Hodgepodge for May 2017

Sorry this is a couple days late–May was a very busy month and June is no different so I’ve had very little time for enjoyable things like blogging.  But anyway, here are some interesting and enjoyable things about the Foreign Legion that I found last month.

1. Musee de la Legion Etrangere.  The French Foreign Legion has a museum which I think is fitting for any such military organization with such a storied tradition and history.  The main building is located at Aubagne in southern France (20 min east of Marseille) and houses most of the exhibits and collections while an Annex at Puyloubier is the temporary home of the Guyader Uniform Collection (called le musée de l’uniforme).  These consist of an additional 94 mannequins that display Foreign Legion uniforms from 1931 until 1968.  Here are some pictures of the uniform displays from the museum.  The narrow ones are from Wikipedia while the others came from Flickr.  (Not sure which were from the Puyloubier annex).  This .pdf document is a 2012 informational publication on the museum and it’s renovation.  Legion Museum

2.  Legion-et-cinema. Speaking about the Foreign Legion Museum here is another informational booklet produced to promote the exhibit about the Foreign Legion in movies.  The movies selected include mostly French language titles but also many American classics such as Legionnaire (1998), Morocco (1930), and the Beau Geste movies.  Another interesting item inside is the four film directors who actually served in the Foreign Legion (including William A. Wellman)

Dossier-de-Presse-Legion et cinema

3. A Kiwi in the French Foreign Legion.  Another YouTube video that I somehow missed.  This time an English documentary featuring a New Zealander discussing the Foreign Legion.

4.  More Majorum.  This web page is focused on the German members of the Foreign Legion who fought in Indochina from 1946 to 1954.  Even though it is in German I found it well organized and very informative (using Google translator to help me).

Posted in Movies, Uniforms, Video, Websites & Blogs | 1 Comment

WWI Photographs of the Foreign Legion

I was browsing the digital images of World War I that are found in the online collection known as the Albums Valois and discovered several photographs depicting the Foreign Legion.  These photo albums (according to their website which I paraphrase below) was created by the French Army Photo Section (SPA), an organization created in 1915 by the Ministry of War, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Instruction.  During the war the French government dispatched photographers, called “operators,” on the various Western fronts, then from the Orient, with the aim of taking official historical images of the conflict.  These were meticulously sorted into categories such as destruction & ruins, ceremonies, aviation, hospitals, etc.  Each plate is precisely identified with the place-name, date and short description.  Currently there are about 50,000 photographs available on-line and includes albums from the departments of Aisne, Ardennes, Belgium, Marne, Meurthe et Moselle, Meuse, Moselle, North, Oise, Paris (including the entrenched camp), the Pas Calais, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Seine et Marne, Territoire de Belfort, and the Vosges.  These are accessible via L’Argonnaute. Throughout the year, the additional online releases will follow one another and eventually a set of 110,000 photographs will be available online.

The pictures below are from my searches for obvious key words such as “Légion Etrangère” and other key words such as “Maroc” to pull up photographs of the Moroccan Division to which the Foreign Legion Marching Regiment (RMLE) was assigned to for the latter half of the war. 

Zinovy Peshkov.  These pictures of Peshkov (aka, Peshkoff) simply showed up in one of the Paris albums that I was browsing.  Peshkov of course was the adopted son of the famous Russian author Maxim Gorky.  He volunteered to fight for France and enlisted into the 1st Marching Battalion of the 1st Foreign Legion Regiment in 1914.  In May of 1915, as a corporal leading a squad at Arras he was seriously wounded in the arm by a bullet and would lose his right arm to infection.   In these photographs you can clearly see the collar insignia indicating that of an interpreter–he spoke Russian, French, English, Italian and German.  These photos would have been taken after he left the Legion due to his grievous wound but later rejoined the military in June of 1916 with the rank of “interpreter of third class” (lieutenant) and assigned to the 20th Staff Section in Paris.  He was then sent to speak in the United States on behalf of France in an effort to convince America to enter the war.  He would continue to serve in the French military and became famous as a Foreign Legion officer (1921-1926 and again from 1937-1940) who fought in the Rifs in Morocco and wrote a book about his experiences in that conflict entitled The Bugle Calls.

In Cantonment.  The French, like most of the allies, rotated their troops from the front lines on a regular basis for rest, refitting and reinforcing and these pictures show the RMLE in the rear areas near Froissy and Plessier-de-Roye in the Oise department north of Paris.  The group shots are of legionnaires of various nationalities and include Americans, Luxembourgers, Spanish, South Americans, Romanians, and Swiss.  Mixed among the Foreign Legion troops are many (Algerian & Tunisian) troops from the various North African regiments and battalions that also comprised the 1st Moroccan Division.  The two officers are Colonel Cot, the CO of the RMLE at the time and General Degoutte the CO of the Division Marocaine.

