Here are two short tales of Grit Gregson from the U.K. comic “Lion”. Both appeared in 1954–22 May for The Mascot They Didn’t Want (#118) and 12 June for He Arrested His Pal (#121). Of course these are a bit old fashioned and were written for the younger crowd of the day but Grit Gregson stories always contain essential elements of good Foreign Legion tales; the villainous Sergeant, a small cadre of the hero and his diverse buddies, seedy back alleys of the “village negre“, and bands of marauding Bedouins that make Hollywood Indians seem authentic.
He Arrested His Pal
The Mascot They Didn’t Want
Here is a random selection of North African desert forts…
Adam, a loyal reader of this blog, kindly provided me with pictures of his Foreign Legion desert outpost. He says that “the basic structure is foamcore with a plaster skin; timber roofs and ladders are balsa…and it isn’t based on a particular historical fort (but would be located somewhere) in the Sud-Oranais in about 1908. The rather lonely Legionnaire is a converted 1914 French infantryman from Great War Miniatures.” It looks very solid with a nice basing job…the perfect display prop that would probably fit on a bookshelf for some extra finely painted miniatures or it can be the Rif objective number one for a table top miniatures game.
Another interesting Moroccan / Saharan building that I found somewhere on the web was noted as a granary. It would be an interesting blockhouse as well and the pictures serve as a good scratch-building reference to the type of brick work, stucco, and colors one would see in the North African desert.
Lastly, I had these three pictures laying around in my collection; one of Fort Flatters, one of Fort Lallemand and a ground level shot of Fort Flatters. Notice the wire obstacles around Flatters that probably went up right after the Great War.
Camarón Day is this Thursday!
Here is a wonderfully drawn graphic tale of the French Foreign Legion that appeared in Vampirella #78 (May 1979), my favorite of all Warren Comic’s from the 1960’s and 70’s. The artist was Jose Ortiz and the story was by Steve Englehart. I was saving it for some special occasion but then I realized that Camarone 2015 is less than a week away. You will be surprised, perplexed and maybe confounded at the ending and most likely re-read the entire story to figure out what in the heck just happened. .pdf below….
April’s pulp story comes from the December 1940 issue of Action Stories. The author is John Starr which was a house pseudonym used by Fiction House from about 1933 to 1953. Action Stories was a general “adventure” type of pulp magazine that featured mostly westerns and stories set in exotic locales. Not as big or famous as Blue Book or Adventure it nonetheless was published for 29 years with 225 issues (a monthly for the first ten years but later a bi-monthly and then quarterly). Looking over some of the content listed for this magazine during the late 1930’s I find dozens of stories featuring the term “Legion” used in ways that clearly indicate a Foreign Legion tale. Murder Sands is only six pages but with a nice twist at the end that makes me think the real author was Theodore Roscoe (but I would be guessing).
I recently found a treasure trove of digital reading material at the archives of The American Legion Magazine (link). Here you can find 1,524 back issues (from 1919 to 2014) that are fully downloadable in .pdf format. Many of the issues from the mid-1920’s to the mid-1950’s featured high quality short fiction as well as non-fictional first hand accounts of combat in WWI and WWII. Of course I had to check for French Foreign Legion related articles and was pleased to discover the following two-part article written by Captain Leighton H. Blood that appeared in the February and March issues of 1928.
Soldiers of the Legion Part 1
Soldiers of the Legion Part 2
Both articles provide a unique look at the Foreign Legion by someone who was given rare access to their garrisons in North Africa around the 1927-early 1928 period. This was a couple of years after the Rif War and the Great Syrian Revolt and the author makes several references to both locations. Also interesting is that Blood was given a motor tour of the Atlas Mountain region by none other than Captain Edgar Hamilton (then commander of 10th Co. 3rd BN, 4REI). Hamilton was one of the very rare Americans who became officers in the Foreign Legion. In the second article Blood interviews a German legionnaire who narrowly escaped the death penalty for desertion in Syria, two American legionnaires and a Georgian prince using the Legion as a last refuge of honor.
