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French Foreign Legion


French Foreign Legion

French Foreign Legion
Légion étrangère
The Foreign Legion grenade emblem and colours.
Active 10 March 1831 – present
Country  France
Branch French Army
Type Foreign legion
Role Foreign Infantry, Foreign airborne infantry, Foreign armoured cavalry, Foreign combat engineer, Foreign airborne engineer, Regimental Foreign military police
Size c. 7,700 men in eleven regiments and one sub-unit

Foreign Legion Command


French Guiana

United Arab Emirates


Nickname(s) The Legion (English)
La Légion (French)

Legio Patria Nostra (The Legion is our Fatherland)[1]
Honneur et Fidélité (Honour and Fidelity)[2]

Marche ou crève (March or die, unofficial)
Colours Red and Green
March Le Boudin[3]
Anniversaries Camerone Day (30 April)

Global War on Terrorism (2001-present)

General Jean Morin[5]
Capitaine Jean Danjou (French)
Captain Jean Danjou (English)
Foreign Legion Pionniers

Le Père de la Légion (French)
Général Paul-Frederic Rollet (French)
The Father of the Legion (English)

General Paul-Frédéric Rollet (English)
Legion flash
Abbreviation FFL (English)
LE (French)

The French Foreign Legion (French: Légion Etrangère (French pronunciation: ​), L.É.) is a military service Wing of the French Army established in 1831, unique because it was created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces.

Commanded by French officers, it is also open to French citizens, who amounted to 24% of the recruits as of 2007.[6] The Foreign Legion is today known as a unit whose training focuses not only on traditional military skills but also on its strong esprit de corps. As its men come from different countries with different cultures, this is a way to strengthen them enough to work as a team. Consequently, training is often described as not only physically challenging, but also very stressful psychologically. A soldier who becomes injured during a battle for France can immediately apply for French citizenship under a provision known as "Français par le sang versé" ("French by spilled blood").[7] As of 2008 members come from 140 countries.

The Foreign Legion was primarily used to protect and expand the French colonial empire during the 19th century. The Foreign Legion was stationed in Algeria, where it took part in the pacification and development of the colony. The FFL were deployed in a number of conflicts, including the First Carlist War in 1835, the Crimean War in 1854, the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, the French intervention in Mexico in 1863, the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Tonkin Campaign and Sino–French War in 1883, supporting growth of the French colonial empire in Sub-Saharan Africa and pacifying Algeria, the Second Franco-Dahomean War in 1892, the Second Madagascar expedition in 1895, and the Mandingo Wars in 1894.

In World War I, the Foreign Legion fought in many critical battles on the Western Front. The Foreign Legion played a smaller role in World War II than in World War I, though having a part in the Norwegian, Syrian and North African campaigns. During the First Indochina War (1946–54), the Foreign Legion saw its numbers swell. The FFL lost a large number of men in the catastrophic Battle of Dien Bien Phu. During the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62), the Foreign Legion was brought to the brink of extinction after some officers, men, and the highly decorated 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1REP) took part in the Generals' putsch. Notable operations included the Suez Crisis, the Battle of Algiers and various offensives launched by General Maurice Challe including Operations Oranie and Jumelles.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Legion had a new role as a rapid deployment force to preserve French interests – not only in its former African colonies but in other nations as well; it also returned to its roots of being a unit always ready to be sent to hot-spots all around the world. Some notable operations include: the Chadian–Libyan conflict in 1969–72 (the first time that the Legion was sent in operations after the Algerian War), 1978–79, and 1983–87; Kolwezi in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May 1978; Rwanda in 1990–94; and the Ivory Coast in 2002 to the present. In 1990, the Foreign Legion were sent to the Persian Gulf as a part of Opération Daguet. In the 1990s, the Foreign Legion helped with the evacuation of French citizens and foreigners in Rwanda, Gabon and Zaire. The Foreign Legion was also deployed in Cambodia, Somalia, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the mid- to late-1990s, the Foreign Legion was deployed in the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville and in Kosovo. In the 2000s, the Foreign Legion was deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Licorne in Ivory Coast, the EUFOR Tchad/RCA in Chad, and Operation Serval in the Northern Mali conflict[8]

Other nations have tried to emulate the French Foreign Legion model. There have been units composed of foreign recruits in China, Israel, the Dutch Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indische Leger (KNIL), the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1960s and 1970s, and Russia and Spain.


  • History of the French Foreign Legion since 1831 1
    • Conquest of Algeria 1830 – 1847 1.1
    • Carlist War 1835–1839 1.2
    • Crimean War 1.3
    • Italian Campaign 1859 1.4
    • Mexican Expedition 1863 - 1867 1.5
    • Franco-Prussian War 1870 1.6
    • Tonkin Compaign and Sino-French War 1883-1888 1.7
    • Colonisation of Africa 1.8
      • Second Franco-Dahomean War 1892-1894 1.8.1
      • Second Madagascar Expedition 1894-1895 1.8.2
      • Mandingo War 1898 1.8.3
    • World War I 1914-1918 1.9
    • Interwar Period 1918-1939 1.10
    • World War II 1939 - 1945 1.11
      • Alsace-Lorraine 1.11.1
    • First Indochina War 1946 - 1954 1.12
    • Algerian War 1954 - 1962 1.13
      • Para Foreign Legion 1.13.1
      • Generals' Putsch 1961 and reduction of Foreign Legion 1.13.2
    • Post-colonial Africa 1.14
    • 1962– present 1.15
      • Gulf War 1990 - 1991 1.15.1
    • Global War on Terror 2001 - present 1.16
  • Composition & organization 2
    • Current deployments 2.1
    • Foreign Engineer DINOPS and Commandos of the Foreign Legion 2.2
  • Recruitment process 3
    • Basic Training 3.1
  • Traditions 4
    • Code of Honour 4.1
    • Mottos 4.2
      • Honneur et Fidélité 4.2.1
      • Legio Patria Nostra 4.2.2
    • Regimental mottos 4.3
      • 11 Foreign Legion Colonels with 11 Regimental mottos 4.3.1
    • Insignias 4.4
  • Marching songs 5
    • Le Boudin 5.1
    • Other songs 5.2
  • Ranks 6
    • Non-Commissioned & Warrant Officers 6.1
    • Commissioned Officers 6.2
  • Chevrons of seniority 7
  • Pioneers 8
  • Cadences and marching steps 9
  • Uniform 10
  • Equipment 11
  • Foreign Legion Division General Commandant (1931- Present) 12
  • Gallery 13
  • Honorary ranks 14
  • Membership 15
    • Membership by country 15.1
      • Alsace-Lorraine 15.1.1
    • Countries that allow post-Foreign Legion contract 15.2
  • Emulation by other countries 16
    • Chinese Ever Victorious Army 16.1
    • Israeli Mahal 16.2
    • Netherlands KNIL Army 16.3
    • Rhodesian Light Infantry and 7 Independent Company 16.4
    • Russian "Foreign Legion" 16.5
    • Spanish Foreign Legion 16.6
  • References in popular culture 17
  • See also 18
  • References 19
  • Further reading 20
  • External links 21

History of the French Foreign Legion since 1831

The French Foreign Legion was created by Louis Philippe, the King of the French, on 10 March 1831 from the foreign regiments of the Kingdom of France. Recruits included soldiers from the recently disbanded Swiss and German foreign regiments of the Bourbon monarchy.[9] The Royal Ordinance for the establishment of the new regiment specified that the foreigners recruited could only serve outside France.[10] The French expeditionary force that had occupied Algiers in 1830 was in need of reinforcements and the Legion was accordingly transferred by sea in detachments from Toulon to Algeria.[7][11]

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

Conquest of Algeria 1830 – 1847

Created to fight "outside mainland France", the Foreign Legion was stationed in Algeria, where it took part in the pacification and development of the colony, notably by drying the marshes in the region of Algiers. The Foreign Legion was initially divided into six "national battalions" (Swiss, Poles, Germans, Italians, Spanish, and Dutch-Belgian).[12] Smaller national groups, such as the ten Englishmen recorded in December 1832, appear to have been placed randomly.

