What is the Foreign Legion?

As an integral part of the French army, the French Foreign Legion is a professional fighting unit using the same equipment and with the same missions as any other infantry, tank, or engineer unit of the French army. They are volunteers of any nationality, race or creed, always ready to serve France. Men of action and elite soldiers with a young and dynamic spirit, they are capable of doing their duty anywhere anytime.

The traditions of the Foreign Legion are expressed by: - its special uniform,- its music and songs, - its solemn pace for parades,- its ceremonies particular to the Foreign LegionAfter three years of service, a legionnaire can ask for the French nationality and may also be entitled to a French resident permit if he has obtained a certificate of satisfactory military service. The resident permit is valid for ten years and is renewable.

• to be between the age of 17 and 40 years old (Parental or legal tutor authorization is required for minors), • to hold a valid official identity card, • to be physically fit for duty wherever he may be needed, • knowledge of the French language is not necessary because it will be acquired during the contract. Enlistment Procedures: The first contract is for five years To enlist in the French Foreign Legion, all volunteers must present themselves in any recruiting office in France. Travel costs and the eventual obtention of a visa are borne by the candidate and no help whatsoever can be accorded by the French Foreign Legion. If successful, after preliminary medical check-ups, the candidate will be transfered to the selection center of the Legion Headquarters in Aubagne (15 kms from Marseille) where he will undergo medical, IQ and physical fitness tests. If the candidate is successfull in passing the selection, he will be asked to sign a five years unconditional contract to serve wherever the French Foreign Legion needs him. The unsuccessfull candidate is immediately returned to civilian life to rejoin his country of origin without any financial aid. The Initial Contract For four months the young legionnaire will receive a basic military instruction at the 4th Foreign Regiment located in Castelnaudary after which, he will be posted to a regiment, depending on his capabilities and the needs of the French Foreign Legion. Promotion through the ranks will depend upon his physical capacities as well as his IQ, service record and leadership abilities.

The Legionnaire is a volunteer. Most often, he has come to the Legion to escape from his past. Generally, he has joined because of a personal or family crisis or an upheaval in his social or political life. Striking examples of this can be found in the mass enlistment of Alsatians after 1871, of Spaniards in 1939 and of Eastern Europeans after 1945. For others, those who are unable to deal with the limitations of a middle-class life, the Legion represents a life of adventure. In the enlistment procedure, selection is very tough. Many candidates are turned down for medical reasons, or after a thorough study of their individual cases. The legionnaire is seldom an angel but never a criminal. Once he has joined, under an assumed name if he wishes, the legionnaire enjoys an unequaled protection for as long as he serves, because of the anonymity rule. Only he can decide when to break it. Coming from all over the world, with such different origins, languages and ideals, it would seem that they have nothing to share. But they have one thing in common : they refuse to be mediocre. Rejecting easy solutions, the legionnaire has bravely broken with his past and his family. Having lost his roots, he is ready to give all he has, even his life. This state of mind binds the legionnaires together and explains their unrivaled cohesion sealed with discipline, solidarity and respect for traditions. The legionnaire is first and foremost a man of action, brave in combat and eager for change. He disdains idleness and routine. He is generous to the point of sacrificing both his money and his life, and never loses trust in his leaders. This trust fosters attachment, and the ties between the legionnaire and his leaders include as much respect and admiration as true and sincere affection. Alive, he will follow them everywhere, dead, he will never be abandoned. That's why one perceives the Legion as a large family. A man who has left behind his past, his social and family background, transfers to the Legion his need of an ideal, his affection equating the Legion with that of a homeland, to the point of sacrificing everything to it with a generosity which has astonished the world. That accounts for the motto on the front of the Legion's Museum : LEGIO PATRIA NOSTRA

1. Legionnaire : you are a volunteer serving France faithfully and with honor. 2. Every Legionnaire is your brother-at-arms, irrespective of his nationality, race or creed. You will demonstrate this by an unwavering and straight forward solidarity which must always bind together members of the same family. 3. Respectful of the Legion's traditions, honoring your superiors, discipline and comradeship are your strength, courage and loyalty your virtues. 4. Proud of your status as a legionnaire, you will display this pride, by your turnout, always impeccable, your behavior, ever worthy, though modest, your living-quarters, always tidy. 5. An elite soldier : you will train vigorously, you will maintain your weapons as if it were your most precious possession, you will keep your body in the peak of condition, always fit. 6. A mission once given to you becomes sacred to you, you will accomplish it to the end and at all costs. 7. In combat : you will act without relish of your tasks, or hatred ; you will respect the vanquished enemy and will never abandon neither your wounded nor your dead, nor will you under any circumstances surrender your arms.

