Via their onlineshop “Militärische Antiquitäten Emig” sold a historical interesting set of military documents of a man who during the Second World War volunteered twice for the duration of the war.
The first time for the French Foreign Legion and the second time for the British Royal Pioneer Corps.
Although not the owner of these documents, I could not resist writing a short blog about this men’s history which can be derived from these documents and documents found in further research.
It is one of the many examples of how refugees survived the war, by putting their life at risk by serving as a soldier in a foreign army.
The name of this man was Louis Detzel. He very likely had the German Nationality.
He was born on the 23th of January 1909 in Herxheim Germany.
In the 1930’s he most likely fled his country because of the Nazi repression and ended up in France.
The French Foreign Legion
As many male refugees of German and Austrian nationality who arrived in France he joined the French Foreign Legion.
Following document shows that he received a general assignment to the French Foreign Legion in Langres.
The next document shows a slightly more specific assignment to the D.C.R.E. in Chaumont, France.
Like often with E.V.D.G.’s of German or Austrian nationality he was sent to North Africa and not assigned to one of the newly raise units of the French Foreign Legion in France in which there was a fair chance they had to fight their countrymen.
His registration number in the Legion became 93262, indicating he joined towards the end of 1939.
10 September 1940 Discharged
The war in France ended with the Armistice of 22 June 1940 and thereafter the French Foreign Legion started to discharge those who had joined for the duration of the war. Sometimes new contracts for the normal duration of 5 years were proposed to the E.V.D.G.’s, but only a small number seemed to have accepted these.
Louis Detzel was discharged on the 10th of September 1940 in Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria . He received a Certificat de Bonne Conduite signed by Colonel Girard of the 1er Regt Etranger d’Infie.
1940 – 1943 Labour Camp in Vichy France
As a foreigner in Vichy controlled North Africa Louis Detzel prospects were bleak and like most unwanted foreigners he was most likely forced by the then governing law into an internment or labour camp.
Two years later, as a result of the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, French North Africa was liberated, although the occupants of the internment or labour camps were often not as fast released as they had hoped for.
13 April 1943 Enlisted at Boufarik for the duration of war
With regards to Louis Detzel it is known that on the 13th of April 1943 he enlisted at Boufarik for the duration of the war in the British Army and was assigned to the Royal Pioneer Corps.
Boufarik is a town in Blida Province, Algeria, approximately 30 km from Algiers.
Whether this in only the location where he joined or whether he had been in a camp in Boufarik is not known.
In the early part of the Second World War, the Pioneer Corps was the only British military unit in which enemy aliens could serve. Thousands of German and Austrian nationals joined the Pioneer Corps to assist Allied war efforts. They typically were Jews and political opponents of the Nazi Regime.
Serving as a German or Austrian national in the British forces was especially dangerous because, in case of being taken captive, there was a high probability of being executed as a traitor by the Germans. Still, the number of German-born Jews joining the British forces was exceptionally high; by the end of the war, one in seven Jewish refugees from Germany had joined the British forces.
Based on his Army book Louis Detzel served in
North Africa from 13-04-1943 until 11-09-1944
and in Italy from 12-09-1944 until 21-06-1946.
He was discharged on the 22nd of August 1946.
For his service in the British Army he was decorated as registered in his Army Book with the Africa star, Italy star, 1939 – 1945 star and the Defense Medal.