In late 1831, the first legionnaires landed in Algeria, the country that would be the Foreign Legion's homeland for 130 years and shape its character. The early years in Algeria were hard on the legion because it was often sent to the worst postings and received the worst assignments, and its members were generally uninterested in the new colony of the French.[13] The Legion served alongside the Battalions of Light Infantry of Africa, formed in 1832, which was a penal military unit made up of men with prison records who still had to do their military service or soldiers with serious disciplinary problems.

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

Carlist War 1835–1839

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

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

Crimean War

The Légion étrangère in 1852.

On 9 June 1854, the French ship Jean Bart embarked four battalions of the Foreign Legion for the Crimean Peninsula. A further battalion was stationed at Gallipoli as brigade depot.[14] Eight companies drawn from both regiments of the Foreign Legion took part in the Battle of Alma (20 September 1854). Reinforcements by sea brought the Legion contingent up to brigade strength. As the "Foreign Brigade", it served in the Siege of Sevastopol, during the winter of 1854–1855.

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

On 8 September the final assault was launched on Sevastopol, and two days later, the Second Foreign Regiment, flags and band playing ahead, marched through the streets of Sevastopol. Although initial reservations had been expressed about whether the Legion should be used outside Africa,[14] the Crimean experience established its suitability for service in European warfare, as well as making a cohesive single entity of what had previously been two separate foreign regiments.[15] Total Legion casualties in the Crimea were 1,703 killed and wounded.

Italian Campaign 1859

Like the rest of the "Army of Africa", the Foreign Legion took part in the campaign of Italy. Two foreign regiments, associated with the 2nd Regiment of Zouaves, were part of the Second Brigade of the Second Division of Mac Mahon's Corps. The Foreign Legion sailed and acquitted itself particularly well against the Austrians at the battle of Magenta (4 June 1859) and at the Battle of Solferino (24 June). The losses were significant and the 2nd Foreign Regiment lost Colonel Chabrière, its commanding officer. In gratitude, the city of Milan awarded, in 1909, the "commemorative medal of deliverance", which still adorns the regimental flags of the Second Regiment.[16]

Mexican Expedition 1863 - 1867

Uniform of a legionnaire during the 1863 Mexican campaign

The 38,000 strong French expeditionary force dispatched to Mexico via sea between 1862 and 1863 included two battalions of the Foreign Legion, increased to six battalions by 1866. Small cavalry and artillery units were raised from legionnaires serving in Mexico. The original intention was that Foreign Legion units should remain in Mexico for up to six years to provide a core for the Imperial Mexican Army.[17] However the Legion was withdrawn with the other French forces during February–March 1867.

It was in battalions of infantry and cavalry, numbering 2,200 and 800 respectively. The Legion detachment under Captain Jean Danjou, Sous-Lieutenant Jean Vilain, Sous-Lieutenant Clément Maudet[19] made a stand in the Hacienda de la Trinidad - a farm near the village of Camarón. When only six survivors remained, out of ammunition, a bayonet assault was launched in which three of the six were killed. The remaining three wounded men were brought before the Mexican commander Colonel Milan, who allowed them to return to the French lines as an honor guard for the body of Captain Danjou. The captain had a wooden hand, which was later returned to the Legion and is now kept in a case in the Legion Museum at Aubagne, and paraded annually on Camerone Day. It is the Foreign Legion's most precious relic.

Captain Danjou's prosthetic wooden hand.

During the Mexican Campaign, 6,654 French died.[20] Among these losses, 1,918[20] of the deaths were from a single regiment of the Legion, a fact that testifies to the importance of the Legion's role in the campaign.[20]

Franco-Prussian War 1870

According to French law, the Foreign Legion was not to be used within Metropolitan France except in the case of a national invasion,[21] and was consequently not a part of Napoleon III's Imperial Army that capitulated at Sedan. With the defeat of the Imperial Army, the Second French Empire fell and the Third Republic was created.

The new Third Republic was desperately short of trained soldiers following Sedan, so the Foreign Legion was ordered to provide a contingent. On 11 October 1870 two provisional battalions disembarked via sea at Toulon, the first time the Foreign Legion had been deployed in France itself. It attempted to lift the Siege of Paris by breaking through the German lines. It succeeded in retaking Orléans, but failed to break the siege. In January 1871, France capitulated but civil war soon broke out, which led to revolution and the short-lived Paris Commune. The Foreign Legion participated in the suppression of the Commune,[22] which was crushed with great bloodshed.

Tonkin Compaign and Sino-French War 1883-1888

A Legionnaire sniper at Tuyen Quang.

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

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

Colonisation of Africa

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

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

Second Franco-Dahomean War 1892-1894

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

Second Madagascar Expedition 1894-1895

In 1895, a battalion, formed by the First and Second Foreign Regiments, was sent to the Kingdom of Madagascar, as part of an expeditionary force whose mission was to conquer the island. The foreign battalion formed the backbone of the column launched on Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. After a few skirmishes, the Queen Ranavalona III promptly surrendered.[23][24] The Foreign Legion lost 226 men, of whom only a tenth died in actual fighting. Others, like much of the expeditionary force, died from tropical diseases.[23] Despite the success of the expedition, the quelling of sporadic rebellions would take another eight years until 1905, when the island was completely pacified by the French under Joseph Gallieni.[23] During that time, insurrections against the Malagasy Christians of the island, missionaries and foreigners were particularly terrible.[25] Queen Ranavalona III was deposed in January 1897 and was exiled to Algiers in Algeria, where she died in 1917.[26]

Mandingo War 1898

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

Americans in the Foreign Legion, 1916.
Swiss Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961) posing in his Foreign Legion uniform in 1916, a few months after the amputation of his right arm.
American poet Alan Seeger (1888-1916),
in his Foreign Legion uniform.

World War I 1914-1918

The annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany in 1871 led to numerous volunteers from the two regions enlisting in the Foreign Legion, which gave them the option of French citizenship at the end of their service[27]

With the declaration of war on 29 July 1914, a call was made for foreigners resident in France to support their adopted country. While many would have preferred direct enlistment in the regular French Army, the only option immediately available was that of the Foreign Legion. On one day only (3 August 1914) a reported 8,000 volunteers applied to enlist in the Paris recruiting office of the Legion.

In World War I and assuming sea protecting sail from Algeria, the Foreign Legion fought in many critical battles on the Western Front, including Artois, Champagne, Somme, Aisne, and Verdun (in 1917), and also suffered heavy casualties during 1918. The Foreign Legion was also in the Dardanelles and Macedonian front, and was highly decorated for its efforts. Many young foreigners volunteered for the Foreign Legion when the war broke out in 1914. There were marked differences between the idealistic volunteers of 1914 and the hardened men of the old Legion, making assimilation difficult. Nevertheless, the old and the new men of the Foreign Legion fought and died in vicious battles on the Western front, including Belloy-en-Santerre during the Battle of the Somme, where the poet Alan Seeger, after being mortally wounded by machine-gun fire, cheered on the rest of his advancing battalion.[28]

Interwar Period 1918-1939

Legionnaires in Morocco, circa 1920.

