Introduction 1 History 3 Joining . 10 The Language Problem 13 Aubagne and Selection . 14 Castelnaudary - Basic Training 24 Your Instructors 27 The Numbers 30 The Songs 34 La Present 36 Bel-Air . 39 Presentation of the Kepi Blanc 41 Le Code D'Honneur 43 A Typical Day 46 Time Off 50 Guard Duty 54 La Legion C'est Dur Mais Gammel C'est Sur 57 Le Raid. 60 How Hard? 62 Brutality 63 The Contract 64 Life in Jail 70 Camerone Day 72 Legion Rules 74 Regiment Postings 76 Trades within the Legion 83
Dress & Equipement 84 Christmas Time 89 Format of a Regiment 91 Weapons of the Legion . 93 Pay in the Legion 97 The Ranks 100 Leave / Holidays 102 Desertion 104 Useful Phrases 105 A few helpful words 107 Appendix 109 Recruiting Centres in France 121 Bibliography 126
THE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION (La Legion Etrangere)
There are those in life that dream of doing things and those that turn dreams into reality. The French Foreign Legion today, is alive and kicking and as always, actively recruiting. It is an army surrounded by romance, myth and intrigue, with over a hundred and fifty years of history and a reputation that's a tough one to beat. It is one of those things that most people only hear about or had a friend of a friend who actually went and did it. But for some who have bought this book - it will not be enough to just read through, and put down. You will take it upon yourselves to make the dream become a reality. It may be that you are merely in search of adventure - perhaps you are trying to escape your past, or maybe you feel that you are in some real danger. Many people join the French Foreign Legion because they think they have a problem and they come to the Legion to overcome that problem - it is up to you to decide whether the Legion is the right solution to that particular dilemma. Sometimes, not an easy decision to make. And then there are those from the former eastern block countries, or for that matter absolutely any country in the world, who seek a new life in the western world accompanied by the French passport. (On completion of the first five year contract). For these people it is a golden opportunity.
The Legion, if it does decide to take you into its fold, will provide you with a new identity and will protect you from your past if necessary. Your time served with the Foreign Legion will certainly take you on many adventures. From the moment you join, the Legion is your home and from then on it is your family. (The Legion motto - "Legio Patria Nostra" means exactly that - The Legion is our home) There are Legionnaires who have served many years of service and have only revisited their native country once or twice in all their years of service. They find that they are happier and more contented to spend their time in France. One thing that should be said however is that it is an experience in life that cannot be explained or learnt from tales recounted or books read - no matter how many. To understand the Foreign Legion - it has to be done. An ex-Legionnaire with five years service could sit you down and talk to you for five years and a similar Legionnaire with fifteen years service could sit you down and talk to you for fifteen years - but you still would not really know what it is like until you have actually been there and done it yourself. This book is no different in that respect, but what it tries to do, is to give you the information required to get you into the French Foreign Legion, to equip you with the knowledge of what to expect and what not to expect, how best to get along and how to make the most of your time in the Legion. Perhaps how to prepare you for some of the times ahead which may lead you to frustration for lack of understanding. It can be a bewildering experience learning the ways of the Legion during the first year. More often than not though, there is method in their madness.
The decision to join is rarely made on the spur of the moment - at very least it has been in the back of the "engage volontaire 's " (recruit's) mind for some time - if
not many years. The potential Legionnaire has probably read books about the Legion and talked to people who have been there and done it. If they do decide to join, they will experience adventures which are second to none, meet friends that will last a lifetime. They will travel all over the world and carry with them memories that will stay with them till their last dying breath. Make no mistake however, that serving five years in the French Foreign Legion is not easy. Rest assured that all Legionnaires at sometime during their contract feel at their wits end, they feel like a prisoner in a cell, they sink to their deepest depths of depression and doom. It will not be easy - especially from the mental point of view. Few who join the French Foreign Legion know what to expect - some find it so hard mentally to adjust to their new way of life that they try to desert - and some take it to even greater lengths and try to dispose of their life altogether. The longer you serve in the Foreign Legion - the easier life becomes. With promotion and time served comes it's just rewards as it does in any army. The one great advantage in the French Foreign Legion is that promotion can come relatively quickly for those that are deserving.
History of the French Foreign Legion.
Formation: 9' March 1831. The French Foreign Legion was formed on the 9 of March 1831. It's authority was signed by Louis-Philippe - the King of France. His position as King was weakening and the Legion was readily formed in order that Louis- Philippe could maintain his position on the throne. The oAicers were gathered in from Napoleon's Grande Armee and the men were recruited from Italy, Spain, Switzerland and other European countries. There were
also some Frenchmen recruits who were trying to escape the attention of their local Police.
Sebastopol 1853 - 1856. It was the aim of France to assist Turkey in their fight to win over free passage of the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. After a brief victory the 1 ere and 2eme RE's final attempt to win the town of Sebastopol ended in a blockade which lasted a year. After suffering a year of horrendous weather and illness, the Legion could wait no longer and attempted to take the town but failed badly and took heavy casulaties. They tried again, but it was not until their third attempt on the 8 September 1855 that they succeeded.
Camerone 1863. On the 30 April 1863 the 3eme company of the RE in Mexico were given a mission - to ensure the safe arrival of vital supplies down the road from Vera Cruz to Puebla in Mexico. This would assist in the blockade of Puebla. Before they had time to arrive at their destination they were attacked by nearly a thousand Mexican troops. They had just stopped for a morning coffee when they were attacked. Capitaine Danjou started to reposition his men in a derelict building they had passed only minutes earlier. He knew this would afford them some cover from enemy fire. Before they could get there, the cavalry were charging. They staved off the attack and continued towards the building. They had barely arrived and a second wave arrived. There were sixty five Legionnaires to fight the ensueing hoards - numbered at nearly two thousand. Quickly they prepared a hasty defence and were greeted by a Mexican messenger who offered them an honourable surrender. On top of the roof lay a Polish legionnaire Sergent who told the Mexicans what they could do with their surrender. The cavalry charged once more, but the Legionnaires beat them back yet again. Not
without loss however - the Capitaine Danjou had been badly injured. Before he died though, he made all his men promise that they would never surrender.
By mid morning the Legionnaires were almost out of ammunition. They had no food and no water. Again the Legionnaires refused to surrender. By late that afternoon there were just twelve Legionnaires leA and no more ammunition - It then turned to hand to hand fighting and soon there were just five Legionaires who remained to face two thousand. The Legionnaires advanced towards the enemy. Two of the five were shot down as they advanced. At that point - the Mexican Colonel arrived and saw the situation - he again offered a surrender. The Legionnaires agreed - but only if they could keep their weapons. The Mexican Colonel agreed saying "I can refuse nothing to men like you". The Legionnaires had indeed achieved their mission - they had made safe the passage of supplies to Puebla by alerting nearby troops of the hoarding Mexicans and had occupied the enemy for nearly a full day.
Every year, on the 30 April, in every quarter of the French Foreign Legion - this day is remembered and is known simply as Camerone Day. It is celebrated with great zealousness and pride. At Aubagne, the wooden hand of Capitaine Danjou is paraded before the Regiment and all its privileged guests.
Mexico 1863-1867. The Legion continued fighting in Mexico for a further four years before being ordered back to France to deal with more pressing matters at home. The Mexicans were now being backed by the Americans and there was little chance of victory. Besides, France's security was threatened and that was far more important than any foreign soil. The Legion had however made a name for themselves and so assured their own future existence -
All was not lost. Had it not been for the war in Mexico - perhaps the Legion would not be here today.
Tonkin 1883. Tonkin was a French Protectorate in Indo-China overrun by pirates. The French Commander, Admiral Courbet attacked the Fort Son Tay and Fort Bac Ninh and then had the task of defending the Fort Tuyen Quang. For nearly two months the Legion held out against constant attacks from the Chinese but eventually help arrived - The Legion had however lost a third of its company strength. To the North a battle was going on but came swiftly to a close and a treaty was signed on 1" April 1885. From thereon the Legion's role was to promote peace and tranquility and rebuild the damage done.
Madagscar 1895. Following a disagreement between the Queen of Madagascar and the French Republic, an expeditionary force was sent to Dahomey and then on to Madagascar. The Legionnaires immediately started to build a road from where they docked to the objective - a place called Tananarive. A distance of 250 miles. They built and fought their way to the objective and when they finally arrived, after three and a half months, the enemy gave up without a fight.
The 1" World War 1914-1918. In 1914 the II/1" RE saw action at the battle of Artois where heavy losses were taken. (nearly two thousand in all). They were reformed and one month later were again heavily defeated at Givenchy. They were finally defeated so badly that they had to be disbanded in September 1914. As a result of this the RMLE was formed (French Foreign Legion Marching regiment) whose job it was to preceed any troops into battle.
The RMLE took part in many battles around France and took many thousands of casulaties. Their most memorable was the skilful soldiering which took place in the trenches of Rheims. They cleared over four miles of enemy trenches, with just their rifles, bayonets and grenades. The next great feat was in the Verdun sector where the Legion succeeded in its mission of recapturing many of its old positions. This they did in double quick time and with few losses. Swiftly, the Legion was shifted to Amiens where they again took heavy casualties and were forced to retreat. It was not long before they were again diverted to hold shut the passageway to Paris. Again they succeeded - but only after much blood letting of it's own men. In July 1918 the French made their offensive and despite still further heavy losses, much progress was made. For nearly two weeks the Legion battered, clawed and fought their way through the Hindeburg Line. For their efforts in the first world war the Legion had become highly decorated.
World War 1939-45 In June 1940 the 11 REI was almost entirely wiped out by a German division in Verdun. The remaining men were captured but nearly all of them managed to escape to fight again. The Regiment was however disbanded. In the same year the 13DBLE was sent to Norway to ultimately capture Narvik from the Germans. On the way to Narvik they caused much damage and destruction to German forces and aircraft. Due to German advances towards Paris, the Legion had to quickly re-deploy and assist in the defence of the Parisien quarter. It was not long after the troubles had been qwelled in the Parisian region, that the Legion's services were again required. It was this time the Italians in Eritrea, Africa who required their attention.
Indo-China 1940-1954. Thailand attempted a takeover of Cambodia in 1940 but were briefly prevented from doing so by the Legion. The Legion's efforts were wasted however, and as a result of conciliation Cambodia was handed over anyway. There was really only one unit of the Legion that was now based here, that being the 5REI. Again the Legion avoided combat in the South, due to further negotiation - but this was not to be for long and the Legionnaires based at the garrison at Ha Giang were soon massacred. Two battalions remained and started a death march towards China. Before arriving in China the war had ended but was quickly replaced by another, this time with Ho Chi Minh and his communists. This war would last nine years. In 1945 the 5REI left to be replaced by a long line of legion Regiments - The 2 REI, 13DBLE, 1 REC and the 3 REI. In the meantime the 3REI remained to fight in other areas. In 1948 they too suffered heavy losses. In 1950 access to the border with Indo-China was granted to the Chinese People's army. In 1950 the 3 REI were ordered to move location but were caught up in a massive ambush which almost completely wiped out the French forces in the region. The 13DBLE had more luck however and saw many victories during 1951. The 3REI which had also been reformed saw victory also in 1952 at Strongpoint 24. Soon afterwards the 1BEP jumped into Dien Bien Phu and took the area and quickly installed a garrison. They were attacked and despite support provided by the 2 BEP, were all but completely wiped out. For the Legionnaires in Indo China the war was now over.
Algeria 1953 - 1961. Before they could so much as go on Permission, they found themselves back in Algieria, ready to fight another war. This time against the Algerian National Liberation
Army. Although the Legion had deployed nearly twenty thousand men to the region they were to come across little more than enthusiastic skirmishes in the years that followed. These were to deteriorate to petty guerilla tactics after not too long. Let down by the politicians, the Legion were ordered home in 1961. There losses amounted to little more than a thousand men. Feeling let down - there was a mutiny and the 1 REP was, as a result disbanded.
Kolwezi 1978. As a result of an attempted takeover by Angolan Tiger Rebels, Kolwezi in Zaire, was seized. They violated the town, raping and pillaging wherever they pleased. There were many Europeans caught up in the crisis - some taken hostage. A distress signal was sent out requesting help from Europe, to which the 2 REF was activated. After a lightning deployment, the 2 REP dropped in after only fifteen hours. After a solid week of fighting and close quarter battles the Legionnaires had all but wiped out the Tiger rebels and freed the petrified European hostages. This was one of the Legion's most successful missions which earnt them recognition all over the world.
Lebanon 1982 - 1983. It was again the 2REP who were chosen in this peacekeeping role, accompanied later by the 2REI, 1RE and the 1 REC. Like many peacekeeping roles it was not an easy job, but one which, as usual, the Legion carried out meticulously and without complaint.
Gulf War 1991. In September 1990 the 2REI, the 6REG and the 1 REC were sent to the Gulf in anticipation of Saddam Husseins threats against the world. After six long months waiting and a build up of world forces which had not been seen
since World War Two, the war began. The air offensive was won first - this took four weeks, after which the coalition forces penetrated deep into Iraq. It was referred to as a Blitzkrieg (Lightning war) and only three Legionnaires died. Al Salman airport was taken by the Legion forces with little resistance. The Legion's task was then to safeguard any retreat by the Republican Guarde to the West. Very light casualties were taken and after one hundred hours fighting on the ground the war was over.
Mogadishu 4k, Bosnia 1992-96. More recently the Legion was again asked to carry out peace keeping roles in war torn areas of the globe. Under the direction of the United Nations, the 2 REP were kept on a tight leash in Mogadishu but the 2 REI accompanied by the 1 REC managed to carry out various clandestine operations in Bosnia in 1992-1995. The Legion were able to make use of the mother tongue of its men in such scenarios to great effect. Casualties were light in both areas of conflict.
Joining the French Foreign Legion is a relatively simple task. In simple terms all that is required is to present yourself in front of the gates of the French Foreign Legion and inform the guard that you wish to enlist. To enter France from Great Britain there are ferry crossings from Plymouth, Portsmouth and Dover. There are also of course the airports which will connect you directly to France's main cities. Some flights are extremely cheap and it is worth shopping around when at the airport itself or nowadays you can use the teletext service on television. The routes into France and the direction from which you
come are many and varied, and none of this is any more a problem than it would be for an everyday tourist.
When you arrive at the gates of one of the recruiting centres (All of which are listed towards the end of this book) most people, wherever they come from, manage to mumble a few words to express a wish to join - some of which include Legion Etrangere. The Legionnaire on duty knows exactly what you've come for - particularly if you've got a bag over your shoulder. If you want to be more precise in your initial approach you could say something like this:
"Bonjour - Je suis Anglais, Je suis venus pour joindre La Legion Etrangere".
Pronounced as follows: "Bonjoor, - Jer sweez Onglay, Jer swee venoo poor joo- wondre La Lejon Ay-tranj-air. "
This little parole may initially work against you since they may assume that you speak a reasonable level of French - and then you're all of a sudden, going to go all quiet on them. But they will at least get the message loud and clear that you want to join.
Once in France however there are 17 recruiting centres to choose from; situated in most of the major cities. For the most hassle free route into the Legion you should make your way down to Aubagne near Marseille in the south. This approach will cut out 2-3 days administration at one of the other "sub recruiting centres". If you are stuck for cash though, and want to get in quickly, the northern most recruiting centre is Lille. Some centres are more difficult to find than others but the local Gendarme will help you if you have difficulty. It is illegal for France to advertise a
career in the Foreign Legion in any other country than its own, but you will see posters all over France saying "Regarde la Vie Autrement" promoting you to "Have a look at the alternative life" - images of hardened Legionnaires stood in their Tenue De Garde gazing across the desert sands.
When you first arrive they will take your details and kit you out with a track suit. Apart from an initial medical and the signing of a provisional five year contract there is little to do here. Your time will be spent working on the Quartier (Camp) doing any jobs that are in need of being done until a reasonable number of engages volontaires have turned up. Once you have been at the sub-recruiting centre for a few days and there are enough recruits ready, a Caporal Chef or a Sergent will accompany you down to Aubagne itself to start the three week selection procedure. This journey is nearly always taken by train.
The age limits are officially 18-40. Candidates over seventeen and one day are accepted but must have a written consent from either parent, made out in front of an official witness. All expenses to get to France must be paid for by yourself. On arriving in France - Lille is the closest recruiting office. Anybody who is ex-forces would be well advised to take a photocopy of their certificate of discharge with them. (Any members of British forces who are found to be still serving under HM are immediately refused entry). Although the recruiting ages will extend to forty years of age - they will expect you to be in good shape if you are of that vintage. If the Legion does not think that you look like you're going to be up to it - they can turn you away without even giving you a crack at the first test.
Once you have walked through the Legion gates you are allowed no further contact with the outside world - neither by phone or by mail, for at least three to four months.
Le Langage - The Language Problem.
There really is not a problem in this area - it is an area which most people dread and feel will present the biggest problem of all, and it is true to say that there is no requirement to speak any level of French at the time of joining. Having said that - any time spent learning the French language prior to joining will pay dividends very quickly once you have arrived. Even a basic knowledge of verbs, nouns and tenses will set you in good stead with the rest of the Section. It is certainly not something to worry about however - Even if you don't have the time or are in a rush to join, the language comes very quickly for most English speaking people. The ones who find it most difficult are undoubtedly the Japanese, the Chinese and those who come from countries whose language is far removed from the French language. Initially there will be somebody of your own tongue to help explain the contract and to fill in the forms during the first few weeks at Aubagne. Likewise the "Gestapo interview" is also carried out by somebody of your own tongue. As mentioned previously, if you take a small phrase book with a built in dictionary, it will speed up the language learning process no end. Mixing with the French and talking French will also accelerate your learning curve. The sooner you're speaking fluent French and are classed as a "Francophone" (French speaking person) the sooner life becomes easier - You don't have to rely on the French members of your Section or Groupe to translate after every assembly. It will also mean less press-ups and
running around because of misunderstood orders. Remember that the top dogs during basic training are given a choice of which Regiment they are sent to on completion of "L 'Instruction" (Basic training). If you are deemed to be a good enough recruit they will probably offer you a place as a Caporal (Corporal) at Castelnaudary. This assessment will depend very much on the standard of your conversational French as well as your soldiering skills. The written side of the French language is not so important at this stage and will not become really important until much later on in your career.