Moroccan Division Ceremony. These pictures show a mix of Foreign Legionnaires, Tirailleurs, Zouaves and others of this highly decorated unit during some type of parade held on 05 September 1916.  The Legion troops are recognized by their helmets with the infantry badge (the flaming grenade).  The last picture is a parade in Paris on Bastille Day, 1917.

Miscellaneous.  These pictures show some Foreign Legion troops marching toward the front lines, boarding a train, with a machine gun packing mule, and some impromptu gambling.

Hopefully I can find some more interesting pictures from this resource and I will be looking for more updates to the albums over the months.

Posted in Photographs, World War One | 2 Comments

Legion Pulp: The Scarlet Oasis

Something a little different this month–an aviation story featuring a French escadrille stationed at Colomb Bechar, Algeria that flies in support of Foreign Legion ground operations against the hostile Bedouin tribes to the south…..or something like that.  Remember, this is fiction and the lead pilot is American Sidney Barrett from Arizona, there is a girl involved, the harka is only 80km from the fort, there is a menacing Bedouin airplane that needs to be dealt with and faith must be kept with the men of the Foreign Legion.

The Scarlet Oasis

The Scarlet Oasis was written by Lt. Seymour G. Pond of the Royal Flying Corps and appeared in the The Popular Magazine for (2nd) August 1930.  Pond was an American aviator who found a position in the R.F.C. after the war and later became a pulp writer whose specialty was flying and air combat stories.  He may have had first hand experience with the Legion during his travels in Morocco and the geographic and military details of this story are pretty accurate.   Note: I let my scanner rest yet again–this scan was not mine–credit goes to “beb”. 


Posted in Pulp Fiction Stories | 4 Comments

Joyeux Camerone 2017!

Happy Camerone Day! 

1.  Videos.  Here are a couple of Camerone related videos with the first posted today from the 13th DBLE who recently returned to France last year after decades overseas (since it’s creation in 1940).  The second is a compilation of older Camerone Days with nice translation provided by the poster–Nettempereur.  …and of course Camerone Day would not be complete without listening to the Jean Pax Méfret’s Caméron.  

2.  Camerone 2017 Press Dossier.  Here is a copy of this years official press release on Camerone.  Of note on page 9 is the “Le Porteur De La Main” or the “Carrier of the Hand” referring of course to the hand of Captain D’Anjou.  This year the carrier is Sergent-chef Phong N’Guyen Van who was also part of the 2010 procession alongside legendary Legionnaire Roger Falques.  Van joined the Foreign Legion in Vietnam in 1954 and served in 1st & 2nd Parachute Battalions (1BEP & 2BEP) of the Foreign Legion as well as the 4REI, 13th DBLE, and 2REP and even in the 3rd Saharan Transportation Company (CPSL).  He looks pretty good for an 82 year old veteran.  The next two pages has short bios of the Legionnaire who will accompany Sergent-chef Van–one from each Legion regiment.  This ceremony is held in Aubagne, France but anywhere the Foreign Legion may be there is a celebration of some sort no matter how small.

Camerone 2017

3.  Camerone Roster.  In case you ever wondered, there were 65 total Legionnaires of the 3rd Company of the 1st Foreign Regiment who fought at Camerone against over 2,000 Mexican infantry and cavalry.  Of those 65 there were three officers: Captain D’Anjou and Lieutenants Maudet and Vilain.  Forty of the 65 were killed or mortally wounded and the remaining were all captured (17 were wounded).  Here is a roster from the 150th Camerone Anniversary press release.  This roster would actually be a good starting point for a Camerone skirmish wargame.  Camerone Roster

4. The Hacienda.  There are various depictions of the hacienda that the legionnaires of Camerone made their last stand in.  I’ve gathered what I could find into the gallery below.