While suffering heavy casualties on the

  • In the Foreign Legion (1910) – by Erwin Rosen (b. 1876)
  • Books on Legion from 1905 to Present [52]
  • Official Website (French)
  • Official Website (English)
  • Le Musée de la Légion étrangère (Foreign Legion museum)
  • Website about the French Daguet Division (First Gulf War 1990–1991)
  • Foreign Legion Information – unofficial website about the French Foreign Legion (English)

External links

  • Roger Rousseau, The French Foreign Legion in Kolwezi, 2006. ISBN 978-2-9526927-1-7

Further reading

  1. ^ [1] Official Website of the General Command of the Foreign Legion (COMLE), La Légion Etrangère, The Foreign Legion
  2. ^ [2] Official Website of the General Command of the Foreign Legion (COMLE), La Légion Etrangère, The Foreign Legion
  3. ^ a b c d e f [3] Le Boudin - Musique de la Légion étrangère (vidéo officielle)
  4. ^ United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon Peacekeeping in between the Blue Line
  5. ^ [4] Official Website of the Commandement de la Légion Etrangère
  6. ^ Jean-Dominique Merchet, La Légion s'accroche à ses effectifs
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tweedie, Neil. "The French Foreign Legion – the last option for those desperate to escape the UK". The Daily Telegraph. 3 December 2008. Retrieved on 4 April 2012.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Porch p. 17–18
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^ In Le livre d'or de la Légion étrangère, page 66.
  17. ^ Rene Chartrand, The Mexican Adventure 1861-67, page 19, ISBN 9781855324305
  18. ^
  19. ^ [5], Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment, Historique du 2 REI, La Creation (Creation)
  20. ^ a b c
  21. ^ Martin Windrow, page 5 "Our Friends Beneath the Sands", ISBN 978 0 297 85213 1
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c
  24. ^ Cambridge history of Africa, p.530
  25. ^
  26. ^ Musée de l'Armée exhibit, Paris
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o [6] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion, (C.O.M.L.E), Editorial of C.O.M.L.E in Képi Blanc
  28. ^ Shortly before his death, Seeger wrote, "I have a rendez-vous with Death, at some disputed barricade. ... And I to my pledged word am true, I shall not fail that rendezvous."
  29. ^ a b c d e f Porch p. 382–3
  30. ^ Windrow
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h [7] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion 1er Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes
  35. ^ [8] Official Website of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment 1st RCP, Section Historique, L'Indochine of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment
  36. ^ [9] 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment,1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutistes
  37. ^ [10] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment 1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutiste
  38. ^ a b c d e [11] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, The origins...
  39. ^ [12] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment 1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutiste
  40. ^ [13] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment,Ils ont commandé le 2éme REP, Regimental Commanders
  41. ^ [14] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment 1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutiste
  42. ^ [15] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment 1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutiste
  43. ^ [16] 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment,1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutistes
  44. ^ [17] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, Traditions, Chant du 2e REP
  46. ^ [19] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment 1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutiste
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ [20] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment, 2e Regiment Etranger de Genie ( 2e REG ); Structure du 2ème Régiement Etranger de Génie
  52. ^ [21] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h [22] 4th Foreign Regiment, Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  54. ^ [23] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  55. ^ [24] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  56. ^ [25] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  57. ^ [26] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  58. ^ [27] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  59. ^ [28] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  60. ^ [29] Official Website of General Command of Foreign Legion (COMLE), Code d'honneur du Légionnaire
  61. ^ [30] Official Website of the General Command of the Foreign Legion (COMLE), LEGIO PATRIA NOSTRA
  62. ^ [31] Official Website of the General Command of the Foreign Legion (COMLE), LEGIO PATRIA NOSTRA
  63. ^ [32] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, The origins...
  64. ^ [33] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion 1er Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes
  65. ^ a b [34] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment 1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutiste
  66. ^ [35] Official Webiste of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion,2e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes
  67. ^ [36] Official Webiste of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion 3e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes"
  68. ^ [37] Official Webiste of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, History of the 2e REP, the 3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion 3e Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes"
  69. ^ [38] Marche de la Légion / Marching of the Legion, Le Boudin
  70. ^ [39] The Choir of the French Foreign Legion - Sous le ciel de Paris
  71. ^ [40] Official Website of the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment, 3e Regiment Etranger d'Infanterie, Chant du régiment
  72. ^ Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment, Historique du 2REI, Le chant du 2ème REI
  73. ^ [41] 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment,1er Régiment Etranger de Parachutistes
  74. ^ [42] Official Website of the 1st Foreign Regiment, Traditions, Les chants du 1er RE et des compagnies
  75. ^ [43] Official Website of the 1st Foreign Regiment, Traditions, Les chants du 1er RE et des compagnies
  76. ^ [44] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, Traditions, Chant du 2e REP
  77. ^ [45] Official Website of the 1st Foreign Regiment, Traditions, Les chants du 1er RE et des compagnies
  78. ^ [46] Official Website of the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment, 2e Régiment Etranger de Génie,Les chants du 2e REG et des compagnies
  79. ^
  80. ^ [47] Légion Etrangère - Le salut au Caïd
  81. ^ [48] Légion Etrangère - Le salut au Caïd
  82. ^ [49] Légion Etrangère - Le salut au Caïd
  83. ^
  84. ^ a b Douglas Porch, page 418, The French Foreign Legion. A Complete History, ISBN 0-333-58500-3
  85. ^
  86. ^ Szecsko, p. 17
  87. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 Edition, page 587, Vol. 27
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^
  91. ^
  92. ^
  93. ^
  94. ^ [50] Official Website of the General Command COMLE, Section L’honorariat à la Légion Etrangère (Honorary rank induction in the Foreign Legion)
  95. ^ [51] Official Website of the General Command COMLE, Section L’honorariat à la Légion Etrangère ( Honorary rank induction in the Foreign Legion )
  96. ^
  97. ^ French Foreign Legion – Recruiting
  98. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions About the Foreign Legion (English)." French Foreign Legion. Retrieved on 4 April 2012.
  99. ^
  100. ^
  101. ^
  102. ^
  103. ^ Sharpe, Michael. (2008) Waffen SS Elite Forces 1: Leibstandarte and Das Reich (p. 183) ISBN 978-0-7858-2323-0.
  104. ^
  105. ^
  106. ^ Evan McGorman, Life in the French Foreign Legion, p. 21
  107. ^
  108. ^
  109. ^
  110. ^
  111. ^
  112. ^
  113. ^
  114. ^ Benny Morris, 1948, 2008, p.85.
  115. ^
  116. ^
  117. ^ a b
  118. ^
  119. ^ ;
  120. ^


See also

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

References in popular culture

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

Spanish Foreign Legion

In 2010 the service conditions of the Russian Military have been changed. The actual term "Russian Foreign Legion" is a colloquial expression without any official recognition. Under the plan, foreigners without dual citizenship are able to sign up for five-year contracts and will be eligible for Russian citizenship after serving three years. Experts say the change opens the way for Commonwealth of Independent States citizens to get fast-track Russian citizenship, and counter the effects of Russia's demographic crisis on its army recruitment.[120]

Russian "Foreign Legion"

After the Rhodesians' overseas recruiting campaign for English-speakers, started in 1974, proved successful, they began recruiting French-speakers as well, in 1977. These francophone recruits were placed in their own unit, 7 Independent Company, Rhodesia Regiment, which was commanded by French-speaking officers and operated entirely in French. The experiment was not generally considered a success by the Rhodesian commanders, however, and the company was disbanded in early 1978.[119]

During the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1960s and 1970s, the Rhodesian Security Forces enlisted volunteers from overseas on the same pay and conditions of service as locally based regulars.[115] The vast majority of the Rhodesian Army's foreigners joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI), a heliborne commando regiment with a glamorous international reputation;[116] this unit became colloquially known as the "Rhodesian foreign legion" as a result, even though foreigners never made up more than about a third of its men. According to Chris Cocks, an RLI veteran, "the RLI was a mirror of the French Foreign Legion, in that recruiters paid little heed as to a man's past and asked no questions. ... And like the Foreign Legion, once in the ranks, a man's past was irrelevant."[117] Just as French Foreign Legionnaires must speak French, the Rhodesian Army required its foreigners to be anglophone. Many of them were professional soldiers, attracted by the regiment's reputation—mostly former British soldiers, or Vietnam veterans from the United States, Australian and New Zealand forces—and these became a key part of the unit.[118] Others, with no military experience, were often motivated to join the Rhodesian Army by anti-communism, or a desire for adventure or to escape the past.[117]

Rhodesian Light Infantry and 7 Independent Company

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

Netherlands KNIL Army

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

In Israel, Mahal (Hebrew: מח"ל‎, an acronym for Mitnadvei Ḥutz LaAretz, which means Volunteers from outside the Land [of Israel]) is a term designating non-Israelis serving in the Israeli military. The term originates with the (approximately) 4,000 both Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers who went to Israel to fight in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War including Aliyah Bet.[114] The original Mahalniks were mostly World War II veterans from American and British armed forces.

