Spanish Foreign Legion

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by vanderhart, Apr 14, 2010.

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  1. Have or did many Brits serve in the Spanish Foreign Legion before 1986? (when it became for spanish only (and from former spanish colonies) never came across any books/papers regarding brits in the legion unlike the french

  2. Spanish civil war?

    Probably better asking on the Militaria and history forum.

    I knew a lad who served with them in the late 70s and said they had quite a few British members, many of whom tried to join the FFL but couldn't because of their crime sheets. He also said that it was more or less a complete shambles, and that their basic training was mainly about being beaten up alot while starving to death in a desert. Everyone that could manage it deserted, which scuppered any future plans for sun hol visits to the Costa del Sol et al, unfortunately. He said that some deserted in stolen row boats from the Canary Islands, which would be quite the excursion, and I only semi-believed that one.

    The unit was used by Franco in the Spanish Civil War to conduct suicidal frontal assaults on republican-held fortified castles, apparently gving rise to their cheerful march past 'The Song of the Dead'. He even played it on a tape recorder for us, then belted out a few lines, which I remember impressed me at the time as he was sober. 'Long live death' is their catchy, yet oxymoronic, motto.

    You probably don't see much in writing from these chaps because most of them were apparently Sweaty Socks and Geordies. :D
  4. I met a couple of ex Spanish Legionnaires whilst serving with the French version and said the same thing alot of beatings and not alot else, did'nt like much fun :D
  5. There were indeed a few Brits in the Spanish Foreign Legion then, including Peter Kemp, who served with the Royal Horse Guards and SOE in WW2 and left the army as a Major, DSO, MC:

    PETER KEMP was a distinguished irregular soldier during the Second World War, and long retained his nose for trouble spots thereafter.

    His father was a judge in Bombay, where he was born. After conventional education at Wellington and Trinity, Cambridge, he started to read for the Bar, but was called away by the outbreak of civil war in Spain. Already alarmed at the menace of Communism, he joined a Carlist unit in General Franco's forces in November 1936 and later transferred to the Spanish Foreign Legion in which - rare distinction for a non-Spaniard - he commanded a platoon. He was several times wounded, but stayed at duty till a mortar bomb broke his jaw in the summer of 1938.

    He had barely recovered from this wound when a chance meeting with (Sir) Douglas Dodds-Parker brought him into MIR, a small research department of the War Office which was one of the starting components of the wartime Special Operations Executive. MIR sent him on an abortive expedition to Norway by submarine. He was one of the earliest pupils at the Combined Operations Training School at Lochailort on the shores of the Western Highlands; sailed in intense discomfort to Gibraltar in the hold of that dubious craft HMS Fidelity; and went on another abortive submarine voyage in pursuit of a German U-boat. This aborted because a British destroyer attacked the submarine carrying Kemp by mistake. The operation SOE had planned for him in Spain was cancelled. He returned to the United Kingdom for further training in parachuting sabotage and undercover tactics.

    With a small-scale raiding force he took part in a few cross-channel commando raids, including a successful one which captured all seven of the crew of the Casquets lighthouse (one of them still wearing a hair-net). When the force closed down after its leader's death in action he went out to Cairo, and was absorbed into SOE's Albanian section. He spent 10 months clandestinely in Albania, many of them in disagreeable proximity to Enver Hoxha, the Communist leader. He had several close brushes with death, and found the complexities of Balkan politics intensely confusing in a many-sided war. Eventually he walked out into Montenegro, across the border with Yugoslavia, and was safely brought back to Cairo.

    He did one more mission for SOE in Europe, into southern Poland at the end of 1944, in a party commanded by Colonel DT Hudson, who had been a leading SOE agent in Yugoslavia. Their Polish friends protected them from capture by the Germans. They were then overrun by the Red Army, and imprisoned in odious conditions for three weeks by the NKVD. Two months hanging about in Moscow waiting for an exit visa followed.

    He had still not had enough fighting. He parachuted once more, in the summer of 1945, into Siam and ran arms to the French across the border with Laos - again fighting a polygonal war, for both the Japanese and the Viet Min tried to stop him.

    Tuberculosis forced his retirement from the Army, and his health thereafter was always precarious. His energies remained enormous. He sold life insurance policies for a living, and wrote some excellent books. One, Mine Were of Trouble (1957) described his part in the war in Spain, and No Colours or Crest (1958), his life with MIR and SOE. These were strong, spare narratives, in beautifully clear English, extremely readable then and since. He acknowledged many of his own mistakes and never said a word of his calm, gentle, unfailing courage.

    He went to Hungary during the rising in 1956, nominally as the Tablet's correspondent, and helped some students escape to Austria. He was present during the troubles in the Congo that led to its independence as Zaire; he fought intermittently in Vietnam; he visited and reported on revolutions in Central and in South America; he could even bear to revisit Albania, where he predicted further racial clashes between Albanians and Serbs. He was always ready to advise a friend; and in The Forms of Memory (1990) produced a notable autobiography. He bore his last illness with his usual fortitude.
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  6. While another was a Welshman named Frank Thomas:

    During the Spanish Civil War two young Welshmen volunteered to fight for their convictions - but on opposite sides. They had similar backgrounds. The elder, Frank Thomas, had a powerful yearning for military adventure. The younger, Sid Hamm, became a Communist before going to Spain. In April 1937, by now a battle-hardened veteran, Thomas was with Franco's Foreign Legion near the town of Brunete, helping to strengthen the Nationalist trenches. Hamm was just arriving in Spain to join the Republican International Brigade. Three months later, Thomas was back home, recuperating from terrible wounds, while Hamm met his death attempting to puncture the very defence works which Thomas had helped to construct. This story of a parochial civil war within the most defining of all civil wars has come to light through Robert Stradling's discovery of two unknown documents. Robert Stradling has provided a comprehensive introduction to these two accounts, with detailed notes and explanatory glosses, complemented by a selection of maps and illustrations.
  7. The Legion still exists as three infantry battalions and in common with most Spanish units, relies heavily on South American recruits in the same way that we recruit Commonwealth people. The Legion still maintains its distinct traditions in terms of uniforms, silly walks and even sillier slogans, but is really no different to any other Spanish light role infantry unit.
  8. Crack your wallet and get a copy of 'The Thorns of Memory' ;)

  9. Had a guy under sentence for being awol, who had escaped from the Spanish Foreign Legion, he locked our guard up and escaped on a coal train at Bovvy :)
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  10. yes i served in ronda 1980 for 4 months then in melilla in morrocco tercio gran capitan for 2 years and 8 months hard work but loved every minute
  11. Grumblegrunt

    Grumblegrunt LE Book Reviewer

    pray do tell us more. don't be shy. with no one to counter your claims the usual suspects cant scream taxi driver at you just yet.

    just don't mention mountain racing
  12. Mr_Fingerz

    Mr_Fingerz LE Book Reviewer

    Other than it also allows women into it's ranks. "Its members, regardless of rank, are titled Caballero Legionario ("Legionary Gentleman"). When women are admitted, they are titled Dama Legionaria ("Legionary Lady")."
  13. Come on, don't leave us dangling. You could be Arrses own Bo Jesta.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
  14. Found this on the web...


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  15. ^ priceless!