Aubagne and the Selection Procedure: (Centre de Selection et Incorporation - CSI)
Aubagne is situated about an hour's train journey north of Marseille and it is here that you will begin and end your service with the French Foreign Legion. It is also the home of the ler REI and the Legion Band. The guartier (Camp) is sometimes known as the Mother regiment of the Foreign Legion. The Legion must now decide for sure whether or not to take you into the fold. It is here that they will find out about your past, they will test you mentally, physically and psychologically. You will be assessed and watched very closely. Any misconduct (Particularly fighting and ill-discipline) will leave you standing on the outside of the Qguartier gates. The Legion are not looking for nutters, psychopaths or macho men. They will also attempt to find out any details about any crimes that you have committed in the past. They work very closely with Interpol and if you happen to be on their wanted list you can expect little refuge in the Legion. You will be handed straight over to the Gendarmes. Similarly, anybody found to be still serving with a foreign army will be denied entry to the
Foreign Legion. It is therefore advisable to carry your discharge papers if you have recently left the forces and have the appearance of having had a military background. In days gone by the Legion used to accept almost anyone into their fold. Today however, the story is a little different and they are much more choosy as to who they accept. About two thirds of those who arrive at Aubagne will go on to commence basic training at Castelnaudary (The centre for instruction for the French Foreign Legion). Although the Legion is more choosy they are still keen to recruit and if you are in reasonable shape, not wanted by Interpol and pass all the tests which are put before you - (None of which are extremely difficult) then the chances are that they will snap you up. Because there is so much mis-information about the Foreign Legion there are sometimes men who resemble little more than beggars who turn up at the Legion's gates to join - people whose teeth are rotting, are grossly overweight or have vile infections - they are all turned away.
On arrival at Aubagne your belongings will be removed and deposited in a plastic bag with a record of all its contents put on file. If during the first three weeks you decide to leave (And you are allowed to do this at any time prior to "La Declaration"- a solemn declaration of fidelity to serve the French Foreign Legion) or are deemed to be unsuitable for service with the French Foreign Legion they will all be returned to you. The only items of kit that may be retained by you are toiletries, a watch, underwear and socks and a French dictionary/phrase book. If however you are accepted into the Legion the clothing is lost forever - do not therefore wear expensive clothing when you come to enlist. Your passport will also be removed until you either opt to leave within the three weeks selection or at the end of your contract.
For these first three weeks you will assigned to duties around the Quartier. They may be cleaning, gardening, administration, loading or unloading of vehicles or just helping in the stores. In fact you can be assigned to just about anything. Even here you are being watched and if a bad attitude is shown it will be noted. There will probably be up to about fifty or sixty engages volontaires at Aubagne at any one time, all at various stages of their three weeks selection. A coach load of new recruits arrives every couple of days and likewise, every day, some are rejected. Once every couple of weeks a coach load of the successful E.V's (Engages volontaires) are taken down to the train station to make their way to Castelnaudary to begin their basic training. During your first few days you will be amazed at the diversity of nationalities that have managed to get themselves all the way to France - people from China, Japan, America, Africa, Iceland. In fact - any country in the world. There are approximately ninety to a hundred different nationalities serving in the French Foreign Legion at any one time. Officially however, there are no Frenchmen in the Foreign Legion (Apart from the Officiers). Any French people who join have their identity changed along with their nationality to one of French Canadian or French Swiss for the purpose of their records. They have no choice in this matter. There are some people amongst you though, who have had a very colourful life - some have been terrorists, drug traffickers, mercenaries - you name it they've done it. But for all these people the same rule applies that if they are wanted by Interpol - it's no go. If for any reason you want your identity changed and you are open and honest with the interviewer, it is nowadays a very simple step to take and probably 80% of Legionnaires choose to take this road. For some it is a very serious business and if ever they have inadvertedly had their picture taken by swarming journalists (As in the Gulf war) and are aware of it they will very quickly see their Section Lieutenant to arrange a quick change of
identity. (Normally if any journalists are known to be in the area, the Legionnaires present are asked it they have a problem with journalists - if they do - they are taken out of that area and kept well out of the way until the media have left. If, during your stay at Aubagne any relatives come looking for you they will be kept at the main gates. You will be asked if you wish to see them and if you do not they will be told politely you are not in the Legion and asked to leave.
After a minimum of three years service in the Legion a legionnaire is allowed to rectify his name - meaning to revert back to his original name or to confirm that the name being used is correct. Once this is done a Legionnaire is allowed to wear any foreign medals earnt in a previous army, he may also leave the country during permission.
For the first week you will be in a track suit and thereby identifiable as having just arrived. During the second week you will be issued a set of combats and will wear a green flash on the shoulders. In the third week you will wear the same combats but wearing a red flash on the epaulettes. When you depart for Castelnaudary you will be wearing the uniform that has offically been issued, which includes the Legion beret.
There are five main areas that you will be tested/assessed on during the three weeks. They are as follows:
Physical health. Psychotechnical Test. Security clearance. Physical fitness. Two interviews.
Physical Health. (Infirmier - Medicaux - Visite d'Incorporation - Bilan) (Medical assistant - Doctors - Recruitment examination - Results) You will pass before the doctors at Aubagne and given a full medical. Tests will include good all round general health, bone structure, flexibility of limbs and all bodily movements, heart and lungs, eyesight, hearing, ear, nose throat inspection, drug tests, blood tests, urine tests. Every area that is imaginable will be inspected. If there are any areas that require further investigation, you will be taken to the Hospital in Toulon. You will be asked various questions on your medical history with someone of your own tongue. If your eyesight is only slightly defective then you will probably still be allowed in and glasses will be provided for you at Castelnaudary. The glasses are specifically designed for use with the NBC (Nucleaire, Biologique, et chimique) respirator.
Pschotechnical Test. (Groupe D'Evaluation Psychotechnique) This is broken down into two parts. The two parts will examine the aptitude of the candidate, the level of intelligence and the psycholgical stability.
Niveau General et Niveau Culturel. These written tests will be taken in a classroom with other engages volontaires. They are done to try and find out what you trade or skill you might be suited to in the Foreign Legion. You might be technically minded or have a mechanical way of thinking. The test will show diagrams of pulleys or levers and you may be asked to work out which one would be the most effective at carrying out the task illustrated in the diagram. Another part of the test takes the standard form of a mathematical questions. This test of intelligence test is not
particularly hard and most pass without any real problem. Some of the questions may be using shapes and asking which one fits into the other or working out the next number in a sequence. A final written test done in the classroom are in your own tongue and will pose questions of an opinionated nature - perhaps requiring some form of self assessment. Your answers will be assessed by a specialist afterwards. Questions may seem bizarre to you - they could be something like: Do you like nature? Are you considered to be a hard man in your home town? Do you prefer male company to female? This test will take about twenty minutes. Depending on your score - you will be allowed entry into the French Foreign Legion. The scores achieved will also determine whether or not you will be able to progress higher up the rank structure at a later date. (The tests are repeated throughout you career however)
Security Clearance. (Beaureau Des Statistiques de la Legion Etrangere - BSLE) Here, it is up to the Legion to decide whether or not to accept you into their fold from the security point of view. But they will make every effort to find out every detail about you starting from the year dot. The information will be gathered by means of a personal interview between yourself and someone of your own tongue. This is part of the French Foreign Legion Intelligence service and they are very good at their job. They are referred to as "Le Gestapo" by the Legionnaires. Although the Legion will accept people of various backgrounds they will not accept murderers or those they consider to be of a dangerous nature. They have in the past accepted former terrorists and people caught up in the troubles of their country. For these people it is a chance to to escape any danger they might be in and to start life again. The interview will take about two hours and they will delve into every minute detail of your life; your family, your schooling - your previous jobs - why
you want to join. They will ask you about your friends, where you have been in the world. And if they feel they are not happy with your story they will invite you back again for further interviews until they are happy. Your fingerprints will also be taken during this stage and held on record.
Physical Fitness. (La Forme Physique) These tests are done to ensure that you are in a reasonable condition to take on the tasks that lie ahead at Castelnaudary. As well as various upper body tests in the form of pull-ups and sit ups there is a 2600 metre run to be completed in twelve minutes. If you take longer than the time allowed then you will have failed selection. (this equates to just over a mile and a half in 12 mins or just over eight minute miles). Failures are allowed to re-apply in three months time.
Interviews. (Les entrevues) There will be a brief interview, probably with a Caporal Chef and a second interview with the Major. Both interviews will take on a similar line of questioning - Why do you want to join? What have you done in your previous life? Have you done much physical training in your life? Do you know and understand what the contract means? Soon after you have had your second interview you will be informed of whether or not you have been accepted into the French Foreign Legion.
At Aubagne the days will start early, probably at about 5.00am, firstly with Le petit dejeuner (breakfast) - a bowl of hot coffee or chocolate with some bread, butter and jam. The coffee will be served in a bowl which you drink from. This is France now and you will learn to do everything the French way. As you become known to more and more Legionnaires you will quickly learn that it is also customary to shake hands first thing in the morning or for the first time you meet them during the day. This happens every day. There is much to do during the three weeks at Aubagne, so you will quickly be marched back to the block to start cleaning. After this the days' activities will begin. It could be any one of the tests previously mentioned or it could be something more mundane like cleaning or helping out in the kitchens. Throughout each day you will be working in one place or another, getting called away to carry out another test or interview and then returning to your present job. If you're not doing either of these things then you will be getting to know the other engages volontaires in a sort of a recreational area at the back of the building. Here there is a pull up bar and trees to sit under and relax. The days are long and they can be tiring but it is also an interesting time for you. You are on the edge of an unknown quantity - about to embark on a great adventure - with some fairly bizarre and adventurous members of your planet. You will probably come across those that like to pull up a sandbag and tell tall stories - take the things you hear with a pinch of salt. Especially when it comes to what lies ahead.
You are essentially now in the French Foreign Legion and it is a tough army with a tough lifestyle. You must stand up for yourself and don't get walked over. But be warned that if you are caught fighting and causing trouble - then you will be turned away. At Castelnaudary they will be more lenient - and it is sometimes required in life, to earn
some respect, not least of all in the French Foreign Legion. Here, however - if they see you as a trouble maker then you will soon find yourself packing your bags.
There will probably be two days out of the three weeks that will be spent at one of two Legion camps helping out: Malmousce and Puyoublier. Malmousce is a small Legion complex situated on the seafront close to Marseille. It is an idyllic setting and it's purpose is to provide for Legionnaires who have no family or friends, a place for them to spend their Permission (Holiday). They will go here or alternatively to "Fort De Nogent" in Paris.
As an engage volontaire you will more than likely be taken here to Malmousce to carry out any jobs that are necessary - such as odd jobbing or helping out in the kitchens. There will probably be about ten to fifteen Legionnaires there at any one time, all at various stages of their contract. For them, during the weeks they spend there, life is easy and they will probably be more than happy to tell you about life in the Legion and what's in store for you. The food is normally of a high standard as it is on most Legion camps. The other place that you, as an engage volontaire will be likely to visit is Puyoublier. This is the home for the former Legionnaires who have completed more than three contracts in the Legion. In the Legion such men are known as "Les Anciens ". Most of them have seen action on more than one occasion during their careers. Some have seen a lot of action in some of the Legion's most memorable battles. They are friendly people and only too happy to talk to "Les Jeunes "(The in-experienced or latest to arrive). At Puyoublier the men make their own wine and work the land. There are livestock to look after and even a crafts centre where they make souvenirs to sell to tourists. It is their home - they eat well - have company
they can relate to - and they of course drink well. Puyoublier continues to give them a purpose in life.
Your job whilst there will again be to help out wherever needed. By this stage you will be beginning to learn what hard work is all about.
During your time at Aubagne you will be getting paid a small amount of money. This will amount to about F100 per week. With this money you will be allowed, probably once a week, to go to the Foyer (A bar with small shop attached - There is one on every guartier) - you will be allowed an hour or so to have a beer or two and buy anything you need such as razors, cigarettes etc.
It will be very noticeable how all the nationalities gather together in groups of their own tongue - non more so than the British. With the "Brits", will be Canadians, Australians, Scandinavians (who often speak English) and Americans. Whenever the English speakers gather together they are known as "La Mafia Anglaise " or sometimes if they are British "Les Hooligans ". (Individually, you may find yourself being called "Johhny" from time to time, particularly by Les Anciens). But you will notice the Spanish and Brazilians stick together, the Eastern block countries will stick together. The French will be in their little group and so on. It is important to make an effort to mix - if not with the other nationalities - at least with the French. It is after all, the French that you will be relying on to learn the language and, during the initial stages, to translate what has been said by the Caporal or Sergent.
As well as various lectures and videos covering life in the French Foreign Legion and the postings that exist, there will also be a visit to the Legion Museum. Probably one of the most impressive to be seen. You will be given about
an hour to wander around during an afternoon and examine some of the Legion's past.
At some time during the three weeks you will also be interviewed (albeit it in a very casual manner) on the subject of music. That is whether or not you play an instrument or have any inclination to become a musiciain and any desire to play in the Legion band. The Legion band is always keen to recruit - any hint of interest and you will be encouraged all the way in this direction. No- one is ever forced to join the band however - but if you are an experienced musician and definitely do not want to work in the Legion band then it is probably better if you tell them you are destined to be in the 2 REP and wouldn't know one end of a trumpet from the other. (There are some perks to the job of being a bandsman and the Legion band does travel worldwide every year). All bandsmen go through French Foreign Legion basic training just the same as any other Legionnaire.
After a long three weeks of cleaning, tests and interviews you will finally be told whether you have passed the selection procedure or not. The successful ones will be issued with the Legion haircut and be taken down to the stores to be kitted out with Le Paquetage. This is the equipment that you will take with you to Castelnaudary and last you through your contract. It will be contained within a large green sausage bag called a Sac Moraine. When you have been issued your paquetage you will know that very soon you will commencing basic training with the French Foreign Legion. At this stage there is only one more thing left to do - that is the solemn declaration of honour and fidelity to serve the French Foreign Legion. For this you will be assembled in a large room which oozes tradition. Thirty to forty of you will be assembled to form three sides of a square. There will be a short speech by the Major declaring that
you have been officially accepted into the ranks of the Foreign Legion, with whom you will serve for five years with honour and faithfulness. The Major will then go up to each engage volontaire, call his name out and hand him his contract. The Legionnaire will acknowledge receipt of the contract by coming to the gardez-vous position (attention position) and calling out "Present Major".
At approx 5.00 am the next morning you will be assembled ready for pick up by coach to be taken to the Aubagne train station. There you will board a train to take you to Castelnaudary. The Sergent and the Caporal who escort you in the morning will be part of your training team during the four months that lie ahead.
Castelnaudary - L 'Instruction - Basic Training.
"Quite singly the best way to get on during instruction is not to get noticed, keep your head down, work hard, don't moan, mix with the French and start learning the language. It will come amazingly quickly and if you can speak French, you'll get less hassle".
This is the real beginning of your time in the French Foreign Legion. Everything so far has been merely selection. It is now that the real work begins. You are brand spanking new to the system and are about to embark on a very steep learning curve....
Basic training is not aimed at producing elite soldiers out of you. It is aimed at bringing you all into a military way of thinking and to start instilling some form of military discipline. Coupled with this, they must start getting you to grips with learning the French language and conditioning you physically to the rigours that lie ahead. There is therefore a lot of work to be done by both the training team and the recruits during the four months basic training. It is after basic training that soldiering skills are taught in depth at the Regiment that you are posted to. That is not to say that you are not taught military skills during basic training - only that the skills may not be so in depth and so well honed at this stage. Remember that there are people from all over the world, Japanese, Chinese, Rumanians, Czechs, Polish all with a totally different outlook on life. The Western world is naturally a very disciplined culture and one which adapts well to a military environment - many other cultures around the world are not so orderly in their thinking.
This four months basic training will also be teaching you one more thing - and certainly the hardest element of all to an engage volontaire - and that is the "Legion way of doing things". It may not be the most logical way or the simplest way, it may seem like the most stupid, ridiculous method in the world - but it is done that way and you are going to do it that way - even if it takes all night and all the next day. They may send one man to do the job of ten or ten men to do the job of one. It will drive you to insanity at the time but what it is doing is re-affirming military discipline into your very new way of life. If you can prepare yourself for this and accept their way of getting the job done, then you're well on your way to becoming a "Bon Legionnaire". This is the part of Foreign Legion life that is most difficult to adapt to.
Physically the Foreign Legion is not that hard - mentally it can crack you down the middle - especially those from the Western world. It may take you the whole of your five year contract to become fully at home home with this mentality and the Legion way of doing things.
A "Section" consists of 40 men each broken down into 4 "Groupes". The Section is commanded by a "Sergent-Chef" and is known as the "Chef de section" but is addressed us "Sergent-chef". Likewise the Groupe is commanded by a "Sergent" and is known as the "Chef de Groupe" but addressed as "Sergent" by the Legionnaires.
Vos Instructeurs - Your Instructors.