Israeli Mahal

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

Chinese Ever Victorious Army

Emulation by other countries

One of the biggest national groups in the Legion are Poles. Polish law basically allows service in a foreign army, but only after written permission from the Ministry of National Defense. Most soldiers do not actually apply for permission, but only a few have been prosecuted on this account and generally they get probation.[113]

Israel allows post-Legion enlistment. The Swiss jail or fine their nationals for joining the Legion due to Switzerland's neutrality.

The United States allows post-FFL enlistment in its National Guard, and career soldiers, up to the rank of captain only and to green card holders. Second Lieutenant Lawrence J. Franks Jr. was sentenced to four years in prison and dismissal from the U.S. Army on charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer and desertion, as he disappeared from Fort Drum, N.Y. in 2009 and reappeared in 2014. During this time, he served with distinction in the Legion under the assumed name Christopher Flaherty.[110][111][112]

In the European Union framework, post Legion enlistment is less clear. Denmark, Norway, Germany and Portugal allow post-Legion enlistment while The Netherlands has constitutional articles that forbid it. [Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap, Artikel 15, lid 1e, (In Dutch:)[108]] (that is: one can lose his Dutch nationality by accepting a foreign nationality or can lose his Dutch nationality by serving in the army of a foreign state that is engaged in a conflict against the Dutch Kingdom or one of its allies[109]). The European Union twin threads seem to be recognized dual nationality status or restricting constitutional article.

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

Countries that allow post-Foreign Legion contract

Regarding recruitment conditions within the Foreign Legion, see the official page (in English) dedicated to the subject:[107] With regard to age limits, recruits can be accepted from ages ranging from 17 ½ (with parental consent) to 40 years old.

The Foreign Legion accepts people enlisting under a nationality that is not their own. A proportion of the Swiss and Belgians are actually likely to be Frenchmen who wish to avoid detection.[106] In addition many Alsatians are said to have joined the Foreign Legion when Alsace was part of the German Empire, and may have been recorded as German while considering themselves French.

[a] canard…with the sub-variant that all those Germans were at least SS generals and other much wanted war criminals. As a rule, and in order to prevent any particular nation from making the Foreign Legion into a Praetorian Guard, any particular national component is kept at about 25 percent of the total. Even supposing (and this was the case, of course) that the French recruiters, in the eagerness for candidates would sign up Germans enlisting as Swiss, Austrian, Scandinavian and other nationalities of related ethnic background, it is unlikely that the number of Germans in the Foreign Legion ever exceeded 35 percent. Thus, without making an allowance for losses, rotation, discharges, etc., the maximum number of Germans fighting in Indochina at any one time reached perhaps 7,000 out of 278,000. As to the ex-Nazis, the early arrivals contained a number of them, none of whom were known to be war criminals. French intelligence saw to that.
Since, in view of the rugged Indochinese climate, older men without previous tropical experience constituted more a liability than an asset, the average age of the Foreign Legion enlistees was about 23. At the time of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, any legionnaire of that age group was at the worst, in his "Hitler Youth" shorts when the [Third] Reich collapsed.[105]

Original nationalities of the Foreign Legion reflect the events in history at the time they join. Many former Wehrmacht personnel joined in the wake of WWII[103] as many soldiers returning to civilian life found it hard to find reliable employment. Jean-Denis Lepage reports that "The Foreign Legion discreetly recruited from German P.O.W. camps",[104] but adds that the number of these recruits has been subsequently exaggerated. Bernard B. Fall, who was a supporter of the French government, writing in the context of the First Indochina War, questioned the notion that the Foreign Legion was mainly German at that time, calling it:


As of 2008 members come from 140 countries. The majority of enlisted men originate from outside of France, while the majority of the officer corps consists of Frenchmen. Many recruits originate from Eastern Europe and Latin America. Neil Tweedie of The Daily Telegraph said that Germany traditionally provided many recruits, "somewhat ironically given the Legion's bloody role in two world wars."[7] He added that "Brits, too, have played their part, but there was embarrassment recently when it emerged that many British applicants were failing selection due to endemic unfitness."[7]

Membership by country

While the Foreign Legion historically did not accept women in its ranks, there was one official female member, Susan Travers, an Englishwoman who joined Free French Forces during World War II and became a member of the Foreign Legion after the war, serving in Vietnam during the First Indochina War.[99] Women were barred from service until 2000,[100] which then-French Defence Minister Alain Richard had stated that he wanted to take the level of female recruitment in the Legion to 20% by 2020.[101][102] But at this time, no woman has been known to have joined the Legion and many women already serve in the regular French Army regiments where numerous military occupational specialities are already available for them there. The Legion and Legionnaires hold the value of women and their service in the highest of regards; however by principle, women never partook in the violent and glorious combats where the Pionniers were demining and clearing the way for the infantry and women will surely not portary the allure and traditions of Pionniers in the Legion.

Legionnaires were, in the past, forced to enlist under a pseudonym ("declared identity"). This disposition exists in order to allow people who want to start their lives over to enlist, and the French Foreign Legion held the belief that it was more fair to make all new recruits use declared identities.[7] French citizens can enlist under a declared, fictitious, foreign citizenship (generally, a francophone one, often that of Belgium, Canada or Switzerland). As of 20 September 2010, new recruits may enlist under their real identities or under declared identities. Recruits who do enlist with declared identities may, after one year's service, regularise their situations under their true identities.[98] After serving in the Foreign Legion for three years, a legionnaire may apply for French citizenship.[7] He must be serving under his real name, must no longer have problems with the authorities, and must have served with "honour and fidelity".[98] Furthermore, a soldier who becomes injured during a battle for France can immediately apply for French citizenship under a provision known as "Français par le sang versé" ("French by spilled blood").[7]

The Foreign Legion is the only unit of the French Army open to people of any nationality. Most legionnaires still come from European countries but a growing percentage comes from Latin America.[96] Most of the Foreign Legion's commissioned officers are French with approximately 10% being former Legionnaires who have risen through the ranks.[97]


Foreign Legion Relic of Legionnaires in Aubagne. In Gold, on the Globe, the regions of the world where the Foreign Legion fought since creation. The Four Corners of the Earth and Seven Seas are Sentinelled by 4 Legionnaires and center guarded by 2 Lion heads. Inscribed in French
La Legion A Ses Morts which,
The Legion has Their Own Dead.

More than 1,200 individuals have received this distinction, being granted honorary ranks ranging from Legionnaire d'Honneur to Sergent-Chef de Légion d'Honneur. The majority of these awards were made to military personnel in war time, but recipients have included nurses, journalists, painters, ministers and others who are considered to have earned recognition pour services éminent rendered to the Foreign Legion.[95]

In the Foreign Legion, General Paul-Frédéric Rollet introduced the practice of awarding of honorary Legion ranks to distinguished individuals, both civilian and military; men and women. Recipients of these honorary appointments had participated in an exemplary manner on active service with units of the Legion, or had rendered exceptional service to the Legion in non-combat situations.[94]

Since 1796 the French Army had awarded honorary ranks to individuals credited with exceptional acts of courage.

