French Foreign Legion

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Légion Étrangère
Flag of legion.svg
The Foreign Legion grenade emblem and colours.
Active 10 March 1831—present
Country  France
Branch French Army
Type Foreign legion
Role Elite Light Infantry
Size c. 7,700 men in eleven regiments and one sub-unit
Garrison/HQ Aubagne (Headquarters)
Calvi (2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment)
Metropolitan France (5 regiments)
French Guiana (3rd Infantry Regiment)
United Arab Emirates (13th Demi-Brigade)
Mayotte (Detachment)
Nickname The Legion (English)
La Légion (French)
Motto

"Legio Patria Nostra" (The Legion is our Fatherland)
"Honneur et Fidélité" (Honour and Fidelity)

"Marche ou crève" (March or die, unofficial)
March Le Boudin
Anniversaries Camerone Day (30 April)
Engagements
Commanders
Current
commander
Brigade General Christophe de Saint Chamas
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Grenade legion.svg
Legion flash
BananeLEor.jpg
Abbreviation FFL (English)
LE (French)
A Legion honour guard of the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment stands at attention as they await the arrival of Lt. Gen. Khalid Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, commander of Joint Forces in Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Shield.

The French Foreign Legion (French: Légion étrangère (French pronunciation: ​[leʒjɔ̃ etʀɑ̃ʒɛʁ]), L.E.) is a military service wing of the French Army established in 1831, unique because it was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces. Commanded by French officers, it is also open to French citizens, who amounted to 24% of the recruits as of 2007.[1]

The Foreign Legion is today known as a unit whose training focuses not only on traditional military skills but also on its strong esprit de corps. As its men come from different countries with different cultures, this is a way to strengthen them enough to work as a team. Consequently, training is often described as not only physically challenging, but also very stressful psychologically.

Contents

History[edit]

The French Foreign Legion was created by Louis Philippe, the King of the French, on 10 March 1831. The purpose of the Foreign Legion was to remove disruptive elements from society and put them to use fighting the enemies of France. Recruits included failed revolutionaries from the rest of Europe, soldiers from the disbanded Swiss and German mercenary regiments of the Bourbon monarchy, and troublemakers in general, both foreign and French. The Royal Ordinance for the establishment of the new regiment specified that the foreigners recruited could only serve outside France.[2] The French expeditionary force that had occupied Algiers in 1830 was in need of reinforcements and the Legion was accordingly transferred in detachments from Toulon to Algeria.[3][4]

The Foreign Legion was primarily used, as part of the Armée d'Afrique, to protect and expand the French colonial empire during the 19th century, but it also fought in almost all French wars including the Franco-Prussian War, World War I and World War II. The Foreign Legion has remained an important part of the French Army, surviving three Republics, the Second French Empire, two World Wars, the rise and fall of mass conscript armies, the dismantling of the French colonial empire, and the loss of the Foreign Legion's base, Algeria.

Conquest of Algeria (1830–1847)[edit]

Created to fight "outside mainland France", the Foreign Legion was stationed in Algeria, where it took part in the pacification and development of the colony, notably by drying the marshes in the region of Algiers. The Foreign Legion was initially divided into six "national battalions" (Swiss, Poles, Germans, Italians, Spanish, and Dutch-Belgian).[5] Smaller national groups, such as the ten Englishmen recorded in December 1832, appear to have been placed randomly.

In late 1831, the first legionnaires landed in Algeria, the country that would be the Foreign Legion's homeland for 130 years and shape its character. The early years in Algeria were hard on the legion because it was often sent to the worst postings and received the worst assignments, and its members were generally uninterested in the new colony of the French.[6] The Legion served alongside the Battalions of Light Infantry of Africa, formed in 1832, which was a penal military unit made up of men with prison records who still had to do their military service or soldiers with serious disciplinary problems.

The Foreign Legion's first service in Algeria came to an end after only four years, as it was needed elsewhere.

Spain (1835–1839)[edit]

Main article: First Carlist War

To support Isabella's claim to the Spanish throne against her uncle, the French government decided to send the Foreign Legion to Spain. On 28 June 1835, the unit was handed over to the Spanish government. The Foreign Legion landed at Tarragona on 17 August with around 1,400 who were quickly dubbed Los Argelinos (the Algerians) by locals because of their previous posting.

The Foreign Legion's commander immediately dissolved the national battalions to improve the esprit de corps. Later, he also created three squadrons of lancers and an artillery battery from the existing force to increase independence and flexibility. The Foreign Legion was dissolved on 8 December 1838, when it had dropped to only 500 men. The survivors returned to France, many reenlisting in the new Foreign Legion along with many of their former Carlist enemies.

Crimean War (1853–1856)[edit]

Main article: Crimean War
The Légion Étrangère in 1852

On 9 June 1854, the French ship Jean Bart embarked four battalions of the Foreign Legion for the Crimean Peninsula. A further battalion was stationed at Gallipoli as brigade depot.[7] Eight companies drawn from both regiments of the Foreign Legion took part in the Battle of Alma (20 September 1854). Reinforcements brought the Legion contingent up to brigade strength. As the "Foreign Brigade", it served in the Siege of Sevastopol, during the winter of 1854–1855.

The lack of equipment was particularly challenging and cholera hit the Allied expeditionary force. Nevertheless, the "bellies of leather" (the nickname given to the legionnaires by the Russians because of the large cartridge pouches that they wore attached to their waist belts), performed well. On 21 June 1855, the Third Battalion, left Corsica for the Crimea.

On 8 September the final assault was launched on Sevastopol, and two days later, the Second Foreign Regiment, flags and band playing ahead, marched through the streets of Sevastopol. Although initial reservations had been expressed about whether the Legion should be used outside Africa,[7] the Crimean experience established its suitability for service in European warfare, as well as making a cohesive single entity of what had previously been two separate foreign regiments.[8] Total Legion casualties in the Crimea were 1,703 killed and wounded.

Campaign of Italy (1859)[edit]

Like the rest of the "Army of Africa", the Foreign Legion took part in the campaign of Italy. Two foreign regiments, associated with the 2nd Regiment of Zouaves, were part of the Second Brigade of the Second Division of Mac Mahon's Corps. The Foreign Legion acquitted itself particularly well against the Austrians at the battle of Magenta (4 June 1859) and at the Battle of Solferino (24 June). The losses were significant and the Second Foreign Regiment lost Colonel Chabrière, its commanding officer. In gratitude, the city of Milan awarded, in 1909, the "commemorative medal of deliverance", which still adorns the regimental flags of the Second Regiment.[9]

Mexico (1863–1867)[edit]

Uniform of a legionnaire during the 1863 Mexican campaign
Captain Danjou's prosthetic wooden hand

It was in Mexico on 30 April 1863 that the Legion earned its legendary status. A company led by Captain Jean Danjou, numbering 62 soldiers and 3 officers, was escorting a convoy to the besieged city of Puebla when it was attacked and besieged by two thousand loyalists,[10] organised in two battalions of infantry and cavalry, numbering 1,200 and 800 respectively. The patrol was forced to make a defence in Hacienda Camarón, and despite the hopelessness of the situation, fought nearly to the last man. When only six survivors remained, out of ammunition, a bayonet charge was conducted in which three of the six were killed. The remaining three wounded men were brought before the Mexican general, who allowed them to return to France as an honor guard for the body of Captain Danjou. The captain had a wooden hand, which was stolen during the battle; it was later returned to the Legion and is now kept in a case in the Legion Museum at Aubagne, and paraded annually on Camerone Day. It is the Foreign Legion's most precious relic.

