I’ve become hopelessly addicted to the British Imperial War Museum’s web page, and have spent hours listening to the recorded interviews that they have there.
This one, by a British man (Edmund Murray) who joined the French Foreign Legion and served in Indochina during World War II is incredibly fascinating on many levels, but I seem to have gotten the most excited about the “lowest” level – what he has to say about sex.
For instance, this is how he responds (in reel 7, and the picture above is not of him) to questions from his interviewer about relations between Legionnaires and Indochinese troops who found themselves stuck on the same ship for three months. . .
Interviewer: Did the Legion and the Indochinese mix?
Murray: No, we didn’t mix, but as I say in my book [I still need to identify this book], I’m quite sure a lot of homosexuality went on, in the middle of the dark night, in the dark night.
Interviewer: Between the Indochinese. . .
Murray: Between the Legionnaires and the Indochinese.
Murray: Oh the Legion were quite famous for that sort of thing really, and the Indochinese also. . . it was remarkable how. . . attractive. . . you know, I suppose 50% of the Indochinese were. . . really attractive lads, young lads, who it wasn’t surprising really they were I suppose for the main part homosexual. . .
Murray then goes on (in reel 11) to talk about his concubine in Indochina.
Murray: I had a concubine, and you know, instead of going to the brothels and that sort of thing [some words here I don’t understand]. . .you went to your [??] every evening, and she was available for anything you wanted, and what’s more you knew you were going to get it when you got there, then you had a chicken sandwich or a cooked chicken and you had vegetables and things like that, and vegetables that she had bought with your money that you paid her every month, and also vegetables and herbs and things like that that she’d been out to collect.
Most of the money that I paid. . . Thi Sach [?], that was her name. Nguyen Thi Sach. . .
Interviewer: You found her or she was issued?
Murray: No, I found her. When we got there, you got out on an evening and they lined up opposite there. And you go along and you chose. Or you know if they are carrying a basket or carrying something like that in which they’ve got food then you know they are married already, but if she’s not got anything and she’s standing there and has one of these conical hats on, and well-dressed, then you know that she’s more or less available. And I just picked her out I remember.
And I’m sure that she was faithful to me, and I’m sure that I was generous to her, but most of her money went down to Cambodia to her family in Cambodia, to her father, and she used to. . . I was teaching her to write as a matter of fact, and she was teaching me Indochinese, but nevertheless she used to go out to a corner there on Tuesday morning or something like this and she would get the local scribe to write the letter for her.
This gentleman had many more things to say, and about many other topics. It’s all fascinating.