French Foreign Legion

French Foreign Legion

Overview
The French Foreign Legion is a unique military service wing of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 established in 1831. The foreign legion was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces. Commanded by French officers, it is also open to French citizens, who amounted to 24% of the recruits as of 2007.

The foreign legion is today known as an elite military unit whose training focuses not only on traditional military skills but also on its strong esprit de corps
Morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

.
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Encyclopedia
The French Foreign Legion is a unique military service wing of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 established in 1831. The foreign legion was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces. Commanded by French officers, it is also open to French citizens, who amounted to 24% of the recruits as of 2007.

The foreign legion is today known as an elite military unit whose training focuses not only on traditional military skills but also on its strong esprit de corps
Morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

. As its men come from different countries with different cultures, this is a widely accepted solution to strengthen them enough to work as a team. Consequently, training is often described as not only physically challenging, but due to a number of reasons, extremely stressful psychologically (i.e: culture shock).

History


The French Foreign Legion was created by Louis Philippe
Louis-Philippe of France
Louis Philippe I was King of the French from 1830 to 1848 in what was known as the July Monarchy. His father was a duke who supported the French Revolution but was nevertheless guillotined. Louis Philippe fled France as a young man and spent 21 years in exile, including considerable time in the...

, the King of the French, on 10 March 1831. The direct reason was that foreigners were forbidden to serve in the French Army after the 1830 July Revolution
July Revolution
The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...

, so the foreign legion was created to allow the government a way around this restriction. The purpose of the foreign legion was to remove disruptive elements from society and put them to use fighting the enemies of France. Recruits included failed revolutionaries from the rest of Europe, soldiers from the disbanded foreign regiments, and troublemakers in general, both foreign and French. Algeria
French Algeria
French Algeria lasted from 1830 to 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France, much like Corsica and Réunion are to this day. The vast arid interior of Algeria, like the rest...

 was designated as the foreign legion's home.

The foreign legion was primarily used, as part of the Armée d'Afrique
Army of Africa (France)
The Army of Africa was an unofficial but commonly used term for those portions of the French Army recruited from or normally stationed in French North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962.-Composition:...

, to protect and expand the French colonial empire
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 during the 19th century, but it also fought in almost all French wars including the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 and both World War
World war
A world war is a war affecting the majority of the world's most powerful and populous nations. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters....

s. The Foreign Legion has remained an important part of the French Army, surviving three Republics, The Second French Empire
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

, two World Wars, the rise and fall of mass conscript armies
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

, the dismantling of the French colonial empire and the French loss of the Foreign Legion's base, Algeria.

Conquest of Algeria (1830–1847)


Created to fight "outside mainland France
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

", the Foreign Legion was stationed in Algeria
French Algeria
French Algeria lasted from 1830 to 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France, much like Corsica and Réunion are to this day. The vast arid interior of Algeria, like the rest...

, where it took part of the pacification
Pacification of Algeria
Following the conquest of the Regency of Algiers, the Pacification of Algeria consists of a series of military operations which aimed to put an end to various tribal rebellions, razzias and massacres of French settlers, which were sporadically held in the Algerian countryside...

 and development of the colony, by notably drying the marshes in the region of Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

. The Foreign Legion was initially divided into "national battalions" (Swiss, Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

, Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

...).

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, received the worst assignments and its members were generally uninterested in the new colony of the French. The Foreign Legion's first service in Algeria came to an end after only four years, as it was needed elsewhere.

Spain (1835–1839)


To support Isabella
Isabella II of Spain
Isabella II was the only female monarch of Spain in modern times. She came to the throne as an infant, but her succession was disputed by the Carlists, who refused to recognise a female sovereign, leading to the Carlist Wars. After a troubled reign, she was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of...

's claim to the Spanish throne against her uncle, the French government decided to send the foreign legion to Spain. On 28 June 1835, the unit was handed over to the Spanish government. The foreign legion landed at Tarragona
Tarragona
Tarragona is a city located in the south of Catalonia on the north-east of Spain, by the Mediterranean. It is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name and the capital of the Catalan comarca Tarragonès. In the medieval and modern times it was the capital of the Vegueria of Tarragona...

 on 17 August with around 4,000 men who were quickly dubbed Los Argelinos (the Algerians) by locals because of their previous posting.

The Foreign Legion's commander immediately dissolved the national battalions to improve the esprit de corps. Later, he also created three squadrons of lancers and an artillery battery from the existing force to increase independence and flexibility. The Foreign Legion was dissolved on 8 December 1838, when it had dropped to only 500 men. The survivors returned to France, many reenlisting in the new Foreign Legion along with many of their former Carlist
Carlism
Carlism is a traditionalist and legitimist political movement in Spain seeking the establishment of a separate line of the Bourbon family on the Spanish throne. This line descended from Infante Carlos, Count of Molina , and was founded due to dispute over the succession laws and widespread...

 enemies.

Crimean War (1854–1856)


The 27 June 1854, the French ship Jean Bart
French ship Jean Bart (1852)
The Jean Bart was a 90-gun Suffren class ship of the line of the French Navy, named in honour of Jean Bart.She took part in the Siege of Sevastopol and the Battle of Kinburn ....

 embarked two battalions of the foreign legion. The Third Battalion was left in Bastia
Bastia
Bastia is a commune in the Haute-Corse department of France located in the northeast of the island of Corsica at the base of Cap Corse. It is also the second-largest city in Corsica after Ajaccio and the capital of the department....

, Corsica, as a regimental depot, and was intended to supply both foreign regiments that left for Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

. The two regiments of the Foreign Legion took part, as the "foreign brigade", in the battle of Alma
Battle of Alma
The Battle of the Alma , which is usually considered the first battle of the Crimean War , took place just south of the River Alma in the Crimea. An Anglo-French force under General St...

 (20 September 1854) and the siege of Sevastopol, during the winter of 1854–1855.

The lack of equipment was particularly challenging and cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 hit the Allied expeditionary force. Nevertheless, the "bellies of leather" (the nickname given to the legionnaires by the Russians because of their bandolier on their stomachs), behaved bravely. On 21 June 1855, the Third Battalion, left Corsica for Crimea.

The 8 September the final assault was launched on Sevastopol
Sevastopol
Sevastopol is a city on rights of administrative division of Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 . Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, after the Port of Odessa....

, and two days later, the Second Foreign Regiment, flags and band playing ahead, marched through the streets of Sevastopol.

Campaign of Italy (1859)


Like the rest of the "Army of Africa
Army of Africa (France)
The Army of Africa was an unofficial but commonly used term for those portions of the French Army recruited from or normally stationed in French North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962.-Composition:...