During the Mexican Campaign, 6,654 French died.[11] Among these losses, 1,918[11] of the deaths were from a single regiment of the Legion, a fact that testifies to the importance of the Legion's role in the campaign.[11]

Further information: Battle of Camarón

Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871)[edit]

Main article: Franco-Prussian War

According to French law, the Foreign Legion was not to be used within Metropolitan France except in the case of a national invasion,[12] and was consequently not a part of Napoleon III's Imperial Army that capitulated at Sedan. With the defeat of the Imperial Army, the Second French Empire fell and the Third Republic was created.

The new Third Republic was desperately short of trained soldiers following Sedan, so the Foreign Legion was ordered to provide a contingent. On 11 October 1870 two provisional battalions disembarked at Toulon, the first time the Foreign Legion had been deployed in France itself. It attempted to lift the Siege of Paris by breaking through the German lines. It succeeded in retaking Orléans, but failed to break the siege. In January 1871, France capitulated but civil war soon broke out, which led to revolution and the short-lived Paris Commune. The Foreign Legion participated in the suppression of the Commune,[13] which was crushed with great bloodshed.

Tonkin campaign and Sino-French War (1883–1888)[edit]

A Legionnaire sniper at Tuyen Quang

The Foreign Legion's First Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel Donnier) was sent to Tonkin in the autumn of 1883, during the period of undeclared hostilities that preceded the Sino–French War (August 1884 to April 1885), and formed part of the attack column that stormed the western gate of Son Tay on 16 December. The Second and Third Infantry Battalions (chef de bataillon Diguet and Lieutenant-Colonel Schoeffer) were also deployed to Tonkin shortly afterwards, and were present in all the major campaigns of the Sino-French War. Two Foreign Legion companies led the defence at the celebrated Siege of Tuyên Quang (24 November 1884 to 3 March 1885). In January 1885 the Foreign Legion's 4th Battalion (chef de bataillon Vitalis) was deployed to the French bridgehead at Keelung (Jilong) in Formosa (Taiwan), where it took part in the later battles of the Keelung Campaign. The battalion played an important role in Colonel Jacques Duchesne's offensive in March 1885 that captured the key Chinese positions of La Table and Fort Bamboo and disengaged Keelung.

In December 1883, during a review of the Second Legion Battalion on the eve of its departure for Tonkin to take part in the Bắc Ninh Campaign, General François de Négrier pronounced a famous mot: Vous, légionnaires, vous êtes soldats pour mourir, et je vous envoie où l’on meurt! ('You, Legionnaires, you are soldiers in order to die, and I'm sending you to where one dies!')

Colonisation of Africa[edit]

Monument commemorating the soldiers of the Foreign Legion killed on duty during the South-Oranese campaign (1897–1902).

As part of the Army of Africa, the Foreign Legion contributed to the growth of the French colonial empire in Sub-Saharan Africa. Simultaneously, the Legion took part to the pacification of Algeria, plagued by various tribal rebellions and razzias.

Second Franco-Dahomean War (1892–1894)[edit]

In 1892, King Behanzin was threatening the French protectorate of Porto-Novo in modern-day Benin and France decided to intervene. A battalion, led by commandant Faurax, was formed from two companies of the First Foreign Regiment and two others from the second regiment. From Cotonou, the legionnaires marched to seize Abomey, the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey. Two and a half months were needed to reach the city, at the cost of repeated battles against the Dahomean warriors, especially the Amazons of the King. King Behanzin surrendered and was captured by the legionnaires in January 1894.

Second Madagascar expedition (1894–1895)[edit]

In 1895, a battalion, formed by the First and Second Foreign Regiments, was sent to the Kingdom of Madagascar, as part of an expeditionary force whose mission was to conquer the island. The foreign battalion formed the backbone of the column launched on Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. After a few skirmishes, the Queen Ranavalona III promptly surrendered.[14][15] The Foreign Legion lost 226 men, of whom only a tenth died in actual fighting. Others, like much of the expeditionary force, died from tropical diseases.[14] Despite the success of the expedition, the quelling of sporadic rebellions would take another eight years until 1905, when the island was completely pacified by the French under Joseph Gallieni.[14] During that time, insurrections against the Malagasy Christians of the island, missionaries and foreigners were particularly terrible.[16] Queen Ranavalona III was deposed on January 1897 and was exiled to Algiers in Algeria, where she died in 1917.[17]

Mandingo War (1898)[edit]

Main article: Mandingo Wars

From 1882 until his capture, Samori Ture, ruler of the Wassoulou Empire, fought the French colonial army, defeating them on several occasions, including a notable victory at Woyowayanko (2 April 1882), in the face of French heavy artillery. Nonetheless, Samori was forced to sign several treaties ceding territory to the French between 1886 and 1889. Samori began a steady retreat, but the fall of other resistance armies, particularly Babemba Traoré at Sikasso, permitted the colonial army to launch a concentrated assault against his forces. A battalion of two companies from the 2nd Foreign Regiment was created in early 1894 to pacify the Niger. The Legionnaires' victory at the fortress of Ouilla and police patrols in the region accelerated the submission of the tribes. On 29 September 1898, Samori Ture was captured by the French Commandant Gouraud and exiled to Gabon, marking the end of the Wassoulou Empire.

World War I[edit]

Americans in the Foreign Legion, 1916.

In World War I, the Foreign Legion fought in many critical battles on the Western Front, including Artois, Champagne, Somme, Aisne, and Verdun (in 1917), and also suffered heavy casualties during 1918. The Foreign Legion was also in the Dardanelles and Macedonian front, and was highly decorated for its efforts. Many young foreigners, including Americans like Fred Zinn, volunteered for the Foreign Legion when the war broke out in 1914. There were marked differences between such idealistic volunteers and the hardened mercenaries of the old Legion, as the poet Alan Seeger pointed out, making assimilation difficult. Nevertheless, the old and the new men of the Foreign Legion fought and died in vicious battles on the Western front, including Belloy-en-Santerre during the Battle of the Somme, where Seeger, after being mortally wounded by machine-gun fire, cheered on the rest of his advancing battalion.[18]

As most European countries and the US were drawn into the war, many of the newer "duration only" volunteers who managed to survive the first years of the war were generally released from the Foreign Legion to join their respective national armies. Citizens of the Central Powers serving with the Foreign Legion on the outbreak of war were normally posted to garrisons in North Africa to avoid problems of divided loyalties.

Between the World Wars[edit]

Legionnaires in Morocco, circa 1920

While at the close of the World War I, the Foreign Legion's prestige was at a high, the Foreign Legion itself had suffered greatly in the trenches of the war.[19] In 1919, the government of Spain raised the Spanish Foreign Legion and modeled it after the French Foreign Legion.[19] General Jean Mordacq intended to rebuild the Foreign Legion as a larger military formation, doing away with the legion's traditional role as a solely infantry formation.[19] General Mordacq envisioned a Foreign Legion consisting not of regiments, but of divisions with cavalry, engineer, and artillery regiments in addition to the legion's infantry mainstay.[19] In 1920, decrees ordained the establishment of regiments of cavalry and artillery.[19] Immediately following the armistice the Foreign Legion experienced an increase of enlistments.[20] The Foreign Legion began the process of reorganizing and redeploying to Algeria.[19]

The legion also took part in the Rif War of 1920–25.

In 1932, the Foreign Legion consisted of 30,000 men, serving in 6 multi-battalion regiments:

World War II[edit]

Free French Foreign Legionnaires assaulting an Axis strong point at the battle of Bir Hakeim, 1942.