The training team is made up of four Caporaux (One man is referred to as Le Caporal - more than one Caporal is referred to as Les Caporaux), four Sergents, a Sergent Chef and a Lieutenant. The Caporaux at Castelnaudary will be made up of a combination of Caporaux from other Regiments and what is known as "Fonctionnaire-Caporal" (Shortened to Caporal Fut-Fut). This is a term applied to a select few Legionnaires who have been offered accelerated promotion due to a good performance during their own in
basic training - they therefore, have only served a few months more than yourselves in the Legion. You may find that there is a Caporal or Sergent of the same nationality as your own. Often they will be more friendly to their own nationality and keep you slightly more informed as to what is on the agenda during the coming days. Tread carefully in this area however and assume nothing.
On arrival at Castelnaudary railway station you will be picked up by a Legion coach and taken to the Quartier (guartier Capitaine Danjou). You will at all times be accompanied by the Caporaux or Sergents. Having unloaded all the Sacs Moraines (Long sausage shaped green bags) into the corridor, there will be a briefing by one of the Caporaux telling you what is next on the agenda. The first day will be spent unpacking bags and getting you into the routines that will very quickly become a way of life. Depending on the training team - and they all have their own way of doing things - your first day will probably be even more stressful than usual. In most armies around the world there is a routine of traumatising the recruits during their first days - creating as big a shock for them as possible. One regiment in the British forces would make the recruits run for four miles with the whole of their equipment immediately on getting off the coach at the Depot, shouting and screaming at them all the way.
Likewise in the French Foreign Legion they must instill discipline into the Section as soon as possible and this will be done by whatever means is deemed necessary. There will be silence in the corridoors when lined up. Feet will be exactly in line with the second row of floor tiles.
Anybody talking, whispering or behaving like a civilian will be reprimanded in the most extreme manner probably in the form of a good dig to the body. Head and eyes to the front and best you keep it that way. For those that come from Eastern block countries this is not at all easy. They have come from backgrounds far removed from the culture of the West. They are inherently less disciplined and prone to being the target of the enthusiasm of the Caporaux. You may well find yourself doing press- ups on account of them.
Throughout the day they will run you through what is known as the "Apel". This is a routine of lining up in the corridoor and calling out from left to right a number. The number starts at one and continues up to however many there are of you. You may all be lined up in a different order every time you come out into the corridor, so it is important that you learn very quickly how to count in French. Whatever you are doing in the room - it is dropped immediately and you must get out into the corridor and line up against the wall before the Caporal has reached the count of four. The Apel is always done first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but initially you will do it perhaps twenty or thirty times in a day. This is purely to teach you how to count and as a method of asserting discipline and authority upon you. In the 2 eme REP based in Corsica, there are three apels per day - one after lunch as well. At some time during basic training there is sure to be a low count in the morning when a Legionnaire or two have decided that they've had enough and tried to desert. They are nearly always caught.
Les Numeraux - The Numbers.
Listed below are the numbers that you must learn: French number - (Pronounced as) - English number
Un - (Urn) - One Deux - (Durgh) - Two Trois - (Twar) - Three Quatre - (Cart) - Four Cinq - (Sank) - Five Six - (See) - Six Sept - (Set) - Seven Huit - (H'eet) - Eight Neuf - (Nerf) - Nine Dix - (Dees) - Ten Onze - (Onz) - Eleven Douze - (Dooz) - Twelve Treize - (Trays) - Thirteen Quatorze - (Catorz) - Fourteen Quinze - (Canz) - FiAeen Seize - (Says) - Sixteen Dix-Sept - (Dees set) - Seventeen Dix-Huit - (Dees weet) - Eighteen Dix-neuf - (Dees nerf) - Nineteen Vingt - (Van) - Twenty Vingt et une - (Vant ay oon) - Twenty one Vingt deux - (Van der) - Twenty two Vingt trois - (Van twar) - Twenty three Vingt quartre - (Van cart) - Twenty four Vingt Cinq - (Van sank) - Twenty five Vingt six - (Van see) - Twenty six Vingt sept - (van set) - Twenty seven Vingt huit - (Van weet) - Twenty eight Vingt neuf - (van nerf) - Twenty nine Trente - (Tron) - thirty Trente et une - (Tront ay oon) - thirty one
Trent deux - (Tron der) - Thirty two Trente trois - (Tron twar) - Thirty three Trente Quatre - (Tron cart) - Thirty four Trente cinq - (Tron sank) - Thirty five Trente six - p'ron sees) - Thirty six Trente sept - (Tron set) - Thirty seven Trent huit - (Tron weet) - Thirty eight Trente neuf - (Tron nerf) - Thirty nine Quarante - (Carront) - Forty Quarante et une - (Carront ay oon) - Forty one Quarante deux - (Carront der) - Forty two Quarante trois - (Carront twa) - Forty three Quarante quatre - (Carront cart) - Forty four Quarante Cinq - (Carront sank) - Forty five Quarante six - (Carront sees) - Forty six Quarante sept - (Carront set) - Forty seven Quarante huit - (Carront weet) - Forty eight Quarante neuf - (Carront nerf) - Forty nine Cinquante- (Sankont) - Fifty
It will not obviously stop everybody else making mistakes and you will still be going in and out of the room like a yo-yo. But at least you will get it right and it's one less thing for you to have to learn. When you later have to line up for a Company parade you will have to learn the rest of the numbers in French, but this is not worth worrying about at the moment. There are two other reasons for needing to learn the numbers as soon as possible. Firstly; you will have been issued a service number and there will also be a number for your FAMAS. Your service number is known as your "Matricule" and is a six figure number. You must learn how to say it in French and learn it by heart. The number is not however read out as single numerals but as follows:
Cent soixante trois, trois cent onze (One hundred and sixty three - three hundred and eleven). This is more
difficult to commit to memory than simply learning: Une- six-trois, trois-une-une. (One-six-three - three-one-one). The Caporaux will teach it to you and you will be expmted to know it by heart after a week or two. It will not be very long before you are introduced to your FAMAS assault rifle - This number must also be committed to memory. If you can learn these numbers quickly then you will not be the one that feels the might of a size ten boot when the Sergent has been calling out the weapon number six times at the armoury doors (Le Magasine).
Apart from learning your numbers there will be the allocation of beds and lockers and a demonstration by one of the Caporaux on how to arrange your Paquetage into the armoire (locker) in the correct way. There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything in the Legion - if the kit is not placed in the correct place it will soon end up on the floor. There is no food to be kept in the locker at any time and there is a very small shelf which is allocated for personal belongings. (Of which you will have very few).
As an engage volontaire you will be assigned to another - he will be referred to as your "Binome". It is up to you to help each other. If he's French - he can help you a lot, and he will be expected to.
"It goes without saying that as a recruit you must always carry a pen and notepad. Carry three pens - One for yourself, one for when it stops working and one for the binhome next to you who has forgotten his"
For the first two weeks there are only a few items of kit that you have to worry about. The first is the boots. These
must be well polished and there is plenty of opportunity to do that. If nothing is happening - i.e. between lectures, then the Legionnaires will gather downstairs and polish their boots. You may well find yourself polishing the boots five, six or even seven times a day. The green combat uniform that is worn on a daily basis is not ironed in the Legion. Neither is the Tenue de Sport (PT kit). But it must be clean at all times. There are no washing machines in basic training so all the kit is cleaned by hand with a block of Savon Marseille (Soap) in the wash basins. Then hung out to dry on the clothes lines of the balconies attached to each room. (The clothes lines are below balcony level and therefore not visible from the outside of the building).
The beret that has been issued to you will last only two weeks before being replaced with a smaller neater one which sits much more neatly on the head. The tassle at the back of the beret should lie directly down the centre of the back of the head. The Legion badge will then sit slightly to the right of the right eye. Unlike some armies where a blue beret is issued until training has been completed - in the Legion it is the Kepi that you earn. The beret issued in the Legion is green in colour from day one. The flap being folded down to the left. If you wish to shape the beret to your head, you can make it wet and then squeeze it until damp, then put it on your head for shaping to the exact shape and position required.
You will be paid approximately F1500 per month during L 'Instruction (basic training) (About X200). This will be paid into your CNE account which is held by the L 'Adjudant de Section. When you are allowed to go to the Foyer (Like a Naafi or canteen with a small shop attached) - you will be given some money. This is not likely to happen very often during the four months of Instruction. Everything will be provided for you during
basic training, even down to your toothbrush, toothpaste, razors etc. At some time during your Instruction you will be allowed to go into the town for a few hours. Here again you will be paid about F200-F300 to have a beer and buy anything you need. Once you have been posted to your regiment, the foyer will become a regular watering hole - chosen in preference to going through all the hassle of preparing your tenue to exit the Quartier. No formal dess need be worn in the Foyer - even Tenue de sport is permitted.
Les Chants - The Songs.
It will not take long for the instructors to introduce you to the singing which forms an integral part of the French Foreign Legion's tradition. The Legion sings on the march, at the Gardez-vous (attention position), sometimes on the run as a section, and around camp fires when on non-tactical excercises at the end of a long day. You will probably first be taught Le Boudin along with Le Chant (de la) Companie plus Le Chant Du Regiment. There may be as many as fifteen or twenty songs learnt during the four months basic training. How many you learn depends very much on you all as a Section. The more French speaking people there are in the Section, the easier it is to learn, and so the more songs you will learn. If there are only a few Francophones (French speaking people) in the section the songs may well be taught to you phonetically. What this means is that a German will read out the words as they should sound in German and you will write them down as they sound to you in your tongue. Le Boudin is probably the most famous of all the Legion SOllgS.
It is also the only song that must be sung at the Gardez vous position. All the rest may be sung on the march. Le Chant (de la) Compagnie wi11 vary from company to company and could be one of many songs.
The first verse of Le Boudin is often all that is sung, for example prior to eating a meal. It goes like this:
Le Boudin: Tiens. Voila du Boudin, voila du boudin, voila du boudin, Pour les Alsaciens, les Suisses et les Lorrains, Pour les Belges y en a plus, pour les Belges y en a plus, Ce sont des tireurs au coup, Tireurs au coup.
There are many different understandings of the meaning behind the words but here is a literal translation:
Well there's sausage, there's sausage, there's sausage, For the Alsatians, the Swiss and the Lorrainers; There's none left for the Belgians, there's none left for the Belgians, They are malingerers; There's none left for the Belgians, there's none left for the Belgians; They are malingerers
You will undoubtedly hear of other versions whilst in the Legion.
The songs are not just sung in French but in many other languages such as Yugoslavian, German and English. The
first few weeks singing will undoubtedly result in some very sore arms. This will be through all the press-ups that you will be doing in a bid to get you to sing in tune, deeper (Plus has) and louder (Plus fort). It may seem a pain singing hour after hour, sometimes late into the night, but when a level of skill has been achieved - it will look and sound very good. There is nothing like the sound of 40 plus Legionnaires (better still a company of 150) singing in tune, on the march, with Kepis on their heads and red epaulettes on their shoulders.
Songs will be sung initially in the classroom, and then later, when the words have been learnt, on the march. The songs that you will learn are not what you are used to. They are sung slowly, in unison and in a deep voice. They have to be sung slowly in order to be in keeping with the pace of the march. (In the French Foreign Legion the marching is done at 80 paces per minute as opposed to 120 in the British army).
There are a collection of Legion songs, most of which you will be expected to learn during basic training, situated towards the back of the book in the Appendix section.
La Presentation - Presenting Yourself.
It is tradition in the Legion that when addressing someone of a senior rank Le Presente is carried out. It is a form of recital and until you have attained some rank yourself, this will initially mean saying it to everybody, except the other "Engages" (recruits). It is also said when you recieve your pay or when entering a room occupied by anyone of any senior rank.
Actions: Knock - wait - enter - salut - beret off....
"Engage Volontaire Antoine, Deux mois de service, Deuxieme Compagnie, Section de Lieutenant Souzla, A vos ordres Caporal/Sergent/Sergent chef/etc. "
Meaning: "Recruit Antoine, Two months service, 2nd Company, Lieutenant Souzla's section, At your orders Corporal/Sergeant. "
The words in italics will have to be changed for whatever details are applicable to you. Once inside the room the Sergent or whoever that you are talking to, will then say,
"Mets-toi au repos. " Meaning - Put yourself into the position of "Repose". (A bit like the "Stand at ease" position in the British army).
You must then reply, "Je me-mets au repos a vos ordres Sergent". Meaning: I go to the position of Repose as you order Sergent"
When the senior rank has finished with you he will say, "Tu peu dispose" Meaning: "You may now leave"
You must then reply, "Je peu dispose, a vos ordres Sergent". Meaning: I am now leaving as you have ordered Sergent.
(Actions: Beret on - Salut - About turn - exit room).
This is carried on throughout your careeer in the Foreign Legion and holds true even in war. It is said particularly when talking to ranks that are more than one rank above you or if they are unfamiliar. After some time in the Legion or in times of war the Le presente may be shortened to,
"Legionnaire Antoine, a vos ordres Sergent" To which the sergent or whoever would probably reply, "Oui, qu'es-ce que tu veux? (Yes, what do you want?)
Each room is responsible for its cleanliness. There is not an excessive emphasis on the rooms but they are inspected on a daily basis. They are also walked around at the end of the day by the Caporal Chef/Sergent who is taking the evening Apel.
There is no smoking allowed in the building but engages will often try to sneek one on the balcony. Smoking is however allowed, but downstairs and outside. Everyday, first thing in the morning and after lunch before being fell in there is the daily Corvet Quartier. This comprises of the Company forming a line and walking very slowly around the building. At each corner of the building the line is stopped and reformed to face a new direction. Since the buildings at Castelnaudary are in an "L-shape" there are six straight lines to form before progressing in each
new direction. All the time you are looking for cigarette ends, litter or rose petals that have fallen in the wind. There are constant yells of пSilence by the Caporal du Jour which often fall on deaf ears and inevitably ends up in everybody doing press-ups. This ritual of Corvette Quartier will continue until you have reached Caporal status or above. (About two years normally).
In each building there are two Sections of Legionnaires undergoing basic training. The older Section will be able to socialise with you almost everyday when downstairs polishing boots or smoking cigarettes. As you might expect they will try to fill you full of horror stories about what lies ahead. They will more than likely exaggerate to the extreme. So take anything you hear with a pinch of salt. Most of it will be rubbish.
Bel Air, La ferme - Bel Air, the fame
The big horror story you will undoubtedly hear about from day one is Bel Air. This is a large farm building situated in the countryside about ten miles from Castelnaudary. All the Sections go to Bel Air aAer about four weeks for a period of three weeks. Whilst there you will undergo training in weapons handling, (Particularly stripping and assembly of the FAMAS), weapon cleaning, physical fitness, navigation (By compass and by the stars), French language, an introduction to fieldcraft (setting up bivouacs, camouflage and concealment, target indication, first aid, fire control orders, patrolling, ambushes), drill and arms drill, marching and of course lots of singing.
As mentioned previously - they are not out to make you into elite soldiers at this stage - more to get you into a military way of thinking, improve your physical fitness and to try to get you talking in French. The soldiering skills are honed later on in your career.
There will be pressures placed upon you and these will take the form of sleep deprivation, keeping you as stressed and traumatised as possible by shouting and requiring everything to be done in double quick time. Coupled with that there will be very little to eat. The days will be long and you will become very, very tired. Still the pressure will be on you. Here there will be many inspections of your equipment, your boots (Polish the whole of the boot whilst at Bel Air - the underside as well). Also mark them well, as they may be thrown out of the window with everyone else's (even if your's are clean). Ideally, you will want the same pair back when you go to recuperate them at the end of the night.
Each day at Bel Air will start early, at around 5.00 am and by six o'clock you will be doing the morning Sport or Le Petit-footing. This will take about an hour and because there are varying degrees of fitness amongst you, the Section will normally be divided up into three groups of varying ability. You will all do the same training - just that you will all be pushed to the maximum. There will be four to five mile runs, un-armed combat, sit-ups, press ups, pull ups, rope climbing (No legs allowed), firemans carry and any other games the training team can devise to get the blood flowing faster. Although the running will tend to get faster over the three weeks the upper body strengthening excercises may not
achieve as much since the food intake is limited and the pull ups, press ups and rope climbing excercises are carried out as much as two or three times a day. Before each meal the Caporaux will gather you round and there will be what is referred to as the L 'Aperitif - a series of three or four of the above excercises which are carried out. When so much work is placed on a particular muscle group the muscles have little time to recover and benefit from the work done.
Each day the kit worn will be washed by hand in the basins, then hung out to dry for the next day. Make sure the kit is well marked.
The three weeks at Bel Air culminates in a fifty kilometre non tactical march with Sac a Dos (Rucksac) and FAMAS. You have three days to complete the march but it is normally done in two. This is the only test before you receive your Kepi Blanc. It is often argued by Legionnaires that the Kepi Blanc should only be received after the Le Raid at the end of basic training when a much longer march is carried out. This thirty miler is not hard and by this stage you will already have marched many times from Bel Air back to the Quartier. If you have been a soldier in any army prior to joining the Legion, you will have heard of many methods of how to harden your feet. Examples may be rubbing white spirit into your feet, urinating on them, switching them from the hottest water you can bear to the coldest water you can bear. Most people find that the best way to wear in your feet is to march a lot - and that you will. And preferably in boots that are well worn in. Legion boots generally are not a bad fit anyway, even when new. There may be some truth in the notion that submersing bad fitting boots in water when new and going for a couple of miles on a run
will help wear them in quicker, but you are unlikely to be in a position to put this method into practise in the Legion. Feet do heal very quickly and there is always a foot and body inspection after every march. Do not, if you have the chance however rip the skin off a blister to expose open flesh. Any insertion into a fluid filled blister should be made with a sterilised needle merely to drain the fluid inside the blister out. The foot should of course be cleaned before such action. Do not bother with ointment or dressings unless it's really bad; just put a clean pair of socks on. Before you know it you will have different set of blisters to worry about.