", the Foreign Legion took part in the campaign of Italy. Two foreign regiments, associated with the 2nd Regiment of Zouave
Zouave
Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962. The name was also adopted during the 19th century by units in other armies, especially volunteer regiments raised for service in the American Civil War...

s, were part of the Second Brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 of the Second Division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 of Mac Mahon's Corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

. The Foreign Legion acquitted itself particularly well against the Austrians
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 at the battle of Magenta
Battle of Magenta
The Battle of Magenta was fought on June 4, 1859 during the Second Italian War of Independence, resulting in a French-Sardinian victory under Napoleon III against the Austrians under Marshal Ferencz Gyulai....

 (4 June 1859) and at the Battle of Solferino
Battle of Solferino
The Battle of Solferino, , was fought on June 24, 1859 and resulted in the victory of the allied French Army under Napoleon III and Sardinian Army under Victor Emmanuel II against the Austrian Army under Emperor Franz Joseph I; it was the last major battle in world...

 (24 June). The losses were significant and the Second Foreign Regiment lost Colonel Chabrière, its commanding officer. In gratitude, the city of Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 awarded, in 1909, the "commemorative medal of deliverance", which still adorns the regimental flags of the Second Regiment.

Mexico (1863–1867)



It was in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 on 30 April 1863 that the Foreign Legion earned its legendary status. A company led by Captain Jean Danjou
Jean Danjou
Jean Danjou was a decorated captain in the French Foreign Legion. He commanded the two lieutenants and 62 legionnaires who fought the legendary Battle of Camarón during the French intervention in Mexico. He was killed during the battle.-Education:Jean Danjou was born in Chalabre into a family with...

, numbering 62 soldiers and 3 officers, was escorting a convoy to the besieged city of Puebla when it was attacked and besieged
Battle of Camarón
The Battle of Camarón, which occurred 30 April 1863 between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army, is regarded by the Legion as a defining moment in its history...

 by two thousand revolutionaries, organised in three battalions of infantry and cavalry, numbering 1,200 and 800 respectively. The patrol was forced to make a defence in Hacienda Camarón, and despite the hopelessness of the situation, fought nearly to the last man. When only six survivors remained, out of ammunition, a bayonet charge was conducted in which three of the six were killed. The remaining three wounded men were brought before the Mexican general, who allowed them to return to France as an honor guard for the body of Captain Danjou. The captain had a wooden hand which was stolen during the battle; it was later returned to the Foreign Legion and is now kept in a case in the Foreign Legion Museum at Aubagne, and paraded annually on Camerone Day. It is the Foreign Legion's most precious relic.

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

Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871)


According to French law, the Foreign Legion was not to be used within Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

 except in the case of a national invasion, and was consequently not a part of Napoleon III’s Imperial Army that capitulated at Sedan
Battle of Sedan
The Battle of Sedan was fought during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 September 1870. It resulted in the capture of Emperor Napoleon III and large numbers of his troops and for all intents and purposes decided the war in favour of Prussia and its allies, though fighting continued under a new French...

. With the defeat of the Imperial Army, the Second French Empire
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

 fell and the Third Republic
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 was created.

The new Third Republic was desperately short of trained soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, so the Foreign Legion was ordered to provide a contingent. On 11 October 1870 two provisional battalions disembarked at Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

, the first time the Foreign Legion had been deployed in France itself. It attempted to lift the Siege of Paris
Siege of Paris
The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 – January 28, 1871, and the consequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune....

 by breaking through the German lines. It succeeded in retaking Orléans
Second Battle of Orléans (1870)
The Second Battle of Orléans was a battle of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It took place on December 3 and 4, 1870 and was part of the Loire Campaign...

, but failed to break the siege.

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



The Foreign Legion's First Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel Donnier) was sent to Tonkin in the autumn of 1883, during the period of undeclared hostilities that preceded the Sino-French War
Sino-French War
The Sino–French War was a limited conflict fought between August 1884 and April 1885 to decide whether France should replace China in control of Tonkin . As the French achieved their war aims, they are usually considered to have won the war...

 (August 1884 to April 1885), and formed part of the attack column that stormed the western gate of Son Tay
Son Tay Campaign
The Son Tay Campaign was a campaign fought by the French to capture the strategically important city of Son Tay in Tonkin from Liu Yongfu's Black Flag Army and allied contingents of Vietnamese and Chinese troops...

 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 Tuyen Quang
Siege of Tuyen Quang
The Siege of Tuyen Quang was an important confrontation between the French and the Chinese armies in Tonkin during the Sino-French War...

 (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
Keelung Campaign
The Keelung Campaign was a controversial military campaign undertaken by the French in northern Formosa during the Sino-French War. After making a botched attack on Keelung in August 1884, the French landed an expeditionary corps of 2,000 men and captured the port in October 1884...

. The battalion played an important role in Colonel Jacques Duchesne
Jacques Duchesne
Jacques Charles René Achille Duchesne was a French general of the 19th century. He was born at Sens on March 3, 1837. He entered Saint-Cyr in 1855, and became a Lieutenant in 1861.-Career:...

'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 Bac Ninh campaign
Bac Ninh campaign
The Bac Ninh Campaign was one of a series of clashes between French and Chinese forces in northern Vietnam during the Tonkin campaign...

, General François de Négrier
François de Négrier
General François Oscar de Négrier was one of the most charismatic French generals of the Third Republic, winning fame in Algeria in the Sud-Oranais campaign and in Tonkin during the Sino-French War .- Early career :Born in Belfort, France on October 2, 1839, De Négrier served with Marshal...

 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


As part of the Army of Africa
Army of Africa (France)
The Army of Africa was an unofficial but commonly used term for those portions of the French Army recruited from or normally stationed in French North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962.-Composition:...

, the Foreign Legion contributed to the growth of the French colonial Empire
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 in Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

. Simultaneously, the Legion took part to the pacification of Algeria
Pacification of Algeria
Following the conquest of the Regency of Algiers, the Pacification of Algeria consists of a series of military operations which aimed to put an end to various tribal rebellions, razzias and massacres of French settlers, which were sporadically held in the Algerian countryside...

, plagued by various tribal rebellions and razzias.

Second Franco-Dahomean War (1892–1894)


In 1892, King Behanzin
Behanzin
Béhanzin is considered the eleventh King of Dahomey . Upon taking the throne, he changed his name from Kondo. He succeeded his father, Glele, and ruled from 1889 to 1894. Behanzin was Abomey's last independent ruler established through traditional power structures...

 was threatening the French protectorate of Porto Novo 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
Cotonou
-Demographics:*1979: 320,348 *1992: 536,827 *2002: 665,100 *2005: 690,584 The main languages spoken in Cotonou include the Fon language, Aja language, Yoruba language and French.-Transport:...

, the legionnaires marched to seize Abomey
Abomey
When UNESCO designated the royal palaces of Abomey as a World Heritage Site in 1985 it statedFrom 1993, 50 of the 56 bas-reliefs that formerly decorated the walls of King Glèlè have been located and replaced on the rebuilt structure...

, 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
Dahomey Amazons
The Dahomey Amazons or Mino were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey which lasted until the end of the 19th century...

