Volunteer Legion Military and Feldpost History
Légion des Voluntaires Français
After the defeat and occupation of France in May 1940, an armistice
was declared in June between the French and German governments.
France was split into two zones. The northern industrial region
of France remained occupied and placed under German administration.
In the southern region of France, a collaborationist government
had established itself in Vichy.
It was placed under the leadership of WWI military veteran hero,
Marshal Philippe Petain.
German forces occupied southern France in November 1942.
When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 it caused great excitement
among the collaborating political parties and para-military
home based formations. They now found a new unity in their desire
to participate in the Russian campaign. The first recruiting
center was opened at 12 rue Auber, Paris, additional recruiting
centers were placed all over France. On 18 July 1941, the "Légion des Voluntaires Français contre le Bolshevisme (LVF)" was established.
Initially the Vichy Government had enacted a law that forbade
Frenchmen from enlisting into "foreign armies" to prevent them
from joining with the Free French forces of exiled General Charles
de Gaulle. Since the LVF was a private affair, Marshal Petain
amended the law so that no objection would be raised for Frenchmen
enlisting into the LVF. These volunteers were placed in the
Borgnis-Desbordes barracks at Versailles.
Early legion cover mailed by a volunteer FPN 03865A (1st Btl/1st
Co) of the newly formed 638th Infantry Regiment, which was assigned
to the German 7th Infantry Division on the Russian Front. Most
early covers were required by German postal regulations a written
annotation "Durch Deustche Feldpost" (via German military mail).
the senders rank Sargent Molin and FPN 03865A. The cover shows
sealing tape and censorship markings.
A total of 5800 Frenchmen were selected into the LVF. They wore
standard German army uniforms and had the French national arm
shield inscribed "FRANCE" placed on their right sleeve. A Colonel
Roger Labonne assumed command of the legion.
On 4 September the first draft of volunteers of 828 officers and men left to
the "Truppenuebungsplatz Deba" (troop excercise area Deba), located in
Poland. On 20 September the second Legion contingent of 896 men
was sent to the Deba troop training facilities.
By October 1941, the
LVF was up to a strength of two battalions with 181 Officers and 2271 other ranks
with a liaison staff of 35 Germans. The LVF was registered as "638. Infanterie
Regiment" of the German Army.
By the end of October both battalions proceeded by rail to Smolensk
and then by truck and on foot towards the front line near Moscow.
The LVF joined the German 7th Infantry Division near Golokovo.
In early December a 3rd battalion of 1400 other recruits of
the LVF was sent to Deba troop training facilities.
In February 1942, the 1st and 2nd battalions of the LVF were
caught up in the Soviet winter counter-offensive. During this
winter offensive, the 2nd battalion was over-run by Soviet forces
near Djunovo and virtually annihilated.
The LVF lost half of its strength either through enemy action
or by frostbite. In March 1942 Colonel Labonne was recalled
to Paris and relieved of his command.
The LVF was pulled out of the front line and for 18 months it
operated as two separate battalions. The first under the command
of Major Lacroix and the third under Major Demessine (the 2nd
btl. was destroyed in the winter fighting before Moscow). During
the summer of 1942, the 1st btl. subordinated to the 186th German
Security Division was deployed in anti-partisan activities near
Smolensk. The 3rd btl. was in the southwestern part of Smolensk
and fought anti-partisans near Volost where it suffered heavy
Above is a feldpost cover mailed by volunteer who was in the Debica training barracks. The
reverse shows senders FPN 19440 (Staff Training Unit at Debica). Notice the Legion
Tricolore stamps attached to the feldpost cover.
French Tricolore Legion
On 28 June 1942, the
LVF was officially incorporated into the "Legion Tricolore," which was an attempt by the Vichy government to place it into the French armed forces.
It was financed by the Vichy government,and headed by Raymond Lachal, Pierre Laval's
right-hand man. Members of the "Legion Tricolore" would be available for employment on
any front where French interest was at stake. It was quietly dissolved
after only 6 months in existence. Hitler didn't approve the Legion on transferring
into a French governing system. Former members of the "Legion Tricolore" were allowed
to rejoin the LVF. By June 1943, after active recruiting and reorganizing, the LVF
was refitted and prepared to serve under the German 186th Security Division at Smolensk.
Interesting propaganda postcard commemorating the 2nd Anniversary of the LVF.
These men were members of the "Legion Tricolore" and wore French uniforms.
The men standing in formation belong to the 1st Rgt. of the LVF. One of the legionnaires
is holding the LVF flag while Major Bridoux is saluting.
By the end of December 1942, the "Legion Tricolore" was disbanded at German request.
The following Feldpost numbers were assigned to the 638th Infantry
By the end of December 1942,
the Legion Tricolore was disbanded at German request. Its personnel
were allowed to transfer to the LVF. These transfers resulted
in a reorganization of the LVF in December 1943.
In October 1943 the Legion artillery detachment was disbanded.
A 4th Infantry Battalion was formed from excess personnel and
was reformed as the French Grenadier Regiment 638.
Btl. (13-16 Co.)------------------ 03925(A-D)(Added in April 1944)
Training 2nd Btl--------------- 56381
Training 4th Btl---------------- 20919
Grenadier Regiment 638
In January 1944, the LVF was sent to the Russian front and was
engaged in anti-partisan operations. A reconstituted 2nd battalion
was added, and by the end of the year the LVF was reunited as
a whole regiment.
In April 1944, a 4th battalion was added into the regiment from
excess personnel of the disbanded LVF artillery detachment.
The formation was designated as the "Grenadier Regiment 638."
and was placed under the command of Colonel Edgar Puaud, who
was promoted by the Vichy government to the rank of brigadier-general.
In June 1944, after the collapse of the German 9th Army, the
regiment found itself in the path of a major Russian counter-offensive.
