Here is a Grit Gregson: Fighter in the Foreign Legion story (from the 17 April 1954 issue of Lion #113) that kind of leans to the mysterious and supernatural. Also posted are two single pages (what I call fillers) which I found were nice additions to add to this Halloween post; one about WWI and another about Devil’s Island.
(In fact, the one story that I was hoping to post today was a well done spooky tale set in Devil’s Island that came from either Creepy, Eerie or some other Warren comic but I cannot find it anywhere in my archive and can’t even remember the name–which would help my search. So Legionnaire Gregson will have to fill in today.)
Happy Halloween! It will be an overcast evening here in Wisconsin with chilly temperatures and fast moving low hanging clouds dashing in front of a late rising waning moon. The pumpkins are carved and lit…just waiting for the trick or treating to begin.
Another strange tale from the blighted land of forgotten comic books. This story was found in The Beyond, issue #012, from June of 1952. I can’t explain why the colorist used red for the otherwise well drawn Foreign Legion uniform. I’m sure the penciller and the inker for these panels freaked out when this issue was published. Nonetheless, it’s an action packed seven pages that features a guest appearance by Old Scratch himself.
The Bedeviled Battalion
Since the Halloween season is upon us again I’ve lined up some spooky stories of the Foreign Legion that were unearthed from the dusty and cobwebbed crypts of various comic book websites. Today we have The Curse of the Phantom Brigade from issue #008 of Startling Terror Tales (February 1954).
The Curse of the Phantom Brigade
Here is the pulp fiction story for the month of October–a day late. This tale is from Action Stories pulp magazine. This Fiction House publication ran from September 1921 to the Fall edition of 1950 with a run of 225 issues. It specialized initially in westerns but later featured real-world adventure stories set in exotic locations around the world, war stories, sports stories and exciting tales in various historical settings. It frequently featured stories about the Foreign Legion that were actually written by other lesser known authors (than Georges Surdez, J. D. Newsom and Robert Carse). The author of Legion Law was Charles Green who was actually Charles Greenberg, a frequent contributor to The Phantom Detective. This short tale is only six pages but is packed with treacherous dealings in a desert outpost in peril from an imminent night attack by hostile forces led by Ali Ben Harim.
Here is an additional set of uniform prints from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. These were all painted by French artist and illustrator Maurice Toussaint (September 1882 – December 1974). Toussaint gained a solid reputation for his expertise in military subjects and in particular the uniformology. He illustrated many books on the French army under the old regime, and the armies of the First and Second Empire. His work was also seen in advertising illustrations for the French rail network and in many historical, detective and teen magazines like The Ace. (Wiki). This particular set of 22 watercolors depicts soldiers of the French military in North Africa (Armée d’Afrique) from 1830 to 1865. I adjusted the contrast slightly to bring out the colors. The medium resolution pictures are in the gallery below and the higher resolutions pics can be downloaded from this link:
Maurice Toussaint Watercolors
Last month I came across the following bits and pieces relating to the French Foreign Legion.
1. Delmar Calvert. I stumbled upon the name Delmar Calvert browsing cervens forum and then found two good articles about him here and here. They provide interesting background on Calvert who has been the top fencing instructor in the United States for decades and was also, in his early years, a legionnaire in the 1st Foreign Legion Cavalry Regiment. He was originally born in California but had lived in France for much of his childhood. In 1939, at the age 16, Delmar, along with his brother joined the Foreign Legion and gets caught up in the war. He fought against Nazi tanks when France was invaded and would later find himself in North Africa spending his time in the military fencing. When the Americans landed in Africa he quickly found a way to surrender to the Americans and volunteer his services to the U.S. Army Military Intelligence and subsequently the OSS. He was sent as a commando behind enemy lines to work with the French resistance. For his service to france hew was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the youngest winner of that medal in history.
2. Heat Stroke. This news article describes an unfortunate situation when common soldierly sense is disregarded. To deny water to any soldier in a desert environment such as Djibouti is unheard of in the U.S. military no matter what the training event but especially during high temperatures. In this case it was training begin conducted in Djibouti by the 2nd REP which is the toughest and hardest training unit the legion has. Nevertheless, it will be a bad reflection of the unit’s quality of first line leadership if it can be proven that this soldier died of heat stroke because he was denied hydration as a punishment.
3. 2REP vs. Para Regiment Thread on Foreign. I really enjoyed reading through this thread found on the Army Rumour Service website (aka, ARRSE, the UK’s largest and busiest UNofficial military website). There is a really long and insightful comparison of the French and British regiments posted by a former British legionnaire who served in 2REP during the early 1980’s on page 6. The same poster continues throughout several more pages to provide really interesting and informative posts on his time in the Legion. Remarkably the thread is still active despite starting back in April 2011. Lots of great pictures and information….for example I found the chart posted below which is an annotated illustration showing where the Foreign Legion units are integrated into the French Army. (There is another thread on this site as well that I have not read through yet entitled D`Artagnans Time in the FFL – 2eme REP and Algeria)
That’s it for now. I’ve still got some more uniform illustrations to post over the month and since it is October I hope to find a good creepy, supernatural Foreign Legion Halloween post.