. 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
Antananarivo
Antananarivo , formerly Tananarive , is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. It is also known by its French colonial shorthand form Tana....

, the capital of Madagascar. After a few skirmishes, the Queen Ranavalona III promptly surrendered. 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. 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
Joseph Gallieni
Joseph Simon Gallieni was a French soldier, most active as a military commander and administrator in the French colonies and finished his career during the First World War. He was made Marshal of France posthumously in 1921...

. During that time, insurrections against the Malagasy Christians of the island, missionaries and foreigners were particularly terrible. Queen Ranavalona III was deposed on January 1897 and was exiled to Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

 in Algeria, where she died in 1917.

Mandingo War (1898)


From 1882 until his capture, Samori Ture, ruler of the Wassoulou Empire
Wassoulou Empire
The Wassoulou Empire, sometimes referred to as the Mandinka Empire, was a short-lived empire of West Africa built from the conquests of Dyula ruler Samori Ture and destroyed by the French colonial army....

, 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
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. 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
Babemba Traoré
Babemba Traoré was a king of the Kénédougou Empire. Following the 1893 death of his brother Tieba Traoré, Babemba assumed the Kénédougou throne. The capital, Sikasso, was beset at this time by both the Dyula forces of Samory Touré and by the rapidly advancing French colonial army...

 at Sikasso
Sikasso
Sikasso is a city in the south of Mali and the capital of the Sikasso Region. With 130,700 residents, Sikasso recently passed Ségou to become Mali's second-largest city.-Geography:...

, 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
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

. The Legionnaires' victory at the fortress of Ouilla and police patrols in the region accelerated the submission of the tribes. On the 29th of September, 1898, Samori Ture was captured by the French Commandant Goudraud and exiled to Gabon
Gabon
Gabon , officially the Gabonese Republic is a state in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and with the Republic of the Congo curving around the east and south. The Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean is to the west...

, marking the end of the Wassoulou Empire.

World War I


In World War I, the Foreign Legion fought in many critical battles on the Western Front, including Artois
Second Battle of Artois
The Second Battle of Artois, of which the British contribution was the Battle of Aubers Ridge, was a battle on the Western Front of the First World War, it was fought at the same time as the Second Battle of Ypres. Even though the French under General Philippe Pétain gained some initial victories,...

, Champagne
Second Battle of Champagne
The Second Battle of Champagne was a French offensive against the invading German army beginning on 25 September 1915, part of World War I.-September 25 - October 6:...

, Somme, Aisne
Second Battle of the Aisne
The Second Battle of the Aisne , was the massive main assault of the French military's Nivelle Offensive or Chemin des Dames Offensive in 1917 during World War I....

, and Verdun
Verdun
Verdun is a city in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Verdun is the biggest city in Meuse, although the capital of the department is the slightly smaller city of Bar-le-Duc.- History :...

 (in 1917), and also suffered heavy casualties during 1918. The Foreign Legion was also in the Dardanelles
Battle of Gallipoli
The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Gallipoli, took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War...

 and Macedonian front, and was highly decorated for its efforts. Many young foreigners, including Americans like Fred Zinn
Fred Zinn
Friedrich Wilhelm "Fred" Zinn was a volunteer American aviator who flew with French Armée de l'Air forces in World War I and an early pioneer of aerial photography for wartime reconnaissance and Military intelligence....

, volunteered for the Foreign Legion when the war broke out in 1914. There were marked differences between such idealistic volunteers as the poet Alan Seeger
Alan Seeger
Alan Seeger was an American poet who fought and died in World War I serving in the French Foreign Legion. A statue to his memory and to...

 and the hardened mercenaries 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
Belloy-en-Santerre
Belloy-en-Santerre is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:The commune is situated on the D79 road, about from the junction of the A1 autoroute and the N29, some east of Amiens.-History:...

 during the Battle of the Somme, where Seeger, after being mortally wounded by machine-gun fire, cheered on the rest of his advancing battalion.

As most European countries and the US were drawn into the war, many of the newer "duration only" volunteers who managed to survive the first years of the war were generally released from the Foreign Legion to join their respective national armies. Citizens of the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 serving with the Foreign Legion on the outbreak of war were normally posted to garrisons in North Africa to avoid problems of divided loyalties.

Between the World Wars



While at the close of the First World War the Foreign Legion's prestige was at a high, the Foreign Legion itself had suffered greatly in the trenches of the First World War. In 1919, the government of Spain raised the Spanish Foreign Legion and modeled it after the French Foreign Legion. General Jean Mordacq intended to rebuild the Foreign Legion as a larger military formation, doing away with the Legion's traditional role as a solely infantry formation. General Mordacq envisioned a Foreign Legion consisting not of regiments, but of divisions with cavalry, engineer, and artillery regiments in addition to the Legion's infantry mainstay. In 1920, decrees ordained the establishment of regiments of cavalry and artillery.
Immediately following the armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

 the Foreign Legion experienced an increase of enlistments. The Foreign Legion began the process of reorganizing and redeploying to Algeria.

The Legion also took part in the Rif War
Rif War
The Rif War, also called the Second Moroccan War, was fought between Spain and the Moroccan Rif Berbers.-Rifian forces:...

 of 1920-25.

In 1932, the Foreign Legion comprised 30,000 men in 6 multi-battalion regiments:
  • 1st – Algeria and Syria
  • 2d, 3d, and 4th – Morocco
  • 5th – Indochina
  • 1st Cavalry – Tunisia and Morocco.

World War II



The Foreign Legion played a smaller role in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 than in World War I, though having a part in the Norwegian, Syrian and North African campaigns. The 13th Demi-Brigade was deployed in the Battle of Bir Hakeim
Battle of Bir Hakeim
Bir Hakeim is a remote oasis in the Libyan desert, and the former site of a Turkish fort. During the Battle of Gazala, the 1st Free French Division of General Marie Pierre Kœnig defended the site from 26 May-11 June 1942 against attacking German and Italian forces directed by Lieutenant-General ...

. Reflecting the divided loyalties of the time, part of the Foreign Legion joined the Free French movement while another part served the Vichy
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 government. A battle in the Syria-Lebanon campaign
Syria-Lebanon campaign
The Syria–Lebanon campaign, also known as Operation Exporter, was the Allied invasion of Vichy French-controlled Syria and Lebanon, in June–July 1941, during World War II. Time Magazine referred to the fighting as a "mixed show" while it was taking place and the campaign remains little known, even...

 of June 1941 saw legionnaire fighting legionnaire as the 13th Demi-Brigade (D.B.L.E.) clashed with the 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment
6th Foreign Infantry Regiment
The 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment , or 6e Régiment Étrangère d'Infanterie, was an infantry regiment in the French Foreign Legion from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1949 to 1955.-History:...

 at Damas in Syria. Later, a thousand of the rank and file of the Vichy Legion unit joined the 13th D.B.L.E. of the Free French forces as a third battalion. Following the war, many former German soldiers joined the Foreign Legion to pursue a military career with an elite unit, an option that was no longer possible in Germany. To this day, Germans constitute a strong presence in the Foreign Legion.