An elite soldier, the legionnaire can specialize in or improve his different skills in mortars, missiles or as a diver sniper or paratrooper and can obtain a qualification in one of these following branches : • Administrative department: Secretarial, accounts, • Signals: radio or mechanic-exchange operator, telephonist • Transportation: Light vehicle, HGV 1 and 2 or tracked vehicle driver, • Engineers: heavy equipment operator, • Building trades: bricklayer, plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter, etc..., • Maintenance: mechanic, car electrician, welder, car painter, • Others: musician, medical assistant, cook, photographer, printer, sports instructor, computer operator.

HISTORYThe French Foreign Legion has inherited the traditions of foreign troops who have served France since the Middle Ages. Every one has heard of the Scottish Guards of Charles the VIIth, the Swiss Guards of the Bourbon Kings, and Napoleon's Polish Lancers. Louis Philippe, "King of the French" created the French Foreign Legion on March 10, 1831. Composed exclusively of volunteers aged between 18 and 40, with or without means of identification, the Legion was immediately involved in the conquest of Algeria before passing under Spanish control in 1835. A second Legion was then created which fought in Algeria, in Crimea (1855), in Italy (1859) and in Mexico (1863). In Mexico, it won one of its greatest titles to fame: on April 30, 1863, at the Camerone Hacienda near Puebla, 3 officers and 62 legionnaires resisted 2,000 Mexicans. After a day of heroic fighting the last five survivors fixed bayonets and charged. This battle, whose name adorns every Legion flag, remains the symbol of a mission carried out to the bitter end. 1870: the Legion fought in France. It welcomed many foreigners who fought in its ranks (the same happened in 1914 and 1939). Then came the campaigns of Tonkin, Sudan, Dahomey, Madagascar and Morocco. 1914: the 1st World War. After very heavy casualties, the disbanded regiments were merged into one: the Foreign Legion's "Regiment de Marche" headed by the famous Colonel Rollet, "the Father of the Legion". World War I came to an end in France.
The Pacification of Morocco and the Middle East with the campaigns in the Rif, the Atlas and against the Druze. 1939-1945: on the eve of the Armistice, the 11th Regiment of the Foreign Legion was decimated, rather than forced to retreat. The 13th Half-Brigade (Battalion) of the Foreign Legion made history at Narvik and Bjervik in Norway, then accomplished another feat in 1942 at the famous Bir-Hakeim victory in Libya. The Legion was then reunited and fought victorious campaigns in Tunisia, Italy, Provence, Alsace and Germany. In Indochina, the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment escaped from the Japanese grip. 1945: the Indochina war began. Every Foreign Legion regiment was represented on the battlefield, particularly in Phu Tong Hoa, the Colonial Road 4, and Dien Bien Phu, where they fought to the last man. 1954: the entire Legion was back in Algeria. Its regiments, at first in charge of security, were soon sending out major intervention forces. They took an active part in large scale operations and in border defense duties. 1962 to the present day: after leaving Algeria, the regiments regrouped in the south of France and Corsica, or overseas in Djibouti, Madagascar, Tahiti, and French Guiana.
In 1969-1970, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment and the 1st Foreign Regiment took part in the Chad operations. In May 1978, the 2nd Foreign parachute Regiment saved hundreds of European and African civilians in Kolwezi, Zaire, from certain death. The Legion has paid dearly in human lives during combat and pacification operations in which France has been involved. Since 1831, 902 officers, 3,176 NCOs, and over 30,000 legionnaires have died for France; one third of them while fighting directly for the defense of the country. Foreigners by birth, the legionnaires have become Frenchmen by the blood they have spilled.