La Remise Du Kepi Blanc - The Presentation of the white Kepi.
Throughout the weeks leading up to Bel Air and during your time there, you will all be learning Le Code D 'Honneur. This is - as it sounds - a code of honour which is learnt be heart by all Legionnaires. Together you must recite it in unison at the end of your three weeks at Bel Air. You will spend many hours, learning it, reciting it and then getting the vocal synchronisation together. It will be said by you at the Remise Du Eepi Blanc (Presentation parade) prior to donning the famous white Kepi.
If you can learn it by heart before you get there, you will be one very large stride ahead. It goes as follows:
Le Code D'Honneur.
"Legionnaire, Tu ex un volontaire servant la Erance avec bonheur et fidelite. " (Legionnaire, you are a volunteer serving France with honour and faithfulness)
"Chaque Legionnaire est ton frere d'arme, quelle que soit su nationalite, sa race, sa religion. Tu lui manifestes toujours la solidarite etroite qui doit unir les membres d'une meme famille. " (Every Legionnaire is your brother in arms, regardless of nationality, race or religion. You show him always the close solidarity which must unite the members of the same family)
"Respectueux des traditions, attache a tes chefs, la discipline et la camaraderie sont ta force, le courage et la loyaute tes vertus. " (Respectful of the traditions held by your seniors, discipline and camaraderie are your strength, courage and loyalty your virtues)
"Fier de ton etat de legionnaire, tu le montres dans ta tenue toujours elegante, ton comportement toujours digne mais modeste, ton casernement toujours net. " (Proud to be a Legionnaire, you show this in your dress; it is always elegant, you are always dignified but modest in the way that you behave and your quarters are always in order)
Soldat d'elite, tu t'entruines avee rigeur, tu entretiens ton arme comme ton bien le plus precieux, tu as le souci constant de ta horme physique. " (As an elite soldier, you train with rigour, you look after your weapon as your most precious possession, and you always take care of your physical fitness.)
"La ndssion est sacree, tu l'executes jusqu'au but, a tout prix. " (The mission is sacred, you execute it to the very end, at all costs).
"Au combat, tu agis sans passion et sans haine, tu respects les ennemis vaincus, tu n'abandonnes jamais, ni tes morts, ni tes blesses, ni ter armes. " (In combat, you fight without passion and without hatred, you respect the defeated enemy always, you never abandon your dead, nor your wounded nor your weapons).
You are not actually at any time during instruction asked to translate the Code D'Honneur into your own language, but it is included here for your interest.
At the Remise Du ICepi Blanc there will be another Section from Castelnaudary to act in a supporting role as part of the Remise. The Chef de Corps (Camp Commandant) will present the Legionnaires with a small badge which signifies that they are now officially accepted as part of the 4eme RE. He will pin that to each Legionnaire's chest. The formalities will be followed by big eats, some singing, and a photo session by a photographer hired by the Legion for some formal group shots. Depending on how good or bad the singing is - will
depend on whether you march back to the Quartier or are taken back by camion (lorry).
When handling the Kepi make sure that you touch only the black peak and not the white parts. The white cloth stains very easily, and if you don't handle it by the peak, you'll end up scrubbing it. After Bel Air, Castelnaudary will seem like a hotel. The camp was modernised in 1985 and is extremely plush considering the sort of images that most people conjure up in their mind when they hear talk of the French Foreign Legion. La Place D'Arme (The Parade square) is of an oacre type tarmac finish with roses all around the inside of its perimeter. These are carefully maintained by the prisoners and any spare recruits. Any petals that fall in the wind are swiftly picked up by the Corvet Quartier who sweep around the building twice a day.
Once back at "Castel" (Abbreviated term for Castelnaudary) you will soon be back into lectures, running and once every couple of weeks a trip onto the terrain for some patrolling (Normally about 20 kms or so) and practise of fieldcraft skills. Temperatures can get up to a hundred degrees in the summer and there are often reports in the local press of locals dying whilst out in the heat of the day or over doing it. The Legion has great experience of working in hot conditions and takes this sort of weather very seriously. If the weather is too hot then certain excercises may be cancelled or postponed until it is cooler. Many of the recruits will not be used to such weather - some may not have even acclimatised from their native country yet. You will quickly be taught that water should be treated like gold in these conditions. When out on excercise the training team will be watching very closely who has the discipline in them to conserve water
from their Bidon (water bottle). If you take small sips of water throughout the day, as opposed to great gulps - it will last you longer. On top of that, the more you drink - the more you sweat. But if you want to earn smartie points - be the one with half a bottle of water left at the next water stop.
"Do not drink water from the rivers in France. If you do - it will make you very ilL For a week you will not know whether you're coming or going. Even sterilising tablets added to water are not safe in certain rivers. "
A Typical Day.
6.00 am: the Section assembles in line in the corridoor for the morning Appel. After a quick shave and a wash you will get into Tenue de Sport (PT Kit). The room must be tidied and the beds made. The beds are not made in the normal way however. In the Legion the bed is stripped every day and the blankets folded to an exact size and placed one on top of another. These will sit at the end of the bed with the Couverture (Top cover) underneath. The sheets are folded and rolled in an exact manner to form a sort of tube. These are then laid diagonally across each other on top of the blankets to form a cross. This routine does not stop at the end of basic training but continues for as long as you reside on a Legion Quartier - regardless of rank.
6.20am: The Section will be either marched or doubled across to the refectoir for Le Petit Dejeuner (Breakfast).
This consists of a glass bowl of black coffee or drinking chocolate. With this you receive half a baguette each and some jam or marmalade. You will always carry your issued Opinel (Pen-knife) which you use for breakfast. You may only have ten minutes to eat this before being assembled outside to to return to the block. You may again either march or run back - dependant upon what is on the agenda for the day and the schedule of timings.
6.30am: Corvet Quartier is next on the agenda. (Straight line sweep around the building done by the complete Company to pick up cigarette ends etc.) At the same time as this, anybody wishing to go sick, reports to the Caporal Chef down in the Company office. If the rooms are not yet finished then one or two Legionnaires per room will remain behind to finish them off. There will also be a couple of Legionnaires left behind to carry out the Corvet Chiot (Toilet cleaning duties).
7.00am: Rassemblement (Assembly) by Section, or, if it is a Monday, it will be as a complete Regiment (Reglementaire). The Caporal Du Jour will hand you over to the Sergent and then if there is a senior rank present you will be handed over to the most senior rank present. From here you will normally go for a run. Distance varying from four to eight kilometres. (Incidently, you will always talk in Kilometres in the Legion. There are approximately 1.6kms to one mile. Or 0.6 miles to one kilometre. Therefore, as an example; eight kilometres equals approx. five miles). Runs in the Legion never start very fast - a great emphasis is put on warming up for at least the first kilometre or two, and then it gradually gets faster. At the end of the run there are usually exercises, rope climbing (always without the use of your legs), pull ups and sit ups, followed by stretching.
Periodically the Sergent will have you all straightening each others spines. The method used, does, for the first time sound like a very painful process. It can be a little disconcerting when you hear your spinal column cracking into line and the man doing it has only learnt the technique thirty seconds previously. It is however a genuine technique which was once used by osteopaths.
8.30am: Section arrives back at the block. The Senior rank will dismiss you into the building where you can get showered and changed ready for the Casse-scroute (Snack). This will be probably a quarter of a baguette and some pate. The Section will now be in Tenue verte (green combats) for the rest of the day.
9.30am: There will now be a lecture on postings in the French Foreign Legion. This may be taken by the Sergent, Sergent Chef or the Lieutenant. The period will last about one hour. After which you will be allowed outside for a cigarette break for fifteen minutes.
10.45am: A second lecture will follow on French language taken by the Lieutenant.
12.00am: The boots will be taken downstairs for a quick polish before lunch. There will also be time for a quick Aperitif before lunch.
1230: The Section will assemble ready to be marched across to the refectoir for lunch. The Section will almost always march and sing their way across the Place D'arme (Parade square). There may well be other Sections doing the same thing.
1250: Feeding time in the Legion is a very well executed procedure. The Legionnaires form a long line from the doorway up to the servery with a Caporal at the head of the queue controlling the passage of troops. When the head Chef calls out the word "Quatre" - the next four
Legionnaires walk past the servery, picking up a dish of food each. Since all the tables are laid before the meal with plates and all the cutlery, there remains only the food to be collected. This makes for a very rapid feeding system. In the space of only a few minutes literally hundreds of Legionnaires can be seated and eating their food without the hassle of a fifteen minute queue. At the end of the meal the plates are left on the tables to be cleared away by the Legionnaires on Corvet. (Which will at sometime be you).
1330: March back to Le Batiment (Building) to carry out the Corvette Quartier once more. The rooms will also have to be cleaned once more if they require it and the boots polished.
1400: The Section will be assembled and the Sergent will brief you on what is happening in the afternoon. Today it consists of being taken over to the Infirmerie for some tests. These may be urine, blood, a chat with the Medecin (Doctor), chest X-rays or whatever.
1530: Lessons in drill. Droit droit (Right turn), Gauche gauche (Left turn) and the demi-tour droit (About turn). There may also be further lessons on La Presente.
1650: The Compagnie will assemble together for the march across for the Repas du soir (Evening meal) sometimes known as La Soupe. Again you will sing. This may again be preceeded by an Aperitif in the form of pull- ups, press-ups and sit ups.
1700: La Soupe. (Evening meal)
1800: Les Chants de La Legion (Songs of the Legion). For several hours you will be in a classroom singing and reciting Le Code D'Honneur. There will be breaks every hour or so. For this you will go out into the corridoor/veranda outside and can smoke.
2100: Apel du soir. This will be carried out by the Sergent. If he is happy with the rooms and the turnout he will say Bonne Nuit (Good night) which everyone shouts back in unison - Bonne nuit Sergent! You can then get to bed.
Qaurtier Libre - Time off down the town.
At some time before the Section departs for a weeks training in the Pyrenees there will be guartier Libre (Time off down the town) - Assuming that is if the Section has performed reasonably well up till then. For this you will be allowed four hours out down in the town of Castelnaudary and you will be given about F200 francs to spend. The Section is transported in Tenue De Sortie (uniform for going out in) by camion (Lorry) to the old Quartier - Quartier Lepasset, again in Castelnaudary where basic training used to take place. You are on your own whilst out in the town, but there are Police Militaire (PM's) everywhere and the rules are strict. Nobody is to eat in public, drink or be loud. Most Legionnaires go to a bar and get drunk and then try their best to act sober. Most of them do a pretty good job and the training team does not really mind so long as the Legionnaires behave themselves. This is prime time to get ahead. Spend the first two hours sorting out your admin - i.e. getting anything you need and making phone calls. (A paintbrush is worth buying. It can be used for weapon cleaning and is invaluable as a cleaning tool for the likes of the magazines and the bayonet. (There is a brush in the weapon cleaning kit but the bristles are too thick). A bottle of iodine is also worth getting, for sterilizing infections or blisters). Most of the things that you need on a day to day basis are available in the Foyer back at the Quartier, but there is always
something you might need and it may be some time before you're allowed out again. This will also be your first opportunity to make a phone call. The number to get out of France is 0044 followed by your area code minus the first zero. For example, if the tel. no in England were 0171 123456 the whole number from France would be dialled as follows: 0044 171 123456. Trying to get help or advice from the French directory enquiries can give you a major Mal a la tete (headache) so try and get a francophone to help you if you have problems. If you want them to ring you back they must dial 0033 to get out of England, followed by the digit "4" for Castelnaudary and then the eight figure digit marked on the telephone in the kiosk. You may also find that because there are forty Legionnaires all trying to get a telephone, there are queues outside every phone kiosk. Try going to a hotel - if the people you are ringing want to ring back, it will be easier for them to get the number from international enquiries if they have any problems.
Lager is served in half pints in France and is referred to as "Demi " or "Pression ". It is also quite expensive in France and especially so in the nightclubs where the equivalent of a full pint would cost you F100. Nightclubs however, will come later on in your career. The Camion will meet you at a pre-arranged RV (Normally the old Legion quartier in the town of Castelnaudary) to take you back to the Quartier. You are left to your own devices for the next few hours and it is not unknown for the Legion to allow you to sleep it off on arrival back at the guartier afterwards. Anybody fighting, getting rowdy or mouthing off goes straight into the slammer for ten days. If there has not been too much trouble on the first trip then a second trip may be allowed about a month or two later. There is also a town called Carcassonne not very far away from Castelnaudary which is the home town of the
French Paras. The Legion is reluctant to allow engages there due to the trouble that normally ensues.
When you arrive at your regiment you are allowed to leave the Quartier in the evening aAer work and stay out until six o'clock the next morning assuming that everything is in order and ready for the next day. You will pass before the Bureau Compagnie who will inspect you. Then you must present yourself before the Chef de Post at the main gate - who will decide whether or not to let you out or not. Quartier Libre on a Regiment refers to a thirty six hour period over the week end. Not every weekend is Quartier libre allocated. The same routine applies when it is granted however.
Shortly after having been on guartier Libre, there will be a trip into the Pyrenees - a small village called Camurac. An idyllic farmhouse setting in beautiful countryside where you will be continuing your training but in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. There will be the usual Petit footing (Running) at some time of the day but most of your time will be spent marching in the Pyrenees. It may be tactical or non-tactical, depending on the training team. There will be an introduction to climbing and abseiling at some stage during the week's stay. At least a few evenings will be spent in the mountains drinking wine around the camp fire singing Legion songs. (The fires that the Legion make are not small bonfires - but more like mini Guy Fawkes nights). It is a slightly more relaxing time than usual - but as always assume nothing.
On arrival back at Castelnaudary it will be back to business as usual and this, if it hasn't happened already, could well take the form of the La Piste De Cornbat (The assault course). This pleasure is experienced about once a month and is located about five kilometres up the road from Castel. It must be said that this is one of the hardest assault courses in the world and in total, makes up a length of about five hundred metres; an internal circuit followed by an external circuit. All the obstacles have a certain amount of technique required and they will all be shown to you by the training team. Although no equipment is worn it is very, very knackering, but it is good.
Now that the greater half of your training is completed there is now a large proportion of training which comprises of Guarde and Corvet around the Quartier. This is, in a way - a sort of training for what to expect at your Regiment. Every day, or for at least a few days of each week, some or all of the Section will be involved in such tasks as corvet mess officiers (Working in the Officers mess), corvet mess sous-officiers Working in the Sergents and above mess), Le Garde (Guard duty on the main gate) Corvet refectoire (Working in the Legionnaires mess) or Corvet Foyer ( working in the Foyer). None of these jobs are particularly hard, but it will certainly teach anybody who doesn't already know what a good days work is all about. You will work long hard days - and that is life in the French Foreign Legion. If you are working in the refectoire, mess ogiciers or mess sous-officiers you will have the bonus of extra food during the day. All this will be done when you arrive at your regiment as there is always a Compagnie de Corvet responsible for the chores and the guard to be done around the Quartier. Each company takes it in turn to carry out these tasks.
Le Garde - The Guard Duty.
The one task that does require intensive preparation is Le Garde - this is a privileged position of responsibility. Although under the direction of the Sergent and the Caporal du Jour, you are the front line in the Quartier's defence. You will be armed with FAMAS and have live rounds in the magazine. For the Guarde there will be six Legionnaires, a Caporal and a Sergent. There will also be a "Clairon" (a buglar) allocated to your Groupe. The guard takes place from six in the morning until six o'clock the following morning. The preparation is just as important as doing the Guard duty itself. The weather can vary enormously throughout the year but in the summertime temperatures can reach up to a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The Tenue de Garde is worn, which in summertime means fifteen creases in the shirt. If it is wintertime then the brown jacket and trousers are worn. This is easier to iron and there is not the heat to contend with. Whatever uniform is worn, the Epaulettes de Tradition are also worn on the shoulders. The FAMAS (Personal weapons) are drawn early in the morning and wiped thoroughly to remove any excess oil. Even the slightest mark will stain the summer shirt badly. Make sure you have a hanky with you. There is normally an assistant attached to each group of six to assist in tucking up the trousers under the elastics to make a neat finish and to fetch and carry. They are basically there to perform any other tasks necessary to ensure a smooth operation of the Garde. Although the Legion does not normally bother too much about bullshit and ironing of the normal working uniform - in this area of turnout they really do excell themselves. The boots are still not bulled
however, but the ironing must be spot on. It is also here that you will wear the "Centurion Bleu" - the wide blue band that is worn underneath the combat belt. Because the blue band is so long (about six feet) it requires two people to put it on, one holds it out straight and the other holds the start of the band to his side and turns his body until it is wrapped tightly around his waist. The blue sash must end with the tail at the front of the body in the centre, folding itself over to form a neat finish. The normal working day belt (Le centurion) is the positioned over the top. This item is again worn whether it is winter or summer. All the idiocyncrocies of getting it right are also the responsibilty of the Caporal and the Sergent in charge. (The Sergent is referred to as the "Chef De Poste" on this day). If there is one man whose turnout is a mess, then it is not only he who will go to jail but also the Caporal and the Sergent, since the culprit is their overall responsibility.