First Indochina War


During the First Indochina War
First Indochina War
The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East...

 (1946–54), the Foreign Legion saw its numbers swell due to the incorporation of Second World War veterans who couldn't adapt to civilian life. Even so, although the Foreign Legion distinguished itself, it also took a heavy toll during the war: constantly being deployed in operations, it even reached the point that whole units were annihilated in combat
Battle of Route Coloniale 4
The Battle of Route Coloniale 4 was a battle of the First Indochina War. The battle lasted from 30 September to 18 October 1950...

, in what was a traditional Foreign Legion battlefield. Units of the Foreign Legion were also involved in the defence of Dien Bien Phu
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that...

 and lost a large number of men in the battle.

Algerian War


The Algerian War of Independence
Algerian War of Independence
The Algerian War was a conflict between France and Algerian independence movements from 1954 to 1962, which led to Algeria's gaining its independence from France...

 (1954–62) was a highly traumatic conflict for the Foreign Legion. Constantly on call throughout the country, heavily engaged in fighting against the National Liberation Front
National Liberation Front (Algeria)
The National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Algeria. It was set up on November 1, 1954 as a merger of other smaller groups, to obtain independence for Algeria from France.- Anticolonial struggle :...

 and the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN)
Armée de Libération Nationale
The Armée de Libération Nationale or ALN was the armed wing of the nationalist Front de Libération National during the Algerian War of Independence...

, the Foreign Legion was brought to the brink of extinction after some officers, men and the highly-decorated 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment was an airborne unit of the Foreign Legion. It fought in the First Indochina War, Suez Crisis and Algerian War, but was disbanded after taking part in a putsch against the French government in 1961....

 took part in the Generals' putsch. Notable operations included the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

, the Battle of Algiers
Battle of Algiers (1957)
The Battle of Algiers was a campaign of guerrilla warfare carried out by the National Liberation Front against the French Algerian authorities from late 1956 to late 1957. The conflict began as a series of hit-and-run attacks by the FLN against the French Police in Algiers. Violence escalated...

 and various offensives launched by General Maurice Challe
Maurice Challe
Maurice Challe was a French general during the Algerian War, one of four generals who took part in the Algiers putsch...

 including Operations Oranie and Jumelles
Operation Jumelles
Operation Jumelles was a military operation which was part of the Algerian War‎ in the Tizi Ouzou Province, Algeria. It lasted from 22 July 1959 to March 1960. It was fought between the FLN and the French Army.-Overview:...

.

Post-colonial Africa


By 1962 the morale of the Foreign Legion was at an all-time low; it had lost its traditional and spiritual home (Algeria), elite units had been disbanded, and in addition, many officers and men were arrested or deserted to escape persecution. General de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 considered disbanding it altogether. But after downsizing it to 8,000 men and stripping it of all heavy weaponry, the Foreign Legion was spared, packed up and re-headquartered in metropolitan France.

The Foreign Legion now had a new role as a rapid intervention force to preserve French interests not only in its former African colonies but in other nations as well; it was also a return to its roots of being a unit always ready to be sent to hot-spots all around the world. Some notable operations include: the Chadian-Libyan conflict in 1969–72 (the first time that the Foreign Legion was sent in operations after the Algerian War), 1978–79, and 1983–87; Kolwezi
Kolwezi
Kolwezi is a city in Katanga Province in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, west of Likasi. It is home to an airport and a railway to Lubumbashi. The population is approximately 418,000....

 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 in May 1978; Rwanda
Rwanda
Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 in 1990–94; and the Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

 (the Ivory Coast) in 2002 to the present.

Gulf War


In September 1990, the First Foreign Cavalry Regiment
1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
The 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment is the only armoured cavalry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is one of two cavalry regiments of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade....

, the Second Foreign Infantry Regiment
2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment
The 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment of the French Foreign Legion created in 1841 and is situated in the south of France at Nimes. The 2REI has participated in several conflicts, more notably in the Gulf war, in Bosnia, Chad and in different parts of Africa...

, and the Second Foreign Engineer Regiment
2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment
The 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment is one of two Combat engineering regiment in the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is the combat engineering component of 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade.-History:...

 were sent to the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 as a part of Opération Daguet
Opération Daguet
Opération Daguet was the codename for French operations during the 1991 Gulf War...

. They were a part of the French 6th Light Armoured Division, whose mission was to protect the coalition's left flank. After a four-week air campaign, coalition forces launched the ground campaign. It quickly penetrated deep into Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, with the foreign 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 foreign legion.

1991–present



  • 1991 : Evacuation of French citizens and foreigners in Rwanda
    Rwanda
    Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

    , Gabon and Zaire
    Zaire
    The Republic of Zaire was the name of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo between 27 October 1971 and 17 May 1997. The name of Zaire derives from the , itself an adaptation of the Kongo word nzere or nzadi, or "the river that swallows all rivers".-Self-proclaimed Father of the Nation:In...

    .
  • 1992 : Cambodia
    Cambodia
    Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

     and Somalia
    Somalia
    Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

  • 1993 : Sarajevo
    Sarajevo
    Sarajevo |Bosnia]], surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans....

    , Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 1995 : Rwanda
    Rwanda
    Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

  • 1996 : Central African Republic
    Central African Republic
    The Central African Republic , is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the north east, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in the south, and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about ,...

  • 1997 : Congo-Brazzaville
  • Since 1999 : KFOR in Kosovo and Macedonia
    Republic of Macedonia
    Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

  • Since 2001 : Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
  • 2002–2003 : Operation Licorne
    Operation Licorne
    Operation Unicorn is the name of the French Armed Forces's peacekeeping operation in support of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire. The French forces have been stationed in the country since shortly after the outbreak of the Ivorian Civil War...

     in Côte d’Ivoire
  • 2008 : EUFOR Tchad/RCA
    EUFOR Tchad/RCA
    European Union Force Chad/CAR, also EUFOR Tchad/RCA after the French, was the European Union mission in Chad and the Central African Republic , authorized in late 2007. EUFOR Chad/CAR was authorized under the same United Nations Security Council resolution that mandated MINURCAT, a UN force tasked...

     in Chad.


Membership


The foreign legion is the only unit of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 open to people of any nationality. Most legionnaires still come from European countries but a growing percentage comes from Latin America. Most of the foreign legion's commissioned officers are French with approximately 10% being former Legionnaires who have risen through the ranks.