Leighton Blood was an infantry and armor veteran of WWI who attained the rank of Captain by the end of that conflict. He eventually turned his career to journalism and wrote current affairs articles with a military perspective for The American Legion Weekly (and later Monthly). This position as a magazine reporter (he was also an official member of the American Legion) undoubtedly opened up many doors that would have been closed to other reporters especially during the years after the war. An avid traveler, Blood wrote several articles about far flung locales as North Africa, Cuba and the Philippines. By the 1930’s Blood was writing fiction as well. The Popular Magazine, a long running general fiction pulp, would feature many of his stories to include several Foreign Legion / North African tales with titles such as Son of a Legionnaire, Drums in the Atlas, Legionnaires Don’t Tell and A Berber Racket.
It is April and Camerone Day is fast approaching so I’m going to bump up the blogs posts here for a while. Check back regularly or “follow” Monlegionnaire.
I’m back from my little break. Here are some of the Foreign Legion related items I’ve collected up for the month of March.
1. Traditions of the French Foreign Legion. I found two articles on the Foreign Legion at the “expatnation” website. The first one is a run down of the Legion’s traditions and customs. The other article is more or less simple facts about the Foreign Legion entitled Things You Don’t Know About the Foreign Legion. Nothing new here but I also found some other interesting articles at the web site written by folks living in France.
2. Still Serving Legionnaire; will-answer-any-questions! The forum at the Close Protection World website has a long running discussion thread where “Adam” from the U.K. answers questions about the modern Foreign Legion. Lots of great information about preparations for joining, what to expect if you are accepted and also plenty of myths and misconceptions cleared up. Adam was in the 2REG (Engineers) back when this thread started in 2010. Several other legionnaires also chimed in on topics as well before posting petered out in mid-2014. (You do have to register to see all the pages. If you are not really interested in the current Foreign Legion this may not interest you.)
3. Germans in the French Foreign Legion (First Indochina War). Here are two amazing videos that explore the post-WWII surge of German nationals (almost all were ex-soldiers of the smashed Third Reich) that flooded the Foreign Legion with needed recruits just when France needed them most to hold on to their colonies in Indochina and North Africa. Each runs about 30 minutes and are loaded with newsreel footage and interviews of elderly former Legionnaires who clearly relish recounting their experiences. The videos also explore the amazing fact that hundreds of German legionnaires who deserted the Legion in Indo-China actually wound up serving with the Viet Minh against their former comrades. Video 1. Video 2.
4. Thomas Gast. Here is “Ecriture“, a very well done website run by Thomas Gast a former member of the 2REP from Germany. Mostly in German but with lots of photographs and excellent leads on books.
5. Unfeasibly Miniatures. This company is producing a fine line of 28mm Foreign Legion miniatures at a phenomenal rate. Their latest is a couple of mounted legionnaires with mules. Really nice items here. It looks like they are also working on an artillery crew for an 80mm mountain gun–check out their facebook page.
This short story is from the February 1939 issue of Adventure and is written by Georges Surdez. Forty-two men are assigned to the “special section” garrisoned in the Ras-el-Khaloua Blockhouse located on the sun blasted, south facing hills of the Middle Atlas. For six months the privates will be at the mercy three notorious Sergeants and over time they WILL adapt to the discipline of the Legion.
Another fine work from Surdez that is full of small but colorful details of life in the Foreign Legion as well as his usual finely crafted and memorable characters.
Three Mad Sergeants
Admin Note: I’m going to take another short two week break from posting here as I have several pressing appointments, trips and issues to take care of. I also need to do some work finishing up several future posts that have been on hold for way too long. Looking ahead my next post will be at the end of the month and on April 1st, a 15 April pulp fiction story and Camerone Day is coming up on 30 April. The Windy City Pulp Convention on the 17th of April as well and I plan to attend if possible. Thanks for visiting.
Updated 22 March–uploaded new .pdf with missing page “48”.
Sorry for the delay on this post. I went to Canada again for several days and just got back. Why anyone travels to Canada during the winter escapes me but I was happy that it was actually warmer than my home state of Wisconsin. Now that I’m back at the keyboard here is what I found over the past month….(relating to the Foreign Legion of course).
1. Run Away with the Foreign Legion. Here is a short article written in a humorous vein about getting away from it all and joining the Legion. Mostly history and some nice pictures.
2. The French Foreign Legion Celebrates the Battle of Camarón. This video is a very nice compilation of newsreel footage covering various celebrations of the Battle of Camarón. I noted that it featured 1940 deployment footage of the Foreign Legion to the continent as well as Fête de Camarón films from 1931 (the Legion’s Centennial celebration), 1933, 1946, 1947, 1956, and 1957. It has also been translated into English by the video poster Nettempereur.