Honorary ranks


Inspector of the Foreign Legion

Inspection de la Légion étrangère

Autonomous Group of the Foreign Legion

Groupement autonome de la Légion étrangère
  • 1950 : general Olié
  • 1951 : general Paul Gardy

Foreign Legion Command

Commandement de la Légion étrangère
  • 1955 : colonel then general Lennuyeux

Technical Inspection of the Foreign Legion

Inspection technique de la Légion étrangère
  • 1957 : general Lennuyeux
  • 1958 : general Paul Gardy
  • 1960 : general Morel
  • 1962 : general Lefort

Foreign Legion Groupment

Groupement de la Légion étrangère
  • 1972 : colonel then general Letestu
  • 1973 : colonel then general Gustave Fourreau
  • 1976 : colonel then general Bernard Goupil
  • 1980 : general Lardry
  • 1982 : general Jean-Claude Coullon

Commandant of the Foreign Legion Tenure (1984–Present)

Commandement de la Légion étrangère
C.O.M.L.E (1931- Present).

Foreign Legion Division General Commandant (1931- Present)

  • The FAMAS assault rifle, a French-made automatic bullpup-style rifle, chambered in the 5.56×45mm NATO round. In bullpup-style firearms, the action and magazine insert is behind the trigger section. This layout shortens the length of the weapon, while retaining the barrel length.
  • The SPECTRA is a ballistic helmet, designed by the French military, fitted with real-time positioning and information system, and with light amplifiers for night vision.
  • The FÉLIN suit, an infantry combat system that combines ample pouches, reinforced body protections and a portable electronic platform.

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


The white kepis, together with the sash and epaulettes survive in the Foreign Legion's modern parade dress. Since the 1990s the modern kepi has been made wholly of white material rather than simply worn with a white cover. Officers and senior noncommissioned officers still wear their kepis in the pre-1939 colours of dark blue and red. A green tie and (for officers) a green waistcoat recall the traditional branch colour of the Foreign Legion. From 1959 a green beret (previously worn only by the legion's paratroopers) became the universal ordinary duty headdress, with the kepi reserved for parade and off duty wear.[92][93] Other items of currently worn dress are the standard issue of the French Army.

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

French Foreign Legionnaire of the Compagnies Sahariennes.

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

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

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

Prior to 1914 units in Indo-China wore white or khaki Colonial Infantry uniforms with Foreign Legion insignia, to overcome supply difficulties. This dress included a white sun helmet of a model that was also worn by Foreign Legion units serving in the outposts of Southern Algeria, though never popular with its wearers.[91] During the initial months of World War I, Foreign Legion units serving in France wore the standard blue greatcoat and red trousers of the French line infantry, distinguished only by collar patches of the same blue as the capote, instead of red. After a short period in sky-blue the Foreign Legion adopted khaki with steel helmets, from early 1916. A mustard shade of khaki drill had been worn on active service in Morocco from 1909, replacing the classic blue and white. The latter continued to be worn in the relatively peaceful conditions of Algeria throughout World War I, although increasingly replaced by khaki drill. The pre-1914 blue and red uniforms could still be occasionally seen as garrison dress in Algeria until stocks were used up about 1919.

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

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

In the early 20th century the legionnaire wore a red kepi with blue band and piping, dark blue tunic with red collar, red cuff patches, and red trousers. The most distinctive features were the green epaulettes (replacing the red of the line) worn with red woollen fringes; plus the embroidered Foreign Legion badge of a red flaming grenade, worn on the kepi front instead of a regimental number. In the field a light khaki cover was worn over the kepi, sometimes with a protective neck curtain attached. The standard medium-blue double breasted greatcoat (capote) of the French infantry was worn, usually buttoned back to free the legs for marching. From the 1830s the legionnaires had worn a broad blue woollen sash around the waist,[90] like other European units of the French Army of Africa (such as the Zouaves or the Chasseurs d'Afrique), while indigenous units of the Army of Africa (spahis and tirailleurs) wore red sashes. White linen trousers tucked into short leather leggings were substituted for red serge in hot weather. This was the origin of the "Beau Geste" image.

One short lived aberration was the wearing of green uniforms in 1856 by Foreign Legion units recruited in Switzerland for service in the Crimean War. In the Crimea itself (1854–59) a hooded coat and red or blue waist sashes were adopted for winter dress, while during the Mexican Intervention (1863–65) straw hats or sombreros were sometimes substituted for the kepi. When the latter was worn it was usually covered with a white "havelock" – the predecessor of the white kepi that was to become a symbol of the Foreign Legion. Foreign Legion units serving in France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 were distinguishable only by minor details of insignia from the bulk of the French infantry. However subsequent colonial campaigns saw an increasing use of special garments for hot weather wear such as collarless keo blouses in Tonkin 1884–85, khaki drill jackets in Dahomey (1892) and drab covered topees worn with all-white fatigue dress in Madagascar (1895).[89]

From its foundation until World War I the Foreign Legion normally wore the uniform of the French line infantry for parade with a few special distinctions.[87] Essentially this consisted of a dark blue coat (later tunic) worn with red trousers. The field uniform was often modified under the influence of the extremes of climate and terrain in which the Foreign Legion served. Shakos were soon replaced by the light cloth kepi, which was far more suitable for North African conditions. The practice of wearing heavy capotes (greatcoats) on the march and vestes (short hip-length jackets) as working dress in barracks was followed by the Foreign Legion from its establishment.[88]


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

Contrary to popular belief, the adoption of the Foreign Legion's slow marching speed was not due to a need to preserve energy and fluids during long marches under the hot Algerian sun. Its exact origins are somewhat unclear, but the official explanation is that although the pace regulation does not seem to have been instituted before 1945, it hails back to the slow marching pace of the Ancien Régime, and its reintroduction was a "return to traditional roots".[86] This was in fact, the march step of the Foreign Legion's ancestor units – the Régiments Étrangers or Foreign Regiments of the Ancien Régime French Army, the Grande Armée‍ '​s foreign units, and the pre-1831 foreign regiments.

Also notable is the marching pace of the Foreign Legion. In comparison to the 116-step-per-minute pace of other French units, the Foreign Legion has an 88-step-per-minute marching speed. It is also referred to by Legionnaires as the "crawl". This can be seen at ceremonial parades and public displays attended by the Foreign Legion, particularly while parading in Paris on 14 July (Bastille Day Military Parade). Because of the impressively slow pace, the Foreign Legion is always the last unit marching in any parade. The Foreign Legion is normally accompanied by its own band, which traditionally plays the march of any one of the regiments comprising the Foreign Legion, except that of the unit actually on parade. The regimental song of each unit and "Le Boudin" is sung by legionnaires standing at attention. Also, because the Foreign Legion must always stay together, it does not break formation into two when approaching the presidential grandstand, as other French military units do, in order to preserve the unity of the legion.

The French Foreign Legion has its own military band.
Because of its slower pace, the Foreign Legion is always the last unit marching in any parade (Parade in Rome, June 2007).

Cadences and marching steps

The current pioneer platoon of the Foreign Legion is provided by the Legion depot and headquarters regiment for public ceremonies.[85] The unit has reintroduced the symbols of the Napoleonic sappers: the beard, the axe, the leather apron, the crossed-axes insignia and the leather gloves. When parades of the Foreign Legion are opened by this unit, it is to commemorate the traditional role of the sappers "opening the way" for the troops.[84]

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

The Pionniers (pioneers) are the combat engineers and a traditional unit of the Foreign Legion. The sapper traditionally sport large beards, wear leather aprons and gloves and hold axes. The sappers were very common in European armies during the Napoleonic Era but progressively disappeared during the 19th century. The French Army, including the Legion disbanded its regimental sapper platoons in 1870. However, in 1931 one of a number of traditions restored to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Legion's founding was the reestablished of its bearded Pionniers.[84]


The Foreign Legion still uses chevrons to indicate seniority since their service is voluntary and can extend to dozen of years. Each gold chevron, which are only used by ordinary legionnaires and noncommissioned officers, denotes five years with the Legion. They are worn beneath the rank insignia.[83]

Chevrons of seniority

Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank NATO Code Command responsibility Insignia
Sous-Lieutenant Second lieutenant OF-1 Junior section leader
Lieutenant First lieutenant OF-1 A section.
Capitaine Captain OF-2 A company.
Commandant Major OF-3 A battalion.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant colonel OF-4 Junior régiment or demi-brigade leader.
Colonel Colonel OF-5 A régiment or demi-brigade.
Général de Division Brigadier General OF-6 Entire French Foreign Legion[27] [27]
though roughly 10% are former non-commissioned officers promoted from the ranks. French Army Most officers are seconded from the