The duty starts at 6am when you replace the previous night's guard from another Section. This is in itself is a ceremonial procedure. It will only take about ten minutes to do, but in this time the Chef Du Corps will have had brief words with everyone taking up the new shift. He nearly always has a friendly disposition and is a likeable character. He will ask you questions like, What did you do before the Legion? Are you enjoying the Legion? What did you do in training this week? and Are you in good spirits? These questions obviously are all asked in French but he is not un-used to encountering communication problems. By the time you are doing a stint of guard in the Legion you will probably have no problems in understanding and answering any of these questions in French. Once the Chef Du Corps has had his say, the Garde commences, two men on duty at a time. The shift works on a two hours on, four hours off basis. But the four hours off is not totally relaxed since it is forbidden to
sit down (In case it creases the trousers), coffee may be drunk but woe betide the man who spills it on his uniform. There are usually magazines to read in the guard room. The Sergent may let you sit on two stools one on top of another with a blanket on top. (To lessen the chances of creases appearing on the trousers). The meals are brought to you by the current prisoners, who will also take away your dirty plates etc. For the two that are on guard it is a long two hours. One of the two guards has a FAMOUS slung across the front of the chest in the traditional manner. Although it is not a particularly heavy weapon it does become that way after two hours standing motionless. The only movement permitted by him is to come to the "Gardez-vous" and to "Presente arme" when a Sergent or senior rank passes or drives through the gates of the camp. The man facing him and who operates the barrier does not have a weapon, and has the luxury of being able to move slightly more often.
During the shift you are not allowed to wear a watch and there are no clocks in view. For two hours you are not permitted to move a muscle. You are on show for the French Foreign Legion and must show absloute discipline. The time passes hideously slowly. The ability to judge the two hours does come after a fashion, but there are times when you're out there and you're certain without a shadow of a doubt that your relief is late. They never are. The other duties of the Guard are to raise and lower the flag on the Place D'arrne in time with the Clairon. This happens at the beginning and at the end of each day. The flag must be lowered in exact time with the Clairon's tune. The lowering starts when the tune starts and should end when the tune ends. There are numerous threats on route to the flagpole by the Sergent to shoot you if you mis-time the procedure - but it rarely happens.
As evening approaches you are allowed back to the block to get changed into Tenue de Combat (Normal working green uniform). This is worn from 2000Hrs onwards and comes as a great relief for everyone. From hereon you patrol the area in front of the gates with a riot baton in hand. Check peoples ID cards as they come in and get the Chef de Poste out of the guard room if there are any problems.
In the morning the guard goes through the same ceremonial changeover with the next shift and you return to your Section. There is no time off for working through the night - you go straight into the next day. It is the Section's responsibility to collect your petit dejeuner.
Whilst you have been doing the guard duty there will have been another Groupe that will have been acting as a "Force d'Intervention Rapide" to react to any potential threat to the Quartier. They however have a much cushier time and apart from a practice run for a call-out they spend most of their time resting, watching TV or reading. Their shift starts at the same time as yours but they will wear Tenue de Combat at all times.
La Legion c'est Dur - Mais Gamelle c'est sur( - The Legion is hard - but food is for sure I
The quality of food in the Legion varies considerably from Quartier to Quartier (camp to camp). In some, the food is of an exceptionally high standard, probably as good as you would eat in many a restaurant. In other camps the
food is of a much lower standard. If you have any ideas of eating anything really disgusting - don't worry, none of it is that bad. What the different camps do have in common is the fact that there is rarely enough to eat; leaving the Refectoir feeling really full is a rare experience. At Castelnaudary the food is of the highest standard I have ever seen on a military camp anywhere in the world - but again there was not enough to feel completely full. Most people would probably agree that they would rather leave the refectoir having enjoyed the meal and slightly hungry than full to the brim of some sludge that the duty cook has thrown together in a pot out the back. Food is after all, a morale booster and you will always look forward to in the Legion.
The feeling of hunger however is one you will become accustomed to during basic training. It is, if you like; a feeling which goes hand in hand with being an Engage volontaire.
It is worth remembering that when in the field and rations are issued, it is vital that you eat the food hot. The difference between eating hot and cold food can mean the difference between passing and failing a march or run. Likewise, chocolate and cakes will not give you the stamina and energy that a full meal in the refectoir will. Do not therefore pack your Sac a Dos with Mars bars thinking that this will carry you through Raid Marche. There really is enough food supplied by the refectoir and the ration packs during your training to get you through, but when you join your Regiment and you are able to miss a meal and slope off to the Foyer, remember that proper hot food will serve your body better.
Before making ready for Le Raid there will be a few days spent at one of the French army camps towards the centre of France. Here you will undergo training in the firing of a variety of APILAS (Armour Piercing Infantry Light Armour Systems) and various small arms. The weapons fired include the RAC112, the LRAC89, the FAMAS rifle grenade and the two inch mortar. There will of course be various shoots done using your personal weapon - the FAMAS, one of which will be a night shoot. There will also be an introduction to explosives as well - how to put together a charge and each Legionnaire will experience firing a small charge in a controlled environment. You may also be given the chance to throw a grenade, of which there are two types - Offensive and Defensive. The Defensive grenade is the more powerful of the two. The trip will last about five days and you will be staying in French army accommodation. There will of course be Le petit footing done in the morning or when time permits during the stay.
In the lead up to Raid Marche there will be further lectures on the differences between the Regiments and what to expect in the line of Regimental roles and the lifestyle to be expected after basic training. As regards the system for allocating which recruits go where, it works on the basis that those that perform to the highest standard during L 'Instruction are given the first choice as to which Regiment want to serve in. If anybody is deemed to be good enough they may be offered a position as Caporal Fut Fut. (To achieve this - a reasonable command of the French language is important).
Le Raid - Raid March.
The final week of basic training is when Le Raid takes place and the Section will be taken up into the mountains and dropped off at Perpignan near the coast to start their long march back to Quartier Capitaine Danjou. The Section marches about 150 kms in three days and culminates in a series of tests which will certify you as fully trained legionnaires. This final test is known as the CTE/00. The test will examine your ability at voice procedure on the radio (Le PPll), first aid, fieldcraft and personal weapon handling. The march is tactical and apart from crossing open areas of ground in a tactical manner, hard targeting (Moving quickly) and pepper potting (One covers - one moves), you can expect to be ambushed at any time. You will pass through villages and small holdings in the country which must likewise be approached and negotiated as if in combat. The Caporaux and Sergents will map read during the week. Evenings however will take a non-tactical line and there will be the customary wine drinking and singing of Legion songs in front of a camp fire.
The route is very hilly to start with but as the Section nears Castelnaudary it begins to level out more. This will be the longest march that you will have done in the Legion. If you are hoping to go to the 2REP (Regiment Etranger Parachutistes) then this will be taste of things to come. (it is tradition in this Regiment to march across the island of Corsica, where they are based once every year - a distance of over two hundred kilometres). By the time that you do Le Raid your feet will be well used to marching and the boots will be well worn in. The night before the Section is due to re-enter the Quartier the Capitaine Compagnie will join you and there will be
plenty to eat and drink. The following day the Section continues the remainder of the march straight back in through the camp gates, where you will be looked upon by any other passing Sections with envy and respect. This is the point at which most Legionnaires believe that the Kepi Blanc should be issued - when the job is done.
However hard you might have found the march, the lack of sleep, the sudden ambushes - there is still more work to be done before you can relax. It is a tradition of the Foreign Legion to prepare the equipment for return to the stores immediately on return to the guartier after the final march. Since this is the end of your basic training, ALL the equipment must be immaculate. Tables are brought outside into the morning sun, all the Section weapons are cleaned to the extent that there is no trace of oil, grease or dirt anywhere. You may well be using pure alcohol to remove all such traces. Likewise the Le Brouillage (The webbing) is scrubbed, scrubbed and scrubbed again. The Section will be cleaning, scrubbing and polishing for the following twenty four hours non-stop after arriving back at the Quartier. Your feet will be blistered and bleeding - you will be so tired that you are delirious. Only once the work has been done can you start to relax. This is undoubtedly the hardest part of L 'Instruction, and you will by now be looking forward to your first posting more than ever.
There are always foot and body inspections after every march or excercise in the Legion. If it is just a matter of minor blisters or ailments then one of the Caporals in the training team will see to you. Anything more serious and you will become a subject for the Infirmiers who are undergoing their training at Castelnaudary to deal with. Castelnaudary is also where the "Infirmiers" (Medics) undertake their training and who better to practice their new found art on than a Section of EV's.
Within a few days Chef De Corps will have you all assembled on La Place O'Arme for a final talk before sending you back to Aubagne for Regiment selection. As mentioned previously - the priority of choice goes to those that worked and performed best during basic training. It will also depend on whether or not there are the spaces available at the Regiment that have been requested. The most popular choices are the 2eme REP, 13 DBLE Djbouti and the 3eme REI in French Guyana. (See section on Regiment postings). There is various paperwork to be done at Aubagne, and it is here that anyone wishing to leave the Legion has the right to do so. (They can give notice that they wish to leave but cannot actually get out of the Legion until the end of the sixth month. Any remaining time waiting for the leaving date would be spent carrying our menial tasks around the Quartier)
Passing French Foreign Legion training is within the capability of most men in a reasonably fit condition - (in mind and in body). Physical training in the Foreign Legion is taken at a gradual pace and, like basic training in many armies, will be governed somewhat by the overall ability of the Section under instruction. The hardest part of training that you will experience, from the physical side of things will be the Piste de Combat and Le Raid. From a mental point of view, the Legion does apply considerable pressure on recruits. Whatever your expectations are when you walk through the gates of the Foreign Legion for the first time - you can be guaranteed that it will not be what you expect. Things will be sometimes done in a way which seems illogical and
unnecessary. If you can accept that it is being for a reason, then you will not have a problem. In order to instill military discipline into a batch of raw recruits from a wide variety of cultures - it is necessary that they learn not to question authority, but to obey it - no matter what they might think of the concept or method. It is unlikely that you will find the physical side of things your greatest obstacle in becoming a "Bon Legionnaire ".
Yes, the Legion can be a violent place, but as time goes by, the Legion is finding itself coming more and more into line with the French army and with it, French military law. The cases of violence subjected on recruits are nothing like they were even ten or fifteen years ago. The worst brutality you will hear about will probably be on your ears at the Selection centre where you will be bombarded with "War stories" by other Legionnaires or "engages volontaires" (Raw recruits) in the Aubagne sick bay. Don't listen to stories; most of it is rubbish. Sometimes a guy will get a beating, but he will probably have deserved it. It may not be by an instructor, it could well be by one of the other Legionnaires in the Section.
Standard corporal punishment consists of a "Stick" - which is the palm of the hand (normally fairly large) smacked against the back of your shaven head with as much force as possible. This example however, is a sort of controlled brutality if you like and is dished out as a formal punishment (Not really in a sinister way either). It is not as if the recipient is being beaten to a pulp through uncontrollable rage. A "Stick" will sometimes makes you feel momentarily dizzy but rarely does it knock you out. It just stings a bit. The other punishment which is ritually
dished out in a formal manner is the "Marche (en) Canard". For this the individual or group responsible for their crime will march a distance in the squatting position, with or without equipment with their hands on top of their heads. It is a little uncomfortable but that is all. The people who receive most of the physical abuse in basic training are the Eastern block engages - a large proportion of whom have joined ultimately for a passport, good food and a wage. Since the Berlin wall came down the Legion has been inundated with Eastern block recruits. Most of them are quite open and honest about why they are there. For this, they tend to get more stick at Castelnaudary.
Sooner or later there will come a time in the Legion when you must stand up for yourself. If you are weak - then you will be walked over. The Legion is a tough army and you must abide by it's unwritten rules. Respect is earned, not only as a soldier, but also as an individual - as in all walks of life.
Le Contrat - The Contract.
The contract in the Legion is commonly thought to be for a fixed five years. In actual fact there is a probationary six month period. If the Legion decides that you are not suitable to be a Legionnaire then they will discharge you. Likewise, you too have a choice, but not until the end of the six month period. If at the end of the six months you no longer wish to be in the Legion you have the option to leave. At the end of the six months the Legion has the option, if it so desires - to add a further six month probationary period to the contract. This will only be done
if they consider you are still not quite up to the grade in all areas. (This is almost unheard of however). Anybody who is deemed unfit to be a Legionnaire is normally extracted before the end of the three weeks selection, and if not then - during the four months at Castelnaudary. Bear in mind that after three weeks at Aubagne and a further four months at Castelnaudary you will then have one month to go before signing the final binding contract. It is the case however that after basic training everybody is sent back to Aubagne before departing for their respective Regiments. Here you are asked which Regiment you would like to join and it is also here that you have the option to leave the Legion. But not for another five weeks or so. If you decide to get out, then there will be five weeks of menial tasks and corvet found for you to do around the guartier.
When it comes to signing your contract you will not have the paper work in front of you translated. You will be told that the contract is for five years and given the paper to sign. There is little time for questions and answers and neither will it be written in your mother tongue. You do however have the option to leave at any time during your first three weeks at Aubagne without obligation. The Legion will normally donate F500 towards any travel expenses to get you home. (Same amount applies for whichever country you have come from). Below is a translated example of what will be presented before you when you sign at the end of the three weeks selection period:
ACT OF ENGAGEMENT in the name of (1) JONES David as a foreigner in the Foreign Legion
In the year nineteen hundred and ninety five, the eighteenth of May at 1000Hrs, presenting himself before us was(2):
Mr JONES David aged: 23 years professional in the trade of: carpentry living in Bath District of Avon in the Country(3) Great Britain. Son of(4) Steven and of(4) Jane nee Smith living in Leeds .
Hair: Chestnut brown Eyes: Brown Eyebrows: Heavy j oined Chin:Divided Nose:Concave Teeth: CM90% Face: Oval Additional Features: Scar r. arm, L. leg Height: 1m 94 Weight: 91Kgs Any additonal marks: Tattoo r.upper arm,
who has declared his wish to serve as a foreigner in the Foreign Legion, and to this effect has presented us with:
l. A certificate dated on this day 18.05. 95 by(5) the French Army Doctor BUCHENNET, Doctor in charge of the 1 ere RE, Aubange.
and certifies that the applicant suffers no disablity and has reached all the physical and height requirements for service in the Foreign Legion.
2.His birth certificate and proof of identity(3) certifying that he was born on 19.08.72 in London (GREAT BRITAIN) and is of British Nationality.
3.Authorization has been recieved from his legal representative(6).
4. (7) After having verified the documents presented before us, he has read articles (8) 6,7 and 13 on Decree No. 77-789 as on 1st July 1977 relating to foreign military personnel.
The applicant has been informed that:
1.His services are effective as of the date of his signing this present contract.
2. The present contract carries a probationary period of six months eventually renewable one time (une fois) by the military authorities. The probationary period takes effect from the date of signature on this present contract.
THIS CONTRACT DOES NOT BECOME DEFINITIVE UNTIL THE END OF THE PROBATIONARY PERIOD.
3.During the initial probationary period the contract can be terminated:
3.1 Either at the request of the recruit as agreed by the military authorities for reasons of a personal or social nature or as a result of serious difficulties in adapting to the Foreign Legion during the first four months of service. In this case the final decision must have been notified by
the military authorities before the end of the probationary period.
Or at any time, by the military authorities because of: - a pre-existing condition prior to engagement. - an inability to adjust to work which the the job entails or to serve in the ranks of the Foreign Legion. - an inability to adjust to a military way of life.
4. During the renewed probationary period this contract can be terminated by the military authorities for reasons of unsuitability for work or any inability to adjust to a military way of life.
5. At any time during the service the contract can be terminated according to the conditions laid down in article 32 of FLM no. 2500/DEF/PMAT/EG/B as modified on 4 July 1978 - notably: - on the request of the recruit for reasons of a justifiable and urgent nature, the details of which have occured since the date on which the contract was signed:
- by reason of physical inability, by the military authorities regarding insufficient professionalism or as a disciplinary measure.
- Considering these details the candidate has agreed to serve with honour and faithfulness for a period of five years as of this day and undertakes in the course of this contract not to take advantage of French services or qualifications previously held.
The recruit has promised equally to serve within the ranks of the Foreign Legion wherever the government might
deem it necessary to send him, and after having read the present act has enjoined his signature;
Recruit's signature. Signature of the administration Officer
of the French
Army or the Deputy Admininstrator.
Probationary period renewable on for a period of six months starting from the date of confirmation as decided by the the Commanding Officer of the Foreign Legion.
Contract: annuled - terminated - cancelled(3) - as decided
by(9) on 19 Contract became effective on 19 (3)
Chief Administration Officer for the French Army or the Deputy Administrator.
(1) Name and surname of recruit. (2) Name of the commissioner of army ground forces or his acting local representative. (3) Delete as appropriate. (4) Once the details are known.
(5) Name, rank and position of the officer signing the contract. (6) If the recruit id less than 18 years old. (7) If the recruit is French and is not yet satisfied of his legal obligations, the ministry authorise engagement under a changed name. (8) If the recruit does not speak French, he will be given a reading in his language on the clauses in this act. (9) Indicate the reason.
If you feel that the French Foreign Legion way of life is for you, further contracts can be signed with the Legion after the initial five years. These can be for either six months, one year, eighteen months, two years, three years, four years or five years. Whether or not the Legion accepts you for further service is dependant on your conduct during the previous years.
La Vie En Tolle - Life in Jail.
As a Legionnaire it is unlikely that you will experience a stretch jail during your basic training. Once you have been posted to your respective regiments however, you will find that it does not take any great crime against humanity to be sentenced to ten days in jail (The statutory period for minor offences is a ten day period). Offences
which might earn you a ten day spell in the slammer might be arriving late on camp after a night on the town, failing to top up the electrolyte in the vehicle batteries, being badly turned out for guard duty. For more serious misdeeds, the period of time becomes longer, up to a maximum period of forty days. Desertion carries the maximum Legion penalty of forty days but if the crime were really serious, then you would do the forty days followed by a period in a French civilian jail. This could be many years - if the crime were serious enough.
