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.
Here is a pulp story that came from Blue Book Magazine from May 1933. The author is unknown to me and does not have many stories in the pulps with his byline. It could be a house pen-name and I could not find any information on him. What makes his Foreign Legion story different is that it is set in northern French Indochina along the Chinese border. The bad guys is a Chinese warlord whose thugs make the mistake of invaliding one of the five English speaking legionnaires who then carry out their plot to reconcile their “claim” with the warlord. This ignites a great cross-border battle between the Chinese and the French and their local Tirailleurs Annamites. This has plenty of action with a large dose of pulpy story telling (i.e. maybe not too realistic). (Thanks to “sas” for the original scan)
The Legion Settles a Claim
Sorry for being so tardy again on posting. I’m putting lots of extra time in at work and correspondingly have gotten way behind on my extracurricular hobbies such as blogging as well as reading. Things should slow down in November when the office gets their new supervisor and I can stop filling in where I can.
…but I didn’t forget that today is the middle of the month and therefore present another long forgotten pulp story of the Foreign Legion. This one appeared in the October, 1929, issue of Frontier Stories. The author is Bob Du Soe (Robert Colman du Soe). Fictionmags Index‘s thumbnail biography says that Du Soe (1892-1958) was “born in Los Angeles; educated at Columbia University; newspaperman on the Hawaiian Islands; naval aviator in WWI and contributed fiction to numerous magazines“. His specialty genre was adventure and so he wrote many Foreign Legion stories as well as all sorts of military, nautical, exploration, historical pieces and even a western or two. His Legion tales are well done but do not come across as rich in authentic detail as those written by Georges Surdez or Robert Carse. Bob Du Soe clearly opts for more action over character development which is exactly what the readers wanted to see in their pulps. This is one of his longer stories at 32 pages.
The Shanghaied Legionnaire
This story is from J.D. Newsom and is one of his earlier tales of the Foreign Legion appearing in the 10 January 1926 issue of Adventure. The story is an old one where the ranks get their revenge on an abusive officer in a cunning and crafty way. It takes place in the Legion garrison and the streets and bars of Sidi Bel Abbes. Not your usual action packed story of desert fighting but quite entertaining nonetheless.
I experienced the demise of a verbally abusive officer once during my military career. He was a young Captain and my company commander for a time and was simply horrible at everything he did. His problem was his obsessive mistrust and paranoia of NCO’s. He accused several of trying to ruin his career. We heard later that his first wife left him for a Master Sergeant. He pretty much self-destructed and was eventually given an evaluation that killed his career and the Army was better for it. A West Pointer too. Who knows, maybe the sergeants were working behind his back. “Enlisted men are stupid, but extremely cunning and sly, and bear considerable watching.”
I came across a very interesting photo album on Flickr the other day. It appears the State Archives of North Carolina digitized 108 photographs from the Kiffin Y. Rockwell Papers that is part of their WWI Collection. They were recently uploaded to Flickr this August. Rockwell is one of the more famous American volunteers who entered Foreign Legion, along with his brother Paul, on 02 October, 1914. Both were wounded at the front and sent to convalesce in Paris. Paul was mustered out of active service and became a war reporter but Kiffen, after five months with the 1st Foreign Regiment, was able to finagle a transfer to an aviation squadron that would later become the Lafayette Escadrille. On September 23, 1916 Kiffen Rockwell was killed in combat–shot down while flying over the trenches.
This album contains many pictures of Rockwell’s time spent in Battalion C, 2nd Marching Regiment, of the Second Foreign Regiment of the Foreign Legion in addition to his aviation activities and recovery period in Paris. Many of the photographs have informative captions that tell the location, names of people and what is happening in the scene. I have only seen one of these pictures before and am thrilled to see more forgotten treasures surface from the musty archives of universities. Below are several samples I pulled from the album. You can download the entire 108 pictures by clicking on the little down arrow under the title of the album. Note: There is a Paul Ayres Rockwell collection at the National Aerospace Museum but this appears to remain not digitized however they did provide the photograph above which is not part of the Flickr album. It shows both Rockwell brothers in French uniform.
Here a couple of more poems of the Foreign Legion written by Robert Service. I found the first two in the archived issues of the Canadian publication – MacLean’s Magazine and thought they needed posting since they are illustrated two-page spreads. Kelly of the Legion was posted on this blog previously. I liked The Man from Athabasca and can readily imagine the almost painful longing for the northern woods a Canadian volunteer might have after several months in the bloody trenches of France. The Blood-Red Fourragere graphic below is one I improvised on and appeared in Service’s Ballads of a Bohemian published in 1921.