Evil” Strikes!

He’s back!  Good ol’Grit Gregson and his merry lot of Legionnaires gets mixed up in a local tribal dispute and foils the nefarious plans of “Mahmoud the Evil” to seize control of the Ben Hassan tribe.  It starts with a simple stroll down the streets of the desert town of Goulais and quickly turns into a camel race, an ambush with rocks and a flash flood.  Helping Grit save the day of course is Buck Baxter, the burly American, and Louis Morel, the “excitable” Frenchman (I know, the background on these two is scant and always the same).  This two pager appeared in the 30 January 1954 issue of the UK story paper Lion.

Grit Gregson Mahmud the Evils Stikes

Posted in Legion Comics | Leave a comment

Books and More Books

Since Christmas is rapidly approaching it is time to highlight some new Foreign Legion books.  Maybe one or two of these can find their way onto your list for Santa Claus?

High Adventure #175:  This bi-monthly publication is a long running series of pulp reprints published by Adventure House.  Back in May of this year they published High Adventure #172 featuring stories by Warren Hastings Miller and his “Hell’s Angels Squad”.  This most recent issue, released in November, features six stories by J. D. Newsom.  The lead story is The Devils of Niang Pass which has the legion fighting along the Tonkin-Chinese border.  The other stories include The Legionnaire, Out of the Desert, The Worm, Stripes, and Dust which mostly appeared in The Frontier pulp.  It is available at their web page or here.

The History of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina 1883-1946 by Andrew Mitchell .  This book is available as a print-on-demand soft cover here.  It is a revised edition of his earlier work entitled The Tigers of Tonkin.  This one has “cleaned up text and more unpublished photos, more maps, and more information set in a new format. This is the definitive story about the French Foreign Legion in Indochina. From their first battles with the Chinese and Black Flags to the ongoing running skirmishes with nationalists and communists.”  Also available now is Mitchell’s pictorial book “A Pictorial History of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina, 1927-1945.  It is available on Blurb which is also a print on demand service (and where you can have a sneak look inside).  You can also check out more of the book at Foreign Legion Info.  Both are well worth the price and provide never before pictures of a lost era. 

The Fetish Fighters and Other Adventures: The F.V.W. Mason Foreign Legion Stories Omnibus.  From Steeger Books comes another fine collection of Foreign Legion pulp stories–this time for stories by F. V. W. Mason that appeared in Argosy between 1929 and 1931.   I suspect this includes The Word of Adjutant Kent and The Fetish Fighters but I’m not sure of the other two stories but hoping one of them is the serialized The Tiger of Pnom Kha which I am pretty sure involves the Legion.

Joys of War: From the Foreign Legion and the SAS, and into Hell with PTSD Paperback – July 28, 2020 by John-Paul JordanThis is one has been out for a while (April 2019) and I have not read it yet.  Irishman John-Paul Jordan is a former Legionnaire with the French Foreign Legion (with I believe an Engineer Regiment) and later joined the British armed forces and eventually qualified for their SAS (Special Air Service).  He finished off his career as a security contractor and NGO worker.  A part of this book covers his battles with PTSD.  NOTE: It appears that he did not want to finish his Legion career and left early–i.e. deserted but I think this book will be worth a read nonetheless.

Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion by Joel Adam Struthers. This book is another one that has been out for a while (March 2019).  I have the e-book but have not read it yet (another victim of my former infatuation with U.S. Submarines in WWII).  Appel is an account of the author’s six years in the 2nd Parachute Regiment (2REP). “Joel Struthers recounts the dangers and demands of military life, from the rigours of recruitment and operational training in the rugged mountains of France, to face-to-face combat in the grasslands of some of Africa’s most troubled nations. Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel is a fascinating story that debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military.”  It covers his time in the Legion during the 1990’s.  Foreword by Col. Benoit Desmeulles, former commanding officer of the Legions 2e Régiment Étranger Parachutistes.  NOTE: An interesting interview of the author is here.

 

Posted in Books, Pulp Fiction Stories | 3 Comments

The Legion is Our Homeland

This article came from an encyclopedia set called “The Elite”.  Each book of the 10 volume set was basically a bound collection of articles that originally appeared in the UK magazine called “The Elite: Against All Odds” (published by Orbis) which started it’s run in 1985.  The set that I found was a distressed public library cast-off with black and white covers along with a soft cover index.  I believe the UK version had camouflage covers.  The articles were first published in “The Elite” magazine from the late 1980’s and into the early 1990’s.  Each article covered what they considered an elite military force or a specific battle in which those units fought.  Also included for each article were informative side bars, uniform and insignia illustrations and plenty of photographs, graphs and maps.  The units covered in these articles were pretty diverse and included German forces from WW2, U. S. Marines, naval action, etc. but there did seem to me to have more articles about the UK units such as their Commandos, Paras, the SAS, Falklands, and Royal Marines.  There were several articles that dealt with the Foreign Legion so here is the first.  It doesn’t cover much new territory and is a bit dated but it is interesting to read nonetheless.  They author was Patrick Turnbull (1908-1986), a very prolific author who’s work appears in dozens of books as well as in several Osprey publications.

The Legion is Our Homeland

Posted in Articles, History | Leave a comment

Legion Pulp: The Squad That Never Came Back

This story comes from the May 1935 issue of Thrilling Adventures.  It is a robust tale about a small detachment of Legionnaires under siege and outnumbered by an aggressive horde of Berber tribesmen.  To complicate their escape plans is a startling deathbed confession and discovery of a treasure map which entrances the lower ranking, and less-than loyal, members of the squad with visions of gold and jewels.  However, the only one who can decipher the coordinates on the map is the narrator, Legionnaire 148–the Lone Survivor.  What follows is a running gun battle over hills and ridges as the squad is pursued all the way to an ancient city in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.  What awaits them is either death or riches. 

The Squad That Never Came Back

This was a nice action packed story with just enough Legion flavor to separate it from other lost city adventures.  I’m not sure who actually wrote this one but it might have been Bob Du Soe who penned several mid-1930’s Foreign Legion stories for Thrilling Adventures.  I find the “matricule” or registration number of 148 to be a bit odd as the numbers given were usually 4-5 digits before changing to 6 digits in 1940.  Having an ancient city feature in the plot was interesting as there are plenty of Roman ruins scattered around Morocco with the most preserved being Volubilis just north of Meknes.

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | Leave a comment

Legion Pulp: Born to Fight by Bob Du Soe

This pulp magazine gets my award for most awkward looking figure on a cover illustration.  The story is by Bob Du Soe and it appeared in this February 1935 issue of Thrilling Adventures.  If the title seems familiar it is because another Legion story with the same title, written by Georges Surdez, was published in 1937.  I posted that one back in 18 June 2014.  Born to Fight starts off with an American getting press-ganged into the Foreign Legion (which is odd yet again because Du Soe also wrote The Shanghaied Legionnaire). 

Born to Fight_Du Soe

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | Leave a comment

Legion Pulp: The Affair at Dar-Mashrik

Here is something that didn’t actually appear in a pulp but it WAS written by the master of Foreign Legion pulp fiction, Georges Surdez.  This story comes from the February 1937 issue of The Elks Magazine–the official magazine of The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.  Back in the good old days many magazines featured fiction as a way to keep their subscription rates up.  Publications such as the American Legion Magazine, The Shrine Magazine (Shriners/Masons), Boys Life Magazine, and even the WWII serviceman’s magazine Yank had some fiction mixed in with soldiers anecdotes.

This story starts off good–in a small fort in the hills of Morocco manned by 40 some legionnaires.

The Affair at Dar-Mashrik

Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | Leave a comment