The Foreign Legion played a smaller role in World War II than in World War I, though having a part in the Norwegian, Syrian and North African campaigns. The 13th Demi-Brigade, formed for service in Norway, found itself in the UK at the time of the French Armistice (June 1940), was deployed to the British 8th Army in North Africa and won fame in the Battle of Bir Hakeim (1942). Reflecting the divided loyalties of the time, part of the Foreign Legion joined the Free French movement while another part served the Vichy government as well as fighting as part of the Wehrmacht's 90th Light Infantry Division in North Africa.[21] A battle in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign of June 1941 saw legionnaire fighting legionnaire as the 13th Demi-Brigade (D.B.L.E.) clashed with the 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment at Damascus in Syria. Later, a thousand of the rank-and-file of the Vichy Legion unit joined the 13th D.B.L.E. of the Free French forces as a third battalion.

Following the war, many German former soldiers - especially soldiers who had served in the Waffen SS - joined the Foreign Legion to pursue a military career, an option no longer possible in Germany. To this day, Germans constitute a strong presence in the Foreign Legion.

First Indochina War[edit]

During the First Indochina War (1946–54), the Foreign Legion saw its numbers swell due to the incorporation of World War II veterans who couldn't adapt to civilian life. Even so, although the Foreign Legion distinguished itself, it also took a heavy toll during the war: constantly being deployed in operations, it even reached the point that whole units were annihilated in combat, in what was a traditional Foreign Legion battlefield. Units of the legion were also involved in the defence of Dien Bien Phu and lost a large number of men in the battle.

Algerian War[edit]

The 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion parading in Algeria (circa 1958).

The Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) was a highly traumatic conflict for the Foreign Legion. Constantly on call throughout the country, heavily engaged in fighting against the National Liberation Front and the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN), the Foreign Legion was brought to the brink of extinction after some officers, men and the highly decorated 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1REP) took part in the Generals' putsch. The 1REP was disbanded by order of President de Gaulle after plans were discovered for the 1REP to parachute into Paris and overthrow the French government. Upon being notified that their regiment was to be disbanded and they were to be reassigned, legionnaires of the 1REP blew up their barracks in Algeria as they departed. Notable operations included the Suez Crisis, the Battle of Algiers and various offensives launched by General Maurice Challe including Operations Oranie and Jumelles.

It was during this time that the Legion acquired its parade song "Non, je ne regrette rien", a 1960 Edith Piaf song that their NCOs, leaving their barracks for re-deployment following the Algiers putsch of 1961, sung. The song has been a part of LE heritage since then.[22]

Post-colonial Africa[edit]

By 1962 the morale of the Legion was at an all-time low; it had lost its traditional and spiritual home (Algeria), elite units had been disbanded, and in addition, many officers and men were arrested or deserted to escape prosecution. General de Gaulle considered disbanding it altogether. But after being downsized to 8,000 men and stripped of all heavy weaponry, the Legion was spared, packed up and re-headquartered in metropolitan France.[23]

The Legion now had a new role as a rapid intervention force to preserve French interests not only in its former African colonies but in other nations as well; it was also a return to its roots of being a unit always ready to be sent to hot-spots all around the world. Some notable operations include: the Chadian–Libyan conflict in 1969–72 (the first time that the Legion was sent in operations after the Algerian War), 1978–79, and 1983–87; Kolwezi in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May 1978; Rwanda in 1990–94; and the Côte d'Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) in 2002 to the present.

1962–1991[edit]

Gulf War[edit]

In September 1990, the First Foreign Cavalry Regiment, the Second Foreign Infantry Regiment, and the Second Foreign Engineer Regiment were sent to the Persian Gulf as a part of Opération Daguet. They were a part of the French 6th Light Armoured Division, whose mission was to protect the coalition's left flank. After a four-week air campaign, coalition forces launched the ground campaign. It quickly penetrated deep into Iraq, with the Legion taking the Al Salman Airport, meeting little resistance. The war ended after a hundred hours of fighting on the ground, which resulted in very light casualties for the Legion.

1991–present[edit]

A Foreign Legion soldier with a captured rebel, Ivory Coast, 10 August 2004.

Membership[edit]

Historically, the American film industry portrayed the Foreign Legion as, in the words of Neil Tweedie of The Daily Telegraph, having "a reputation as a haven for cut-throats, crooks and sundry fugitives from justice" and also having many men escaping failed romances.[4] Tweedie said that since the legion had asked few questions of its new recruits, it became "an ideal repository for the scum of the earth."[4] As of 2008, according to Tweedie, the "image as a haven for ne'er-do-wells is largely out of date" since the legion now conducts extensive background checks via Interpol.[4]

The Foreign Legion is the only unit of the French Army open to people of any nationality.[citation needed] Most legionnaires still come from European countries but a growing percentage comes from Latin America.[citation needed] Most of the Foreign Legion's commissioned officers are French with approximately 10% being former Legionnaires who have risen through the ranks.[25]

Legionnaires were, in the past, forced to enlist under a pseudonym ("declared identity"). This disposition exists in order to allow people who want to start their lives over to enlist, and the French Foreign Legion held the belief that it was more fair to make all new recruits use declared identities.[4] French citizens can enlist under a declared, fictitious, foreign citizenship (generally, a francophone one, often that of Belgium, Canada or Switzerland).[citation needed] As of 20 September 2010, new recruits may enlist under their real identities or under declared identities. Recruits who do enlist with declared identities may, after one year's service, regularise their situations under their true identities.[26] After serving in the Foreign Legion for three years, a legionnaire may apply for French citizenship.[4] He must be serving under his real name, must no longer have problems with the authorities, and must have served with "honour and fidelity".[26] Furthermore, a soldier who becomes injured during a battle for France can immediately apply for French citizenship under a provision known as "Français par le sang versé" ("French by spilled blood").[4]

While the Foreign Legion historically did not accept women in its ranks, there was one official female member, Briton Susan Travers who joined Free French Forces during World War II and became a member of the Foreign Legion after the war, serving in Vietnam during the First Indochina War.[27] Today, women remain barred from service in the Legion.

The Foreign Legion on occasion inducts honorary members into its ranks. During the siege of Dien Bien Phu this honour was granted to General Christian de Castries, Colonel Pierre Langlais, Geneviève de Galard ("The Angel of Dien Bien Phu") and Marcel Bigeard, the Officer in Command of the 6th BPC. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. was also an honorary member.[28]

Membership by country[edit]

American poet Alan Seeger in his Foreign Legion uniform

As of 2008 members come from 140 countries. The majority of enlisted men originate from outside of France, while the majority of the officer corps consists of Frenchmen. Many recruits originate from Eastern Europe and Latin America. Neil Tweedie of The Daily Telegraph said that Germany traditionally provided many recruits, "somewhat ironically given the Legion's bloody role in two world wars."[4] He added that "Brits, too, have played their part, but there was embarrassment recently when it emerged that many British applicants were failing selection due to endemic unfitness."[4]

Original nationalities of the Foreign Legion reflect the events in history at the time they join. Many former Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht personnel joined in the wake of WWII[29] as many soldiers returning to civilian life found it hard to find reliable employment. Jean-Denis Lepage reports that "The Foreign Legion discreetly recruited from German P.O.W. camps",[30] but adds that the number of these recruits has been subsequently exaggerated. Bernard B. Fall, who was a supporter of the French government, writing in the context of the First Indochina War, questioned the notion that the Foreign Legion was mainly German at that time, calling it:

[a] canard…with the sub-variant that all those Germans were at least SS generals and other much wanted war criminals. As a rule, and in order to prevent any particular nation from making the Foreign Legion into a Praetorian Guard, any particular national component is kept at about 25 percent of the total. Even supposing (and this was the case, of course) that the French recruiters, in the eagerness for candidates would sign up Germans enlisting as Swiss, Austrian, Scandinavian and other nationalities of related ethnic background, it is unlikely that the number of Germans in the Foreign Legion ever exceeded 35 percent. Thus, without making an allowance for losses, rotation, discharges, etc., the maximum number of Germans fighting in Indochina at any one time reached perhaps 7,000 out of 278,000. As to the ex-Nazis, the early arrivals contained a number of them, none of whom were known to be war criminals. French intelligence saw to that.
Since, in view of the rugged Indochinese climate, older men without previous tropical experience constituted more a liability than an asset, the average age of the Foreign Legion enlistees was about 23. At the time of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, any legionnaire of that age group was at the worst, in his "Hitler Youth" shorts when the [Third] Reich collapsed.[31]

The Foreign Legion accepts people enlisting under a nationality that is not their own. A proportion of the Swiss and Belgians are actually likely to be Frenchmen who wish to avoid detection.[32] In addition many Alsatians are said to have joined the Foreign Legion when Alsace was part of the German Empire, and may have been recorded as German while considering themselves French.

Regarding recruitment conditions within the Foreign Legion, see the official page (in English) dedicated to the subject:[33] With regard to age limits, recruits can be accepted from ages ranging from 17 ½ (with parental consent) to 40 years old.

Countries that allow post-Foreign Legion contract[edit]

In the British Commonwealth countries, its collective provisions provide for nationals to commute between armies in training or other purposes. Moreover, this 'blanket provision' between member-states cannot exclude others for it would seem inappropriate to single out individual countries, that is, France in relation to the Legion. For example, Australia and New Zealand may allow post-Legion enlistment providing the national has commonwealth citizenship. Britain allows post-Legion enlistment. Canada allows post-Legion enlistment in its ranks with a completed five-year contract.[citation needed]

In the European Union framework, post Legion enlistment is less clear. Denmark, Norway, Germany and Portugal allow post-Legion enlistment while The Netherlands has constitutional articles that forbid it.[citation needed] The European Union twin threads seem to be recognized dual nationality status or restricting constitutional article. The United States allows post-FFL enlistment in its National Guard, and career soldiers, up to the rank of captain only and to green card holders. Israel allows post-Legion enlistment. The Swiss jail or fine their nationals for joining the Legion due to Switzerland's neutrality.[citation needed]

One of the biggest national groups in the Legion are Poles. Polish law basically allows service in a foreign army, but only after written permission from the Ministry of National Defense. Most soldiers don't actually apply for permission, but only a few have been prosecuted on this account and generally they get probation.[34]

Ranks[edit]

Soldats du rang (Ordinary Legionnaires)[edit]

All volunteers in the French Foreign Legion begin their careers as basic legionnaires with one in four eventually becoming a sous-officier (non-commissioned officer). On joining, a new recruit receives a monthly salary of €1,043 in addition to food and lodgings.[4][35] He is also given his own new rifle, which according to the lore of the Legion must never be left on a battlefield.[4] Promotion is concurrent with the ranks in the French Army.

A Caporal-chef, with 3 chevrons of seniority, bugling during the Bastille Day Military Parade.
A Caporal-chef of the sappers in la Légion. The sapper insigna depicts 2 crossed axes, instead of a grenade for the regular infantry.
Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank NATO Code Period of service Insignia
Engagé Volontaire Recruit 15 weeks basic training. None
Legionnaire 2e Classe Private / 2nd Class Legionnaire OR-1 On completion of training and Marche képi blanc (March of the White Kepi). None
Legionnaire 1e Classe Lance Corporal / 1st Class Legionnaire OR-2 After 8 months of service. Première classe Légion.PNG
Caporal Corporal OR-3 Possible after 1-year of service, known as the Fonctionnaire Caporal (or Caporal "Fut Fut") course. Recruits selected for this course need to show good leadership skills during basic training. Caporal Légion.png
Caporal Chef Senior Corporal OR-4 After 6 years of service. Caporal-chef Legion.png

^ †: No further promotions are given to non-French Legionnaires on attaining the rank of Caporal Chef.
Table note: Command insignia in the Foreign Legion use gold lace or braid indicating foot troops in the French Army. But the Légion Étrangère service color is green (for the now-defunct colonial Armée d'Afrique) instead of red (regular infantry). Their diamond-shaped regimental patch (or Écusson) has three borders (indicating a Colonial unit), rather than one (Regulars) or two (Reserves); its unique Grenade insignia has seven flames rather than the usual five.

Sous-officiers (non-commissioned officers)[edit]

Sergent-chef insignia with 2 chevrons of seniority (Chevrons d'ancienneté).

Sous-officiers (NCOs) account for 25% of the current Foreign Legion's total manpower.

Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank NATO Code Period of service Insignia
Sergent Sergeant OR-5 After 3 years of service as Caporal. Sergent.png
Sergent Chef Senior Sergeant OR-6 After 3 years as Sergent and between 7 to 14 years of service. Sergent-chef.png
Adjudant Warrant Officer OR-8 After 3 years as Sergent Chef. Adjudant.png
Adjudant Chef Senior Warrant Officer OR-9 After 4 years as Adjudant and at least 14 years service. Adjudant-chef.png
Major Regimental Sergeant Major OR-9 Appointment by either: (i) passing an examination
(ii). promotion after a minimum of 14 years service without an examination.
Major-French-Army.png

^ ‡: Since 1 January 2009, the French military rank of major has been attached to the sous-officiers. Prior to this, Major was an independent rank between NCOs and commissioned officers. It is an executive position within a regiment or demi-brigade responsible for senior administration, standards and discipline.

Officiers (commissioned officers)[edit]

Most officers are seconded from the French Army though roughly 10% are former non-commissioned officers promoted from the ranks.

Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank NATO Code Command responsibility Insignia
Aspirant Cadet OF(D) - Aspirant de l'armée de terre.png
Sous-Lieutenant Second lieutenant OF-1 Junior section leader Sous-lieutenant.png
Lieutenant First lieutenant OF-1 A section. Lieutenant.png
Capitaine Captain OF-2 A company. Capitaine.png
Commandant Major OF-3 A battalion. Commandant.png
Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant colonel OF-4 Junior régiment or demi-brigade leader. Lieutenant-colonel.png
Colonel Colonel OF-5 A régiment or demi-brigade. Colonel.png
Général de Brigade Brigadier general OF-6 Entire French Foreign Legion Insigne général de brigade.png

Chevrons d'ancienneté (chevrons of seniority)[edit]

The Foreign Legion remains the only branch of the French Army that still uses chevrons to indicate seniority. Each gold chevron, which are only used by ordinary legionnaires and noncommissioned officers, denotes five years with the Legion. They are worn beneath the rank insignia.[36]

Traditions of the Legion[edit]

As the Foreign Legion is composed of soldiers of different nationalities and backgrounds, it needed to develop an intense Esprit de Corps, which is carried out by the development of camaraderie, specific traditions, the high sense of loyalty of its legionnaires, the quality of their training and the pride of being a soldier of an élite unit.