3. Thibaut Corday of the Foreign Legion Audiobook. I found this product to be a pleasant surprise. It’s an audiobook version of the Altus Press collection of Theodore Roscoe’s tales of Thibaut Corday. There is a sample here. The stories contained in this 5 CD volume #1 include:
Better Than Bullets
The Dance of the Seven Veils
An Eye for an Eye
The Death Watch
Chapter 1: The Little Yankee
Chapter 2: The Flower of France
Chapter 3: Into Hell!
Chapter 4: To the Rescue!
Chapter 5: The Death Watch!
The Men Who Make The Argosy – Theodore Roscoe
4. Unknown Donation of Foreign Legion Militaria. This short article was intriguing….it seems somebody anonymously donated a decent collection of Foreign Legion items to the Proserpine Historical Museum of Proserpine, Queensland, Australia. I suppose it might have come from a former Australian Legionnaire or his family but who knows? They would love to know more about it.
5. Brigadier Tony Hunter-Choat. I belatedly came across this item about the passing of former Legionnaire Hunter-Choat in 2012. There are several more articles on the net about his amazing military career — just search for his name. His service in the Legion bears many similarities to that of Dutch Legionnaire Peter Reeves who’s memoir is captured in the book Legion of Outcasts. After the 1961 Algiers Putsch, many serving in the Foreign Legion at the time were almost cast adrift as most of their leadership went into hiding and the ranks rapidly shrank due to desertion. In Hunter-Choat’s case he participated in the 1REP plot but after it’s failure he stayed put and eventually reached his five year mark and was discharged. He then embarked on a second fantastic military career in the British Army.
6. Bolt Action French Army Build. Here is another post that recently appeared on the Bolt Action.net website. It is a 1250 point list (wargame speak for the composition of a force used in battles with the Bolt Action rules) for a WWII French Colonial force. Really nice pictures of miniature and terrain eye candy.
Here is a quick tale from an obscure comic called Mister Mystery. The March 1952 issue (#04) featured a short Foreign Legion tale of a doomed desert patrol. The art work leaves much to be desired and the title only lasted 19 issues. Apparently, short run titles and name changes were the usual story at Key Publications where the owner, Stanley P. Morse, played loosely with the standards of professional comic book publishing.
…and I realize the accent of the legionnaires is supposed to be German but for goodness sake it sure didn’t sound like it inside my head.
Admin Note: In case you haven’t noticed, I recently added two new pages to this blog. If you look below the blog illustration of Markov and the Geste brothers there is now a link to a Library page and to a Store page. In the Library, I’m slowly formatting and collecting public domain books so they are more readily accessible to those looking for reading material. Most of the books will be .pdf, epub (Nook Reader), and mobi (Kindle). In the Store I hope to make some money for this blog by selling unique collections of fiction and non-fiction works. I’m also compiling a bibliography / annotated guide that covers memoirs, fiction, non-fiction, pulps, movies, comics, and other media. I don’t want to ask for donations but instead prefer to sell something readers might enjoy. Money raised will go towards purchasing more miniatures, books, pulps and other assorted Foreign Legion related items.
Here is a very early work by Georges Surdez that appeared in the 30 July 1925 issue of Adventure. This is his 21st story for this magazine after first starting to appear there in 1922. The plot concerns the men in the Bat’ d’Af” or the Battalions of Light Infantry of Africa (Bataillons d’Infanterie Légère d’Afrique or BILA) who served in North Africa. They were also given the nickname Zéphyrs, Biribi or Joyeux (“Joyous ones”). These units were composed of hardened men who had a prison record and have not fulfilled their military obligation or who were still in prison at the time of their normal draft for military service. The majority of the men in these units came from the Paris or Marseilles underground. The BILA units often fought alongside the Foreign Legion in their various campaigns in Algeria and Morocco and are often mistaken for Legionnaires as they wore fairly similar uniforms (although at one time all their uniforms were dyed brown) and shared a reputation for trouble making.
Knaves of Spades is a very long and somewhat complex story–billed as a complete novel, the story clocks in at 76 pages. Here are two .pdf documents. One for printing and a small one for reading on your tablet.
A Knave of Spades
Knaves of Spades_Print
NOTE: The .pdf print version of this story was updated 17 Feb. The previous version was missing a page and also had a duplicate page which was removed.