This month’s pulp story comes from Adventure magazine (15 Sep 1932) and once again the author is Georges Surdez. This is a garrison tale featuring an American Legionnaire sergeant stationed in a forward depot who has to negotiate a volatile situation involving his old friend who is on a self destructive binge, a woman, jealous officers, false charges and the looming specter of prison.
Once an Officer
I had my appendix taken out last Sunday. They performed a laparoscopic appendectomy which means this type of surgery was supposed to be minimally invasive and allow for a speedier recovery. All I have to say is that my experience was neither of those things and something that I would not wish on anyone, even a Democrat. CAT scan indicated an easy procedure lasting maybe an hour but once they got inside the doctor found something quite different and it turned into a three hour ordeal by tiny “roto-rooter” tools, pumped in carbon dioxide gas and other torture devices. I won’t bore you with the details but thank God I was under general anesthesia. I was discharged on Monday and placed in the tender care of my wife. Off work for the next 8 days (until my follow-up) I was looking forward to at least getting lots of stuff done on the computer, lots of reading and of course some Christmas related decorating and wrapping of presents. Not a chance. I was really out of it the first two days and then, when I started to get more mobile, I just couldn’t bring myself to do more than check emails and vegetate, slack-jawed, to some YouTube videos. Today I’m felling very much better in all areas so I’m grateful for that and look forward to a full recovery soon.
Prior to my unexpected surgery I was working on some draft posts about the French use of defensive blockhouses in their colonial adventures. I hope to get back on those projects soon. Since I am getting much more reading done on the Foreign Legion while convalescing there might be some quick book reviews coming next.
Pic above is related….it’s my doctor and surgical team working on my appendix. (to be fair I’m sure he did a great job–I just have no experience to compare it to).
This short story is from the 15 October 1932 issue of Adventure and, yet again, it is from the typewriter of Geroges Surdez. Much of this story consists of character development. Surdez builds layer upon layer of detail onto his description of the mysterious but also comical portrait of Legionnaire Mathias Vyanor. Of course, like legionnaires do, Mathias proves himself worthy in the end by saving the men of his company. You have to read to the last page to learn the truth of his origins.
The Man From Nowhere
This is another fine article on the Foreign Legion from the British Newspaper Archive. Like other articles posted here it is an account of the Foreign Legion written on or around their 100th Anniversary / Centennial. It appeared in the July 1931 issue of the illustrated paper known as Brittania & Eve.
I really liked this piece–mainly for the frank and upfront approach of the author, Ferdinand Tuohy, who was a WWI news reporter and post-war foreign correspondent who wrote the book The Secret Corps (1920). He does not go down the easy path that many other Legion Centennial reporters took and tries his damned best to describe what he believes is the actual Foreign Legion circa 1931. Even in the first sentences of this article he is calling out the mainstream media for their versions of “fake news”. Overlooking a couple of glaring factual errors (the “mummified” right hand of Captain D’Anjou and his Under Two Flags reference, for example), Tuohy really nailed it with his claim at the end of the third paragraph that “…if I were asked this moment what is the keynote of the Legion, its outstanding feature, its guiding influence, its leitmotif, I should not reply cruelty, or hardship, or lust (love!), or forgetfulness, or glamour (!), but unhesitatingly–DRINK.” Similar points made by the author also go against contemporary writers who penned puff-pieces about the Legion during the Legion’s Centennial observations. These include the perceptions of interviewed legionnaires that only less than 1% of the Legion might have come from “interesting” backgrounds such as professional tradesmen, military officers, priests, doctors, royalty, etc. The remaining 99% are the dregs and roughest cuts from dozens of countries. Tuohy also points out in several places that the officer ranks were reserved for Frenchmen only and all other nationalities have to aspire to senior NCO ranks. All in all this is one of the better Centennial pieces. (.pdf link is below).
This IS the Foreign Legion
NOTE: This is kind a “proof of life” post since I’ve been AWOL for the past three weeks or so. As I noted in a previous post, I’m working on various research projects, sorting out and indexing my horde of digital files and indexing my sagging bookshelf in order to revitalize this blog a bit. Be patient….good things to come.