Membership of the foreign legion is often a reflection of political shifts: specific national representations generally surge whenever a country has a political crisis and tend to subside once the crisis is over and the flow of recruits dries up. After the First World War, many (Tsarist) Russians joined. Immediately before the Second World War, Czechs, Poles and Jews from Eastern Europe fled to France and ended up enlisting in the foreign legion. So did many German soldiers, former members of the Wehrmacht, after the end of the conflict. From 1976, Sri Lankans, in particular the Tamils, started joining the legion. Following the break-up of Yugoslavia, there were many Serbian
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 nationals. Also in the 1990s, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the changes in the former Warsaw Pact countries, led to an increase in recruitment from Poland and from the former republics of the USSR.

In addition to the fluctuating numbers of political refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from a wide variety of nations, there has been, since the end of World War Two, a strong core from Germany and Britain and in some cases Ireland. The foreign legion appears to have become as much a part of these two nations' culture as a French institution, and a certain stability in recruitment levels has developed.

During the late 1980s, the foreign legion saw a large intake of trained soldiers from the UK. These men had left the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 following its restructuring and the foreign legion's parachute unit was a popular destination. At one point, the famous 2eme REP had such a large number of British citizens amongst the ranks that it was a standing joke that the unit was really called '2eme PARA', a reference to the Second Battalion, the Parachute Regiment of the British Army.

The reasons and intentions of legionnaires joining the Foreign Legion, instead of the armed forces of their own countries, is unconfirmed. Possible reasons include the majority of the foreign legion's ranks being either transient souls in need of escape and a regular wage, or refugees from countries undergoing times of crisis. In recent years, the improved conditions and professionalism of the Foreign Legion have in turn attracted a new kind of 'vocational' recruit, from middle-class backgrounds in stable and prosperous countries, such as the US, Britain and France itself.

In the past, the foreign legion had a reputation for attracting criminals on the run and would-be mercenaries
Mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

, but the admissions process is now severely restricted and background checks are performed on all applicants. Generally speaking, convicted felons are prohibited from joining the service. 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. French citizens can enlist under a declared, fictitious, foreign citizenship (generally, a francophone
Francophone
The adjective francophone means French-speaking, typically as primary language, whether referring to individuals, groups, or places. Often, the word is used as a noun to describe a natively French-speaking person....

 one, often that of Belgium, Canada or Switzerland). After one year's service, legionnaires can regularise their situation under their true identity. After serving in the foreign legion for three years, a legionnaire may apply for French citizenship
Citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

. He must be serving under his real name, must no longer have problems with the authorities, and must have served with “honour and fidelity”. Furthermore, a soldier who becomes injured during a battle for France can apply for French citizenship under a provision known as “Français par le sang versé” ("French by spilled blood").

The foreign legion does not accept women in its ranks. However, there has been one woman officially member, Briton
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Susan Travers
Susan Travers
Susan Travers was an Englishwoman who was the only woman to serve officially with the French Foreign Legion.-Early life:...

 who joined Free French Forces during the Second World War and became a member of the Foreign Legion after the war, serving in Vietnam during the First Indochina War.
The foreign legion on occasion inducts honourary members into its ranks. During the siege of Dien Bien Phu this honour was granted to General Christian de Castries
Christian de Castries
Christian Marie Ferdinand de la Croix de Castries was the French commander at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Castries was born into a distinguished military family and enlisted in the army at the age of 19. He was sent to the Saumur Cavalry School and in 1926 was commissioned an officer but...

, Colonel Pierre Langlais
Pierre Langlais
Pierre Charles Albert Marie Langlais was a French military officer who fought in World War II and Indochina. He is best known as the ad-hoc commander of the French garrison during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.-Early life:...

, Geneviève de Galard
Geneviève de Galard
Geneviève de Galard is a French nurse who was dubbed l'ange de Dien Bien Phu during the French war in Indochina by the press in Hanoi, although in the camp she was known simply as Geneviève....

 ("The Angel of Dien Bien Phu") and Marcel Bigeard
Marcel Bigeard
Marcel "Bruno" Bigeard was a French military officer who fought in World War II, Indochina and Algeria. He was one of the commanders in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and is thought by many to have been a dominating influence on French 'unconventional' warfare thinking from that time onwards...

, the Officer in Command of the 6th BPC
6th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment
-Indochina:Formed as the 6th Colonial Commando Parachute Battalion in Quimper, Brittany on 16 May 1948 from elements of the 1st Colonial Commando Parachute Demi-brigade, disembarks in Saigon, French Indochina, in July 1949. The battalion distinguished itself in fighting throughout the First...

. Norman Schwarzkopf is also an honorary member.

Ranks



Soldats du rang (Ordinary Legionnaires)


All volunteers in the French Foreign Legion begin their careers as basic legionnaires with one in four eventually becoming a Sous-Officier (NCO).
Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank Period of service Insignia
Engagé Volontaire Recruit 15 weeks basic training. None
Legionnaire 2e Classe Private / 2nd Class Legionnaire On completion of training. None
Legionnaire 1e Classe Lance Corporal / 1st Class Legionnaire Within 2 years of service.
Caporal Corporal After 2 years of service.
Caporal Chef † Senior Corporal After 6 years of service.


Table note: Command insignia in the foreign legion use gold indicating Foot Arms in the French Army
Ranks in the French Army
See Ranks in the French Navy for more details about the Navy Ranks.The ranks in the Armée de Terre :Rank insignia in the French army depend on whether the soldier belongs to an "infantry" or "cavalry" unit...

. But the Légion étrangère service color is green instead of red (regular infantry).

Sous-Officiers (Non-commissioned Officers)


Sous-officiers (NCOs) account for 25% of the current foreign legion's total manpower.
Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank Period of service Insignia
Sergent Sergeant After 3 years of service.
Sergent Chef Senior Sergeant After 3 years as Sergent and between 7 to 14 years of service.
Adjudant Warrant Officer After 3 years as Sergent Chef.
Adjudant Chef Senior Warrant Officer After 4 years as Adjutant and at least 14 years service.
Major ‡ Regimental Sergeant Major
Regimental Sergeant Major
Regimental Sergeant Major is an appointment held by warrant officers class 1 in the British Army, the British Royal Marines and in the armies of many Commonwealth nations, including Australia and New Zealand; and by chief warrant officers in the Canadian Forces...

Appointment by either: (i) passing an examination
(ii). promotion after a minimum of 14 years service without an examination.


Officiers (Officers)


Most officers are seconded from the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

, though roughly 10% are former noncommissioned officers promoted from the ranks.
Foreign Legion rank Equivalent rank Command responsibility Insignia
Aspirant Cadet
Cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

-
Sous-Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...

Junior section leader
Lieutenant First Lieutenant
First Lieutenant
First lieutenant is a military rank and, in some forces, an appointment.The rank of lieutenant has different meanings in different military formations , but the majority of cases it is common for it to be sub-divided into a senior and junior rank...

A section
Platoon
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing 16 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organized into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the...