Code of Honour[edit]

Every trainee must know by heart the "Legionnaire's Code of Honour". They spend many hours learning it, reciting it, and then getting the vocal synchronisation together:

Regimental flags of the first and 2nd Regiments of the French Foreign Legion.
French English
  • Art. 1 – Légionnaire, tu es un volontaire, servant la France avec honneur et fidélité.
  • Art. 2 – Chaque Légionnaire est ton frère d'armes, quelle que soit sa nationalité, sa race ou sa religion. Tu lui manifestes toujours la solidarité étroite qui doit unir les membres d'une même famille.
  • Art. 3 – Respectueux des traditions, attaché à tes chefs, la discipline et la camaraderie sont ta force, le courage et la loyauté tes vertus.
  • Art. 4 – Fier de ton état de Légionnaire, tu le montres dans ta tenue toujours élégante, ton comportement toujours digne mais modeste, ton casernement toujours net.
  • Art. 5 – Soldat d'élite, tu t'entraînes avec rigueur, tu entretiens ton arme comme ton bien le plus précieux, tu as le souci constant de ta forme physique.
  • Art. 6 – La mission est sacrée, tu l'exécutes jusqu'au bout et si besoin, en opérations, au péril de ta vie.
  • Art. 7 – Au combat, tu agis sans passion et sans haine, tu respectes les ennemis vaincus, tu n'abandonnes jamais ni tes morts, ni tes blessés, ni tes armes.
  • Art. 1 – Legionnaire, you are a volunteer serving France with honour and fidelity.
  • Art. 2 – Each legionnaire is your brother in arms whatever his nationality, his race or his religion might be. You show him the same close solidarity that links the members of the same family.
  • Art. 3 – Respect for traditions, devotion to your leaders, discipline and comradeship are your strengths, courage and loyalty your virtues.
  • Art. 4 – Proud of your status as Legionnaire, you display this in your always impeccable uniform, your always dignified but modest behaviour, and your clean living quarters.
  • Art. 5 – An elite soldier, you train rigorously, you maintain your weapon as your most precious possession, and you take constant care of your physical form.
  • Art. 6 – The mission is sacred, you carry it out until the end and, if necessary in the field, at the risk of your life.
  • Art. 7 – In combat, you act without passion and without hate, you respect defeated enemies, and you never abandon your dead, your wounded, or your arms.

Mottoes[edit]

Honneur et Fidélité[edit]

Unlike any other French unit, the motto of the Foreign Legion's regimental flags is not Honneur et Patrie (Honour and Fatherland) but Honneur et Fidélité (Honour and Fidelity).

Legio Patria Nostra[edit]

Legio Patria Nostra (The Legion is our Fatherland) is the motto of the Foreign Legion.[citation needed] The adoption of the Foreign Legion as a new fatherland does not imply the repudiation by the legionnaire of his first nationality. The French Foreign Legion respects the original fatherland of the legionnaires who are totally free to preserve their nationalities. The Foreign Legion even asks the agreement of any legionnaire who could be sent in a military operation where his country of origin would be committed.

Regimental mottoes[edit]

Pioneers of the Foreign Legion[edit]

Pioneers of the Foreign Legion

The Pionniers (pioneers) are the combat engineers and a traditional unit of the Foreign Legion. The sapper traditionally sport large beards, wear leather aprons and gloves and hold axes. The sappers were very common in the French Army and in other European armies during the Napoleonic Era but progressively disappeared in the 19th century, except in the Foreign Legion.

In the French Army, since the 18th century, every infantry regiment included a small detachment of pioneers. In addition to undertaking road building and entrenchment work, such units were tasked with using their axes and shovels to clear obstacles under enemy fire opening the way for the rest of the infantry. The danger of such missions was recognised by allowing certain privileges, such as being authorised to wear beards.

The current pioneer platoon of the Foreign Legion is provided by the Legion depot and headquarters regiment for public ceremonies.[37] The unit has reintroduced the symbols of the Napoleonic sappers: the beard, the axe, the leather apron, the crossed-axes insignia and the leather gloves. When parades of the Foreign Legion are opened by this unit, it is to commemorate the traditional role of the sappers "opening the way" for the troops.[citation needed]

Marching step[edit]

Because of its slower pace, the Foreign Legion is always the last unit marching in any parade (Parade in Rome, June 2007)

Also notable is the marching pace of the Foreign Legion. In comparison to the 120-step-per-minute pace of other French units, the Foreign Legion has an 88-step-per-minute marching speed. It is also referred to by Legionnaires as the "crawl". This can be seen at ceremonial parades and public displays attended by the Foreign Legion, particularly while parading in Paris on 14 July (Bastille Day Military Parade). Because of the impressively slow pace, the Foreign Legion is always the last unit marching in any parade. The Foreign Legion is normally accompanied by its own band, which traditionally plays the march of any one of the regiments comprising the Foreign Legion, except that of the unit actually on parade. The regimental song of each unit and "Le Boudin" is sung by legionnaires standing at attention. Also, because the Foreign Legion must always stay together, it does not break formation into two when approaching the presidential grandstand, as other French military units do, in order to preserve the unity of the legion.

Contrary to popular belief, the adoption of the Foreign Legion's slow marching speed was not due to a need to preserve energy and fluids during long marches under the hot Algerian sun. Its exact origins are somewhat unclear, but the official explanation is that although the pace regulation does not seem to have been instituted before 1945, it hails back to the slow marching pace of the Ancien Régime, and its reintroduction was a "return to traditional roots".[38] This was in fact, the march step of the Foreign Legion's ancestor units – the Régiments Étrangers or Foreign Regiments of the Ancien Régime French Army, the Grande Armée's foreign units, and the pre-1831 foreign regiments.

"Le Boudin"[edit]

The French Foreign Legion has its own military band
The chapeau chinois (literally "Chinese hat" in French) is the French name of an old Ottoman music instrument that was popular in the eighteenth century, but was progressively abandoned by most European military bands in the nineteenth century, except by the Foreign Legion and the Spahis

"Le Boudin" is the French Foreign Legion's marching song.

Chorus
`Tiens, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin
Pour les Alsaciens, les Suisses et les Lorrains,
Pour les Belges y'en a plus (bis)
Ce sont des tireurs au cul
Pour les Belges y'en a plus (bis)
Ce sont des tireurs au cul.

Bridge I
Nous sommes des dégourdis, nous sommes des lascars,
Des types pas ordinaires,
Nous avons souvent notre cafard,
Nous sommes des Légionnaires.

1
Au Tonkin, la Légion immortelle
A Tuyen-Quang illustra notre Drapeau.
Héros de Camerone et frères modèles
Dormez en paix dans vos tombeaux.

Bridge II
Nos anciens ont su mourir
Pour la Gloire de la Légion,
Nous saurons bien tous périr
Suivant la tradition.

2
Au cours de nos campagnes lointaines,
Affrontant la fièvre et le feu,
Nous oublions avec nos peines
La mort qui nous oublie si peu
Nous, la Légion.

English[edit]

Chorus
Here you are, some blood pudding, some blood pudding, some blood pudding
for the Alsatians, Swiss and Lorrainers
For the Belgians, there's none left (2x)
They're lazy shirkers (Repeat last two lines)

Bridge 1
We're always at ease, we're rough and tough, no ordinary guys
We've often got our black moods, for we are Legionnaires

1
In Tonkin, the Legion immortal
At Tuyen Quang, our flag we honored
Heroes of Camerone and model brothers, sleep at peace in your tombs

Bridge 2
Our ancestors died, for the Legion's glory
We will soon all perish according to tradition

2
During our far-off campaigns, facing fever and fire
By our sorrows we forget
Death, who so little forgets us, for we are the Legion

Other marches[edit]

Composition[edit]

Logos of the regiments of the French Foreign Legion.