Commissioned Officers

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

Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank NATO Code Period of service Insignia
Sergent Sergeant OR-5 After 3 years of service as Caporal.
Sergent Chef Senior Sergeant OR-6 After 3 years as Sergent and between 7 to 14 years of service.
Adjudant Warrant Officer OR-8 After 3 years as Sergent Chef.
Adjudant Chef Chief Warrant Officer OR-9 After 4 years as Adjudant and at least 14 years service.
Major Chief Warrant Officer
Regimental Sergeant Major
OR-9 Appointment by either: (i) passing an examination or
(ii) promotion after a minimum of 14 years service
(without an examination).
account for 25% of the current Foreign Legion's total manpower. warrant officers (NCOs) including Sous-officiers
An insignia for a Sous-officier contains three components. In this case, three upward gold chevrons indicates a Sergent-chef. The diamond-shaped regimental patch (or Écusson) is created from three green borders indicating a Colonial unit; rather than one for "Regulars" or two for "Reserves". The grenade has seven flames rather than the usual five. Two downward chevrons of seniority attests to at least 10 years service.

Non-Commissioned & Warrant Officers

^ †: No further promotions are given to non-French Legionnaires on attaining the rank of Caporal Chef.
Table note: Command insignia in the Foreign Legion use gold lace or braid indicating foot troops in the French Army. But the Légion étrangère service color is green (for the now-defunct colonial Armée d'Afrique) instead of red (regular infantry).

Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank NATO Code Period of service Insignia
Engagé Volontaire Recruit 15 weeks basic training. None
Legionnaire 2e Classe Private / 2nd Class Legionnaire OR-1 On completion of training and Marche képi blanc (March of the White Kepi). None
Legionnaire 1e Classe Private / 1st Class Legionnaire OR-2 After 10 months of service.
Caporal Corporal OR-3 Possible after 1-year of service, known as the Fonctionnaire Caporal (or Caporal "Fut Fut") course. Recruits selected for this course need to show good leadership skills during basic training.
Caporal Chef Senior Corporal OR-4 After 6 years of service.
A Caporal-chef Pionniers de la Légion of the 1st Foreign Regiment. The pionniers insigna depicts 2 crossed axes, instead of a grenade for the regular infantry.[82]
Insignia of the Pionniers of the 1st Foreign Regiment.[81]
A Caporal-chef, with 3 chevrons of seniority, bugling during the Bastille Day Military Parade.[80]

All volunteers in the French Foreign Legion begin their careers as basic legionnaires with one in four eventually becoming a sous-officier (non-commissioned officer). On joining, a new recruit receives a monthly salary of €1,200 in addition to food and lodgings.[7][79] He is also given his own new rifle, which according to the lore of the Legion must never be left on a battlefield.[7] Promotion is concurrent with the ranks in the French Army.


  • Honneur, Fidélité
  • Ich hatt' einen Kameraden (In German )
  • Il est un moulin
  • J'avais un camarade
  • Kameraden (In German)
  • La colonne (1e REC)
  • La Légion marche (2e REP)[76]
  • La lune est claire
  • Le Caïd
  • Il y a des cailloux sur toutes les routes
  • Le fanion de la Légion
  • Le Soleil brille
  • Le front haut et l'âme fière (5e RE)
  • Légionnaire de l'Afrique
  • Massari Marie
  • Monica
  • Sous le Soleil brûlant d'Afrique (13e DBLE)
  • Nous sommes tous des volontaires (1e RE)[77]
  • Nous sommes de la Légion
  • La petite piste
  • Pour faire un vrai légionnaire
  • Premier chant du 1e REC
  • Quand on a une fille dans l'cuir
  • Rien n'empêche (2e REG)[78]
  • Sapeur, mineurs et bâtisseurs (6e REG)
  • Soldats de la Légion étrangère
  • Souvenirs qui passe
  • Suzanna
  • The Windmill
  • Venu volontaire
  • Véronica
  • Cravate verte et Képi blanc
  • Dans la brume, la rocaille
  • Défilé du 3e REI
  • C'était un Edelweiss
  • Écho
  • En Afrique
  • En Algérie (1e RE)[74]
  • Es steht eine Mühle (In German)
  • Eugénie
  • Les Képis Blancs (1e RE)[75]

Other songs

"Le Boudin"[3][69] is the marching song of the Foreign Legion.

The chapeau chinois (literally "Chinese hat" in French) is the French name of an old Ottoman music instrument that was popular in the eighteenth century, but was progressively abandoned by most European military bands in the nineteenth century, except by the Foreign Legion and the Spahis.[38]

Le Boudin

Marching songs

Regiment Colors Insignia Beret Insgnia Tenure Notable Commandants
General Command of the French Foreign Legion (C.O.M.L.E) 1931–Present General Paul-Frédéric Rollet
1st Foreign Regiment (1e R.E.)

1841–Present General Paul-Frédéric Rollet
Captain Jean Danjou
Colonel Raphaël Vienot
Peter I of Serbia
Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener
Brigadier General Giuseppe Garibaldi II
Eugene Bullard
Commandant Pierre Segrétain
Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Paul Jeanpierre
4th Foreign Regiment (4e R.E.)

1976 –Present
Foreign Legion Recruiting Group (G.R.L.E) 2007-Present
Legion Pionniers
(Pionniers de La Légion Etrangère)
1st Foreign Regiment
Pionniers Sections of Tradition
1st Foreign Engineer Regiment
Pionniers Groups
2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment
Pionniers Groups
3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment
Pionniers Groups
4th Foreign Regiment
Pionniers Groups
Foreign Legion Detachment in Mayotte
Pionniers Groups
1e RE
1e REG
2e REG
3e RE
4e RE
Communal Depot of the Foreign Regiments (D.C.R.E) * 1933-1955
Colonel Louis-Antoine Gaultier
1st Foreign Infantry Regiment (1e R.E.I) (1950-1955)
1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment (1e R.E.C)
Nec Pluribus Impar
Foreign Air Supply Company (C.E.R.A) * 1951
Parachute Company of the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (Para Co. 3e R.E.I) * 1948-1949
1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1948-1955)
Lieutenant Jacques Morin (Company Commander)[63]
Lieutenant Paul Arnaud de Foïard (Section-Platoon, Commander)
1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1e B.E.P) * 1948-1955 Commandant Pierre Segrétain[64]
(1e BEP, I formation)
Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre[65]
(1e BEP, I, II and III formations)
Captain Pierre Sergent
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1e R.E.P) *
Marche ou Creve
1955-1961 Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre[65]
Commandant Hélie de Saint Marc
Captain Pierre Sergent
Guy Rubin de Cervens
1st Foreign Parachute Heavy Mortar Company (1e C.E.P.M.L) * 1953-1954 Lieutenant Jacques Molinier
Lieutenant Paul Turcy
Lieutenant Erwan Bergot
Lieutenant Jean Singland
1st Foreign Engineer Regiment (1e R.E.G)
Ad Unum
2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment (2e R.E.G)
Rien n'empêche
1999- Present
2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment (2e R.E.C) * 1939 - 1940
1945 -1962
2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment (2e R.E.I)
Être Prêt
3 Apr 1841 – 1 Apr 1943
1 Aug 1945 – 1 Jan 1968
1 Sept 1972 – Present
Captain Jean Danjou
Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta
Colonel Chabrières
Commandant Pierre Segrétain
Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Paul Jeanpierre
2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (2e B.E.P) * 1948-1955 Commandant Barthélémy Rémy Raffali[66]
Captain Georges Hamacek
2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e R.E.P)
More Majorum
1948- Present Lieutenant Colonel Paul Arnaud de Foïard
Marching Regiment of the Foreign Legion (R.M.L.E)
2nd Marching Regiment of the 1st Foreign Regiment- 2eRM 1e RE - (1914-1915)
3rd Marching Regiment of the 1st Foreign Regiment- 3e RM 1eRE - (1914-1915)
4th Marching Regiment of the 1st Foreign Regiment- 4e RM 1e RE - (1914-1915)
2nd Marching Regiment of the 2nd Foreign Regiment- 2e RM 2e RE - (1914-1915)
* 1915-1920
General Paul-Frédéric Rollet
3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (3e R.E.I) *
Legio Patria Nostra
11 November 1915 - Present
Marching Regiments of Foreign Volunteers (R.M.V.E)
21st Marching Regiment of Foreign Volunteers- 21e RMVE - (1939-1940)
22nd Marching Regiment of Foreign Volunteers- 22e R.M.V.E - (1939-1940)
23rd Marching Regiment of Foreign Volunteers- 23e R.M.V.E - (1940)
3rd Foreign Parachute Battalion (3e B.E.P) * 1948-1955 Captain Darmuzai[67]
3rd Foreign Parachute Regiment (3e R.E.P) * 1955-1955 Captain Darmuzai[68]
5th Foreign Infantry Regiment (5e R.E.I) 1930-2000
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment (6e R.E.I)
Ad Unum
1939–1940; 1949–1955 Commadant Pierre Segrétain
Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Jeanpierre
6th Foreign Engineer Regiment (6e R.E.G)
Ad Unum
1984 - 1999
1999 - 1e REG
11th Foreign Infantry Regiment (11e R.E.I) * 1939-1940
12th Foreign Infantry Regiment (12e R.E.I) * 1939-1940
13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (13e D.B.L.E)
More Majorum
Foreign Legion Detachment in Mayotte (D.L.E.M) *
Pericula Ludus



