The Légion des Volontaires Français (LVF), or Infanterie Regiment 638, as it was know to the Germans, was formed in July 1941. It was sent to Debica, Poland, for training and it remained there until October when it was sent to the Eastern Front attached to 7. Infanterie-Division. It suffered heavy losses during the Soviet winter offensive and the 2. Battalion was almost destroyed but a 3. Battalion was formed from new volunteers (including some 200 colored, mainly Arabs from Algeria).

After these losses it operated as individual battalions rather than as a single unit fighting the partisans. It continued fighting the partisans during 1943 but was once again used as a single unit when all the battalions were attached to 286. Sicherungs-Division.

It merged with Französische SS-Freiwilligen-Sturmbrigade in September 1944 to form the Waffen-Grenadier Brigade der SS Charlemange.

In 1942 an attempt was made to make this unit an official French unit, the Légion Tricolore, but this was not allowed by the Germans who wanted to keep the unit under their control.

Commanders

Roger Labonne (? Aug 1941 - ? Mar 1942)
Edgar Puaud (? June 1943 - 1 Sep 1944)

Order of battle

1. Bataillon
2. Bataillon
3. Bataillon

Insignia

A French flag with the text Légion des Volontaires was used as unit flag.

Légion des Volontaires Français recieves its flag in 1941
lvf-flag-ceremony
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

LVF soldiers on the Eastern front in November 1941, note French sleeve shield
lvf-soldier-horse
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Generalfeldmarschall Hans Günther von Kluge visiting the regiment in November 1941
lvf-kluge
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Propaganda & Culture

Lyrics to the song Contre les rouges that was sung by the French volunteers.
(Thanks to Thierry Bouzard)

1. Malgré le froid, malgré les obus,
Sous les rafales et sous les bombres,
Nous avançons vers le même but,
Dédaignant l'appel de la tombe.

[Refrain]
O camarade, le combat qui commence
Est dans nos âmes symbole d'éspérance,
Peuvent pleuvoir, grenades et gravas,
Notre victoire en aura plus d'éclat.

2. Contre les rouges, contre l'ennemi,
Partout où le devoir fait signe,
Soldats de France, soldat du pays,
Nous remonterons vers les lignes.

3. Et si le fer nous fauche en chemin,
Si nos doigts se crispent au sol,
Un dernier rêve adieu et demain,
Nous souhaiterons faire école.


LVF airmail (November 1941), print run: 141.000
stamps-mil-france-lvf-air
(Courtesy of PJ Caliguire)

LVF stamps (20 April 1942), print run: 1.000.000
stamps-mil-france-lvf
(Courtesy of PJ Caliguire)

Sources used

Christopher Ailsby - Hitler's Renegades: Foreign nationals in the service of the Third Reich
Richard Landwehr - French Volunteers of the Waffen-SS
Georg Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945

Reference material on this unit

Grégory Bouysse - Légion des Volontaires Français, Bezen Perrot & Brigade Nord-Africaine

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