Previously, the legion was not stationed in mainland France except in wartime. Until 1962, the Foreign Legion headquarters was located in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria. Today, some units of the Légion are in Corsica or overseas possessions (mainly in French Guiana, guarding Guiana Space Centre), while the rest are in the south of mainland France. Current headquarters is in Aubagne, France, just outside Marseille.

Disbanded unit and attempted coup[edit]

Further information: Algiers putsch of 1961

The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1e Régiment Étranger Parachutiste, 1e REP) was established in 1955 during the Algerian War and disbanded in April 1961 as the entire regiment rose against the French government of Charles de Gaulle (Algiers Putsch), in protest against moves to negotiate an end to the Algerian War and providing Algeria's independence from France.

Following the independence of Algeria in 1962, the Foreign Legion was reduced in numbers but not disbanded, unlike most other units comprising the Armée d'Afrique: Zouaves, Tirailleurs, Méharistes, Harkis, Goums, Chasseurs d'Afrique and all but one of the Spahi regiments. The effect was to retain the Foreign Legion as a professional force that could be used for military interventions outside France and not involve the politically unpopular use of French conscripts. The subsequent abolition of conscription in France in 2001 and the creation of an entirely professional army might be expected to put the legion's long-term future at risk but as of 2013 this has not been the case.

Current deployments[edit]

These are the following deployments:[39]

Note: English names for countries or territories are in parentheses.

Units
Acronym French Name English Meaning
CEA Compagnie d'éclairage et d'appuis Reconnaissance and Support Company
CAC Compagnie anti-char Anti-Tank Company
UCL Unité de commandement et de logistique Unit of Command and Logistics
EMT État-major tactique Tactical Command Post
NEDEX Neutralisation des explosifs Neutralisation and Destruction of Explosives
OMLT Operational Monitoring and Liaison Team (The official name for this branch is in English)

Special Forces[edit]

The legion does not have Special operations units under the command of the 1st circle of Special Operations Command, but it has units over various regiments that operate, train, function and are geared like most special operations units.

The 11th parachute brigade and 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade both contain at least one elite commando team for every regiment that is under these brigades, including the French Foreign Legions Second parachute regiment, and Second Foreign Engineer Regiment. These units are called "Commando Parachute Group" or "GCP" and "Mountain Commando group" or "GCM".

To be part of a GCP or GCM team, a legionnaire must undergo a very selective selection program.

There is also an elite Amphibious EOD and Pathfinding unit that is within 1REG, called "Plongeurs de combat du génie" or "PCG", it was formally known as "DINOPS" or "Detachement d'Intervention Operationnelle Subaquatique"

Recruitment process[edit]

Arrival 1 to 7 days in a Foreign Legion Information Center. Reception, information, and terms of contract. Afterwards transferred to Paris, Foreign Legion Recruitment Center.
Pre-selection 1 to 7 days in a Foreign Legion Recruitment Center (Paris). Confirmation of motivation, initial medical check-up, finalising enlistment papers and signing of 5-year service contract.
Selection 7 to 14 days in the Recruitment and Selection Center in Aubagne. Psychological and personality tests, logic tests (no education requirements), medical exam, physical condition tests,
motivation and security interviews. Confirmation or denial of selection.
Passed Selection Signing and handing-over of the five-year service contract. Incorporation into the Foreign Legion as a trainee.

Basic training[edit]

Légionnaires training in French Guiana

Basic training is conducted in the 4th Foreign Regiment with a duration of 15 weeks:

  • Initial training of 4 weeks – initiation to military lifestyle; outdoor and field activities; learning Foreign Legion traditions, learning the French language.
  • March Képi Blanc – a 60–75 mile (100–120 km) march in full kit (From Perpignan on a return to the Basic Training camp at Castelnaudary), and graduation ceremony – 3 days to complete.
  • Technical and practical training (alternating with barracks and field training) – 3 weeks.
  • Mountain training (Chalet at Formiguière in the French Pyrenees) – 1-week.
  • Technical and practical training (alternating barracks and field training) – 2 weeks.
  • Examinations and obtaining of the elementary technical certificate (CTE) – 1-week.
  • March ending basic training – 1-week.
  • Light vehicle / trucks school – 1-week.
  • Return to Aubagne before reporting to the assigned regiment – 1-week.

Uniforms and equipment of the legion[edit]

Légionnaires in modern dress uniform. Note the green and red epaulettes, the distinctive white kepi and the blue sash. They carry France's standard assault rifle, the FAMAS.

Uniforms[edit]

From its foundation until World War I the Foreign Legion normally wore the uniform of the French line infantry for parade with a few special distinctions.[40] Essentially this consisted of a dark blue coat (later tunic) worn with red trousers. The field uniform was often modified under the influence of the extremes of climate and terrain in which the Foreign Legion served. Shakos were soon replaced by the light cloth kepi, which was far more suitable for North African conditions. The practice of wearing heavy capotes (greatcoats) on the march and vestes (short hip-length jackets) as working dress in barracks was followed by the Foreign Legion from its establishment.[41]

One short lived aberration was the wearing of green uniforms in 1856 by Foreign Legion units recruited in Switzerland for service in the Crimean War. In the Crimea itself (1854–59) a hooded coat and red or blue waist sashes were adopted for winter dress, while during the Mexican Intervention (1863–65) straw hats or sombreros were sometimes substituted for the kepi. When the latter was worn it was usually covered with a white "havelock" – the predecessor of the white kepi that was to become a symbol of the Foreign Legion. Foreign Legion units serving in France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 were distinguishable only by minor details of insignia from the bulk of the French infantry. However subsequent colonial campaigns saw an increasing use of special garments for hot weather wear such as collarless keo blouses in Tonkin 1884–85, khaki drill jackets in Dahomey (1892) and drab covered topees worn with all-white fatigue dress in Madagascar (1895).[42]

In the early 20th century the legionnaire wore a red kepi with blue band and piping, dark blue tunic with red collar, red cuff patches, and red trousers. The most distinctive features were the green epaulettes (replacing the red of the line) worn with red woollen fringes; plus the embroidered Foreign Legion badge of a red flaming grenade, worn on the kepi front instead of a regimental number. In the field a light khaki cover was worn over the kepi, sometimes with a protective neck curtain attached. The standard medium-blue double breasted greatcoat (capote) of the French infantry was worn, usually buttoned back to free the legs for marching. From the 1830s the legionnaires had worn a broad blue woollen sash around the waist,[43] like other European units of the French Army of Africa (such as the Zouaves or the Chasseurs d'Afrique), while indigenous units of the Army of Africa (spahis and tirailleurs) wore red sashes. White linen trousers tucked into short leather leggings were substituted for red serge in hot weather. This was the origin of the "Beau Geste" image.

In barracks a white bleached kepi cover was often worn together with a short dark blue jacket ("veste") or white blouse plus white trousers. The original kepi cover was khaki and due to constant washing turned white quickly. The white or khaki kepi cover was not unique to the Foreign Legion at this stage but was commonly seen amongst other French units in North Africa. It later became particularly identified with the Foreign Legion as the unit most likely to serve at remote frontier posts (other than locally recruited tirailleurs who wore fezzes or turbans). The variances of climate in North Africa led the French Army to the sensible expedient of letting local commanders decide on the appropriate "tenue de jour" (uniform of the day) according to circumstances. Thus a legionnaire might parade or walk out in blue tunic and white trousers in hot weather, blue tunic and red trousers in normal temperatures or wear the blue greatcoat with red trousers under colder conditions. The sash could be worn with greatcoat, blouse or veste but not with the tunic. Epaulettes were a detachable dress item worn only with tunic or greatcoat for parade or off duty wear.