  • 1e R.E: Honneur et Fidélité
  • G.R.L.E: Honneur et Fidélité
  • 1e REC: Honneur et Fidélité & Nec Pluribus Impar (No other equal)
  • 2e REP: Honneur et Fidélité & More Majorum (According to the traditions of our ancestors)
  • 2e REI: Honneur et Fidélité & Être prêt (Be ready)
  • 2e REG: Honneur et Fidélité & Rien n'empêche (Nothing prevents)
  • 3e REI: Honneur et Fidélité & Legio Patria Nostra ( The Legion our Fatherland)
  • 4e R.E: Honneur et Fidélité & Creuset de la Légion et Régiment des fortes têtes (The crucible of the Legion and the strong right minded regiment)
  • 6e R.E.G then 1e REG: Honneur et Fidélité & Ad Unum (All to one end - for the regiment until the last one)
  • 13e DBLE: Honneur et Fidélité & More Majorum (According to the traditions of our ancestors)
  • DLEM: Honneur et Fidélité & Pericula Ludus ( Dangers game - for the regiment To Danger is my pleasure of the 2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment)

11 Foreign Legion Colonels with 11 Regimental mottos

Regimental mottos

Regimental flags of the 1st Foreign Regiment and 2nd Regiments in Paris, 2003.[3]

Legio Patria Nostra (The Legion is our Fatherland) is the Latin motto of the Foreign Legion.[62] The adoption of the Foreign Legion as a new fatherland does not imply the repudiation by the legionnaire of his first nationality. The French Foreign Legion respects the original fatherland of the legionnaires who are totally free to preserve their nationalities. The Foreign Legion even asks the agreement of any legionnaire who could be sent in a military operation where his country of origin would be committed.

Legio Patria Nostra

Unlike the creed of all the French Army units, the motto of the Foreign Legion's regimental flags is not Honneur et Patrie (Honour and Fatherland) but Honneur et Fidélité (Honour and Fidelity).[61]

Honneur et Fidélité


Art. 1 - Légionnaire, tu es un volontaire, servant la France avec honneur et fidélité.[53][54]
Art. 2 - Chaque légionnaire est ton frère d'armes, quelles que soient sa nationalité, sa race ou sa religion. Tu lui manifestes toujours la solidarité étroite qui doit unir les membres d'une même famille.[53][55]
Art. 3 - Respectueux des traditions, attaché à tes chefs, la discipline et la camaraderie sont ta force, le courage et la loyauté tes vertus.[53][56]
Art. 4 - Fier de ton état de légionnaire, tu le montres dans ta tenue toujours élégante, ton comportement toujours digne mais modeste, ton casernement toujours net.[53][57]
Art. 5 - Soldat d'élite, tu t'entraînes avec rigueur, tu entretiens ton arme comme ton bien le plus précieux, tu as le souci constant de ta forme physique.[53][58]
Art. 6 - La mission est sacrée, tu l'exécutes jusqu'au bout et si besoin, en opérations, au péril de ta vie.[53][59]
Art. 7 - Au combat, tu agis sans passion et sans haine, tu respectes les ennemis vaincus, tu n'abandonnes jamais ni tes morts, ni tes blessés, ni tes armes. [53][60]

The "Legionnaire's Code of Honour"[52][53] is the crucible vocal synchronisation and identity of the Legion and sung in French only.

Code of Honour

Commemoration of the Battle of Camarón by the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment at the Roman Theatre of Orange.

As the Foreign Legion is composed of soldiers of different nationalities and backgrounds, it needed to develop an intense Esprit de Corps,[38] which is carried out by the development of camaraderie,[38] specific traditions, the high sense of loyalty of its legionnaires, the quality of their training and the pride of being a soldier of an élite unit.[38]


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

Basic training for the Foreign Legion is conducted in the 4th Foreign Regiment. This is an operational combat regiment which provides a training course of 15 weeks, before recruits are assigned to their operational units:

The majority of officers in the Legion are seconded from the regular French Army and are referred to as Legion officers (Officiers de Légion). Adjudant-chefs, Adjudants, and a limited number of both French and non-French officers (French: Officier du Rang de La Légion) are promoted from the ranks of the Legion.

Légionnaires training in French Guiana

Basic Training

Arrival 1 to 3 days in a Foreign Legion Information Center. Reception, information, and terms of contract. Afterwards transferred to Paris, Foreign Legion Recruitment Center.
Pre-selection 1 to 4 days in a Foreign Legion Recruitment Center (Paris). Confirmation of motivation, initial medical check-up, finalising enlistment papers and signing of 5-year service contract.
Selection 7 to 14 days in the Recruitment and Selection Center in Aubagne. Psychological and personality tests, logic tests (no education requirements), medical exam, physical condition tests, motivation and security interviews. Confirmation or denial of selection.
Passed Selection Signing and handing-over of the five-year service contract. Incorporation into the Foreign Legion as a trainee.

Recruitment process

Foreign Engineer DINOPS and Commandos of the Foreign Legion

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

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

These are the following deployments:[50]

Current deployments

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

Regimental insignia.

Composition & organization

Global War on Terror 2001 - present

After the four-week air campaign, coalition forces launched the ground offensive. They quickly penetrated deep into Iraq, with the Legion taking the Al Salman Airport, meeting little resistance. The war ended after a hundred hours of fighting on the ground, which resulted in very light casualties for the Legion.

In September 1990, the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment, and the 6th Foreign Engineer Regiment were sent to the Persian Gulf as a part of Opération Daguet. The Legion force, comprising 27 different nationalities,[48] was attached to the French 6th Light Armoured Division, whose mission was to protect the Coalition's left flank. During the Gulf War, DINOPS operated in support of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, and provided the EOD services to the division. After the cease fire took hold they conducted a joint mine clearing operation alongside an Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diver Team Unit.

A Legion honour guard of the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment stands at attention as they await the arrival of Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, commander of Joint Forces in Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Shield.[3]

Gulf War 1990 - 1991

Pionniers during 1970.[3]

1962– present

Intervention actions in Africa following the Algerian War included the Chadian–Libyan conflict in 1969–72, 1978–79, and 1983–87; Kolwezi in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May 1978; Rwanda in 1990–94; and the Ivory Coast in 2002 to the present.

