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Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by johno2499, Jan 27, 2010.
There, was an advert for the Devil`s Guard book,but I think it`s gone now.
Â£58 on amazon at the moment and Â£14.99 on fleabay for a reprinted version. At 1 time 20 odd years ago I had 2 copies but lent them both out and never got them back.
Devil's Guard is available as a download from the Sony site for the Sony Reader for $24.95, FWIW.
If anyone knows of a download link for The forgotten Soldier in ePub/e Book format, I would appreciate it.
Years ago I read a book about a young Englishman who joined the F.F.L in the 1930`s .He done 5 years then left ,returned to the U.K. in the middle of the Recession,then returned to join the F.F.L did a few more years then deserted to join the British Army at the outbreak of the Second World War.
Does this book ring a bell with anyone?
No, but there is a good one called "Legionnaire" by Simon Murray 1978, about his experiences in the Legion!
There was a at least two copies outy in Iraq in teh tent at Shiba
Read it and chucked it back onto the pile as did every one else
Wish I'd known
At to the forgotton soldier I always thought it was a cracking read
People drag up the inaccuricies but then if you read Ambrose's books about WW2 you could find a rake of mistakes and that is supposed to be accurate history
One blokes experience will be completely different to anothers
As my mates "Op Telic 4 sun sand and shagging" Tee shirt proves
They had a smashing time at Shiba so I'm told
A few years ago I met a German man in Darwin who claimed he had been in the FFL in Indo-China until wounded. He talked of life in Germany during WW2 when he was in his late teens but would not talk about why he joined the FFL. I suspected that he had been in SS and the FFL was a way out of prison or worse but I was never able to see if he had been tattooed on the arm which I think was the mark of the SS.
As it happens ,I have The Legionnaire,Devils Guard and the Forgotten Soldier side by side in my book case.
As already stated on countless occasions here, Devil's Guard is a NOVEL.
For more infos, taken from another website:
Concerning the devil's guard book and its myth about thousand of former German SS in the French Foreign Legion there has been a discussion on this forum :
From Bernard Fall's 'Hell in a Very Small Place : the Siege of Dien Bien Phu'
(Bernard Fall is one, if not THE leading authorities on the history of the FFL.)
from the chapter "Finale" p.439 :
...Contrary to the accepted myth that the Foreign Legion was made up largely of "former SS troopers," many of the Foreign Legionnaires came from the East European countries overrun by the Soviet armies in 1945. (since the average age of the Foreign Legionnaire was about 23 in 1954, most of them had been small boys in 1945.)
from the chapter "Epilogue" p. 451 :
...Lastly, there is the myth of Dien Bien Phu as a "German battle," in which the Germans were said to "indeed made up nearly half of the French forces."...On March 12, 1954 - the day before the battle began in earnest - there were a total of 2,969 Foreign Legionnaires in the fortress, out of a garrison of 10,814. Of the almost 4,300 parachuted reinforcements, a total of 962 belonged to the Foreign Legion. Even if one wrongly assumes (there were important Spanish and Eastern European elements among the Legionnaires at Dien Bien Phu) that 50% of the Legionnaires were German, then only 1,900 men out of more than 15,000 who participated in the battle could have been of German origin. But old myths, particularly when reinforced by prejudice, die hard.
It's likely that a handful of former Waffen-SS soldiers served in the Legion during the French-Indochina war. But despite the literary efforts of Robert Lewis Elford with his "Devils Guard" books in the 1970's and the speculation of SS veterans in the BILOM (Bataillion d'Infanterie LÃ©gÃ¨re d'Outre Mer) unit (composed of former FRENCH Milice members, collaborators and several Waffen-SS from the French volunteers SS Charlemagne division), I haven't seen much evidence to indicate that there were a significant number of SS veterans fighting in Indochina, or that they played a disproportionate role in their units or had a disproportionate effect on the course of events. It's not like Jochen Peiper was chasing "Charlie" through the Plain of Jars in 1955.