This two-part article from Esquire Magazine appeared in their February and March issues of 1953. It provides a short account of an American’s short-lived career in the Foreign Legion during the Rif War in the mid-1920’s. The author identifies himself as George Seiters who was also known as Legionnaire 14,192. A quick search on the web reveals that Legionnaire 14,192 also penned a short pamphlet (see picture below) of his time in the Legion entitled “The French Foreign Legion” which was published by The Enamelist (a trade publication for the Porcelain Enameling Field) in 1930. It seems once he returned to America Mr. Seiters became an enameler in good standing.
Deserter from the Legion
Reading this article it seemed to be a very familiar story which now makes sense since the Enamelist pamphlet was one of my earliest additions to my Foreign Legion book collection and I’ve read it several times. The author concisely covers just about every aspect and detail of Legion service that was also recounted in other memoirs written at around the same time such as those by Bennett Doty, John Harvey, and A. R. Cooper. He rapidly relates his enlistment, training at Sidi Bel Abbes and service in Morocco against the Rif. He is wounded in the fighting there and sent back to Algeria to convalesce but uses this time to make good his desertion via an English merchant ship. This article and the pamphlet are the same except Esquire only published about 2/3 of the 36 page Enamelist pamphlet. This is a shame because there was plenty of interesting detail they could have included if the serial was extended for just another month. This might have made the article stand out as a more unique and personal memoir and not (as it seems to me) a condensed version of a generic Foreign Legion memoir. On the other hand, I do like the highly exotic native dancer illustration found in the Esquire article better than the bland cover below.
You might want to check out the online archives of Esquire Magazine that recently came available. It is a pay site ($4.99 a month) but the first month is free and I think you can cancel any time.
The Foreign Legion pulp story for this month comes from an unusual source but a familiar author. Robert Carse’s story, Murder Joins the Legion, appeared in the 20 July 1940 issue of the pulp Detective Fiction (formerly known as Flynn’s Weekly). Carse was a very prolific author and his fiction in wide ranging genres appeared in dozens of pulp titles though his mainstays were Short Stories, Argosy and Adventure. These magazines were where you would usually find his Foreign Legion stories. As the title implies, this story is a murder and frame-up mystery set in the North African desert outposts of the Foreign Legion.
I took a shortcut today and used a story from a beautiful scan of this Detective Weekly issue that was recently done by “SAS”. So thanks goes to the OP. The .pdf is below.
Murder Joins the Legion
These images again come from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. These consists of watercolor works (aquarelles) from the brush of Pierre Albert Leroux. His works on this site cover French soldiers from the Napoleonic era up until WWII. The pictures of the mounted figures are from a series of 32 watercolors completed by Leroux in 1913. Most of the other paintings of dismounted soldiers were completed just before WWII in 1939. Leroux was born 10 November 1890, in Versailles and died 1959. He was a pupil of Fernand Cormon and Pierre Laurens at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and he exhibited his work in Paris at the Salon des Artistes Français. (Note: Leroux was the artist that painted the three Foreign Legion figures in my previous posts.)
Here are the lower resolution images of the mounted figures.
Here are the lower resolution images for the figures on foot.
These Mefiafire links will download zipped files of the two groups of high-resolution images. These are 216 MB and 149 MB. (I updated these links September 8th and was able to lower the file sizes significantly).
Pierre Albert Leroux Cavalry
Pierre Albert Leroux Soldiers
In addition to the uniform prints that I’ve been all fired up about (and will post many more shortly) I did stumble on other items relating to the Foreign Legion this month.
1. French Foreign Legion in WWII. Here (and below) is an interesting video on the weapons, uniforms, and equipment used by the French Foreign Legion in WWII. There is a good article here HistoryNet that discusses the role and actions of the French Foreign Legion in WWII. Not only was the Legion defending part of the Maginot Line when the Germans invaded France but there were detachments still holding down the forts in North Africa and a significant number who participated in the Norway campaign with the 13th Demi-Brigade. Fighting later shifted to Africa and the middle east where the Vichy French Foreign Legion detachments fought against the Free French Foreign Legion in Syria. NOTE: I already posted about this article last year in June but thought this video would supplement it well.
2. A Sociology of the Total Organization: Atomistic Unit in the French Foreign Legion. Here is an “academic” work that addresses the social and ethnographic organization of the Foreign Legion. The synopsis, in the mumbo-jumbo of egghead speak reads….”this book takes its theoretical point of departure in the notion of the voluntary total organization; that is to say, an institution that constitutes a geographically delimited place of residence and work in which inmates are voluntarily separated from the outside world, leading an enclosed, formally administered life. Informed by a modified version of Goffman’s original concept of the total institution, A Sociology of the Total Organization untangles the Foreign Legion and the ways in which different kinds of social orders interplay there.” The author, Mikaela Sundberg, is an Associate professor of Sociology and a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Stockholm University. She is also the author of the best selling blockbuster Parameterizations as Boundary Objects on the Climate Arena. More info can be found here where you can also order your copy for a mere $107.96. The first chapter is available as well.
Digging around the web for Miss Sundberg I stumbled on this thread comparing the 2nd REP to the British Para Regiment. Says Condottiere “If she did fieldwork, bet she was offered a lot of individual attention in her research.”
3. The Goon Show: Under Two Floorboards – A Story of the Foreign Legion. To lighten things up a bit here is a hilarious Goon Show skit from 25 January 1955 that utterly mangles the story of Beau Geste. The Goon Show was a British radio show that was blessed with a cast consisting of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine among others and lasted from 1951 to 1960. Script can be found here or you can download your own mp3 here.