100 Foreign Legion Books

Here is a quick post for today…something I’ve been messing with for a long time.  I thought it would be a good idea to gather the covers of the books about the Foreign Legion into one large type of info-graphic or “graphic bibliography”.  I finally got around to finding pictures of 100 books to complete what I found to be a challenging exercise in web searching.  The picture above depicts 100 non-fiction books about the Foreign Legion.  They are not in any particular order and most all of them (95/100) are in English with the others in French included because the pictures by themselves were valuable even to English-only readers.  Some are very hard to find, some are really old and others are available only as eBooks. Also included were three English translations of older books originally only available in French (using the 10×10 grid as a left-to-right reference these are books #50, #86, and #87.   Once I reached 100 I realized that I had several books that I didn’t include so I promptly started on another graphic for then next 100 as well as an ongoing project for 100 Foreign Legion fiction books.  Then there are the French books, and other languages.

In case WordPress doesn’t allow for the full resolution you can download the hi-resolution graphic here.

One of these eBooks with an interesting history is Legionnaire by Milorad Ulemek who is better known as “Legija” (Legion) when he was a Serb paramilitary leader during the war in the Balkans.  Ulemek was in the 2REP for six years before he deserted while home on leave in 1992 to stay and fight in the subsequent Yugoslavian conflicts.  Some years ago, after his conviction of various war crimes and political assassinations, Amazon (the digital book burning scold) removed his digital book for sale and was even so bold as to reach out and remove it from my Kindle for PC contents (telling me the book is unavailable when I try to open it) which is odd because I still have it in my Kindle library on Amazon.

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Legion Pulp: Fools for Glory

Here is this month’s Pulp Fiction story straight from the pages of the 1935 April Fools Day issue of Adventure.  It’s a long one by Georges Surdez with lots of well developed characters, plenty of action in the hills of Morocco and infused throughout the story, his thorough understanding of just how to depict military men and combat.  I often marveled at how a non-military pulp author like Surdez could write so expertly about tactics, weapons, and other military related tidbits.  I guess it comes with research, taking good notes, interviewing those who served and perhaps reading first hand accounts of fighting in WWI.  This is one of Surdez’s better stories and I enjoyed every one of the 47 pages.

Anyways, the story concerns Lieutenant Fortane, a well to-do aristocrat with no combat experience, who finds himself assigned to a front-line Foreign Legion company but with all the wrong reasons for being there.  He is replacing a fallen officer who was deeply revered by the men and his assignment also bumped a more popular officer from getting his well deserved promotion.  It appears that it will be impossible for him to win over the loyalty of the Legionnaires he is expected to lead.  This situation leads to a calamitous nighttime raid and a change of fortune fortune for the Lieutenant that will allow him to leave the Army with his coveted award for valor.  But there is just one more final offensive scheduled before he can leave and Fortane makes a fateful decision.

Fools for Glory

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Hell in the Foreign Legion by Ernst F. Löhndorff

Hell in the Foreign Legion by Ernst F. Löhndorff.  Translated by Gerard Shelly. Published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 40 Museum Street, London, Great Britain.  June, 1931.  349 pages.

I’ve had this book for several years but only got around to reading it recently.  What kept me away was the impression that this was just another sensationalized, non-factual screed against the evils of the French Foreign Legion from the typical anti-Legion viewpoint of the German press at the time.  Now I can pass on to you that Hell in the Foreign Legion is indeed anti-Legion and to a great degree non-factual story telling.  However, there were some redeeming portions that make this book a fairly decent memoir and an enjoyable read if you understand the perspective of the author.