Initially you would be paraded in front of the Chef Du Corps, who will be examining your case. It is up to him to decide whether or not your are to go to jail. He may decide that a period of "Consignes" is more appropriate in the case. (A period of time, normally between three and ten days, when extra corvet duties are allocated during your spare time and you are restricted to the Quartier - apart from that you would work a normal day like the rest of the section. This might be awarded for having dirt on your weapon during an inspection, generally speaking more menial offences). If the Chef Du Corps decides that you are going to jail then all of your kit issued, and and all of your personal kit is listed, item by item and put away ready for your release. During the period in jail, you will wear overalls and a dayglow orange waistcoat, and a forage cap. This identifies you as a prisoner to everyone on and around the Quartier. The laces from your boots will be removed. (To prevent you from injuring yourself) Every morning there will be some form of physical training done - to the tune of a five kilometre run with Sac a Dos around the quartier. The rest of the day will be doing corvette or painting curb stones, gardening around the quartier, sweeping leaves and waiting on the Legionnaires that are doing the guard duty.
It is tradition in the Legion that your medals are pinned to the door of your cell. Whatever medals you have been awarded during your years of service in the Legion - they must also have been awarded to the inspecting officer. For example, if the medal is of a some valour; such as the Legion D'Honneur - then the inspecting officer must also hold that medal - even if it means coming from another Quartier.
In days gone by the Legion jail was the last hell on earth. Legionnaires would break rocks in a quarry all day - or march through the jungle for one year solid in a straight line cutting and thrashing their way through dense jungle, always under the direction of the Gardes de Tolle. They would sleep on concrete slabs with no roof over their heads. Even ten years ago it was a brutal place to be. Prisoners would be beaten on a regular basis and lived in fear of the Garde de tolle. Today it is still not a fun place to be. The days start at 5.00 am and end at 8.00pm and they are long and hard. Prisoners are not allowed to smoke, work like dogs and are kept on tenterhooks until the day of their release.
Cumerone - Camerone Day.
On the 30 April every year the Legion celebrates Camerone Day. It was on this day in 1863 that the Legion's show of bravery was marked down in history forever. Battle weary and with their numbers being cut down until there were only ten men left, no ammunition and in a foreign country, a handful of Legionnaires
refused surrender against odds of nearly two thousand marauding Mexicans. The Capitaine Danjou had made them promise not to surrender, shortly before dying himself. The men were slowly being killed one by one until there were only three Legionnaires left. They faced the enemy with bayonets and prepared themselves to die with honour. The Mexicans did not kill them but persuaded a surrender under the Legionnaires terms.
It is as a result of this bravery that the 30th April is celebrated with such enthusiasm every year. Camerone is as important as Le Noel - if not more so. It matters not, wherever the Legion is in the world - the 30 of April is always celebrated. The preparation for the festivities begins months in advance. Stands are built, games are devised, marquees errected. The day is not just for Legionnaires but also for a select number of family and friends of the Legion. It is the one day of the year that the Legion opens its doors to outsiders. Only the very leanest and meanest looking Legionnaires will have the honour of being on guard on this day. Their uniforms being prepared with even more care and attention than usual.
The day begins with the roles reversed in every section of the Quartier. Le Legionnaire le plus jeune (The most recent legionnaire to join the section) becomes the Caporal du Jour for the day. It is he who allocates the corvette duties, and marches the section onto La Place D 'Arrne. And it is the Sous officiers and the Officiers who do the corvet. They will clean the toilets, the showers, the corridors - every job normally allocated to the Legionnaires. The day will initially start with the Sous o/iciers bringing the Petit dejeuner to the Legionnaires in their rooms. They will serve the Legionnaires their cafe and bring them their croissants (pastries). After which they will start the corvette as directed by the Caporal du jour. The tradition
is warmly welcomed by the Legionnaires and no-one is offended. Each Regiment may run the day differently according to the wishes of the respective Chef Du Corps. It may start with a run, ending with whiskey and black pudding and Legion songs. On returning to the Quartier there is a parade by the Legionnaires in full Tenue de Parade, followed by the festivities which have been so carefully prepared. Much wine is drunk and food consumed. It is a relaxed day and enjoyed by all. At Aubagne the Legion's Anciens (Former members) come to relive their past and to pay hommage to their family. On this day every year the wooden hand of Capitaine Danjou is on display, paraded before the Legion and its guests. This act epitomizes the spirit of the French Foreign Legion.
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in jail towards the end of April - you could be in for a reprieve. It is tradition in the Legion that if less than ten days are remaining on your sentence on Camerone Day, then you are released as a form of amnesty in remembrance of all the Legionnaires who died at Camerone in Mexico.
There are many rules that apply in the Legion which have been carried on from tradition. Below are listed but a few:
1. As a Legionnaire you are not allowed to leave the "Quartier" in civilian clothing except when going on "Permission".
2. Marriage is only permitted when the rank of Sergent is achieved.
3. Legionnaires are not permitted to live off camp. (Although some do). They go home in the evening and return by 6.00am. It is normally the Caporaux who do this since Legionnaires generally don't earn enough money, especially in France.
4. You are not allowed to own a car or a motorbike. You may own a push bike if you join the Legion Cycle club. If you do this you may only exit the camp wearing the correct Legion cycle wear. These rules do not apply to Caporaux chefs, Sergents or above.
5. You are not allowed to own a bank account or to borrow money off others.
6. Legionnaires should be addressed by their Surnames not their Christian names.
7. If allowed out for the evening - you must be back by 6.00am the following morning. If you are late; the punishment is a statutory 10 days in jail.
8. During the first 3 years you are not allowed to leave the country during permission. (Legionnaires do however go abroad using only their "Carte O'Identite" (ID card) and their "Titres de Permission" (Leave papers). An extra rule applies to the "Deuxieme REP" (2nd REP) at Corsica: they are not allowed to leave the island for the first year of their first tour at Calvi where they are based - tradition.
The Regiment Postings in the Legion. There are eight Regiments in the French Foreign Legion plus half a brigade based in Djbouti, Africa. On top of this there are other detachments situated around the world. At present the Legion strength amounts to approximately ten thousand men.
1 er REC. (Regiment Etranger de Cavalerie) ORANGE - France.
This is situated next to a beautiful town in S. Eastern France. It is a Regt for those who like a slightly easier life. Their role is to service and maintain the tanks - the AMX 10's. They were used extensively during the Gulf war and proved extremely reliable. Operating in three man teams, a less stressful life is to be had in this Regiment. There is a more relaxed atmosphere here plus there is the advantage of actually being able to see a bit of France - which for some people never happens in the whole contract due to the hectic schedule of their regiment. The 1 REC forms part of France's Force d'Action Rapide along with the 2 REI and the 6 REG.
4 erne Regiment . (Regiment D'Instruction) CASTELNAUDARY. Nr Toulouse - France.
This is where you will carry out your basic training. A small town situated close to Toulouse. Not that you would see a lot of it during your first stay here. A railway track runs through the centre of the town and that is where you will arrive before being picked up by a coach to take you to the guartier. There are two quartiers in Castelnaudary - the new Quartier was built around 1985 and is very plush. The old camp in Castelnaudary (Quartier Lepasset) is where many of the Legion courses take place.
The Caporaux courses (CT1), the Sergents courses (CT2) etc. At Quartier Capitaine Danjou there are three companies of E.V's and one company for trained ranks who are undertaking courses in the technical trades, mechanical trades and signals. It should be noted that the medics who do their training here will be practicing their new found skills on you, should you become injured. (Not advisable). The camp is one of the most modernised of all the Legion quartiers and is an impressive set-up. It is also situated near a town called Carcassonne, home of the French Paras where there is sometimes a ban on visitation due to the trouble that has ensued between the Legionnaires and the Paras over years. The food at Castelnaudary is of a very high standard.
lere Regiment. (Regiment De Selection et d'administration) AUBAGNE. Nr Marseilles.
This is the Mother Regiment of the Legion. You will start your time in the Legion here and you will end it here. This regiment deals predominantly with administration and support as well as personnel movements and maintaining all aspects of the Legion's contact with the outside world. It is also the home of the Legion Band and the museum. The Quartier (guartier Vienot) is close to Marseilles so there is a fair bit to see and do if you have the time. A large proportion of the community in Marseille are Arabs who have immigrated from Tunisia, N.Africa. Again the same sort of pay as Castelnaudary but unlikely that this would be a first posting for a "non Francophone." (Someone who does not speak French). On entering the Legion the Band is always keen to recruit new blood especially anyone with a musical background - so if you have played a musical instrument but don't want to be in the band keep quiet about your past.
2 eme REP. (Regiment Etranger des Parachutists) CALVI - Corsica
This is the most prestigious and most professional of all the Regiments. The only Regt in the Legion to have an Airborne capability. It is here that you will also find "Les Groupe de Commandos Paracutistes (Formerly Les C.R.A.P 's - Commandos de Recherche et D 'Action dans la Profondeur) - This is the creme de la creme of the Legion - A sort of recce troop specialising in a wide range of special forces ops. They have a reputation for being the best in the Legion. The REP is made up to a large extent of Brits and Germans. With this built in cultural discipline there is firm ground for quality soldiering to be built upon. For their professionalism and their parachuting capability they are paid one of the highest salaries in the Legion - around about E650 per month for a Legionnaire deuxieme classe. (Everything is however very expensive on Corsica). There are frequent fracas with the locals and plenty of good looking German and Italian talent on the beaches in the summertime. This is also the Regiment most renowned for bullshit. In the 2eme REP there are three "Apels" per day. First thing in the morning, after lunch and at 9.00pm in the evening. The island is however a very beautiful one and if you're into physical training then maybe this is the Regiment for you. Along with the relatively high pay, the prestige and the emphasis on sport - this is a popular choice for Legionnaires leaving Castelnaudary. The uniform sports the Deurieme REP cap badge (The winged dagger) and the Fourragere (Lanyard) is red. This all adds to the attraction of the 2eme REP. The contract will last probably 2 yrs before being posted, but many opt to stay longer. This particular Regt is frequently away on detachments; normally for four months at a time. Places
such as Djibouti, Central Africa. French Guyana S.America. Promotion is slow and courses are harder since the competition is tougher. If you are out to be the best then the 2eme REP has a lot to offer. On arriving at Camp Rafalli in Corsica - the initial four months or so are spent on further training and doing the "Jumps course" - until you have completed this you cannot be effected to a fighting company and are consequently not regarded as a trained rank. Indeed you will probably feel exactly the same as if you were still under instruction. Further fieldcraft training and combat experience will be gained during your first year. Only after then can you consider yourself to have taken your place properly in the 2 REP. Once in "The REP" there is much emphasis on physical training and there are plenty of clubs on camp, Kick boxing, Cycling, Clay pigeon shooting etc etc. It is tradition in this regiment to be confined to the island for the first year of the first posting there. It is also tradition for the whole regiment to march across the island from one side to the other once a year - a distance of about 200kms (Very hilly, barren and rugged country).
3 REI. (Regiment Etranger D'Infanterie). F. GUYANE - S.America
This Regiment is either loved or hated. Based in Kourou, French Guyana, it is a unique world of action and adventure. The pay is not the greatest in the world but there are plenty of stories to be told after a two year tour here. A lot of the Legion's work here is run from boats hollowed out of trees known as "pirogues", as are used by the natives of the country. The role of the Legion in this area is to protect the rocket sight "Ariane", to man the surveillance posts between Brazil and Surinam and to ensure the safety of the regional headquarters at Martinique. There has been a war going on in nearby
Suriname for some years and every now and again a body is seen floating down the river as a result of mercenary operations that go on. French Guyana consists of hundreds of square miles of tropical jungle and is extremely hot and humid. You are permanently wet and fungal infections are rife. The jungle is full of natural dangers and whether it is animal or vegetable it will either bite you or sting you. The constant noise of birdsong can also drive you to insanity. The hardest part of jungle training is often considered to be the assault course which has to be one of the toughest in the world. Pay for this Regiment is about F4500 per month. The beer is cheap and there was, until recently a brothel run by the Legion on camp (this was the last Regiment to run its own brothel). Their were four local girls who were changed once every couple of months.
13 DBLE (13eme Demi-Brigade de la Legion Etrangere) DJBOUTI - NE Africa.
This unit is re-inforced by a rotating company of the 2eme REP or the 2eme REI. It's duties are to guarantee the defence, territorial integrity and independence of the Republic of Djbouti. Geographically the 13 DBLE is situated in a very strategic position - It has instant access to the Indian ocean and is close enough to facilitate control of the Red Sea and the Suez canal. As a Legionnaire posted in Djbouti you can expect to be on bush tours and nomadisation exercises as well as amphibious training. Soldiering in Djbouti can be tense and tribal friction is commonplace. There are constant patrols along the northern frontier of the Ethiopean and Eritrean borders. Normally Legionnaires are posted to Quartier Gabode after several years of service. This is the only regiment
where there is a lot of money to be made. Not only do you earn a lot more money here but you have little to spend it on, everything is cheap in this part of the world and you have no Permission during your time in Djbouti. (You do have a big back-log of permission after the tour though - so you can end up with several thousand pounds in cash plus three months leave after a two year stint in Djbouti - even as a Legionnaire.) On top of that every legionnaire recieves a bounty of twenty thousand Francs at the end of his tour. A Sergent can be putting away many thousands of Francs away each week whilst in Djbouti. On completion of his two years posting he will have accrued a lot of money. There are normally about one or two places allowed per Section after basic training - if you are good enough in basic training, you could be sent here directly aAer Castelnaudary. Prostitution is rife in the towns and the beer is cheap. In fact everything is cheap and anything can be bought. Life is a little more relaxed in Djbouti since there are very few that are fresh out of training. Since the area is of Muslim faith the Legion also pays heed to the local traditions and work is done on Saturday and Sunday whilst Thursday and Friday takes the form of a weekend. Every legionnaire who serves in Djbouti recieves a bounty of twenty thousand Francs on completion of the tour of duty.
5 RE (5eme Regiment Etranger) Mururoa - Tahiti, S.Pacific.
This is where the Legion are responsible for overseeing the nuclear testing grounds and for representing France in the furthest corner of French Polynesia. It is a very small detachment made up of the Legionnaires of some experience. The money is not particularly great and there are long journeys at sea as well as isolation and little to occupy yourselves. They concern themselves mainly with building and road construction, security of the test site,
maintaining a clean water supply and good communications link.
DLEM (Detachement De La Legion Etrangere De Mayotte) Mayotte - Indian Ocean.
This small detachement's main duties are in construction, supply and security. It is run and maintained by Les Anciens (Legionnaires with many years service under their belt). It is for those who have done plenty of service and can enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle.
6 REG (6 eme Regiment Etranger Genie) Avignon - France.
This regiment is based in another beautiful area of France and their job is that of engineering, bridge building, mine clearance and demolition. They were used extensively during the Gulf war to deal with mines and booby traps. They have been involved in almost every theatre of conflict that the Legion has been assigned to in recent years. The 6 REG forms part of France's Force d'Action Rapide along with the 2 REI and the 1 REC.
2 REI (2 eme Regiment Etranger D'Infanterie) Nimes - France.
A large proportion of this regiment is made up of French men. Life in the 2 REI is hectic as detachments away for four months at a time are commonplace. (Either in French
Guyana, Djbouti or as has more recently been the case on longer operations around the world. This regiment was used extensively in the Gulf war, Bosnia and in Africa. The troops are supported by the vehicle known as the VAB (Vehicule avant Blindee - meaning vehicle that goes in front of the armoured vehicles) A superb wheeled vehicle which carries ten men. With the 6 REG and the 1 REC this regiment forms part of France's "Force d'Action Rapide".
Les Metiers de la Legion - Trades of the Legion.
Once basic training has been completed a period of time is normally spent as a combat soldier before specialising in any trade or even taking up further soldiering skills. Listed below are some of the trades that can be taken up, normally after some years in the Legion.
Administration: Secretary, typist, accountant, storekeeper,
- Signals: Radio operator, radio mechanic, Exchange operator, teletypist,
- Transport: Drivers of light vehicles, lorries, buses and tracked vehicles,
- Engineers: Heavy equipment operator, designer,
- Building: Bricklayer, plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter etc.
- Maintenance: Engine mechanic, vehicle electrician, welder, small arms repair,
- Miscellaneous: Musician, medic, cook, photographer, cartoon designer, sports instructor, computer operator, Military Police, any trade in connection with the printing business.
Other specialist skills can be learnt whilst still operating as a combat soldier which will not alter the normal soldiering life. As a Legionnaire you may specialise as a Tireur D'elite, Milan, Mortiers, Conducteur, Infirmier, Commando. These short courses are known as "Stages ".
La Tenue et L 'Equipement - Dress and equipment.
Normal working uniform is not ironed in the Legion, not even in basic training. The only uniform that is ironed is the "Tenue de Garde" (Uniform worn on guard duty), "Tenue de sortie". (Uniform worn when allowed into the town) and the "Tenue De Parade" (Uniform worn when on parade). The ironing of these items of clothing appears daunting at first but once it has been done a few times it is really not too bad. The reason being is that there are fifteen creases to be ironed into the shirt; three above each top pocket, two down each arm, two across the top of the back and three more which run vertically down the back.
Trousers are ironed in the more conventional manner. The first time you iron your shirt - it will probably take you a good hour, but once the creases are in, it is a fairly simple process to run over them again. (Even after the shirt has been washed the creases lines are evident). This makes it all the more important to make sure the creases are in the correct place to start with. Shoes are polished but not bulled - footwear is never bulled in the Legion (unless you want to of course). If it is winter then Tenue D'Hiver (brown jacket and trousers) are worn. These are pressed in the conventional way. There will probably only be one iron for every ten men during basic training though, so bear that in mind - If the iron is free don't go and have a shower. It should be noted that once you have been issued your kit, any damaged or worn sports clothing must be replaced by you. Likewise the Kepi and your beret is your responsibilty. These can all be bought from the Foyer. There are two variations of colour that the beret comes in. Both are green but one is slightly lighter. Both are acceptable unless your Chef De Section says otherwise.