Here's what historian (and author of the excellent book on the 13th SS, Himmler's Bosnian Division) had to say on the subject of SS in the FFL :
The "SS in Indochina" myth began even before the release of the novel The Devil's Guard. It originated from Soviet-bloc Communist sources and the PCF (French Communist Party) in France itself. In addition, several memoirs were published by Legion deserters in the DDR in the 1950s that further perpetuated the story. However, all of the serious historians of the Legion agree that it was false. Their analyses can be summed up as follows : The best book on the subject by far is Eckard Michels' Deutsche in der Fremdenlegion, 1871-1965: Mythen und Realitaeten. Although he was denied access to the Legion's own archive in Aubagne, Michels was able to view some great files in the SHAT at Chateau Vincennes. Michels studied the available data and concluded that a (very) small number of ex-Waffen-SS men were able to enter the Legion before 1947. This is when the French government caught wind of the story and demanded a crackdown. After that, Legion recruiters screened prospective volunteers very carefully. One French officer stated that the number of SS men accepted into the Legion shortly after the war was "not more than 60 or 70."
I did say "Devils Guard" was a book with Elements of truth in it! However your quotes contradict each other, not more than 60 or 70, ex SS from one quote to up to 1900 germans in another.
The guy I picked up on the Congo Border WAS German, claimed to be ex SS, was about the right age (mid to late 30's), had his own FFL paybook, Which confirmed he was German and had served in Madagascar, Indo China & Algeria, winning the French Medaille Militaire in Indo China! He also had several other FFL paybooks taken from guys killed alongside him in the Congo, if my memory serves me right, 2 were Germans, 2 Spanish, 1 Hugarian, & 1 Belgium! But it is nearly 50 years ago!
He told me that a LOT of ex SS men were more or less forced into the Legion by the French after the German surrender, how many is a LOT, I do not know, but I took it to be a few thousand! The French, I am sure would not wish to advertise the fact that they were fighting Colonial wars with ex SS Men, hence their playing down numbers!
The flaw with your logic is that you equate German with SS...
"not more than 60 or 70, ex SS from one quote to up to 1900 germans in another"
There were a lot of Germans in the FFL but most were young men with no previous military experience, not hardened SS like some uninformed writers would like us to believe.
Like a former RSM of the FFL (president des sous-officiers de la Legion etrangere), Sgt-Maj Horst Roos said about his carreer just before leaving the Legion in the early 90s in several interviews, he was a young German boy in a ruined country with nowhere to go and that's why he choose the Legion. He was not a professional warrior looking for a new war to fight after WW2.
Agreed that it's a superb book - still have my obligatory copy.
IIRC, towards the end of the war the wermacht would take people into elite units because their numbers were depleted and morale needed to be maintained - documentation fell by the wayside or was lost.
I can also heartily recommend 'Blood Red Snow'. A chilling read (no pun intended).
As for France "forcing" former SS into the armed forces, maybe he got mistaken with the French SS, collaborators and miliciens that were offered either a prison term or the possibility to redeem themselves as part of a specific unit called the BILOM.
The first move to create this unit began on the 27th of May, 1948 when French Minister of Justice Andre Marie requested from the regional directors of the French prison system information on how many prisoners might be interested in serving in Indo-China to "make amends to the nation".
From the politicians to the military establishment the ripple effect was put in motion and soon after the decision was made to raise a demi-brigade of three battalions of political prisoners (i.e. former members of the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, Kriegsmarine, French collaborationist organizations, etc, including both Germans and especially Frenchmen who had been volunteers in the German Armed Forces). On July 6th, 1948, the first battalion of this demi-brigade was formed and named "1re Bataillon d'Infanterie legere d'Outre-Mer", otherwise known as BILOM (short for "light infantry battalion for over-seas").
BILOM units weren't originally formed to go to Indo-China. They were intended to be stationed in various French colonies such as French-Guyana and French Polynesia. It was hoped that BILOM units would free up the French Foreign Legion, which was badly needed in Indo-China. BILOM units were originally designed for occupation and policing duties and therefore were structured as light infantry with no heavy weapons. BILOM units were not a part of the FFL as is sometimes misunderstood.
Only political prisoners were to be used to fill the ranks of this BILOM unit. Although the men chosen would be freed from the French prison and POW camp system there was no chance of amnesty. The men of the unit wouldn't be allowed to serve as officers, wouldn't be eligible for promotion, had no insignia, and they could carry no pennant or unit flag.
In August of 1948 less than 500 men had been accepted for service in this BILOM unit. The men were transported to Frejus in France and provided with rudimentary uniforms and equipment. Here they were trained and formed into a cohesive unit. In an ironic twist of fate, some of the men training the newly formed BILOM were themselves former members of the FFI!