By the mid-1960s the Legion had lost its traditional and spiritual home in Algeria and elite units had been dissolved.[34] President de Gaulle considered disbanding it altogether but after being downsized to 8,000 men and stripped of all heavy weaponry the Legion was relocated to metropolitan France.[47] The Legion now had a new role as a rapid intervention force to preserve French interests.

The 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion parading in Algeria (circa 1958).[3]

Post-colonial Africa

The effect was to retain the Foreign Legion as a professional force that could be used for military interventions outside France and not involve the politically unpopular use of French conscripts. The subsequent abolition of conscription in France in 2001 and the creation of an entirely professional army might be expected to put the legion's long-term future at risk but as of 2013 this has not been the case.

The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment was disbanded on April 30, 1961.[46] However, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment remained in existence.

It was at this time that the Legion acquired its parade song "Non, je ne regrette rien" (No, I don't regret anything), a 1960 Edith Piaf song sung by that their Sous-Officiers and legionnaires, leaving their barracks for re-deployment following the Algiers putsch of 1961, sang.[45] The song has remained a part of Legion heritage since.

The Foreign Legion faced the possibility of disbandment after the highly decorated Count Aage of Rosenborg, and Legionnaire Heinz Zimmermann (the last fatal casualty in Algeria).

Following the independence of Algeria in 1962, the Foreign Legion was reduced in numbers but not disbanded, unlike most other units comprising the Armée d'Afrique: Zouaves, Tirailleurs, Méharistes, Harkis, Goums, Chasseurs d'Afrique and all but one of the Spahi regiments.

Marche ou Crève and More Majorum for Legion Officers, Sous-Officiers and Legionnaires of the BEPs and REPs of the Legion.[43][44]

Generals' Putsch 1961 and reduction of Foreign Legion

The lory of the legionnaires and paratroopers; the reputation of the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment was tarnished by the general's putsch of 1961.[42]

Main operations during the Algerian War included the Battle of Algiers and the Batlle of the Frontiers carried by 60,000 French and Foreign Legion Paratroopers. For paratroopers of the Legion, the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1e REP) and 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP), were the only known foreign active parachute regiments, exclusively commanded by Pierre Paul Jeanpierre for the 1e REP[39] and the paratooper commanders of the 2e REP.[40] The remainder of French paratooper units of the French Armed Forces were commanded by Jacques Massu, Buchond, Marcel Bigeard, Paul Aussaresses. In relation to the Legion, other offensives in the mountains in 1959 included operations, Jumelles, Cigales and Ariege in the Aures and last in Kabylie.[41]

Also worthy noting, with the debut of the War in Algeria on November 1, 1954; the two foreign participating parachute battalions back from Indochina being the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1e BEP, III Formation) and the 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (2e BEP) were not part of any French parachute divisions yet and were not designated as regiments either until respectively September and December 1, 1955.

Constantly on call throughout the country, heavily engaged in fighting against the National Liberation Front and the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN). The main activity during the period 1954-62 were part of the tasked operations of the 10th Parachute Division and 25th Parachute Division. The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment was part of the branch hierarchy and command of the 10th Parachute Division (France) and the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment was part of the branch hierarchy and command of the 25th Parachute Division (France). However, It is worthy noting that while both the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1e REP) and the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP) were part of the operations of French Parachute Divisions (10th and 25th established in 1956); the Legion 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1e REP) and the Legion 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e REP) are older than the French divisions. The 1e REP was the former 3 time reconstituted 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1e BEP) and the 2e REP was the former 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion (2e BEP); both battalions renamed with their Legionnaires transferred from Indochina on August 1, 1954 to Algeria by November 1, 1954 in a period of 4 months and both tracing their origins to the Parachute Company of the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment commanded by Legion Lieutenant Jacques Morin.[38]

1st Foreign Parachute Regiment formed and commanded by
Legion Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Paul Jeanpierre (1912-1958).[36][37]

Para Foreign Legion

The Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) was a highly traumatic conflict for France. For the Foreign Legion, it ended with the enforced abandonment of the historic barracks and command center at Sidi Bel Abbès established in 1842.

Algerian War 1954 - 1962

Dien Bien Phu fell on May 7, 1954 at 1730.[35] The couple of hectares comprising the battlefield today are filled with corn fields centered by a stele which commemorates the sacrifices of those who died there. While the garrison of Dien Bien Phu included French regular, North African and locally recruited (indochinese) units, the battle has become associated particularly with the paratroops of the Foreign Legion.

The 1e BEP sailed to Indochina on November 12 and was then engaged in combat operations in Tonkin.[34] On November 17, 1950; the battalion parachuted into That Khé and suffered heavy losses at Coc Xa. Reconstituted on March 1, 1951 the battalion participated in combat operations at Cho Ben, on the Black River and in Annam.[34] On November 21, 1953; the reconstituted 1e BEP was parachuted into the Dien Bien Phu.[34] In this battle, the unit lost 575 killed and missing.[34] Reconstituted for the third time on May 19, 1954, the battalion left Indochina on February 8, 1955.[34] The 1e BEP received 5 citations and the fourragère of the colors of the Médaille militaire[34] for its service in Indochina. The 1e BEP become the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1e REP) in Algeria on September 1, 1955.

While only one of several Legion units involved in Indochina, the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion (1e BEP) particularly distinguished itself, while being annihilated twice. It was renamed the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment (1e REP) after its third reformation.[34]

During the First Indochina War (1946–54) the Foreign Legion saw its numbers swell due to the incorporation of World War II veterans. Although the Foreign Legion distinguished itself in a territory where it had served since the 1880s, it also suffered a heavy toll during this war. Constantly being deployed in operations, units of the Legion suffered particularly heavy losses in the climatic Battle of Dien Bien Phu, before the fortified valley finally fell on May 7, 1954.[33]

First Indochina War 1946 - 1954

Count Aage of Rosenborg (1887-1940).

The high percentage of Germans was contrary to normal policy concerning a single dominant nationality however, and in more recent times Germans have made up a much smaller percentage of the Foreign Legion's composition.[33]

Following World War II, many French speaking German former soldiers joined the Foreign Legion to pursue a military career, an option no longer possible in Germany including French German soldiers of Malgré-nous. It would have been considered problematic if the men from Alsace-Lorraine didn't speak French. These French speaking former German soldiers made up as much as 60 percent of the Legion during the war in Indochina. Contrary to popular belief however, French policy was to exclude former members of the Waffen-SS, and candidates for induction were refused if they exhibited the tell-tale bloodtype tattoo, or even a scar that might be masking it.[32]


The Syria–Lebanon Campaign of June 1941 saw legionnaire fighting legionnaire as the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion (D.B.L.E.) clashed with the 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment at Damascus. Later, a thousand of the rank-and-file of the Vichy Legion unit joined the 13th D.B.L.E. of the Free French forces as a third battalion.

The Foreign Legion played a smaller role in World War II in mainland Europe than in World War I, though there was involvement in many exterior theatres of operations, notably sea transport protection through sea to the Norwegian, Syria-Lebanon, and North African campaigns. The 13th Demi-Brigade, formed for service in Norway, found itself in the UK at the time of the French Armistice (June 1940), was deployed to the British 8th Army in North Africa and distinguished itself in the Battle of Bir Hakeim (1942). Reflecting the divisions of the time, part of the Foreign Legion joined the Free French movement while another part served the Vichy government. German legionnaires were incorporated into the Wehrmacht's 90th Light Infantry Division in North Africa.[31]

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

World War II 1939 - 1945

In 1931 General Paul-Frédéric Rollet was appointed Inspector General of the Legion. He took advantage of the centennial celebrations of the Legion's foundation to reintroduce a number of ceremonial traditions dating from the 19th century. He was subsequently credited with creating much of the modern mystique of the Legion.

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

The Legion played a major part in the Rif War of 1920–25.


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