Grit Gregson Fighter in the Foreign Legion: The Wine Barrel’s Secret

GritGHere is a short story featuring the Grit Gregson, a British legionnaire who gets mixed up in many North African adventures.  Grit was a popular feature in the early issues of the weekly UK comic called Lion (King of Picture Story Papers).  This particular issue, #100, came out 16 January 1954.  It’s obviously tailored to the junior ages but I give it credit for at least making the kids read something other than comic dialogue balloons.  The plot is somewhat exciting too and actually has some hard lessons for modern counterinsurgency.  I took some liberty with the illustration as it struck me that it depicted three very thirsty legionnaires.

The Wine Barrel’s Secret


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Hodgepodge for June 2014

Not much to post today in this month’s random collection of Foreign Legion related news, products, stories, pictures and what-nots.

1.  Agony of War.  Here’s a great story about Vietnam War veteran and former French Foreign Legion member Ruediger Richter.  You have probably seen the famous black and white photograph of SP4 Richter watching a descending helicopter while his comrade looks over a body bag prepared for evacuation.  Before this iconic picture was taken Richter had served in the Foreign Legion for five years in the early 1950’s.

The_Agony_of_War.JPEG-075db_tx495I’ve read many books on the Vietnam War (and had a decades long subscription to Soldier of Fortune Magazine) and am always amazed when I come across stories of foreign born American soldiers who fought in that conflict.  Rick Rescorla comes to mind as well as the many Canadians and scores of Hispanic and Asian immigrants.   During my first assignment in the Army, in 1984, I knew a Sergeant Major Van Dam–a Dutch immigrant from Indonesia who (according to everyone I knew) had spent time in the Foreign Legion after WWII before moving to the United States, joining the U.S. Army and fighting in Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division.   Even to this day there is still a large percentage of foreign born soldiers in the U.S. armed forces.  During the Iraq war, more than 30,000 non-citizens were serving in the U.S. military, accounting for close to 2% of the total 1.4 million active duty service members.  Roughly a third of the non-citizens in the armed forces today are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many others are from Canada, China, Africa, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Turkey, Korea and the Philippines.

2.  A Tale of the French Foreign Legion. has a very good on-line article about the Foreign Legion during World War II written by by Edward L. Bimberg (and originally appearing in World War II Magazine in 1997).  It relates the story of the 13th Demi Brigade (13e DBLE) during the early years of the war and also how the 6th Regiment of the Foreign Legion of the Vichy government fought against it’s Free French counterparts in Syria in 1941.  Be sure to read the interesting comments that follow the article.

3.  Sidi Bel-Abbes, March, 1940.  The pictures below relate to the article above as they depict the assembly and departure of Legionnaires from Sidi Bel Abbes to France (and the “Metropolitan Front”).  The newsreel where these pictures are taken from gives a wonderful view of the Caserne Viénot and the legionnaires in full battle-rattle as they say farewell to their Algerian home and in come cases their wives and children.

4.  T-Shirts.  Lastly, here are some links to web sites that sell Foreign Legion apparel such as t-shirts, sweat jackets, and polo shirts.  The Red Rubble shirts support the fantastic web site Foreign Legion Info and the ProArt site supports the Institution des Invalides de la Légion étrangère (IILE).  I have no commercial interest in any of these–I just keep seeing them pop up when I browse the web and thought many of the designs are pretty cool looking.  I also promote free market capitalism and am pleased to see people making money in a niche that I’m so fond of.  Now, if I could just get my cheapskate kids to buy me something for my birthday….

Cafe Press

Red Bubble


ProArt Shirts


Top Military T-Shirts

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Legion Pulp: Born to Fight

img293The Foreign Legion pulp fiction story for June is Born to Fight by Georges Surdez.  It appeared in the January 1937 issue of Adventure (Vol 96, No. 3).  I haven’t even had time to read this one yet but a quick scan tells me it is boilerplate Surdez–American mercenary, Frenchman and German all compete for the attention of a young dark haired local beauty.  Thrown in is some personal mano-a-mano fighting, desert combat and conspiracies to kill a commanding officer.  This looks like a good one.

Born to Fight

Admin Note:  Sorry I’m late with this as I usually publish the monthly pulp story on the 15th of each month.  I was on vacation however and didn’t take the right preparations to post remotely. 

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Monsieur Gravedigger


Monsieur Gravedigger is a short Foreign Legion tale found in Weird War Tales comic issue #2 (v1 002, Nov-Dec 1971).  The title alone as well as the setting sounds like classic P.C. Wren who often gave his fictional legionnaires nicknames–who can forget Sergeant-Major Suicide-Maker.  The fort is straight out of Beau Geste (the movie) and aptly named by the mutineer in this story “Madame La Republique’s Mud Oven”.  There are lots of other good classic Foreign Legion plot devices all packed into one great nine page story.