This month’s Foreign Legion pulp fiction story is again from Adventure magazine (March, 1937). The author is Frederick C. Painton who was a very prolific pulp fiction writer who had well over 300 stories in multiple genres and dozens of pulp and slick magazines. Reading through the list of his works on Fiction Magazines Index it looks like he wrote several other Foreign Legion stories in addition this one. Indeed, Painton is said to have spent time living with the Foreign Legion for a time in order to do proper research on his subject. Even in this 10 page story, you will find his writing is technically accurate and shows a high degree of preparation and research.
Frederick Painton was a WWI veteran who turned to fiction writing after a short time with the Stars and Stripes and other newspapers. During WWII, he was a war correspondent for Colliers and Reader’s Digest covering the campaigns in North , Italy and the Pacific. At the ripe age of 49, he suffered a heart attack and died on 01 April 1945 on the island of Guam.
I recently found that I have several more of these great Grit Gregson stories squirreled away on my hard drives, so here is another–this one is from the pages of the British comic Lion (23 Jan 1954). In this story Grit puts himself at great risk to help Captain Leroux who mysteriously disappears in the desert. (Thanks again to that original usenet poster)
Held to Ransom
This one page article came from The Illustrated London News of 13 November 1926. It’s a unique instance of a writer of Foreign Legion fiction commenting on the writings of another author’s non-fictional memoir of actual experiences in the Legion during WWI. In this case P. C. Wren (of Beau Geste fame, writing here to promote the first movie) who writes critically of the American author Maurice Magus and his posthumously published book Memoirs of the Foreign Legion (1924).
Reading this piece for the first time I immediately felt that Wren may not have read the book he is commenting on or that if he did his opinions of the author were nonetheless entirely prejudiced by D. H. Lawrence’s long and boorish introduction to the book. Wren casts doubt on Magnus being fit for the Legion by noting what him old, fat and short and attacks his character as dishonest, mean and lacking mental, moral and physical fiber. Wren gives zero credit to Magnus, who at first, in late 1915, tried joining the Red Cross efforts of Italy, Russia, France and Serbia before deciding on serving with other noble foreigners in the Foreign Legion. His mind made up to join the Foreign Legion and in early 1916 (not late in the war as Wren states) Magnus traveled from Italy to Tunis and persistently made his way to Sidi Bel Abbes presenting himself to the surprised staff of the headquarters there and signing enlistment paperwork without really having a clue what he was getting into. He had just joined the rear-rear echelon of one of the most hard-fighting and bloodied units of the Allied forces. Almost immediately, Magnus was made very aware of his personal and physical failings and this experience quickly cleared his head of all patriotic notions of serving in the multinational Foreign Legion. Yet, despite being a duck out of water, he stuck with the Legion and was eventually sent onward to France. However, after spending months in squalid camps nowhere near the front, his disillusionment in the Legion became total and he deserted across the border into Italy. Wren then delights in taking his “high horse” and trampling all over the straw man he builds of Magnus and his book for the remaining 3/4 of the article. This is pretty bold for Wren–a man who quite possibly never served a day in the Foreign Legion himself but somehow was given the popular mantle of “Foreign Legion Expert” for decades based on his fiction writing.
To clarify things a bit more…Magnus went to Africa in the naive and completely mistaken belief that this was the proper route to take to enlist in the Foreign Legion. Along the way he was fed some high grade bullshit (misinformation) by an American diplomat in Algiers and a Dane he meets on the train. He did not, as Wren states, join the Foreign Legion to take refuge there. His motives to “do something in this great struggle” were genuine and he anticipated joining a force of honorable volunteers from all over the world. Wren is correct that Magnus complained bitterly throughout his book about the Germans and German culture he encountered in the Legion and Magnus also wrote a scathing commentary about the “dregs” he encountered there. Yet, contrary to what Wren claims, Magnus DID write that within days he realized he was in the wrong place. He found out that the RMLE (full of those fellow Americans, Swiss, Scandinavians and other nationalities he was hoping to join) fighting on the front lines in France and the Legion Headquarters in Algeria were not the same thing. Magus was very specific about how disappointed he was about this. Also, most German Legionnaires were indeed kept away from the front lines for obvious reasons and Magnus wrote about this as well yet Wren calls him unfair and not impartial for not mentioning this. These are some pretty baseless and cheap points for Wren to make which, to repeat, makes me wonder if he actually read the book.