.
Capitaine Captain A company
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

.
Commandant Major A battalion.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant-Colonel Junior régiment or demi-brigade leader.
Colonel Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

A régiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

 or demi-brigade
Demi-brigade
Not to be confused with 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign LegionThe Demi-brigade was a military formation first used by the French Army during the French Revolutionary Wars. The Demi-brigade amalgamated the various infantry organizations of the French Revolutionary infantry into a single unit...

 .
Général de Brigade Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

Entire French Foreign Legion

Chevrons d'ancienneté (chevrons of seniority)


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

Traditions of the Legion


As the foreign legion is composed of soldiers of different nationalities and backgrounds, it needed to develop an intense Esprit de Corps
Morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

 which is carried out by the development of camaraderie
Comrade
Comrade means "friend", "colleague", or "ally". The word comes from French camarade. The term is frequently used by left-wing organizations around the globe. "Comrade" has often become a stock phrase and form of address. This word has its regional equivalents available in many...

, specific traditions, the high sense of loyalty of its legionnaires, the quality of their training and the pride of being a soldier of an élite unit.

Code of Honour


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

  • Honneur et Fidélité


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

    Legio Patria Nostra


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

    Regimental mottoes

    • 2nd REP: More Majorum (According to the traditions of our ancestors)
    • 3rd REI
      3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment
      The 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is stationed in French Guiana, protecting the Centre Spatial Guyanais.-World War I:...

      : Legio Patria Nostra
    • 13th DBLE: More Majorum
    • 2nd REI
      2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment
      The 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment of the French Foreign Legion created in 1841 and is situated in the south of France at Nimes. The 2REI has participated in several conflicts, more notably in the Gulf war, in Bosnia, Chad and in different parts of Africa...

      : Être prêt (Be ready)
    • DLEM
      Foreign Legion Detachment in Mayotte
      The Foreign Legion Detachment in Mayotte , Détachement de Légion étrangère de Mayotte, is the smallest operational unit in the French Foreign Legion. The Detachment is meant to establish a French presence in the region, enabling the French armed forces to quickly react to events in the Indian Ocean...

      : Pericula ludus (Danger is my pleasure)
    • 1st REC
      1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
      The 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment is the only armoured cavalry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is one of two cavalry regiments of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade....

      : Nec pluribus impar
      Nec pluribus impar
      Nec pluribus impar is a Latin motto adopted by Louis XIV of France from 1658. It was often inscribed together with the symbol of the "Sun King": a head within rays of sunlight.-Meaning:...

       (No other equal)
    • 1st REG
      1st Foreign Engineer Regiment
      The 1st Foreign Engineer Regiment is a Military engineer regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade. The regiment is stationed at Quartier General Rollet in Laudun.-World War II:...

      : Ad unum (To the end)
    • 2nd REG
      2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment
      The 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment is one of two Combat engineering regiment in the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is the combat engineering component of 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade.-History:...

      : Rien n'empêche (Nothing prevents)

    Pioneers of the Foreign Legion


    The Pionniers (pioneers) are the combat engineers and a traditional unit
    Military tradition
    Military tradition is the specific set of practices associated with the military or soldiers in general. The concept may describe the styles of military uniform, drill, or even the music of a military unit.-In the United States:...

     of the foreign legion. The sapper
    Sapper
    A sapper, pioneer or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties, typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences, general construction and building, as well as road and airfield...

     traditionally sport large beards, wear leather aprons and gloves and hold axes. The sappers were very common in the French Army and in other European armies during the Napoleonic Era but progressively disappeared in the 19th century, except in the foreign legion.

    In the French Army
    French Army
    The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

    , since the 18th century, every grenadier battalion had a small unit of sappers. They had the mission to advance, under the enemy's fire, in order to destroy with their axes the obstacles drawn by the enemy and to clear the way for the rest of the infantry
    Infantry
    Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

    . The danger of such missions and their short life expectancies, allowed them certain privileges, such as the authorization to wear beards.

    The current pioneer unit of the foreign legion reintroduced the symbols of the Napoleonic
    Napoleonic Era
    The Napoleonic Era is a period in the history of France and Europe. It is generally classified as including the fourth and final stage of the French Revolution, the first being the National Assembly, the second being the Legislative Assembly, and the third being the Directory...

     sappers: the beard, the axe, the leather apron, the crossed-axes insignia
    Insignia
    Insignia or insigne pl -nia or -nias : a symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or jurisdiction...

     and the leather gloves. If the 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.

    Marching step


    Also notable is the marching pace of the foreign legion. In comparison to the 120-step-per-minute pace of other French units, the foreign legion has an 88-step-per-minute marching speed. It is also referred to by Legionnaires as the "crawl." This can be seen at ceremonial parades and public displays attended by the Foreign Legion, particularly while parading in Paris on 14 July (Bastille Day Military Parade
    Bastille Day Military Parade
    The Bastille Day Military Parade is a French military parade that has been held on the morning of 14 July each year in Paris since 1880, almost without exception....

    ). 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
    Le Boudin
    Le Boudin is the official march of the French Foreign Legion. Le Boudin is a reference to boudin, a type of blood sausage or black pudding. Le boudin colloquially meant the gear that used to top the backpacks of Legionnaires...

    " 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 foreign legion.

    Contrary to popular belief, the adoption of the foreign legion's slow marching speed was not due to a need to preserve energy and fluids during long marches under the hot Algerian sun. Its exact origins are somewhat unclear, but the official explanation is that although the pace regulation does not seem to have been instituted before 1945, it hails back to the slow, marching pace of the Ancien Régime, and its reintroduction was a "return to traditional roots". 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 Armées foreign units, and the pre-1831 foreign regiments.

    "Le Boudin"


    "Le Boudin
    Le Boudin
    Le Boudin is the official march of the French Foreign Legion. Le Boudin is a reference to boudin, a type of blood sausage or black pudding. Le boudin colloquially meant the gear that used to top the backpacks of Legionnaires...

    " is the French Foreign Legion's marching song.

    Chorus

    Tiens, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin

    Pour les Alsaciens, les Suisses et les Lorrains,

    Pour les Belges y'en a plus (bis)

    Ce sont des tireurs au cul

    Pour les Belges y'en a plus (bis)

    Ce sont des tireurs au cul.

    Bridge I

    Nous sommes des dégourdis, nous sommes des lascars,

    Des types pas ordinaires,

    Nous avons souvent notre cafard,

    Nous sommes des Légionnaires.

    1

    Au Tonkin, la Légion immortelle

    A Tuyen-Quang
    Siege of Tuyen Quang
    The Siege of Tuyen Quang was an important confrontation between the French and the Chinese armies in Tonkin during the Sino-French War...

     illustra notre Drapeau.

    Héros de Camerone et frères modèles

    Dormez en paix dans vos tombeaux.

    Bridge II

    Nos anciens ont su mourir

    Pour la Gloire de la Légion,

    Nous saurons bien tous périr

    Suivant la tradition.