Le Kepi Blanc - The White Eel The Kepi Blanc is the identifying symbol unique to the Legion. Many other Regiments wear Kepis too but not white. Similarly not all Legionnaires wear white Kepis; Sergents and above wear black with a red top. As do Caporal Chefs with more than 10 years service. All the ranks can be distinguished by subtle changes in their Kepi (apart from legionnaires and Caporaux). But only in the Legion is there a "Grenade a Sept Flammes" - An exploding grenade with SEVEN flames. The rest of the French Army have only six. The Kepi is worn most of the time except during excercises and active working engagements.
Many Legionnaires carry pictures of girlfriends or offspring in the inside base of the Kepi - this is accepted as part of the Legion tradition and is not frowned upon.
Most of the Legionnaires also carry packets of cigarettes or a wallet inside the Kepi - resting on the head. Basically you can keep whatever you like in there so long as it does not affect your external appearance. When a Legionnaire is paid it is always in a set manner. This is in the form of La Presente. The money - always cash, is paid onto a table where it is swept off the table by the palm of your hand and into your Kepi, the Kepi is then swung up onto the head in one fluid movement - followed by a salute. Although it does get dirty easily; it is also easy to clean, using "Savon Marseille" (A lump of soap) and a scrubbing brush. There is also a monthly magazine issued &ee to all serving Legionnaires known as the "Kepi Blanc" which has details of what is going on in the Legion around the world. The magazine can also be sent to you after you have left the Legion for an annual fee.
Le Foulard - Company shoulder signature cloth. This is a shaped piece of cloth which sits on the left shoulder. It's colour identifies each Legionnaire as to which company he belongs to. The colours remain the same throughout the various Regiments and are as follows:
1er Companie - Blue. 2eme Companie - Red. 3eme Companie - Yellow. 4 eme Companie - Green. Le Companie de Commandement et des Services (CCS) - Grey. Le Companie d'Eclarage et d'Appui (CEA) - Black.
La Fourragere - The Regimental Lanyard. This is a lanyard which is worn on the left shoulder with the Tenue de Guarde, Tenue de Sortie and Tenue de Parade. A different colour represents each different regiment and with each regimental lanyard is indicates the number of citations won by that particular regiment.
Le Beret - Beret. The beret you are issued with at Aubagne will be green - you do not earn the beret as you do in some of the British forces; it is the Kepi that you earn. The first beret issued to you will be quite large but after three or four weeks you will be issued with a smaller one which has a much
smarter appearance. They can also be bought from the "Foyer" (Like a Naafi Or American PX store). There are two very subtle colour alternatives available - people wear both.
La Tenue De Combat Vert - Uniform (Green) Before you leave Aubagne your measurements are taken and kit is issued to your exact size by the storemen. Watch your kit like a hawk, name it and rename it when the ink is wearing out. If you can mark it in some subtle way so that you can recognise it from the outside - then do it. That way, if anyone robs it, you can wander around the Section quietly and find the culprit. Strange though it seems, the Legion pays little attention to personal turnout of normal daily uniform in basic training. The uniform is not ironed during basic training and any inspection is very cursory. You will be picked up for dirty clothing and the boots must be highly polished at all times. The training team will not tolerate any slackness in these areas.
Les Rangers - The Boots. The Boots issued in the Legion are very good, fitting well in most cases. The only drawback is the buckle arrangement which makes loud "Chinking" sounds as you walk. (These are normally quietened by either threading the buckle back through itself or securing it with tape). The boots are an item of clothing which receive a lot of attention in basic training. They are always polished downstairs and probably three or more times a day.
Le Sac a Dos - The Rucksac. There is little carrying capacity and no waist support straps to take the load on the hips rather than on the shoulders. There are two straps which hang down the
front and are very handy when on non-tactical operations to slip the nose and arse end of the weapon through. The weapon then hangs down in front of your chest. Apart from that the Sac a Dos is really pretty much as it's name suggests - a sack hanging from your back. It is not waterproof so anything inside should first be placed in a large plastic bag. (As you might have guessed wet weather is not such a problem in the French Foreign Legion).
S3P - Nuclear Biological and Chemical warefare clothing. (Disposable). Standard carbon filled clothing for protection against Biological and Chemical agents. Like all NBC suits there are patches for placement of biological and chemical detector paper.
ANP - Respirator. For those that don't know a respirator is an airtight face mask fitted with a canister which facilitates safe breathing in a hazardous air environment. The "ANP" is for use in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare conditions. This item of kit was issued during the Gulf war and sits normally in a haversack on the left thigh secured by a long strap which goes around the leg and hooks back onto itself by means of two quick release clips. The respirator itself is of brown rubber and looks pretty antiquated. Thankfully it was not put to the test during the Gulf war, except during training excercises. Canisters and accessories are also supplied with the respirator and are replaced by the Chef de Groupe when required. Make sure yours is not damaged or dented.
Le Noel - Christmas Time.
All Legionnaires regardless of rank must be on the guartier on Christmas day - even if you have just returned from war. The Legion is your home and that is where you should be on Christmas day - with your family. This applies to all ranks including Sergents and above who may be married. The wifes of the Sous officiers and above understand the traditions of the Legion. As is often the case in the Legion, there is much emphasis on preparation. This will include things like "La Creche" - A model type scenario of a scene made out of papier mache, wooden and plastic - whatever. There may be backdrops and lighting used to enhance the effects. The scene may depict a combination of biblical and Legion history intertwined, accompanied by a voice over made by one of
the Legionnaires in the Section. There then follows a competition to see which Section has made and created the best Creche. The day is relaxed and there is plenty of food and drink. All Legionnaires receive a present, presented to them by the Capitaine de Compagnie. The presentation is made after a feast of food and wine on Christmas Eve. The present may be something like a watch, a walkman, a radio or a tracksuit. (A Legion tracksuit that is - no one may wear civilian tracksuits). Sometimes there is a gift given to a Legionnaire which is worth more than any other - that is the right to wear civilian clothes when out on the town. (This would only be a gift to a Legionnaire since Caporaux with over five years service and ranks above Caporal already have the right). It is rarely given and if ever it is, it will only be to one Legionnaire per Regiment. There will then follow a round of jokes told by all ranks followed up closely by Legion songs and Christmas carols. Well known carols such as Silent Night may be sung in up to ten different languages that evening. There is always some form of sporting competition held during the Christmas period. This is known as Le Jour Du Sport. It comprises of inter-company sports events such as the one and the four hundred metre sprint, volleyball, football, swimming, netball and boxing. There is also always the Regimental run which every Legionnaire takes part in on Christmas day - normally about 10 kilometres, with Sac a Dos. The Chef du Corps makes it his job to see in person every Legionnaire in his Regiment at Christmas time. As each Legionnaire passes before the Chef Du Corps, he will be asked how his career is going, if he is happy and a bit about his aspirations within the Legion, e.g. courses he would like to do etc.
Format of a Regiment:
Here follows a typical format of a Legion regiment - in this case the 2eme REP. The Legion regiments consist of six compagnies;
- One Compagnie de Commandement et des services. (CCS)
- One Compagnie d'eclairage et d'appuis. (CEA)
- Four Compagnies de combat.
Each compagnie consists of four "Sections" of approximately forty men divided into four "Groupes" of ten men.
La Companie De Commandement et des services. (Known as the "CCS") This company supplies the Chef du Corps with the means of regimental command, administration, the running of the regiments services such as the Foyer and the mess and acts as rear party to the camp when the regiment is away.
La Compagnie d'Eclairage et d'Appui. (Kown as the "CEA ") This company comprises of two sections of Milan anti- tank, one section of 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, one section of 81mm and 120mm mortar and a recce section working from jeeps. These Legionnaires receive specialist training in all types of combat up to the highest level.
Les Compagnies de Combat. (Known as the "Premiere, Deuxieme, Troisieme and Quatrieme Compagnies de Combat). Apart from their basic training as airborne infantry soldiers each and every soldier has an important role to play in the heart of the regiment.
ler Compagnie. The Premiere Compagnie specialises in anti tank roles, fighting at night, in built up areas and combating snipers.
2eme Compagnie. The Deuxieme Compagnie specialises in mountain and arctic warfare and in crossing obstacles and clearance problems.
3eme Compagnie. The Troisieme Compagnie works in the area of amphibious ops and all the techniques employed in that area of soldiering.
4eme Compagnie. The Quatrieme Compagnie concerns itself with clandestine type operations such as explosives, demolition and sniping.
These specialisations are not rigid but move with the times, with the introduction of new equipment and tactics learnt through experience on the ground and in combat.
There also exists within the 2eme REP - "Le Groupe de Commandos Parachutistes) formally "Les C.R.A.P." (Les commandos de Recherche et D'action dans le Profondeur).
Le Groupe de Commando Parachutistes (Para- Commandos)
These legionnaires take a prestigious place in the heart of the 2 eme REP. They are the elite of the French Foreign Legion and are specialised in all aspects of combat training from amphibious ops to mountain warfare to HALO parachuting (High altitude Low Opening parachuting where oxygen is required to facilitate the jump). An extremely high standard of fitness is a pre- requisite for a position within this unit. (Their title, incidently is due to be changed in the near future).
Les Armes de la Legion - weapons Of the Legion.
Le FA MAS - 5.56 calibre personal assault rifle. (Fusil D'Assault - Manufacture de St.Etienne). The weapons training that is received in basic training will enable you to strip the weapon down, name the parts of the weapon, load, unload and make-safe the weapon. You will initially rely on the instructors to clear any Incident de tir (Stoppages). These skills will be taught at a later date. The personal weapon is the FA MAS. This is a 5.56mm short range assault rifle. This is not a weapon that you can throw down in the mud, cock and fire - like
the Russian Kalashnikov. It's soldiering application requires a high standard of maintenance - which is exactly what it gets in the Legion. It is a favourite skill practiced by the Legion to fire from the hip and is practised frequently during basic training. This is known as "Position au genou" - it is very difficult to master and to begin with results in much wasted ammunition. The weapon also has the capabilty to fire rifle grenades. There are two methods of firing a rifle grenade form the FAMAS and both are practiced in basic training sometimes at some expense and danger to the Legion and its men. More suited to urban close quarter battle than anything else, the weapon does not foul badly but stoppages will occur in sandy or dusty conditions, such as the Gulf. Possibly the main design fault is the fact that the piece of plastic which guides the empty case out of the chamber known as the "Appui joue" is held in place by a "clip on - clip off action". If this piece of plastic is lost or drops off - the weapon cannot be fired without risk of injury to the firer. (The clip on - off action of the Appui-joue is used along with an adjustment to the extractor to facilitate leftA or right handed firing. A process which takes just a few minutes).
The sling has various applications - not just in stabilising the steadiness during firing but also in various carrying methods. In the base of the hand grip for the trigger hand there exists a compartment for cleaning materials.
It is a favourite of the instructors to emphasise the importance of weapon cleaning. When the weapons are cleaned they are each cleaned for about seven or eight hours. In basic training you will not be allowed to sit down whilst cleaning the weapon. There then follows an hour long inspection at the "Position Gardez -Vous" (The attention position). At the end of the "Le Raid" - after marching over a hundred miles through the Pyrenees, the weapons and
equipment are cleaned in just such a manner. Nobody goes to bed that night. The weapons are at this stage cleaned with pure alcohol to de-grease every working part. Most of this attention to detail is a little un-necessary but continues to instill military discipline. This method of cleaning continues even when at your Regiment. It is not unknown for a Section of Legionnaires to strip down their weapons, load them onto a plastic palette and send them through the dishwasher in the kitchens a few times to remove the worst of the fouling from the working parts. This is done prior to commencing more conventinal cleaning methods. Some would say a good example of modern soldiering initiative.
LRAC89mm. (Lance Rocket Anti-Char) Other weapons that you will be introduced to are the 89mm - Lance Rocket Anti-Char (Medium Anti Tank Weapon) referred to as the LRAC 89. A simply constructed yet efficient weapon, simple to fire and accurate up to 400m. The targets you will be firing at normally will probably be at 300m. Most of the problems of accuracy lie in the correct judgement of distance between yourself and the target. If the correct distance is obtained it is actually quite hard to miss. The LRAC89 can fire up to 130 rockets through its barrel before a replacement is required.
RAC112mm. (Rocket Anti-Char) A larger weapon for these same application is the RAC 112mm (Rocket Anti-Char). A beast of a weapon, which knocks your socks off when you fire it. These too are simple and accurate to fire, and devastatingly effective at ranges up to 500 metres. An excellent piece of equipment. This weapon however, unlike the LRAC89, can only be used once before being discarded. There is therefore a limit to the amount of firepower such a weapon can muster within the Section. If the appropriate clothing is
not worn then small particles of cordite will pepper the hands and face when the weapon is fired. (there is a built in mask on the RAC112 version). It should be noted that this weapon cannot be fired with a rucksac on your back in the lying down position. The sight should also be removed after firing and kept aside.
MILAN MAW This is a computer controlled wire guided missile system giving a ninety five per cent chance of a direct hit up to 3000 metres. Used within all the infantry regiments but you are not trained in these weapons until after basic training, and only then if you are assigned to the Compagnie D'Appui. (Unlikely in the early stages of your contract).
Le AA52 - "Le Ciaquante-Deux" A belt fed 7.5mm machine gun, normally issued one per groupe. It is a fairly innacurate weapon but is still used in the Legion today. Because of the inaccuracy of the weapon, it can pepper-spread a large area to the front - a useful application in certain scenarios. The weapon weighs 9.75kgs, it is simple and sturdy in construction, stripping and assembly is not a problem but the weapon is antiquated. It is supplied with a bipod and sling for carrying.
FRF2 This is the 7.5mm sniper rifle assigned to the Legion. A bolt action weapon which is capable of impressive results in the right pair of hands. Fitted with a bipod and different size butt plates a killing range of 600 metres can be acheived with accuracy. There is normally one Tireur d'elite per groupe. This is not officially a sniper but still a trained sharp shooter . The weapon is fitted with
telescopic sights for daylight use and a night sight may be fitted for use in darkness.
20mm CANON - "Le Canon Vingt". A heavy machine gun normally mounted on light transport vehicles which can be used to bring down aircraft. Ammunition comes in the form of armour piercing, explosive or standard ball. The firer sits in a seat and can change direction by rotating the whole assembly in any direction at speed by means of a powered motor.
12.7MM BRO G - "Le Douz Sept". (.50 CAL BROWlVHVG) An automatic machine gun normally mounted on the top of the VAB's capolla. Due to the size of the rounds - great stopping power is available to lay down on an advancing enemy. This weapon was used considerably during the Gulf war.
HOT ANTI -CHAK An optically guided tubular missile system which can be fitted to vehicles. This will penetrate 800 mm of armour and will be effective at ranges up to 4 kms away.
Lu Paye - Pay In the Legion.
The pay during your five years can vary from F50 a week to tens of thousands of Francs per month. It will vary depending upon which Regiment you have been posted to and where it is situated in the world at the time. Length of service and rank will also have a strong bearing on the amount of pay.
As an engage in your first three weeks at Aubagne you will be paid F50 per week. During basic training you receive a pay rise which goes up to about F1300 per month. This pay is the same for everyone regardless of age. After basic training the pay will depend very much on where you are located. If your first Regiment is in Metropole France then your wages will be somewhat less. The Regiments in France are the 2eme REI, the 6eme REG and the lere REC. Based at Nimes, Avignon and Orange respectively. All these regiments will pay about F2500 per month to a Legionnaire in his first year. This first year as a Legionnaire you are ranked as a Legionnaire 2eme Classe. On completion of one years service (Service starts from the day you sign the Contract into the Legion) you automatically become a Legionnaire 1 ere Classe. There was a time when the advance in rank was only given to those who had been seen to have progressed in all areas of soldiering, language and attitude. Today it is an automatic advance aAer one year's service. Some nationalities would remain on a lower pay scale for longer because they found the language more difficult - eg. the Japanese or the Chinese. Because of such cases it was thought unfair and the system was changed. Once the rank of Legionnaire lere classe has been attained the pay goes up to F4000 per month in Metropole France. A Caporal will draw about F5500 per month in
France. All of these wages will increase if the Regiment is posted overseas for even a few months. And more again if the period extends over six months. The 2eme REF pay is higher than those in Metropole France because they receive "Jump Pay". They can draw about F4000 per month as a 2eme classe and F6000 as a lere classe. These figures will increase when in Africa or on operations.
The 3REI based in French Guyana are are a little better off than those in France and a 2eme clase can expect to get around F3000 per month as a first years pay. 1 ere classe will get about F4300 per month.
The 13 DBLE based in Djbouti, North East Africa are the big earners of the Foreign Legion. (It is unlikely that many Legionnaires will get posted there straight after basic training. It is normally a posting that Legionnaires receive after at least a year's service. There may, if you're lucky be 2 or 3 places available from the section of 40 guys at the end of basic training - if you are good enough you will have first refusal. A Legionnaire 2eme classe in Djbouti will take home about F8000 a month. A lere classe nearer F9500. A Caporal may easily be getting F14000 per month. It is not normally possible to get more than one overseas posting abroad during the first five year contract but then people don't join the French Foreign Legion to earn large amounts of money. A sergent in Djbouti can expect to be saving a lot of money during his stay, and because the cost of living is cheap in Djbouti there will be much money saved at the end of the two years posting there. Coupled with that, there is little or no permission given during the posting. For that reason when a Legionniare is sent to his next Regiment he has a back-log of permission and a large amount of money to spend. This may accrue to several thousand pounds.
During your time in the Legion a proportion of your kit is purchased by you. Once the kit has been issued, it is then up to you to maintain or replace it. The kit is bought from the Foyer or from the Maitre Tailleur -The tailor. During the first year of service in particular, when the pay is at its lowest, it can make things very tight.
