03 December 2012

The Youngest Soldier of French Legion

Image size: 1136 x 1600 pixel. 359 KB
Date: Between Monday, 1 December 1941, to Tuesday, 9 December 1941
Place: Near Golovbovo, Russia
Photographer: Kriegsberichter Momber from PK (Propaganda-Kompanie) 689

One of the youngest soldier of the French Legion (Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchévisme), Léon Merdjian, 15 years old. He was born at Tbilisi, Georgia, and becaming a medic in Infanterie-Regiment 638 (Französischer). Merdjian and Léon Vatchnadzé are 15 years old when they enlisted in LVF in 1941 and were Georgian emigres to France (would be interesting to know about their fate!). In 15 November 1941, the French Legion arrived on the Eastern Front. Four battalions of French volunteers assigned to 4. Armee proved less hardy. Generalfeldmarschall Hans-Günther von Kluge (Oberbefehlshaber 4. Armee) addressed them on the field of Borodino and spoke of how, in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, Frenchmen and Germans had once before fought shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy. They eventually reached the extreme end of the German front, at 63 Km from Moscow. There, Infanterie-Regiment 638 joined the 7. Infanterie-Division under Generalleutnant Eccard Freiherr von Gablenz. On November 24, 1941, the 4 platoons of the 1st battalion are heading to the front line near the village of Djukovo. The regimental HQ reaches Golowkowo. The ground is frozen. After several days waiting in horrible conditions, attack order is given on December 1st in a horrible snowstorm, with temperatures that dropped 20 Celsius overnight, without winter equipment, with no Panzer support. On the opposite side, the 32nd Siberian Division, well equipped, well trained, supported by heavy artillery. Dead and wounded French are spilling the ground; automatic weapons are blocked by the frost. At the medical post, Doctor Captain Fleury struggles to treat all the wounded, the sick and the men with frozen members. After a week, the 1st battalion is almost dislocated and must be replaced. Lieutenants Dupont and Tenaille, the best platoons commanders have been killed by the same artillery shell, Captain Lacroix is severely wounded. More to the north, the second battalion is less afflicted by the battle, but as much by the climatic conditions. While the 7. Infanterie-Division remains on the front line, the whole 638 regiment is pulled out between the 6 and 9 of December. It lost 65 dead, 120 wounded, more than 300 sick or with frozen members.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-141-1291-02

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