The Life of the Legion

The other day I decided to check out what could be found at The British Newspaper Archive.  This site has a modest paywall for access and I purchased a single month.  After spending several days browsing and searching I can say it was money very well spent. I’ve found numerous articles on the Foreign Legion as well as several fictional works that appeared in the weekly editions.  There were several reviews of Foreign Legion books with titles that are new to me as well as many movie and theater reviews and factual news tidbits about the Legion fighting in Morocco or Indochina.  One surprising theme that kept appearing were numerous articles featuring stories of various “escapes” from the Foreign Legion.  Most of the deserters fled North Africa as stowaways on freighters while others made their way via cross country travel and then were assisted in their travel home by various British diplomatic offices.

The one page article below is dated 30 November 1929 and appeared in The Sphere Magazine which was an illustrated British newspaper that ran from 1900 to 1964.  It is a nice example of the clear quality of the archive’s scans.  Articles can be downloaded as .pdf files which are titled with date and page references.  In this piece the pictures are clearly the highlight of the article.  It is interesting to see legionnaires wearing their side caps (bonnet de police)  undergoing machine gun training…and I wonder what the exceptionally tall deserter was thinking when he was told to pose for a group shot.

The Life of the Legion

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Legion Pulp: Desert Finale

This short story appeared in the April, 1943 issue of Argosy.  There is no mention of the Foreign Legion in this one but there is a besieged desert fort, some Méharistes, a battery of 75’s, spahis and a generic force of French regulars holding out against a German Mechanized force.  This motley force is led by a French Colonel of the Reserves who gets mobilized from his civilian job as movie director.

Desert Finale was written by the the movie maker Charles Marquis Warren.  It was released in 1943 at the height of the war and at this time Warren was still starting out in the movie business.  He also wrote fiction for the pulps and several of his stories became best sellers.  He joined the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater and returned to Hollywood after the war where he would be involved in either writing, producing or directing several movies as well as the first two seasons of the T.V. show Gunsmoke.

Desert Finale

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French Business Signs

Something different today.  I found this book (Attributs au pochoir, modèles d”enseignes et inscriptions) on Galica last week and thought it might be useful for war game terrain or diorama builders.  It’s from around 1914 and shows 28 different generic (model) designs for French business signs.  You can download the .pdf book from the Galica page (click the Téléchargement icon on the left) or you can download this .rar file where I have saved the .pdf and the illustrations separately.  In this download I’ve rotated several of the images and bumped up the contrast.  You can then use MSPaint or Photoshop to crop off the edges of the image (see above) and create your own paper signs or decals that might spice up your wartime French commercial buildings from 1870 to 1945 or later.  From the butcher shop graphic above I made some smaller bits of signage and if you have good graphic skills you could probably make several more from this one sign or even try changing the colors. These can be resized as needed the same way you would for model railroad signage.  A good program to do this is PowerPoint.  Using some “old time” fonts you could also add a family or owner’s name to these signs as that is one thing missing on all of them.


Posted in Wargame Terrain | 1 Comment

Hodgepodge for June 2017

Ah, summertime is here.  One would think blogging and summer go great together yet I’m finding little time for either.  Probably something to do with work, my son’s high school graduation and party, an out of town wedding, too much stuff on the spring cleaning list and most recently a week-long visit by relatives.  So, my apologies for not posting more frequently. Here are some random items (mostly books) on the Foreign Legion that I’ve come across this month.

1. Foreign Legion Facebook Page.  I’m just posting this link here for those who didn;t realize there was an official Facebook page of the Foreign Legion.  Lots of videos, photographs and posts can be found here.  If you visit there now you will find a great post linking to an article on the Kepi Blanc Magazine turning 70 years old and publishing it’s 800th issue.

2. 10 Noblemen who Served in the Foreign Legion.  I think this article has been around a while and I’m not sure I ever linked to it but here it is again on War History Online.  Ten sounds like a low number and the list could probably double with a bit more research.  I think they may be leaving out several lesser-known European royals.

3. Some New Books.  Looking around Amazon recently and found several books of interest.

The White Kepi by Walter Kanitz.  Not really new and also not the greatest book on the Legion but one for the collectors.  This book must now be in the public domain as it seems now you can get it in an overpriced paperback or in kindle format.  Or you can go the Monlegionnaire Library and download the one posted there.

My Camp: Life in the French Foreign Legion by J. R. Lawrence.  A fairly new release that I have not read yet.  Memoir of Legionnaire Lawrence who served in the 2REP from 2007 to 2011. 

Code of the Legion by David Hardy.  This is a short pulpy adventure story set in the Foreign Legion as they fight savage Berber tribes in Morocco and a mysterious killer inside the walls of their fort.  Not a full book but but it was a well done story in the classic J. D. Newsom style and well worth $0.99.

The Texan Legionnaire (Series) by Gordon Landsborough. This series consists of four books by Gordon Landsborough and published by Endeavour Press.  The titles include Legionnaire from Texas, Renegade Legionnaire, Back to the Legion and The Spahis.  These were originally written by Landsborough from 1950 to 1953 under the pen name Mike M’Cracken and in their original forms are extremely rare and expensive.  These are not short stories either but fully developed books that run over 150 pages (for example The Spahis in the original paperback (Panther) format was 158 pages).  I was tipped off to these books by a couple of readers years ago but never really made the connection correctly.  In summary, these are a real good deal at $3.99 each for the kindle book version when you think of what you would pay for the paperback (if you could find a copy).  I read the first one and it is pretty good if know what you are getting into–Adventure fiction set in the Foreign Legion and the Sahara that stretches facts to their breaking points….like much good pulp fiction does.

Diary of a Legionnaire. My Life in the French Foreign Legion
by Gareth Carins.  This is a Kindle only publication that has been out for a couple of years by an English Legionnaire who served in the 2REP from 1996-2001.   A very good read. 

Legionnaire Mackenzie: Harmony in Modern Warfare by Mark Morgan.  Another kindle only memoir that has been out for a while (2012).   As many of these kindle book there are some minor typos but they are so minor as to be meaningless.  Morgan was an Irish Legionnaire in the 2REP as well.

4.  Kickstarter.  This Kickstarter page is to raise money for professional editing of the French Foreign Legion military fiction novels written by former Legionnaire Ricky Balona.  His first three book are out on Amazon.  



Posted in Articles, Books | 2 Comments

Legion Pulp: Khyada

This month’s pulp story is from the 1st of February 1932 issue of Adventure.  This was written by Geroges Surdez and is another example of his very well developed characters–in this case the Alsatian Legion Sergeant Michel Stoeckel.   Sergeant Stoeckel has a knack for befriending and training animals as unit mascots.  Mostly dogs, but also a jackal and a boar that almost cost him his stripes, and in this story a stork, a bird that commands a special reverence not only for him but for his Berber captors.


Note:  Not my scan–so thank you goes to “sas” for a beautiful job on this magazine.

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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

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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.


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