Weird War Tales was an exceptionally well done comic with a 12 year / 124 issue run.  The artwork is top notch and the well written stories are very entertaining.  The anthology format that jumped throughout history also appeals to me–as some of the WWII or Korean War settings of other war comics got repetitive.  There is a Showcase collection of the first 21 issues available.

Monsieur Gravedigger

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Hodgepodge for May 2014

Well, another month zooms by.  Our rough winter is now a faded memory and spring reigns.  Here is what I stumbled on this month–items with tangential connections to the French Foreign Legion.

1.  How to Join the French Foreign Legion in 19 Easy Steps.  Here is a guide to joining the modern Foreign Legion–complete with cheesy graphics.   I suppose it is technically correct but I just could not stop laughing at the graphics that don’t quite match the gravity of this act of enlistment.

2.  Foreign Legion Wine Bar.  Yep, this sounds like it should be in Sidi Bel Abbes but it’s in the upper Midwest.  Right up the interstate from me is the state of Minnesota and further north, the Twin Cities (St. Paul and Minneapolis).  In Minneapolis there is a new Foreign Legion themed after hours establishment located in the downtown Soo Line Building.  “Both a Wine & Cheese Bar, as well as a Private Dining Facility for Brasserie Zentral, Foreign Legion is a decadent and unique space tucked within the Historic Soo Line Building.”  For now, judging by the website and limited pictures, it looks Foreign Legion in name only but hopefully they will get with the program soon and put a white kepi or two on display amid green and red silk wall paper.  Their mixed European menu looks good.  Their facebook page.

3.  60th Anniversary of IILE (Institution des invalides de la Légion étrangère).   Here is a nice slideshow of the recent activities of the IILE, an organization for disabled Legion veterans located in Puyloubier, at foot of Saint Victoire Mountain in southern France (45km Northeast of Marseille).  Also their official website is here.

I look at what they do at Puyloubier and shake my head in disgust at the recent scandal affecting our own Veteran’s Administration Hospitals.  I’ve been to our local VA and it is clear to me the whole organization is run for the sole benefit of it’s employees (career bureaucrats and lesser functionaries) and not the patients.  Kind of like our post office who keeps raising prices to cover it’s retirement pensions.



4.  Collecting Foreign Legion Badges.  I have not caught this particular collecting bug yet but God protect my bank account if I ever do.  There are hundreds of collectable badges of Foreign Legion units, sub-units, missions & deployments, exercises, task forces (and other miscellaneous justifications for making a badge) –not too many to be overwhelming and yet not so few that the chase becomes old after a while.  I came across this guys great Facebook page and was immediately impressed by the quality of pictures and the detailed descriptions of each badge.  Another great resource on Foreign Legion Badges is the French website Insignes Militaires Lavocat.  I have a handful of Legion badges and insignia and am always tempted to start an add-one-a-month collection but I know this might turn into something obsessive.  Here is an example of some of these beautiful badges which in this case features an owl, indicating that the unit is military intelligence related–a special Human Intelligence detachment (URH) used in Afghanistan.


5.  Mali Update.  Another Legionnaire lost in Mali counter-terrorism operations on 9 May.  News reports indicated the Slovakian member of the Foreign Legion was killed in an explosion when his vehicle hit a home-made explosive device, which also left two other soldiers injured and subsequently hospitalized.   R.I.P.  

6.  More Action Figures.  This web site, Machinegun Figures, features several modified 1/6 scale action figures in various Foreign Legion uniforms.  There is this hyper realistic Sergent of the 1st Company Saharienne Portée and this modern member of the 13th DBLE.  The amount of detail and ingenuity spent on these figures is amazing.  If you like these you should check out the gallery as there are lots of other Foreign Legion and other interesting figures there.  Probably one of the best 1/6 scale websites I’ve seen.

7.  Foreign Legion Fort.  Last but not least I stumbled on a couple of larger scale miniature Foreign Legion/Desert forts.  The first can be seen here.   A remarkable set up with some of the high end quality Foreign Legion figures.  The other fort is nice in a more rugged way…I can’t remember where I found these however.

FFL Fort 1 FFL Fort 2 FFL Fort 3


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Equipment and Uniforms Miscellany

It must be writer’s block.  Or too many spring chores on top of my new job that has kept me from posting here more frequently.  So to fill the gap here is another image dump from my unorganized digital collection.  This time, in no particular order and not necessarily 100% Foreign Legion, are various pictures of uniforms and equipment associated with the Foreign Legion.  I can’t provide attribution to where these were found or who took them since they were collected over time from so many different web sites, blogs, eBay, DelCampe, forums and image boards–so my apologies if I borrowed any of your images.