Ernst Friedrich Löhndorff is listed on Wikipedia as a German sailor, adventurer, writer and painter.  He was born 13 March 1899 in Frankfurt am Main but later moved to Vienna.  There, in 1912, he was expelled from school due to “too frequent absences” and it is safe to say that at this time he began his life as a vagabond adventurer leaving home at age 14 to travel the world.  Löhndorff departed on a ship to Mexico at the end of September 1914 but upon arrival the ship and crew were impounded because of the outbreak of the First World War.  Bored with confinement, young Ernst absconded to shore and pursued various itinerant jobs and eventually falling in with some revolutionary troops of Pancho Villa who used him to translate English press reports.  Because of his involvement with the rebels responsible for murdering eighteen American engineers in 1916 the U.S. military put a bounty on his head but he was never captured.  He decided to flee Mexico and together with other deserted sailors captured the ship “Alexander Agassiz“.  They sailed under the German flag, but after about four weeks were captured in the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Navy gunboat USS Vicksburg. “Löhndorff was arrested and imprisoned in Los Angeles in February 1918 and later confined in Utah as Prisoner of War No. 638.  At the end of the war, Löhndorff was allowed to leave the United States eventually arriving at Karlsruhe where his family had relocated in 1914.

After the war, Germany had fallen into chaos and revolution and many former German soldiers and unemployed young men felt the need to escape the violence and poverty.  They were easily enticed into joining the Foreign Legion by French authorities particularly along the Rhineland border.  In 1920 Löhndorff enlisted in the Foreign Legion.  What motivated him to do so is unknown; perhaps it was financial hardship, the situation in post-war Germany, or his urge for adventure–he never gives a reason in his book nor does he mention his previous adventures apart from time spent hunting orchids in the Amazon.  Also, noticeably absent in this book, is any lengthy mention of the Great War.  On November 13, 1920, he signed a five-year commitment in Saarbrücken as “Ernesto de Naca e Villaverde,” born in Veracruz on March 13, 1899 (according to the “Etat signaletique et des services” of the Foreign Legion.

This is where Hell in the Foreign Legion begins as Löhndorff is tossed into a mass of desperate German recruits.  His account of travels via Metz to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille lasts for the first 88 pages.  From Marseille, he boards the often referenced ship Sidi-Brahim to Oran, Algeria and then travels by train to Sidi bel Abbès.  Here he gives a wonderful account of the military barracks known as Caserne Vienot (the Legion’s training base, barracks and headquarters).  He very quickly lays into the ineptness of the Legion, the brutality of it’s cadre, the sadism of the medical doctor, and the various sicknesses of his fellow Legionnaires such as alcoholism, thievery, sodomy, and of course le cafard.   In real life, just two months after enlisting, the 22-year-old Löhndorff deserted and fled Algeria.  In his book however it takes until page 159 before his first escape attempt which fails and lands him in detention.  He tries three more times and fails each time.  Eventually he says he spent 60+ days in solitary nighttime confinement alternated with days spent running around the “quad” with sand bags on his back.

A conscientious commander takes pity on him and sends him to a mounted company of the 2nd Legion Regiment (2REI) at Saïda.  In the remainder of the book he recounts forced marches, more brutal punishments (Legionnaires buried in sand with their head exposed to the sun) and the hellish experience of occupying a lone desert outpost for months on end with nothing but the heat, an insane commanding officer called Captain Machinegun (Captain Mitrailleuse), locusts and lone visiting prostitutes who literally walk away into the desert after several days of work with every bit of cash that was in the fort.  After this brutal posting his unit shuffled between various camps and forts in western Algeria to include Aïn Séfra (real), Fort Jonnart (?) Hadshera-M’Guil (?), and Jenien-bou-Rezg (which I believe was to become the Legion’s Disciplinary Camp).

, Eventually he is moved north to fight the Rif near the base of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.  During a harried maneuver through rough canyon country his company is attacked repeatedly and he is presented with an opportunity to make good his desertion from the Legion by swapping his uniform with that of a dead Riffian. The last 20+ pages recount his flight from the battle and eventual salvation as a stowaway on an American freighter.

Keep in mind that most all of this book is fabricated (probably everything that occurs after Sidi Bel Abbes) and as one reviewer puts it “Here, too, as in almost all his adventure novels, real experiences were mixed with poetry. The autobiographical style repeatedly gives the impression that Löhndorff was writing down his own experiences. Although this was not true, his travels and adventures were inspiration for his works.”  Hell in the Foreign Legion was written in 1930 and was his third book.  There was plenty of material available at this time to use in his embellishments to include other Legion memoirs and accounts of real fighting against the Rif which didn’t begin in scale until April 1925.