5. Military History Monthly.  Here is an article on Camerone from Military History Monthly (October 2015) one of my favorite history magazines that miraculously appeared in my Barnes and Nobles bookstore for a while

. Military_History_Monthly_October_2015 Camerone

Posted in Camerone | 4 Comments

Mon Legionnaire Library Update

I finally got around to updating my Library page.  You can get there by clicking on the tab that says “Library” under Brian Donlevy (Sergeant Markoff) in my header.  I removed all of the .mobi and .epub links and replaced them with one to the Internet Archive (or other digital archive).  Then I restored the .pdf links which now download my modified versions of these books where the blank pages have been removed and some pictures and covers were added.  New additions to the library include Death Squads in Morocco by W. J. Blackledge and Lost Sheep by Vere Shortt.  In a a couple of days you should see the memoir In Order to Die by Henry Ainley (Indo-China, 1951-53), With the Foreign Legion at Narvik by CPT Pierre O. Lapie and Nothing To Lose by Colin John (another Indochina memoir).  Hopefully by the end of the week there will be five P. C. Wren books posted once I tidy up the pages and covers.  A bit later there will be section on World War I where several books on the American fighters in the Foreign Legion will be posted.  Also there will be another section that contains books on North Africa, the Sahara, Algeria, and Morocco.


Posted in Books | 4 Comments

North African / Arab War Game Terrain Builds (from eBay)

Here is a post related to war gaming.  Over the years I’ve collected some pictures from various eBay listings for North African/Arab themed war game terrain.  Those posted today are mainly from two builders-sellers that make some really incredible builds–so much eye candy here that I felt they needed to be featured on this blog as inspiration for the scratch building readers and war gamers who visit this blog.  The two eBay sellers are wargamechris and smallworldgames.  The first two items shown below are from smallworldgames and the others are from wargamechris (all of which have been sold).  The gallery pictures are just some teasers as I’ve loaded the rest of the pictures from the listings for each build in the .pdf files below.  They were built for 28mm miniatures and are truly works of art.

Adobe Ruin     Afghan House    African House    Arab House    Arabian Walled Town   Colonial African Block    Desert Fort with Oasis    Downtown Hotel    Fortified Village Middle Eastern House

NOTE:  I hope I didn’t step on anyone’s toes here as I shamelessly did not ask permission to use these pictures.  Please drop a comment if you are the owners and want me to remove them 9and I apologize in advance.)

Posted in Wargame Terrain | 1 Comment

Epic of the Foreign Legion (WWI)

Here is an article that I’ve had laying around for some time but had assumed it was already posted.  It is a chapter (page 27) from the book Deeds of Heroism and Bravery: The Book of Heroes and Personal Daring by Elwyn Alfred Barron which was published 1920.  In this book there are dozens of amazing stories of WWI combat and daring adventures featuring soldiers, airmen, sailors, spies, nurses, and ambulance men.  This article does a good job providing some first hand anecdotes of the early actions of the Foreign Legion as recounted by American legionnaire Edward Morlae.  The last chapters under the heading “Dare-Devil Fighters from the Paris Slums” address the Battalions D’Afrique / Joyeux and their heroic actions in the trenches.

Epic of the Foreign Legion

Here is another copy of this photograph from the August 1917 issue of Scribner’s magazine.

Posted in Articles | 3 Comments

Grit Gregson: Ambush in the Valley of the Moon

Camerone Day is coming up fast and I’m a bit flat footing on my celebratory blog postings so here is the very first Grit Gregson feature that appeared the U.K. comic Lion (#096 dated 19 December 1953).  Legionnaire Gregson appeared in Lion for less than a year ending in mid-1954.  I’m not sure how many total Grit Gregson pieces there are–my digital copies of Lion with Gregson end at #121 and my next copy is #137 which does not have the Gregson feature.  So my best guess is that there were between 25 to 35 Grit Gregson adventures.   (Thanks goes to the usenet poster who uploaded these comics so long ago).

Grit Gregson Ambush in Moon Valley

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Legion Pulp: Not in the Ritual

April’s Foreign Legion pulp story is from the pages of Adventure Magazine that first hit the streets way back on the 15th of March, 1931.  …another masterpiece from the master of Foreign Legion fiction–Georges Surdez.  It is about an intense rivalry between a hardened Legion NCO and a new recruit with a serious background problem and a death wish.

Not in the Ritual

Not my scan so thank you very much to “jvh-sas” for the upload of this magazine.

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Lost Sheep by Captain Vere Dawson Shortt

Lost Sheep by Vere Shortt.  Published by John Lane, The Bodley Head, London.  January, 1914.  312 pages.

Here is a remarkable book and one of the best early French Foreign Legion novels I’ve ever read.  Lost Sheep has been my personal version of the “Great White Whale”–always very elusive when looking for a copy and in all cases way too expensive whenever one surfaced in the book market.  I waited for years but finally this March I was poised to purchase an expensive hard copy when I stumbled on the digital version of the book recently uploaded last October by The Library of Congress to the Internet Archive.   I was ecstatic then and by coincidence a month later another hard copy of the book popped up on eBay (and way more affordable too) which quickly became part of my library.  So I felt, after reading it, that I needed to share this gem with everyone.