Officers wore the same dark blue (almost black) tunics as those of their colleagues in the French line regiments, except that black replaced red as a facing colour on collar and cuffs. Gold fringed epaulettes were worn for full dress and rank was shown by the number of gold rings on both kepi and cuffs. Trousers were red with black stripes or white according to occasion or conditions. All-white or light khaki uniforms (from as early as the 1890s) were often worn in the field or for ordinary duties in barracks. Non-commissioned officers were distinguished by red or gold diagonal stripes on the lower sleeves of tunics, vestes and greatcoats. Small detachable stripes were buttoned on to the front of the white shirt-like blouse.

Prior to 1914 units in Indo-China wore white or khaki Colonial Infantry uniforms with Foreign Legion insignia, to overcome supply difficulties. This dress included a white sun helmet of a model that was also worn by Foreign Legion units serving in the outposts of Southern Algeria, though never popular with its wearers.[44] During the initial months of World War I, Foreign Legion units serving in France wore the standard blue greatcoat and red trousers of the French line infantry, distinguished only by collar patches of the same blue as the capote, instead of red. After a short period in sky-blue the Foreign Legion adopted khaki with steel helmets, from early 1916. A mustard shade of khaki drill had been worn on active service in Morocco from 1909, replacing the classic blue and white. The latter continued to be worn in the relatively peaceful conditions of Algeria throughout World War I, although increasingly replaced by khaki drill. The pre-1914 blue and red uniforms could still be occasionally seen as garrison dress in Algeria until stocks were used up about 1919.

During the early 1920s plain khaki drill uniforms of a standard pattern became universal issue for the Foreign Legion with only the red and blue kepi (with or without a cover) and green collar braiding to distinguish the Legionnaire from other French soldiers serving in North African and Indo-China. The neck curtain ceased to be worn from about 1915, although it survived in the newly raised Foreign Legion Cavalry Regiment into the 1920s. The white blouse (bourgeron) and trousers dating from 1882 were retained for fatigue wear until the 1930s.

At the time of the Foreign Legion's centennial in 1931, a number of traditional features were reintroduced at the initiative of the then commander Colonel Rollet. These included the blue sash and green/red epaulettes. In 1939 the white covered kepi won recognition as the official headdress of the Foreign Legion to be worn on most occasions, rather than simply as a means of reflecting heat and protecting the blue and red material underneath. The Third Foreign Infantry Regiment adopted white tunics and trousers for walking-out dress during the 1930s and all Foreign Legion officers were required to obtain full dress uniforms in the pre-war colours of black and red from 1932 to 1939.

During World War II the Foreign Legion wore a wide range of uniform styles depending on supply sources. These ranged from the heavy capotes and Adrian helmets of 1940 through to British battledress and American field uniforms from 1943 to 1945. The white kepi was stubbornly retained whenever possible.

French Foreign Legionnaire of the Compagnies Sahariennes.

From 1940 until 1963 the Foreign Legion maintained four Saharan Companies (Compagnies Sahariennes) as part of the French forces used to patrol and police the desert regions to the south of Morocco and Algeria. Special uniforms were developed for these units, modeled on those of the French officered Camel Corps (Méharistes) having prime responsibility for the Sahara. In full dress these included black or white zouave style trousers, worn with white tunics and long flowing cloaks. The Legion companies maintained their separate identity by retaining their distinctive kepis, sashes and fringed epaulettes.

The white kepis, together with the sash and epaulettes survive in the Foreign Legion's modern parade dress. Since the 1990s the modern kepi has been made wholly of white material rather than simply worn with a white cover. Officers and senior noncommissioned officers still wear their kepis in the pre-1939 colours of dark blue and red. A green tie and (for officers) a green waistcoat recall the traditional branch colour of the Foreign Legion. From 1959 a green beret (previously worn only by the legion's paratroopers) became the universal ordinary duty headdress, with the kepi reserved for parade and off duty wear.[45][46] Other items of currently worn dress are the standard issue of the French Army.

Equipment[edit]

FAMAS F1

The Foreign Legion is basically equipped with the same equipment as similar units elsewhere in the French Army. These include:

  • The FAMAS assault rifle, a French-made automatic bullpup-style rifle, chambered in the 5.56x45mm NATO round. In bullpup-style firearms, the action and magazine insert is behind the trigger section. This layout shortens the length of the weapon, while retaining the barrel length.
  • The SPECTRA is a ballistic helmet, designed by the French military, fitted with real-time positioning and information system, and with light amplifiers for night vision.
  • The FÉLIN suit, an infantry combat system that combines ample pouches, reinforced body protections and a portable electronic platform.

Emulation by other countries[edit]

Chinese Ever Victorious Army[edit]

The Ever Victorious Army was the name given to a Chinese imperial army in late 19th century. The new force originally comprised about 200 mostly European mercenaries, recruited in the Shanghai area from sailors, deserters and adventurers. Many were dismissed in the summer of 1861, but the remainder became the officers of the Chinese soldiers recruited mainly in and around Sungkiang. The Chinese troops were increased to 3,000 by May 1862, all equipped with Western firearms and equipment by the British authorities in Shanghai. Throughout its four-year existence the Ever Victorious Army was mainly to operate within a thirty mile radius of Shanghai. It was disbanded in May 1864 with 104 foreign officers and 2,288 Chinese soldiers being paid off. The bulk of the artillery and some infantry transferred to the Chinese Imperial forces. It was the first Chinese army trained in European techniques, tactics, and strategy.

Israeli Mahal[edit]

In Israel, Mahal (Hebrew: מח"ל‎, an acronym for Mitnadvei Ḥutz LaAretz, which means Volunteers from outside the Land [of Israel]) is a term designating non-Israelis serving in the Israeli military. The term originates with the (approximately) 4,000 both Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers who went to Israel to fight in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War including Aliyah Bet.[47] The original Mahalniks were mostly World War II veterans from American and British armed forces.

Today, there is a program, Garin Tzabar, within the Israeli Ministry of Defense that administers the enlistment of non-Israeli citizens in the country's armed forces. Programs enable foreigners to join the Israel Defense Forces if they are of Jewish descent (which is defined as at least one grandparent).