Service for BILOM became a reality on December 11th, 1948 when the 1st Company of BILOM (1/BILOM) consisting of 4 officers, 20 NCO's, 148 men, and portions of BILOM HQ sailed from France to Indo-China onboard the SS Pasteur, arriving in Saigon on December 26th, 1948. From January 3rd, 1949 until March 17th, 1949, 1/BILOM fought exclusively in Cambodia. On March 18th, 1949 1/BILOM was transferred to Sud Annan near the region of Nha Trang. Throughout their service in Cambodia and at Sud Annan 1/BILOM took part in patrols, ambushes, search and destroy operations, sharp engagements, and heavy fighting, all the while taking numerous losses in combat against the Viet Minh.
The 2/BILOM arrived alongside 1/BILOM at Sud Annan on May 17th, 1949. Consisting of 2 officers, 6 NCO's, and 57 men, 2/BILOM had left France on the SS Compiegne and arrived in Saigon on May 8th. 29 more men of 2/BILOM arrived for service later in June. Of special note is the first military award for valor which was presented to men of BILOM in the form of the French croix de guerre on June 20th, 1949.
After many months of dedicated service to France under harsh and relatively unforgiving circumstances in southeast Asia, the former Axis POWs of WWII found themselves accepted into the regular units of the French forces in Indo-China as the newly designated 1 and 2 Companies of the "1re Compagnia de Marche du Sud Annam" otherwise known as 1/CMSA and 2/CMSA. The men of BILOM would go on to be integrated into other French units and would serve with France until their forces were finally pulled out from Indo-China in 1954.
As I said "fantassin", I am recalling this guys words after nearly 50 years!
The guy I met was proud of his SS background, saying they were the best fighting troops he had experience of, followed by the FFL! He didn't rate the rest of the French forces much, especially the top brass which he reckoned cost them Indo China. He was scathing about the qualities of the Americans and reckoned it was only the sheer weight of numbers & artillery etc, of the Russians that allowed them, the Russians, their victories! He was muted about the British, probably because of me! He had had fought against the Congolese Army in Katanga and it was only when these were supported by Indian & Ethiopian UN troops that his mercenaries gave way!
His experiences in Madagascar were revealing, apparently in the late 40's there was some very heavy, bitter fighting against the French, which I must admit apart from his references I had not heard about. His unit lost quite a few men there.
I wish I had made more careful notes at the time but I was only there to pick him up & pass him on to Special Branch.
I first read The Forgotten Soldier about 25 years ago... just found that the library here has two copies, so will be reading it again this week.
Yes ,I read that too - a right toe curler!!
The Americans prepared for the "Cold War" by enlisting the aide of Ex SS soldiers who fought the Russians during Barbarossa. So terrified were the Yanks of the Communist threat after the war, that they offered them pardons and new lives for their knowledge of the Russians and their tactics in battle, particularly on their own soil. Read the above in an article some years ago, which stated it was a realistic option for the Yanks to invade mainland Russia to remove the RED threat. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable could clarify if this is true?
Was totally unaware of the rareness and subsequent prices being asked for copies of 'Devils Guard' until seeing the ARRSE topic on it a while back. Being a horder of books I was convinced it was still in my posession and after rummaging through a few boxes in the loft I found it again, New English Library paperback edition, quite good nick only slightly despoiled with my name and age(!) in the front cover.
That got me thinking that around the time of buying and reading it (1983/4) I remember a Leo Kessler Foreign Legion adventure being passed around that I thought then was a poor mans version of Devils Guard. googled it and ended up buying for memories sake 'Schirmers Headhunters' which is, as I recalled, along exactly the same lines, a unit of former SS in French Indo China - a follow on from Kessler is about the FFL in Algeria which I also picked up for pence from Amazon.
George Rober Elford also published something about an Afghan fighter against the Soviets in the mid '80s but that has definitely been lent out or stolen.
For those who have not read 'Devils Guard'
The book is utter rubbish. It is pure fiction, the writer gets everything down to small unit tactics wrong and -worst of all - it is not even compellingly written. Seriously, Sven Hassel writes better war porn: At least his books have memorable characters. I wouldn't recommend anyone spending ANY money on this, not to mention the ridiculous prices being asked.
'Forgotten Soldier,' OTOH, is a very good book, and on the basis of the book itself, and the many online sources relating to the controversy, I'd imagine the author served on the Eastern Front in some shape or form.