Note that in a post here, back in July of 2012, I mentioned Lost Sheep and provided some information about the author and a couple of articles he wrote about the Foreign Legion.  The author has a very interesting background.  Captain Vere Dawson Shortt was born at Moorfield, Mountrath, Queen’s County, Ireland (now County Laois) in 1874.  Prior to WWI he had experience in South Africa as a cavalryman in the Cape Mounted Rifles and during the Boer War with “Steinacker’s Horse”.  He also began writing short fiction of the “weird” and “occult” variety that was popular at the time and had several pieces published in minor periodicals such as The Occult Reveiw.  In his articles on the Foreign Legion he said that he was himself a former “legionary” and wanted to set the record straight on some things relating to that corps.   If Vere Shortt was actually in the Foreign Legion it would have been sometime between 1902-1913 but his sister never mentions this service in a short biography she provided after his death to the editor of The Occult Review.  Because of his military background he was commissioned at the outbreak of WWI and went off to war in France as a Captain in August of 1915 and was subsequently killed in the Battle of Loos on 27 September 1915 while leading his men from the 7th Battalion of the Northhamptonshire Regiment.  He is memorialized at the Loos Memorial at Pas de Calais, France.

Lost Sheep is basically a longer-than-most pulp fiction story published in book format.  It must be noted that it was also published in the U.S. in an actual pulp magazine –the July 1915 issue of Short Stories (v84 #1 No. 302).  Because of the two column format of most pulps it was easy to squeeze the 312 pages of the book onto 77 pages of 7″ X 10″ pulp paper.  The book has no illustrations but I’m sure Short Stories provided their usual ink drawings for the story.

The plot begins with our English cavalryman, James (Jim) Lingard, barely holding on to his position in the 31st Hussars due to his financial (gambling) problems.  The remains of his small inheritance is literally rolled away on a one-night binge at a casino so he reluctantly resigns his commission.  Sulking around London he gets fed up with the society he is no longer a part of and impulsively flees to Paris.  Lingard is fluent in French (his mother was French) but his money does not last any longer in Paris and he makes the fateful decision to join the French Foreign Legion (about page 35).  This is when the author’s knowledge of the Foreign Legion really kicks in as he describes Lingard’s enlistment, travel to N. Africa, the Legion’s culture and customs and the various and odd legionnaires he meets.  Lingard quickly makes corporal and then is posted to the Mounted Section of the 2nd Company and made a Sergeant.  While stationed at the desert outpost of Ain Sefra he begins to feel a despair and carelessness that he quickly diagnoses as le cafard.  Seeking some remedy to his melancholy he seeks out trouble and mischief in the form of the bars of village negre and a mysterious house nearby.  Intruding inside the house he meets the mysterious and very alluring girl known as Amine but he is warned away by her bodyguard and threatened with death if he enters the house again.  Of course this does not stop Lingard and he visits a second time before heading off with the Legion to Douargala on an offensive operation near the Saharan desert (he is also promoted to adjutant).  At the oasis of El Rasa his unit is attacked by a hoard of mounted Senussi fanatics and Lingard and his commander, Lt. Morsec, are captured.  From page 188 onward the story leaves the Foreign Legion behind and becomes something you might read in a Weird Tales pulp with plenty of ancient magic and dark spirits.  The two captives are taken deep into the the Saharan desert and kept by the Senussi in a mysterious fortress nestled in the Hoggar (Ahaggar) Mountains.  Of course, Amine is there because she is actually a queen of the Senussi but she has fallen hard for “Jeem” Lingard and arranges for the escape of the two legionnaires (which they do after some narrow escapes and close quarters combat).

The plot is not as tight as A Soldier of the Legion ( by C. N. & A. M Williamson) which was also published in 1914 but the parts about the Foreign Legion more than make up for this (for me at least).  There were also several items that were left hanging in what seemed to be a rushed ending such as how did the emir of the Senussi happen to be an Englishman and did the French ever eliminate the massed Senussi forces.  I also didn’t like some of the unexplained supernatural events in the latter half of the book as they were a bit contrived and shallow.  Nevertheless, I’m sure readers will enjoy this book.  It’s tragic that Shortt’s life ended just when he started on a promising career as an author.  He might have become a prolific writer of Foreign Legion fiction like P. C. Wren or Georges Surdez.  NOTE:  the .pdf file below is from the Internet Archive and the text is a bit faded but fully readable on a tablet or PC. 

Lost Sheep

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