Netherlands KNIL Army[edit]

Though not named "Foreign Legion", the Dutch Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indische Leger (KNIL), or Royal Netherlands-Indian Army (in reference to the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia), was created in 1830, a year before the French Foreign Legion, and is therefore not an emulation but an entirely original idea and had a similar recruitment policy. It stopped being an army of foreigners around 1900 when recruitment was restricted to Dutch citizens and to the indigenous peoples of the Dutch East Indies. The KNIL was finally disbanded on 26 July 1950, seven months after the Netherlands formally recognised Indonesia as a sovereign state, and almost five years after Indonesia declared its independence.[citation needed]

Rhodesian Light Infantry and 7 Independent Company[edit]

During the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1960s and 1970s, the Rhodesian Security Forces enlisted volunteers from overseas on the same pay and conditions of service as locally-based regulars.[48] The vast majority of the Rhodesian Army's foreigners joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI), a heliborne commando regiment with a glamorous international reputation;[49] this unit became colloquially known as the "Rhodesian foreign legion" as a result, even though foreigners never made up more than about a third of its men. According to Chris Cocks, an RLI veteran, "the RLI was a mirror of the French Foreign Legion, in that recruiters paid little heed as to a man's past and asked no questions.... And like the Foreign Legion, once in the ranks, a man's past was irrelevant."[50] Just as French Foreign Legionnaires must speak French, the Rhodesian Army required its foreigners to be anglophone. Many of them were professional soldiers, attracted by the regiment's reputation—mostly former British soldiers, or Vietnam veterans from the United States, Australian and New Zealand forces—and these became a key part of the unit.[51] Others, with no military experience, were often motivated to join the Rhodesian Army by anti-communism, or a desire for adventure or to escape the past.[50]

After the Rhodesians' overseas recruiting campaign for English-speakers, started in 1974, proved successful, they began recruiting French-speakers as well, in 1977. These francophone recruits were placed in their own unit, 7 Independent Company, Rhodesia Regiment, which was commanded by French-speaking officers and operated entirely in French. The experiment was not generally considered a success by the Rhodesian commanders, however, and the company was disbanded in early 1978.[52]

Russian "Foreign Legion"[edit]

In 2010 the service conditions of the Russian Military have been changed. The actual term "Russian Foreign Legion" is a colloquial expression without any official recognition. Under the plan, foreigners without dual citizenship are able to sign up for five-year contracts and will be eligible for Russian citizenship after serving three years. Experts say the change opens the way for Commonwealth of Independent States citizens to get fast-track Russian citizenship, and counter the effects of Russia's demographic crisis on its army recruitment.[53]

Spanish Foreign Legion[edit]

The Spanish Foreign Legion was created in 1920, in emulation of the French one, and had a significant role in Spain's colonial wars in Morocco and in the Spanish Civil War on the Nationalist side. The Spanish Foreign Legion recruited foreigners until 1986 but unlike its French model, the number of non-Spanish recruits never exceeded 25%, most of these from Latin America. It is now called the Spanish Legion and only recruits Spanish nationals.[citation needed]

References in popular culture[edit]

Beyond its reputation as an elite unit often engaged in serious fighting, the recruitment practices of the French Foreign Legion have also led to a somewhat romanticised view of it being a place for disgraced or "wronged" men looking to leave behind their old lives and start new ones. This view of the legion is common in literature, and has been used for dramatic effect in many films, not the least of which are the several versions of Beau Geste.

Gallery[edit]

French Foreign Legion headquarters in Aubagne
French Foreign Legion Memorial in Aubagne. In gold, on the globe, the regions of the world where the Foreign Legion fought since its creation. 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jean-Dominique Merchet, La Légion s'accroche à ses effectifs
  2. ^ Douglas Porch (1 January 1991). The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-333-58500-9. 
  3. ^ Douglas Porch (1 January 1991). The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History. pp. 11–13. ISBN 978-0-333-58500-9. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Tweedie, Neil. "The French Foreign Legion – the last option for those desperate to escape the UK". The Daily Telegraph. 3 December 2008. Retrieved on 4 April 2012.
  5. ^ Douglas Porch (1 January 1991). The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-333-58500-9. 
  6. ^ Porch p. 17–18
  7. ^ a b Douglas Porch (1 January 1991). The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-333-58500-9. 
  8. ^ Douglas Porch (1 January 1991). The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History. pp. 127–128. ISBN 978-0-333-58500-9. 
  9. ^ In Le livre d'or de la Légion étrangère, page 66.
  10. ^ "About the Foreign Legion". Retrieved 9 March 2007. 
  11. ^ a b c Neeno, Timothy. "The French Intervention in Mexico (1862–67)". Military History Online. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Martin Windrow, page 5 "Our Friends Beneath the Sands", ISBN 978 0 297 85213 1
  13. ^ Lepage, Jean-Denis G.G. (2008). The French Foreign Legion: An Illustrated History. U.S.A: Mc Farland & Co. Inc. p. 60. ISBN 078643239X. 
  14. ^ a b c Philip D. Curtin (28 May 1998). Disease and Empire: The Health of European Troops in the Conquest of Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-521-59835-4. 
  15. ^ Cambridge history of Africa, p.530
  16. ^ Herbert Ingram Priestly (26 May 1967). France Overseas: A Study Of Modern Imperialism, 1938. Routledge. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-7146-1024-5. 
  17. ^ Musée de l'Armée exhibit, Paris
  18. ^ Shortly before his death, Seeger wrote, "I have a rendez-vous with Death, at some disputed barricade.... And I to my pledged word am true, I shall not fail that rendezvous."
  19. ^ a b c d e f Porch p. 382–3
  20. ^ Windrow
  21. ^ Littlejohn, David (1979). Foreign Legions of the Third Reich: Volume 1: Norway, Denmark and France. San Jose: R. James Bender. p. 199. ISBN 0912138173. 
  22. ^ While the officers were interned, they sang a variant of the song using lyrics relevant to their situation, which was recorded and is now available on Youtube. [1]
  23. ^ "Gallery". Legion of the Lost. 
  24. ^ The Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324235104578242993426029234.html |url= missing title (help). 
  25. ^ French Foreign Legion – Recruiting
  26. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions About the Foreign Legion (English)." French Foreign Legion. Retrieved on 4 April 2012.
  27. ^ "Tomorrow to Be Brave: A Memoir of the Only Woman Ever to Serve in the French Foreign Legion (9780743200028): Susan Travers, Wendy Holden: Books". Amazon.com. 
  28. ^ "France Awards Schwarzkopf Kisses, Medal". Los Angeles Times. 25 July 1991. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  29. ^ [Sharpe, Michael. (2008) Waffen SS Elite Forces 1: Leibstandarte and Das Reich (pg.183) ISBN 978-0-7858-2323-0]
  30. ^ Jean-Denis G. G. Lepage (28 January 2008). The French Foreign Legion: An Illustrated History. McFarland. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7864-3239-4. 
  31. ^ Bernard B. Fall (1994). Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina. Stackpole Books. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-8117-1700-7. 
  32. ^ Evan McGorman, Life in the French Foreign Legion, p. 21
  33. ^ "French Foreign Legion – Recruiting". Legion-recrute.com. 
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  37. ^ Martin Windrow (1981). Uniforms of the French Foreign Legion 1831–1981. Blandford. ISBN 978-0-7137-1010-6. 
  38. ^ Szecsko, p. 17
  39. ^ http://www.legion-etrangere.com/mdl/info_seul.php?id=82&idA=123&idA_SM=110
  40. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911 Edition, page 587, Vol. 27
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  47. ^ Benny Morris, 1948, 2008, p.85.
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  53. ^ Okorokova, Lidia (25 November 2010). "Russia's new Foreign Legion". The Moscow News. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • MR Tony Geraghty (1987). March Or Die: A New History of the French Foreign Legion. ISBN 978-0-8160-1794-2. 
  • Evan McGorman (1 January 2002). Life in the French Foreign Legion: How to Join and What to Expect When You Get There. Hellgate Press. ISBN 978-1-55571-633-2. 
  • Douglas Porch (23 June 1992). The French Foreign Legion: Complete History of The Legendary Fighting Force. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-092308-2. 
  • The French Foreign Legion in Kolwezi Roger Rousseau, 2006. ISBN 978-2-9526927-1-7
  • Tibor Szecsko (1991). Le grand livre des insignes de la Légion étrangère. ISBN 978-2-9505938-0-1. 

External links[edit]

Books