Friday, June 2, 2017

French Foreign Legion - Légion Étrangère - WWII

I know it has been a long while since my last post so I'll try to get back up to speed now that we are entering the summer months and I should have a bit more hobby time. I planned for 2017 to be spent mostly working on World War Two miniatures. Northwest Europe mid-late war to be exact. I have had some deviation to other periods to break it up a bit but I have remained somewhat focused on my project. I didn't really plan on doing anything desert related but I was trolling the web looking for reference photos on painting some StuG III's and came upon some desert photos. Well a couple of clicks later I saw a post about the French Foreign Legion's 13th Demi-Brigade defense of Bir Hakeim. One thing led to another and soon I found myself trying to find metal miniatures in 20mm. Just for a small side project I told myself. Besides, who doesn't love the mystery and intrigue of the legion?
Now how to establish a harem in the Laundry Room Barracks and slip this lass past General ze Wife.
There are some nice offerings in 28mm but if you are interested in 20mm (1/72) figs like I am,  you will really need to do some digging or plan on doing plastic conversions of your own. I found a guy in France who does conversions/sculpting for this period and he casts his miniatures in small batches. I quickly purchased the three sets of miniatures he had on hand totaling about 61 figures including command, mortar teams, artillery teams, MG teams and fighting men. Most of the poses are unique with little repetition so you get a wide variety of useful figures.
Yes I know they didn't all fight in their Kepi Blanc but hey, it's the legion and they look cool.

The more I dug into and researched the 13e DBLE I realized I would be expanding this project from painting a few squads to creating the full brigade (well, a representation of it anyway). I am now on the lookout for figures to use for French colonial forces at the time including some pretty cool units that I will get to in future posts.
Defense of Bir Hakeim 26 May-11 June, 1942

e Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère

The brigade was created in 1940, and with the Senegalese Tirailleur Regiment of Tchad became one of the two regiments which rallied as a constituted unit of the Free French Forces. The 13e DBLE would be part of most major campaigns the armed forces of France during WWII.
The legion's defense of Bir Hakeim along with the 1st Free French Brigade against the DAK and Italians had lengthened the Axis supply route around the south end of the Gazala line while causing them losses. It also gave the British time to recover in the wake of their defeat at the Cauldron and regroup and set up a defense for the First battle of El Alamein. 
Bir Hakeim, Libya
Their are some fun story lines that could be used as wargame scenarios or objectives like French General Marie-Pierre Koenig's affair with English nurse and ambulance driver Susan Travers, the only women to formally be enrolled in the Legion Etrangere. She was an Adjudant-chef which is similar to the rank of lieutenant. Perhaps  a victory condition or points is to capture her (sorry, just thinking out loud).
So after searching and finding my first figures, doing some research on the unit, finding some reference photos for painting/modeling I have completed about thirty of my guys thus far. Not huge progress, but steady progress as I continue my year of World War Two. I have also bought and painted a fort I can use for them to defend as well. It is Italeri's African House. A great model although a tad pricey but I think it was worth it. I will get some use out of it for my moderns as well I think and perhaps 19th Century Legionnaires on their quest to colonize north Africa. Did I just say that? Slap me. I really don't need another period. Arghhh, to late. I already ordered some figures. Oh, well...more to come on this.

So here are some photos of what I have completed so far. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I'm not expert in WWII or specifically the desert campaigns but I've done a bunch of research to date and can hopefully steer you in the right direction for information. Thanks for checking this post out.
Italeri 6139-African House. Aprox $50 US.

A few of the 20mm Guilhem Dalou figures for scale of the Italeri model.

Not a fighting set-up, just wanted to show how many figures the fort could hold. This is about 30 figs on the walkway. The roof also is removable to allow figures to shoot out the windows and there is a nice courtyard where more figures, vehicles, etc. could be. My guess is you could get about 100 figures total inside the fort if you wanted to.


  1. Excellent post, figures and presentation are top notch!

  2. Thanks Phil. It has been a fun force to add to my collection.

  3. looks fantastic!!! too bad I play 15mm Free french not 20mm!

    1. Yours can just be the pygmy dudes who joined up. No worries.