    2

    Au cours de nos campagnes lointaines,

    Affrontant la fièvre et le feu,

    Nous oublions avec nos peines

    La mort qui nous oublie si peu

    Nous, la Légion.

    English


    Chorus

    Here you are, some blood pudding, some blood pudding, some blood pudding

    for the Alsatians, Swiss and Lorrains

    For the Belgians, There's none left (2x)

    They're lazy shirkers (Repeat last two lines)

    Bridge 1

    We're always at ease, we're rough and tough, no ordinary guys

    We've often got our black moods, for we are Legionnaires

    1

    In Tonkin, the Legion immortal

    At Tuyen Quang our flag we honored

    Heroes of Camerone and model brothers, sleep at peace in your tombs

    Bridge 2

    Our ancestors died, for the Legion's glory

    We will soon all perish according to tradition

    2

    During our far-off campaigns, facing fever and fire

    Our sadnesses we forget with

    Death's which so little forgets us, for we are the Legion

    Other marches



    • Anne Marie du 3e REI
    • Adieu, adieu
    • Aux légionnaires
    • Anne Marie du 2e REI
    • Adieu vieille Europe
    • Chant du quatrième escadron
    • Chez nous au 3éme
    • C'est le 4
    • Connaissez-vous ces hommes
    • Contre les Viêts (Chant de la 13e DBLE après avoir été celui du 1er REP)
    • Cravate verte et Képi blanc
    • Dans la brume, la rocaille
    • Défilé du 3e REI
    • C'était un Edelweiss
    • Écho
    • En Afrique
    • En Algérie
    • Es steht eine Muhle
    • Eugénie
    • Les Képis Blancs
    • Honneur, Fidélité
    • Il est un moulin
    • J'avais un camarade
    • Kameraden
    • La colonne (chant du 1e REC)

    • La Légion marche (Chant du 2e REP)
    • 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 (Chant du 5e RE)
    • Légionnaire de l'Afrique
    • Massari Marie
      Sarie Marais
      Sarie Marais is a traditional Afrikaans folk song, created during either the First Anglo-Boer War or the Second Anglo-Boer War . The tune was taken from a song called Ellie Rhee dating from the American Civil War, and the words translated into Afrikaans...

    • Monica
    • Nous sommes tous des volontaires
    • Nous sommes de la Légion
    • La petite piste
    • Pour faire un vrai légionnaire
    • Premier chant du 1er REC
    • Quand on a une fille dans l'cuir
    • Rien n'empêche 2e REG
    • Sapeur, mineurs et bâtisseurs (ex 6e REG)
    • Soldats de la Légion étrangère
    • Sous le Soleil brulant d'Afrique
    • Souvenirs qui passe
    • Suzanna
    • The windmill
    • Venu volontaire
    • Véronica


    Composition


    Previously, the legion was not stationed in mainland France except in wartime. Until 1962, the Foreign Legion headquarters was located in Sidi Bel Abbès
    Sidi Bel Abbes
    Sidi Bel-Abbes is capital of the Sidi Bel Abbès wilaya , Algeria. It is named after a Muslim holy man who is buried there. It is the commercial center of an important area of vineyards, market gardens, orchards, and grain fields. It is surrounded by a wall with four gates and there is a...

    , Algeria. Nowadays, some units of the Légion are in Corsica
    Corsica
    Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

     or overseas possessions (mainly in French Guiana
    French Guiana
    French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

    , guarding Guiana Space Centre), while the rest are in the south of mainland France. Current headquarters is in Aubagne
    Aubagne
    Aubagne is a commune located east of Marseille in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in southern France.The French Foreign Legion has its headquarters there...

    , France, just outside Marseille
    Marseille
    Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

    .
    • Mainland France
      • 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
        1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
        The 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment is the only armoured cavalry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is one of two cavalry regiments of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade....

         (1e REC), based in Orange, Vaucluse
        Orange, Vaucluse
        Orange is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.It has a primarily agricultural economy...

         (armoured
        Vehicle armour
        Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

         troops)
      • 1st Foreign Engineer Regiment
        1st Foreign Engineer Regiment
        The 1st Foreign Engineer Regiment is a Military engineer regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade. The regiment is stationed at Quartier General Rollet in Laudun.-World War II:...

         (1e REG), based in Laudun
        Laudun-l'Ardoise
        Laudun-l'Ardoise is a commune in the Gard department in southern France.The commune name was Laudun until February 1, 2001.-Demography:-Wine:Laudun is one of the communes producing Côtes du Rhône Villages wines, red, rosé and white....

      • 1st Foreign Regiment
        1st Foreign Regiment
        The 1st Foreign Regiment is the senior regiment in the French Foreign Legion. Today the regiment is mainly administrative, and provides staff for the Command of the Foreign Legion....

         (1e RE), based in Aubagne
        Aubagne
        Aubagne is a commune located east of Marseille in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in southern France.The French Foreign Legion has its headquarters there...

      • 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment
        2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment is one of two Combat engineering regiment in the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is the combat engineering component of 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade.-History:...

         (2e REG), based in St Christol
        Saint-Christol, Vaucluse
        Saint-Christol is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.-References:*...

      • 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment
        2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment of the French Foreign Legion created in 1841 and is situated in the south of France at Nimes. The 2REI has participated in several conflicts, more notably in the Gulf war, in Bosnia, Chad and in different parts of Africa...

         (2e REI), based in Nîmes
        Nîmes
        Nîmes is the capital of the Gard department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. Nîmes has a rich history, dating back to the Roman Empire, and is a popular tourist destination.-History:...

      • 4th Foreign Regiment
        4th Foreign Regiment
        The 4th Foreign Regiment is the unit responsible for training the French Foreign Legion. Prior to assuming its responsibility of training Foreign Legion personnel, the 4th Foreign Regiment was an infantry regiment which participated in campaigns in Morocco, French Indochina, and...

         (4e RE), based in Castelnaudary
        Castelnaudary
        Castelnaudary is a commune in the Aude department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in south France. It is in the former province of the Lauragais and famous for cassoulet of which it claims to be the world capital, and of which it is a major producer....

         (training)
    • Corsica
      Corsica
      Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

      • 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment
        2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment is an Airborne regiment of the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 11e Brigade Parachutiste and the spearhead of the French Rapid reaction force.-Indochina:...

         (2e REP), based in Calvi, Corsica
    • French Overseas Territories
      Territoire d'outre-mer
      The term overseas territory , is an administrative division of France and is currently only applied to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands....

       and Overseas Collectives
      Collectivité d'outre-mer
      The French overseas collectivities , like the French regions are first-order administrative divisions of France. The COMs include some former French overseas territories and other French overseas entities with a particular status, all of which became COMs by constitutional reform on 28 March...

      • 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment
        3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment
        The 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is stationed in French Guiana, protecting the Centre Spatial Guyanais.-World War I:...