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Legion Pulp: A Change of Weapon

A Change of WeaponsThis month’s Foreign Legion pulp story is another short-short from Georges Surdez which appeared in Collier’s Weekly, 19 November 1938.  It’s of the renegade Legionnaire joins the Rif genre.  In this case, Gerbach, the renegade is believed to have been captured but there is no telling him apart from the other half-wild tribesmen.   He’s gone native and effectively evading the firing squad until his Prussian military training exposes him.

A Change of Weapons

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The Foreign Legion in Pen and Ink

Sorting through my digital collection of images I was able to assemble a collection of nice black and white pictures depicting various Foreign Legionnaires in different uniforms and settings.  Normally I would call these” uniform prints” but the lack of color would make these simply pen and ink drawings.  Most are by Pierre Benigni (1878-1956), a renowned illustrator of French military subjects, particularly the Napoleonic era, who provided these drawings for the 1931 Centennial edition of the Foreign Legion’s Livre D’Or.  The other prominent illustrator of the Foreign Legion is Maurice Mahut who provided the drawings for Les Mystères de la Légion Etrangère by Georges d´Esparbes.  Mahut also made many illustrations of soldiers in WWI as well as for various periodicals and novels.  Several of Mahut’s drawings are also featured in Osprey’s Men at Arms #461 The French Foreign Legion 1872-1914 by Martin Windrow.  The two by Mahut are last but I hope to find more to add to this collection.

Admin Note:  Sorry for not posting more often but I’ve been recently been working at two part time jobs and my schedule has been discombobulated.

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Action Adventure Comics: The Free and the Brave

Free and the Brave

Some comic books are great and some others, not so much.  Action Adventure Comics is one of the latter and I happened to find this short Foreign Legion story in the fourth issue published October 1955, over a year or so after the fall of Dien Bien Phu.  Disregarding the blue Foreign Legion uniforms and general poor art overall I did like the story.  It reminded me of the first part of John Wayne’s The Green Berets where the typical reporter hack (David Janssen) is challenged to write something honest and accurate for once.  The first link is for just the story and the second is for the entire comic book–ads for ventriloquism and a genuine Kentucky Tavern BBQ Ashtray included.

The Free and the Brave

Action_Adventure Vol 1 No. 4 Oct 1955     (Warning large file 33 MB)

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Camarón Day 2014!

Well 30 April has finally arrived.  Camarón Day, where 151 years ago the French Foreign Legion fought it’s most epic and eternally celebrated battle–La Bataille de Camerone.


Since I usually post Foreign Legion related odds and ends (a hodgepodge) at the end of the month I will do the same today.  Here are some Camerone related items that I’ve come across.

1.  Camerone Day Blog.  No big table top battle this year but the proprietor/mad guru has a post today with his recommended books on the topic and also has a previous short post depicting the battle in 54mm.

2.  Mandatory Videos.  The first video from the 2014 ceremony at Aubagne has made it to YouTube.

Also, this nice video and accompanying ballad will inspire you.  The song was written by Jean-Pax Méfret, an ardent supporter in the day of French Algeria and a notorious French military balladeer. (his Kolwezi video is also a must see).

3. Camerone by Adolphe Canal.  This document is a poem written in 1878 by Capitaine Adolphe Canal of the 61st Regiment.   The introduction reads something like this;  It was a good company, of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Foreign Legion!
Composed of brave and resolute men, NCOs and Corporals of rare value, such as: Tonnel, Morzicki, Maine and Berg, intelligent and intrepid officers as MM. Danjou, Capitaine adjudant-major, Vilain, sous lieutenant and Maudet-the standard bearer, she was in the battle fought at Camarone (Mexico), May 1, 1863.  Attacked by eleven hundred rebels, the company maintained heroically an unequal and terrible struggle.  Overpowered by numbers, (because they were only 65 men) who, having burnt their last cartridge, preferred to succumb gloriously rather than surrender.  This is to sing this beautiful feat of arms and honor the heroic souls of the heroes of this company, most my friends, I dared to vibrate in my inexperienced fingers the lyre of the poet.   The poem is in French and I’m not quite able to translate it accurately.  (I just might send this to one of my wife’s Belgian relatives.)

Camerone Poem by Adolphe Canal

4. Some Graphics.  A grab bag of random pictures & graphics.

 5.  Wargame.  Here is a link to a wargame held a couple of years ago for the 149th anniversary of the battle.  Link

6.  Junior General Fast Play Rules for Camerone.  Not sure I ever posted a reference to this page found on the Junior General web page.  These are some quick rules for putting together a game of the Camerone battle with or without miniatures.

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