The French Foreign Legion. La Legion Etranger
The French Foreign Legion. La Legion Etranger
Joining . 10
The Language Problem 13
Aubagne and Selection . 14
Castelnaudary - Basic Training '75
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
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
Useful Phrases 105
A few helpful words 107
Recruiting Centres in France 121
THE FRENCH FOREIGN
(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
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
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Aubugne 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
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
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. (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.
(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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Tiens. Voila du Boudin, voila du boudin, voila du
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
They are malingerers;
There's none left for the Belgians, there's none left for
They are malingerers
You will undoubtedly hear of other versions whilst in the
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,
Section de Lieutenant Souzla,
A vos ordres Caporal/Sergent/Sergent chef/etc. "
Two months service,
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
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
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
"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
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 ÎSilence 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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
3.During the initial probationary period the contract can
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
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
Contract: annuled - terminated - cancelled(3) - as decided
by(9) on 19
Contract became effective on 19 (3)
Administration Officer for the
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
(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
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
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
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
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
2. Marriage is only permitted when the rank of Sergent
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 -
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
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
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
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
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
DLEM (Detachement De La Legion Etrangere De
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
Les Metiers de la Legion - Trades of the
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,
- Signals: Radio operator, radio mechanic, Exchange
- Transport: Drivers of light vehicles, lorries, buses and
- Engineers: Heavy equipment operator, designer,
- Building: Bricklayer, plumber, electrician, carpenter,
- 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
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
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
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
1er Companie - Blue.
2eme Companie - Red.
3eme Companie - Yellow.
4 eme Companie - Green.
Le Companie de Commandement et des Services (CCS) -
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
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
Standard carbon filled clothing for protection against
Biological and Chemical agents. Like all NBC suits there
are patches for placement of biological and chemical
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
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
- One Compagnie de Commandement et des services.
- 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
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.
The Premiere Compagnie specialises in anti tank roles,
fighting at night, in built up areas and combating snipers.
The Deuxieme Compagnie specialises in mountain and
arctic warfare and in crossing obstacles and clearance
The Troisieme Compagnie works in the area of
amphibious ops and all the techniques employed in that
area of soldiering.
The Quatrieme Compagnie concerns itself with
clandestine type operations such as explosives, demolition
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
Le Groupe de Commando Parachutistes
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
Le FAMAS - 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 FAMAS. 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
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
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
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.
LRAC 89mm. (Lance Rocket Antichar)
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.
RAC 112mm. (Roquette Antichars)
A larger weapon for these same application is the RAC
112mm (Rocket Antichars). 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.
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
La AA52 - "La AA Cinquante-deux" (also known as "La Nana")
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
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 de 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 BR - "La Douze-sept".
(.50 CAL BROWNING)
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
Missile HOT antichar
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
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
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
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
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:
Hommes Du Rang:
Legionnaire (Premiere classe - After one years service)
Legionnaire (Deuxieme classe - After presentation of the
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
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
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
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
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.
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%
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
Adjoint du 1er R.E.
1. Un certificate delivre a la date du 16.05.95
et constant qu'il n'est atteint d'aucune infirmite, qu'il reuint
la taille et autres conditions requise pour servir dans la
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
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
(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
(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
O: 0033 1 48 77 49 68
59000 Lille (2)
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)
R: 0033 5 49 41 31 16
44000 Nantes (5)
R: 0033 2 40 74 39 32
57000 Metz (6)
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)
R: 0033 3 88 61 53 33
51000 Reims (9)
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)
R: 0033 4 42 03 38 79
64100 Bayonne (12)
R: 00 33 5 59 25 66 70
33000 Bordeaux (13)
260 rue Pelleport
R: 0033 5 56 92 99 64
69007 Lyon (14)
37 bis, rue de Repos
R: 0033 4 78 58 40 21
06300 Nice (15)
Rue des Diables-Bleus
R: 0033 4 93 56 32 76
66020 Perpignan (16)
8 Rue Francois-Rabelais
R: 0033 4 68 35 05 38
31000 Toulouse (17)
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,
R: 0033 4 42 84 97 66 (You may have more luck with
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
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.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not,
by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out,
or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior
consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition
including this condition being imposed on the subsequent
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