To stem the Soviet offensive, a battalion of 400 Frenchmen under
the command of Major Bridoux, and various adhoc German units
formed a "Kampfgruppe" (Battlegroup) near Bobr, Ukraine. This
battlegroup fought so successful that it enabled much of the
9th Army to break out of a Soviet encirclement in Bobruysk.
A Russian official dispatch spoke of "two French Divisions,"
a compliment for a battalion of Frenchmen!
Withdrawn from the front, the regiment was re-grouped at Greifenberg
in East Prussia. In September 1944, the LVF ceased to exist.
It found itself absorbed into the Waffen-SS.
feldpost cover with written annotation indicating non-occupied
zone. The reverse shows senders FPN 05492E (3rd Battalion). The
cover has sealing tape and censorship markings. This cover came
with an enclosed letter, which has been translated. It tells a
bit on how these foreign volunteers felt about the issues of their
content of the letter saids the following:
"My dear wife"
"After a cold spell, which reached 27 degrees below zero, I come
to tell you I have a frozen ear. I went to see the major and he
will tell me what I have to do, if by chance I would be evacuated
to a hospital. I will let you know.
You can be sure I still prefer to stay where I am. I would like
to take my revenge upon those bastards of jews and communist because
both of them hurt us too much. Remember, dear Charlotte we were
together last year, sharing our daily bread in our house close
to the fire. This year, we are apart and will maybe never be together
again. This is God's will! Nevertheless, I do not forget you,
my last memory will be for you. I have been too badly considered
within this France I loved and I want to thrash everybody who
considered me wrongly when I will be back. This is not the Germans
who are hurting France, but indeed a special kind of Gaullist
and communist French. Do not believe their lies but try at least
to understand what is right and to consider the cowardliness of
Russian soldiers who are real bandits, in the pay of communists
and jews. One day will come and the French will understand the
gesture the Legion did to promote German-French collaboration.
Those who are sleeping the eternal rest wanted to make you more
happy and to give you some bread, because you are not getting
bread from the Russians or the Gaullist but, on the contrary,
thanks indeed to the Germans. The Brits are keeping on killing
our French people as well as our northern cities. I leave you
the hope to see you again. Best regards from the one who is thinking
to you. I still have no news from you since November 23, 1940.
I kiss you and forward my best wishes to Monsieur Louis and Madame
"Happy New Year to all of you."
By the 1 September 1944 the LVF was disbanded and 1200 of its
members volunteered for service with the "8. Sturmbrigade Frankreich"
of the Waffen-SS. On 18 July 1944 the "French SS Volunteer Assault
Brigade" was pronounced combat-ready. The following Feldpost
numbers were assigned:
Staff Brigade------------- 47335
Btl. (1-4 Co.) -------------- 41592(A-D)
Btl. (5-8 Co.)-------------- 35411(A-D)
Very rare SS Feldpost cover mailed in the spring of 1944 by SS French volunteer who was attached to the 8th Sturmbrigade. Volunteer was in SS military training facility (SS Truppen übungplatz Böhmen) located in the Czech village of "Networschitz" (German) now known as "Netvořice" (Czech ). Cover was mailed to Amiens, France. Cover shows a SS sealing tape with a red censor postmark.
Waffen-Grenadier der SS Division Charlemagne
In September 1944 the assault brigade and the remaining members
of LVF were reorganized to form the French "33. Waffen-Grenadier
der SS Division Charlemagne." This division was supplemented
by French volunteers from the German Navy. The members of this
division, which was actually only a brigade in strength, came
from the following sources:
Ex-members of SS Assault Brigade 1000
Ex-members of the LVF 1200
Ex-members of the Milice 2500
Ex-members of transport Corps (NSKK) 2000
Ex-Naval volunteers 640
Interesting late issue feldpost cover sent to NSKK Transport unit in Hamburg. Cover has
three French Legion labels with feldpost cancellations dated 10 February 1945.
Besides the above volunteers, new recruits were still being
incorporated into the division. The command for the new division
was given to a German SS-General Krukenberg. By middle of February
1945, the division was ordered to join Army Group Vistula. This
sector lay about 100Kms southwest of Danzig and contained the
9th, 11th and 2nd German Armies under the command of General
Heinrici. This Army Group was used to stem the Russian advance
For more historical information, please visit my web page relating to
the "Charlemagne" Division.
With this transfer to the field came the assignment
of Feldpost numbers:
German general staff---------------------------- 47335
Inspectorate of the French Waffen-SS------ 55448
57 SS Rgt. Staff Co., Anti-tank Co.--------- 66641
Rare SS-Feldpost cover mailed in December 1944 by a member of the
"Brigade der SS Charlemagne,"
who was in training at the SS-Barracks in Wildflecken. The cover was addressed to a girl
in Speyer, Germany. Notice the unit seal, SS censor "AS" hand stamp and the open-unit
sender's address. The sender posted the incorrect postal code, as indicated by
the stamped box "Postleitzahl" and corrected with the handwritten postal code "18."
Thanks to the "Third Reich Study Group" for allowing me to post the cover.
Here is another
Rare SS-Feldpost cover mailed in January 27, 1945 by the same Waffen-SS French volunteer of the
"Brigade der SS Charlemagne,"
who was in training at the SS-Barracks in Wildflecken. The cover was addressed to a girl
in Speyer, Germany. This cover has the SS roller censor cancel and Wildflecken postal cancel.
The reverse has SS sealing tape with black circular censor SS marking.
Note:The division post office (FPA SS-33) used
Kenn 565 from February to May 1945.
There exist unit seals with "Ausbildungsstab Franzosiche Legion,
Franz Inf Rgt 638 & 33. Waffen-Grenadier der SS Division Charlemagne."