Hell in in the Foreign Legion reminds me of books written by the Englishman Francis A. Waterhouse, also an actual Legionnaire, that were also part fact-but mostly fiction.  In fact, this is a tradition that goes back to Erwin Rosen, another German adventurer who kicked about the Americas before spending several months in the Foreign Legion, deserting and then writing a book about it in 1910.

The book was was released with the German Title “Afrika weintTagebuch eines Legionärs” or “Africa Cries – Diary of a Legionnaire”.  His travels in Mexico, South America and Africa (including his time in the Legion) inspired him to write thirty novels and books.  These appeared from 1927 to 1966 and were very successful at the time and to this day his books are collectable.  (He passed away in 1976).  NOTE: You can see a much older Ernst in this video.

 

Sources: 1, 2.

 

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Legion Pulp: Salute

This is an odd story written by two unfamiliar authors.  Kingsley Moses was incredibly prolific in the pulps and some slick magazines, writing in just about any genre–sports, westerns, romance and adventure from 1913 to 1949.  Curtis Thomas is not so well known and has only three stories listed under his name at the Fiction Mags Index.  This Foreign Legion tale appeared in the 01 October 1934 issue of Adventure.  The protagonist, a disgruntled American Legionnaire, just back in town from months of combat out on the parched bled, has 500 francs burning a hole in his pocket, a blistering wound on the right side of his face, a smoldering lust for a local barmaid and a red hot hatred for his Lieutenant…and a newly acquired pig.  What could go wrong?

Salute

This fairly short story (barely 10 pages) was actually the headliner for the cover illustration of this issue…

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Library Update

This update kind of derailed my posting schedule.  I got wrapped around some formatting issues for some of these books and became frustrated in trying to get the file sizes down.  But whatever…here is a list of some new books added to the Monlegionnaire Library.  Note: (if you don’t know about the library look at the banner for this blog and you will find a link to another page were I maintain a download list for English language Foreign Legion books).

Legion of the Damned by Bennett Doty (1926).  This is a classic Foreign Legion memoir written by an American who had previously served in the Spanish Foreign Legion.  It contains a great account of the Battle of Mussifire, Syria, that took place in 1925 as well as the author’s subsequent desertion with Englishman John Harvey.

Hungry Crawford by Walter Karig (1920).  Walter Karig, writer and WW2 naval officer, is said to have served in the Foreign Legion in WWI but there is scarce evidence of this in contemporary news articles and books written about the American Legionnaires at the time.  Nonetheless he wrote this book in 1929.  It appears to be for younger readers.  It is very rare and it was surprising to find it available at Hathi Trust.

Lost Sons by Stefan Olivier (1961).  A well done, hard to find novel that features mainly German Legionnaires in Algeria and Indochina.  Originally published in German.

The Key Man by Valentine Williams (1926).  This book contains very little content pertaining to the Foreign Legion which I find odd considering the sub-title, “A Romance of the Foreign Legion”.  I include it in the library to let others know and read it themselves.  It is a Valentine Williams book–an author known for his mysteries and thrillers.

The Last Deserter by John Robb (2011).  This is a reprint of a John Robb Foreign Legion adventure story originally published in 1952.  Robb wrote several Legion adventure stories such as Red Radford that appeared in the UK Commonwealth paperback markets.

Journey Without End by Francis A. Waterhouse (1940).  The author, a former Legionnaire, made a pretty good living writing both fiction and non-fiction works about his time in the Foreign Legion.  He recaps his life of adventure, including his Legion time, in this autobiographical book.

I also added P. C. Wren’s Flawed Blades, Port O’Missing Men, Stepsons of France and Stories of the Foreign Legion as well as some more reading options (.epub and .mobi formats) for his other works.

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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

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