As in the Days of Beau Geste
This month’s pulp fiction story featuring the French Foreign Legion is from the January, 1932 issue of Adventure. Georges Surdez, the specialist in this unique sub-genre of adventure fiction, is the author. It is another one of his tales of Legion loyalty forged in combat played out by well crafted and complex characters. The setting is a dingy mountain top blockhouse whose previous occupants were wiped out and reoccupied by a section of Legionnaires. The Riffian tribesmen quickly close in and besiege the outpost.
This story is closely based on the actual combat, in April 1925, between the French and Rif rebels in northern Morocco when those Berbers led by Abd el-Krim crossed the boundary and attacked the string of French outposts just north of the Ouergha River. Several outposts held out for several weeks before falling.
(Thanks to EXciter for sharing the scan)
By Special Request
NOTE TO READERS & FOLLOWERS: I’ve been a bit slow to posting items here–pretty much this entire year. My recent efforts and how I have been approaching this blog are getting a bit disorganized and frankly I’ve also been a bit lazy. I’ve started so many posts that remain just drafts and dozens of projects that remain unfinished even years after starting them. I see slowdowns happen to many blogs I follow so I guess apathy or boredom might slowly build up over several years (I started this blog back in May of 2010). However, I’m aware of this and know I can do better so I’ve taken to (re)organizing and indexing all of my books, digital files & pictures, magazines, miniatures and everything else I have on this subject. I’ve been building an actual planner for future posts, backing up my hard drives and previous postings as well (I’ve seen some blogs get hijacked or hacked).
So for the future there will still be a monthly pulp fiction story around the middle of the month but I’m going to discontinue the monthly “Hodgepodge” usually posted at the end of the month. Instead of the Hodgepodge post, I’ll post an occasional “wrap-up” as needed to bring attention to smaller items I think might be of interest and related to one of the most interesting subjects of all–The French Foreign Legion. So expect some changes soon and the frequency of the posting to start picking up over time. Thanks for reading.
Sorry this is a bit late. I’ve been busy enjoying the last days of summer before school starts next week. Here are some interesting things about the Foreign Legion I’ve came across this month (not much).
1. Foreign Legion Visits America (1918). The photograph below depicts several of the officers of the Foreign Legion delegation that traveled to the United States in late 1918 to promote the Fourth Liberty Loan. They are meeting with various representatives of the Native American tribes during one of their stops at Oklahoma City. The picture was kindly brought to my attention by Leonard and it was posted to this Facebook page “World War 1 Native American Warriors“. There were some questions as to it’s origins since the press annotated the event as taking place in Dayton Ohio but this was actually taken at the Fairgrounds of Oklahoma City with the grandstand seen in the background. I’ve also attached another photograph from the February 1919 issue of Le Miroir that shows Captain Chastenet de Géry greeting one of the chiefs.
2. Action in the Desert. The following pictures depicting a tabletop display of some hot desert combat were provided by “” a follower and frequent commentator on this blog. You can see two classic terrain pieces–the Airfix Foreign Legion Fort and Italeri’s Arab House. Also waging war are figures from several lines of miniatures to include Hat Zouaves (I think), Airfix Legion and Arab figures, ESCI/Italeri’s Arabs and ESCI/Italeri British (Zulu) Infantry converted to artillerymen and officers. Well done painting job on all. Thank you sharing these.
3. Afghanistan War . French Foreign Legion . French Restrepo. This is a four -part video posted to YouTube that gives some interesting views of Foreign Legion Operations in Afghanistan. The quality is not so great but worth a quick look.
This month’s pulp fiction story is a “fact story” written by Crown Prince Aage of Denmark that appeared in the January 1933 issue of Blue Book. Definitely a Foreign Legion pulp story written by an expert on the subject as Prince Aage spent 17 years in the Foreign Legion and attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. It tells about his time fighting the Rif in Morocco in 1925. I believe some of this story was from his 1927 book A Royal Adventurer in the Foreign Legion or at least from his notes (this does not appear to be a 100% cut and paste from his book). A downloadable copy of his book is located in the Monlegionnaire Library (see the tabs above).
Combat Groups, Forward!
Note: Not my scan…thanks again to “sas”.