From England with determination Part 2

It was raining heavily, was this a bad omen or was it there just to cool me down. I walked to the reception and asked for a taxi, my hands trying to explain what a taxi was. Luckily for me the receptionist spoke excellent English, Well what was i to know this was France.

I waited with just my holdall in the lobby reeling through what lay ahead.

Ten minutes seemed like an eternity, was everyone looking at me, did they know what I was doing, Surely I looked nervous. The taxi pulled up, I walked slowly out the cool rain refreshing on my face. It was only then i started to smile.

To my delight the driver was a lady very charming as she spoke French on my entering the car. I quickly refered to myself as English in the manner of Im sorry I do not understand you, She smiled lightly and re-frased herself in broken english, and asked me where I was going.....
But before I start my story here is a little background into the French Foreign Legion......

Recurring Nightmare

Dark clouds loomed overhead, cold wind bellowing around my ears the distant cries of the wounded tormented my every step.
Sweat, blood and dirt blurred my vision, my weapon was getting heavier by the second. So much noise but why did i feel so alone. Hundreds, no thousands of dead bodies lay in front of me and under foot.
A war zone, soldiers lay where they had fallen. vacant stares into the dark skies, to my front was a hill but it was not made up of earth but or bodies, i stagger to the top alone in a world i did not belong.

FIVE: A Little about Me

I was born on 29/4/1971, at Luton and Dunstable Hospital weighing in at a healthy 7lb 8oz. Born into a working class family My Father also Alan a butcher, the bread winner and workaholic. My mother Karen a house wife, who i would only see for the next ten years of my life.

Growing up wasn't much fun, not really remembering any kind of fun, oh i do remember my mother hitting me quiet a lot, shouting at me she wished I had never been born. Somethings stick in your head when your only seven. My father would come home from work tiered and miserable, we all had to be quiet as the news would be on and he wanted to watch it.

I grew up with a brother and sister, my brother 2 years younger and sister 6 years younger. Yes I was the eldest and didn't I know it.

1981 a year that always sticks in my mind, the year everything changed for me, at the time i thought it was great but looking back it was the start of much unhappiness....Mother had an affair, Father suffering from depression, We where pushed from pillar to post being looked after by all sorts of family that I never knew existed. My father fought bravely in the courts to keep custody of his three children and won against the odds. My mother went about her business, and carried on the affair she had with my fathers best friend.

FOUR: From England with Determination

The tapping of the rain, sent me into a foetal position within the bed, a warm sense of well being engulfed my body together with a cold chill of excitement. The phone call from my brother had eased me slightly, Knowing there was at least one person in the world that cared.
This was it, this was the first day of the rest of my life. One hundred euros in my wallet and a gym bag of essentials was all i possesed. No more looking back now that was all gone, my family, my business, my wife, my sanity.......i was an empty canvas awaiting fresh paint.


What was I doing here, in France, i couldn't even speak the language for god sake. I sat in the best western hotel across from airport watching the T.V, a rambling of this new tongue on every channel made my head spin. It dawned on me and I could not help myself from sobing.
I was not gonna sleep well this night, my world thundered through my mind. All the reasons for me being here where now making sense, but what was i afraid of.
My mobile phone startled me, drawing me away from my trance like state.
A familiar voice calmed me instantly. My Brother, A last ditch attempt to stop me from running away. No use as when I do something I do it.


You would have to be mad to join the French Foreign Legion, no not mad just lost and still with purpose of being found, a yearning to survive the rigors of life and throw back its misery in full face.

December 2000
After loosing my family, my business and my will to live i looked across the English channel, the answers lay a mere 30 miles away, the dark sea swelled crashing along the south coast, winter would soon set fast. I pulled up my collar around my neck shrugging off the cold wind, turning back towards the hospital my mind was made up.

ONE: Treasured life

Out of the darkness, a pin prick of light exposed the dust motes of my life.
Only now did i know something was about to happen......Or was it just the beginning of of a rapid end?