In addition to this the Legion holds back a proportion of your pay in an account held by the Legion itself. This account is known throughout the Legion as the CNE. Even during your first four months of basic training there is an amount of your pay which is held back from your monthly wage. It is not critical at this stage of training to have money and you rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to spend it. The pay is held back for a good reason however. The money is kept aside for you when you leave for your first Regiment. Here, you will be expected to buy a pair of trainers in accordance with those worn by your regiment. (Each Regiment tends to wear a different type of trainers to the other). There will be other items of equipment and kit which must be purchased; badges, a spare Kepi, a Fourragere (Lanyard) etc. This money will be given to you before arriving at the Regiment you are posted to.
Once in the Regiment some of your pay is still kept back. When you are sent on permission, some of the money is again kept back as a form of cushioning to support you, should you return from permission having spent everything. From time to time, a proportion of this money can be taken out of the CNE, but only if your reasons for requiring it are worthy enough to convince the Capitaine du Compagnie.
Les Rangs - The Ranks.
Below are listed the ranks of the Legion that you will come across. The rank structure does go higher, and you may in time meet some of them, but these are the ones that are most important you learn first:
Officiers superieurs: Colonel Lieutenant-Colonel Officiers subalfernes: Commandant Capitaine Lieutenant Sous-Lieutenant Aspirant Sous Officiers: Major Adjudant-Chef Adjudant Sergent Hommes Du Rang: Caporal-Chef ~ Caporal Legionnaire (Premiere classe - After one years service) Legionnaire (Deuxieme classe - After presentation of the Kepi Blanc) Engage Volontaire
Caporal Chef" - This is a rank that is particular to the French Forces. It is a unique rank whereby the soldier can progress no further in the rank structure once he has reached the position of Caporal Chef. Not all Legionnaires wish to proceed in this direction - some prefer to wait until they are deemed ready for the Sergents course. If a Caporal Chef later decides that he wants to progress further then he must revert to Caporal and then recontinue. The rank of Caporal Chef is not normally achieved before at least eight to ten years service. The attraction is a more laid back lifestyle with few of the responsibilities of a Sergent but with some of the perks.
It is highly unusual for Legionnaires to come into contact with anyone over the rank of Colonel and ninety per cent of the time your contact will be with ranks below Major. Ranks from Adjudant and above are addressed starting with the word - "Mon "meaning "My". Therefore a Capitaine would be - Mon Capitaine, a colonel would be Mon Colonel and so on.
La Permission - Leave/Holidays.
It will probably be nearly a year before you will have the chance to experience any permission. But when you do you will more than likely have a reasonable pay packet to take with you. If you are in the 2eme REP then you will not be allowed to leave the island during the first year. If you are based at any of the other regiments in Metropole France you may go just about wherever you please. Despite the fact that your passport has been taken away you will still be able to travel abroad. By using your Carte D 'Identite (Legion ID card) and the Titre De Permission (Leave pass) you will be allowed to leave the country by any of the airports. (The Legion states that you are officially not allowed to leave the country for the first three years of the contract - but most Legionnaires do). You will, as always be paid in cash and if a large payout is due they will oAen offer to send the money to a pre-arranged address given by you (obviously not a UK address). This is done to combat the risk of Legionnaires being mugged by the locals - who know full well when the permission starts, and that you will be carrying large amounts of cash. The length of permission will depend on many things: how long you have been away, if you have been in combat and whether or not there are any forthcoming events or dates that you must be back for, e.g. Noel or Camerone. But normally it will be about two weeks. This is the only time in the Legion when you are
allowed to leave the guartier in civilian clothing as a Legionnaire. If you do not have any civilian clothing and no-one has any that you can borrow, then it must be Tenue De Sortie - not Tenue De Sport. You may also return in civvies. If you have no friends or relatives staying in France then you must state your address as being either Fort De Nogent in Paris or Malmousce near Marseille or any other private address in France - even a hotel is OK. Both Malmousce and Fort De Nogent allow you to stay as a Legionnaire guest. There is a room for you for which you pay ten Francs per day for the room and the food and wine is free. It is not run like a normal quartier, although there are Legionnaires posted there to keep the place up and running. There is a role call in the morning (really just to find out how many mouths there are to feed at le dejeuner) - Apart from that you can come and go as you please. It is very relaxed and not a bad way to spend your leave, Malmousce being positioned on the coast near Marseille and Fort De Nogent right in the centre of Paris. Despite having put your, one of these locations down as your leave address you are really free to go wherever you please. Nobody will be bothered. Paris airport is very small and does not take long to nip around to all the desks and find out which one is offereing the best deals. A flight to the UK is normally pretty cheap and you will often find other Legionnaires there to socialise with prior to departure. One of the benefits of the Legion is the discount available to them on the trains. All Legionnaires are entitled to a seventy five per cent discount on all rail fares in France on showing an ID card. The French trains provide an excellent service but the ticket collectors can come across as being a little arrogant at times. If you are late back from leave - you will have the same punishment as you would if you were late back from a night out on the town; the statutory ten days in jail. Some
Legionnaires pass via Paris on their way to the airport - but find they're having such a good time that they spend the whole of the permission in Paris. If this happens, it is not a problem to make your way down to Fort De Nogent and book yourself in there for the duration of the permission. Assuming there is a room vacant you will be allowed to stay. One of the greatest things about the French Foreign Legion is that you will always have a good time off - firstly you work hard - you play hard, and secondly the Legion always makes sure you have money for the period of the permission. (Often it is a considerable sum for the amount of time that you have off)
Such a book on the French Foreign Legion would not be complete without some mention of desertion.
It happens, and it happens a lot. And the people who desert have to live with it for the rest of their lives. What makes people desert? And what makes them stay when they want to desert? For some, they have no choice. For others, whatever drew them to the Legion in the first place was not enough to make them stay when it got tough. They are the unlucky ones if you like - they have options open to them. The "search for adventure" all of a sudden seems like a very weak reason for joining the French Foreign Legion. They compare what they've got and what they could have. And then they think about living with the truth and how people back home will react to the truth. They think about their image. Then they'll probably think about how much time is there left to do before they've finished the contract.
Then...then, they make a momentous decision. And that decision they must live with.
It is better to finish the contract with pride, knowing that so many have deserted before your eyes during the time that you have been in. Do not join expecting life as a Legionnaire to be all adventure, high adrenalin rushes and constant action. Expect to be bored, disappointed and at your wits end from time to time. Expect a hard time physically and mentally and you will not be disappointed. If you think whilst you are reading this, that you could one day desert - then don't even join in the first place. Remember that the longer you are in, the easier it gets. Five years goes very quickly and you'll glad you stayed if you do.
If a Legionnaire has made a break for it then for the first few days he is noted down as "Absent". There are sometimes reasons why Legionnaires are late back on camp. Eg. after a night out on the town. After seven days absence you are declared a "Deserteur". This carries a standard sentence of 40 days. (Assuming they haven't deserted on the brink of war or whilst at war when they could face up to two years in a French civilian jail after having done the forty days in the Legion jail) If a Legionnaire deserts with a weapon, the search will take a much more sinister form with many men involved. The prospects for such a deserter are not pleasant.
Some of the more commonly used phrases used in the French Foreign Legion almost every day...
Tu (te) demerde - Get yourself out of the shit.
Demerdez- vous - Get yourselves out of the shit.
Casse(-moi) pas les couilles - Don't break my balls.
J'en ai vraiment plein les couilles - I've really had a balls full of this.
Tu te fous de ma gueule ou quoi? - Are you taking the piss or what?
Tu rigoles ou quoi? - You must be joking.
Arrete ta connery - Stop fucking about.
C'est meme pas la peine - It doesn't even bear thinking about.
C'est pas la peine - There's no use.
C'est pas vrai? - It can't be true/ No I don't believe it. C'est pas possible - It's not possible. Ferme ta geuele - Shut your face. J'ai pas compris - I don't understand. gu 'est- ce que pa veut dire - What does that mean? Comment on dit?.... - How do you say?.... Oh Putain! - Oh Whore (Used as: Oh Shit). Putain de Merde! - Whore of shit (Used as: Fucking Hell) Merde! - Shit.
A few helpful words:
Abdominaux - Sit ups Anciens (Les) - The guys that have been in a long time epee - Role call Bagarre - To scrap/fight Batiment - Building Binome - Buddy/Partner/Oppo Brouillage - Webbing Camion - Lorry Caporal - Corporal Caporal Fut fut - Corporal on the accelerated promotion. Casse-croute - Snack-break Centurion - Belt Centurion Bleu - Wide blue sash worn under belt. Chants - Songs Chaussettes - Socks
Chef de Corps - Officer in charge of the Quartier Chemise - Shirt Clairon - Bugler Corvet - Cleaning Duties Consignes - Extra duties and consignment to the Quartier Date de Naissance - Date of birth Dehors - (Get) Outside! Demi(une) or Une Pression - Lager (in half pints) Engage Volontaire (E. V.)- Recruit En couloir - (Get) into the corridor En position - (Get) into the position (For press ups) En Bas - Go down Epaulettes de Tradition - Red epaulettes worn for guard or parade Foyer - Small bar with shop attached Fusil - Rifle Haut - Go up
Hommes du rang - Lower ranks Infirmiers - Medics Incidents de tir - Weapon stoppages Jeunes (Les) - The most inexperienced to have joined. Legia Patria Nostra - The Legion is Our Home. Matricule - Service number Magazin - Armoury Pantalon - Trousers Paquetage - All your kit Pays - Country Permission - Leave/Holiday/Vacation Petit footing (Le) - Running (As a sport) Piste de Combat - Assault course Place D 'Arme - Parade square. Presente (Le) - The Presentation. Medecin - Doctor guartier - Camp guartier Libre - Time off Rassemblernent - Assembly Rangers - Boots Refectoire - Eating hall (for Legionnaires). Slips - Pants Sous officiers - NCO's Sous-vetement - Track suit Sergent - Sergeant Stages - Courses Stick - Stinging slap on the back of the neck Tenue - Uniform Toile - Jail Veste de Combat -Combat jacket
The Contract to be signed:
Se REGION MILITAIRE Imprime No. 311-6/4
Place de MARS EILLE Instruction No. 2500/DEF/PMAT/
EG/B du 4 Juillet 1978.
No. du registre: 986 Format: 21 x 29,7.
ACTE D'ENGAGEMENT du nomme(1) JONES David a titre etranger pour la legion etrangere.
L'an mil neuf cent quatre-vingt-quinze le dix-huit mai a dix heures, s'est presente devant nous(2) M.(l) JONES David age de 23 ans exercant la profession de menuisier
resident a Bath canton de departement de(3) Grande Bretagne fils de(4) Steven et de(4) Jane nee Smith domicilies a
Cheveux Chatains Yeux Bleu Sourcils Ecartes droits Menton Bilobe Nez Concave Dents C.M. 90% Visage Ovale
Renseignements physionomiques supplementaires:
Tatouage avant-bras gauche
Taille: 1m 87 Poids: 85 kgs
lequel a declare vouloir s'engager pour servir a titre etranger dans la legion etranger et, a cet effet, nous a pres ente: le Medecin des Armees BUCHENNET Medecin Adjoint du 1er R.E.
1. Un certificate delivre a la date du 16.05.95 par(3) et constant qu'il n'est atteint d'aucune infirmite, qu'il reuint la taille et autres conditions requise pour servir dans la legion etrangere.
2.Son bulletin de naissance, une declaration d'identite(3) constatant qu'il est ne le 19 Aout 1972 a London (GRANDE BRETAGNE) et de nationalite Brittanique.
3. L'autorisation de son representant legal(6).
Apres avoir reconnu la regularite des pieces profuits, nous lui avons donnes lecture(8) des articles 6. 7 et 13 No. 77- 789 du decret n.77-789 du ler juillet 1977 relaitif aux militaires a titre etranger.
Nous 1'avons informe que:
1. Ses services compteront a partir de la date de signature, par lui, du present contrat.
2. Le present contrat comporte une periode probatoire de six mois eventuellement renouvable une fois par 1'autorite militaire. La periode probatoire prend effet de la date de signature du present contrat.
LE CONTRAT NE DEVENANT DEFIMTIF QU'AU TERME DE LA PERIODE PROBATOIRK.
3. Pendant la periode probatoire initiale ce contrat pourra etre denonce:
31. Soit a la demande de 1'engage, agree par 1'autorite militaire, pour raison personelle d'ordre sociale ou pour des difficultes notoires d'adaptation, exprime jusqu'au terme du quatrieme mois de service. Dans ce cas la decision definitivedu commandement devra etre signifie avant la fin de la periode probatoire initiale.
32. Soit a tout moment, par I'autorite militaire du fait: - d'une inaptitude medicale pour une cause pre-existante a 1'engagement: - d'une inaptitude a 1'emploi ou a servir dans les rangs de la legion etrangere: - d'une inadaptation a la vie militaire.
4. Pendant la periode probatoire renouvelee ce contrat pourra etre denonce par I'autorite militaire pour inaptitude a 1'emploi ou pour inadaptation a la vie militaire.
5. A tout moment ce contrat pourra etre resilie dans les conditions fixees dans 1'article 32 de FLM No. 2500/DEF/PMAT/EG/B modifiee du 4 juillet 1978 et notamment:
- sur demande agree de 1'engage pour raison personnelle imperieuse fondee sur des faits dument reconnus et survenus depuis la signature de 1'engagement: - d'office pour inaptitude physique: - par 1'autorite militaire pour insuffusance professionelle ou par mesure disciplinaire.
- Apres quoi le candidat a promis de servir avec honneur et fidelite pendant cinq annees a partir de ce jour et s'est engage aucours de ce premier contrat a ne pas se prevaloir de services ou de qualifications antiereurement detenus a titre franglais.
le contractant a promis egalement de servir dans les rangs de la legion etrangere partout ou il conviendrait le gouvernement de 1'envoyer et, apres avoir eus lecture du present acte, a signe avec nous.
L 'engage Le Commissaire de I'armee de terre
Periode renouvelee le pour une duree de six mois a compter du............ confirm la decision du commandement de la legion etrangere en date du.......
(~) Contrat - annule - denonce - resilie (3) a compter du pour (9) par decision du en date du
notifiees a 1'interesse le Contrat devenu definitif le (~)-
Commissaire de L'annee de terre
(1) Nom et prenom de 1'engage. (2) Nom du commissaire de 1'armee de terre ou de 1' officier suppleant et localite ou il est en fonction. (3) Rayer les mentons inutiles. (4) Lorsque ces renseignements sont connus. (5) Nom, grade et qualite de 1'officier signature du certificate. (6) Si 1'engage est age de moins de 18 ans. (7) Si 1'engage est franglais et n'a pas encore satisfait a ses obligations legales, autorisation du ministre permettent 1'engagement a titre etranger. (8) Si 1'engage ne connait pas la langue franglais, il lui sera donne lecture dans sa langue, des clauses contenues dans 1'acte. (9) Indiquer le motif.
Recruiting Centres in France. (Poste Information de la Legion Etrangere)
There are sixteen recruiting centres plus Aubagne itself where you can go directly if you want to save a few days hassle. All of these centres are open 24 hours a day. Map locations follow each recruiting centre in brackets.
Addresses of Recruiting Centres:
94120 Fontenay-sous-Bois (1) Fort De Nogent Paris O: 0033 1 48 77 49 68
59000 Lille (2) La Citadelle R: 0033 3 20 55 40 13
76038 Rouen cedex (3) Rue du Colonel-Trupel R: 0033 2 35 70 68 78
86000 Poitiers (4) Quartier Aboville R: 0033 5 49 41 31 16
44000 Nantes (5) Quartier Desgrees-du-Lou Rue Gambetta R: 0033 2 40 74 39 32
57000 Metz (6) Quartier de-Lattre-de-Tassigny R: 0033 3 87 66 57 12
21000 Dijon (7) Caserne Junot - 66 Avenue du Drapeau R: 0033 3 80 30 02 10
67000 Strasbourg (8) Quartier Lecourbe Rue d'Ostende R: 0033 3 88 61 53 33
51000 Reims (9) Quartier Colbert 32 bis Avenue de la Paix R:0033 3 26 88 42 50
13007 Marseille (10) La Malmousque - Chemin du Genie R: 0033 4 91 31 85 10
13400 Aubagne (1 1) Quartier Vienot R: 0033 4 42 03 38 79
64100 Bayonne (12) Caserne Chateaux-Veaux R: 00 33 5 59 25 66 70
33000 Bordeaux (13) 260 rue Pelleport R: 0033 5 56 92 99 64
69007 Lyon (14) Caserne Sergent-Blandan 37 bis, rue de Repos R: 0033 4 78 58 40 21
06300 Nice (15) Caserne Saint-Jean-d'Angely Rue des Diables-Bleus R: 0033 4 93 56 32 76
66020 Perpignan (16) Caserne Mangin 8 Rue Francois-Rabelais R: 0033 4 68 35 05 38
31000 Toulouse (17) Caserne Perignon Avenue Camille-Pujol R: 0033 5 61 54 21 95
Although telephone numbers are listed above - no information will normally be given over the phone. You may also write in English to the following address for information on joining the Foreign Legion:
Bureau de Recrutement de la Legion Etranghre, Quartier Vienot 13400 Aubagne R: 0033 4 42 84 97 66 (You may have more luck with this number).
See over the page for locations marked on the map.
In no way can the author of this publication be liable for any injury, illness, expense or ill-feeling incurred by the reader as a result of having read this book. All information has been published as accurately as possible. Neither is the author liable for any information published herein that is incorrect or out-dated.
First published in 1997 by Salvo Books. PO Box 106, Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6XY
ISBN 0 9530060 0 X Copyright (C) Simon Jameson 1997
The right of Simon Jameson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1956 (as amended). Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British library.
Printed and Bound in Great Britain by Hartnolls of Bodmin, Cornwall.
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