         (3e REI), based in French Guiana
        French Guiana
        French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

      • Foreign Legion Detachment in Mayotte
        Foreign Legion Detachment in Mayotte
        The Foreign Legion Detachment in Mayotte , Détachement de Légion étrangère de Mayotte, is the smallest operational unit in the French Foreign Legion. The Detachment is meant to establish a French presence in the region, enabling the French armed forces to quickly react to events in the Indian Ocean...

         (DLEM)
    • Arabian Peninsula
      Arabian Peninsula
      The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

      • 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade
        13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade
        The 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade is a mechanized infantry demi-brigade in the French Foreign Legion. It is the only permanent demi-brigade in the French Army, and is a unit of particular notoriety and reputation within the Legion...

         (13 DBLE), based in United Arab Emirates
        United Arab Emirates
        The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

        , formerly in Africa (Djibouti
        Djibouti
        Djibouti , officially the Republic of Djibouti , is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east...

        ).

    Disbanded unit and attempted coup



    The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
    1st Foreign Parachute Regiment
    The 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment was an airborne unit of the Foreign Legion. It fought in the First Indochina War, Suez Crisis and Algerian War, but was disbanded after taking part in a putsch against the French government in 1961....

     (1e Régiment Étranger Parachutiste, 1e REP) was established in 1955 during the Algerian War and disbanded in April 1961 as the entire regiment rose against the French government of Charles de Gaulle
    Charles de Gaulle
    Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

     (Algiers Putsch
    Algiers putsch
    The Algiers putsch , also known as the Generals' putsch , was a failed coup d'état to overthrow French President Charles De Gaulle and establish an anti-communist military junta...

    ), in protest against moves to negotiate an end to the Algerian War and providing Algeria's independence from France.

    Following the independence of Algeria in 1962, the foreign legion was reduced in numbers but not disbanded, unlike most other units comprising the Armée d’Afrique
    Army of Africa (France)
    The Army of Africa was an unofficial but commonly used term for those portions of the French Army recruited from or normally stationed in French North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962.-Composition:...

    : Zouave
    Zouave
    Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962. The name was also adopted during the 19th century by units in other armies, especially volunteer regiments raised for service in the American Civil War...

    s, Tirailleur
    Tirailleur
    Tirailleur literally means a shooting skirmisher in French from tir—shot. The term dates back to the Napoleonic period where it was used to designate light infantry trained to skirmish ahead of the main columns...

    s, Mehariste
    Mehariste
    Méhariste is a French word that roughly translates to camel cavalry. The word is most commonly used as a designation of military units.-Origins of French Camel Corps:...

    s, Harkis, Goums, Chasseurs d'Afrique
    Chasseurs d'Afrique
    The Chasseurs d'Afrique were a light cavalry corps in the French Armée d'Afrique . First raised in the 1830s from regular French cavalry posted to Algeria, they numbered five regiments by World War II...

     and all but one of the Spahi
    Spahi
    Spahis were light cavalry regiments of the French army recruited primarily from the indigenous populations of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The modern French Army retains one regiment of Spahis as an armoured unit, with personnel now recruited in mainland France...

     regiments. The effect was to retain the foreign legion as a professional force which could be used for military interventions outside France and not involve the politically unpopular use of French conscripts. The subsequent abolition of conscription
    Conscription
    Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

     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 2011 this has not been the case.

    Current deployments


    These deployments are current as of December 2008:

    Note: English names for countries or territories are in parentheses.
    • Opérations extérieures (other than at home bases or on standard duties)
      • Guyane (French Guiana)
        French Guiana
        French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

         Mission de presence sur l’Oyapok – Protection – 3e REI
        3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment
        The 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is stationed in French Guiana, protecting the Centre Spatial Guyanais.-World War I:...

         Protection CSG ; 2e REP
        2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment is an Airborne regiment of the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 11e Brigade Parachutiste and the spearhead of the French Rapid reaction force.-Indochina:...

         / CEA; 2e REI
        2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment of the French Foreign Legion created in 1841 and is situated in the south of France at Nimes. The 2REI has participated in several conflicts, more notably in the Gulf war, in Bosnia, Chad and in different parts of Africa...

         / 4° compagnie
      • Afghanistan
        Afghanistan
        Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

         Intervention 1e REC
        1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
        The 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment is the only armoured cavalry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is one of two cavalry regiments of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade....

         / 3° escadron (1 peloton); 2e REI
        2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment is an infantry regiment of the French Foreign Legion created in 1841 and is situated in the south of France at Nimes. The 2REI has participated in several conflicts, more notably in the Gulf war, in Bosnia, Chad and in different parts of Africa...

         / 4° compagnie OMLT; 2e REG
        2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment is one of two Combat engineering regiment in the French Foreign Legion. The regiment is the combat engineering component of 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade.-History:...

         / 1ère compagnie
      • Mayotte (Departmental Collectivity of Mayotte)
        Mayotte
        Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France consisting of a main island, Grande-Terre , a smaller island, Petite-Terre , and several islets around these two. The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, namely between northwestern Madagascar and...

         Prevention DLEM Mission de souveraineté
      • United Arab Emirates
        United Arab Emirates
        The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

         Prevention 13 DBLE; 1e REC
        1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment
        The 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment is the only armoured cavalry regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is one of two cavalry regiments of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade....

         / 1° escadron; 1e REG
        1st Foreign Engineer Regiment
        The 1st Foreign Engineer Regiment is a Military engineer regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade. The regiment is stationed at Quartier General Rollet in Laudun.-World War II:...

         / 3° compagnie
      • Gabon
        Gabon
        Gabon , officially the Gabonese Republic is a state in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and with the Republic of the Congo curving around the east and south. The Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean is to the west...

         Prevention 2e REP
        2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment
        The 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment is an Airborne regiment of the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 11e Brigade Parachutiste and the spearhead of the French Rapid reaction force.-Indochina:...

         / 3° compagnie – 4° compagnie

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

    Recruitment process

    First Day In a Foreign Legion Information Center. Reception, Information, and Terms of contract
    Pre-selection 1 to 3 days in a Foreign Legion Recruitment Center (Paris – Aubagne). Confirmation of motivation, initial medical check-up, finalising enlistment papers and signing of 5-year service contract.
    Selection 1 to 10 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.
    Final Selection 7 days: Signing and handing-over of the five-year service contract. Incorporation into the Foreign Legion as a trainee.

    Foreign Legion basic training



    Basic training is conducted in the 4th Foreign Regiment
    4th Foreign Regiment
    The 4th Foreign Regiment is the unit responsible for training the French Foreign Legion. Prior to assuming its responsibility of training Foreign Legion personnel, the 4th Foreign Regiment was an infantry regiment which participated in campaigns in Morocco, French Indochina, and...

     with a duration of 15 weeks:
    • Initial training of 4 weeks – initiation to military lifestyle; outdoor and field activities; learning foreign legion traditions, learning French language.
    • March Képi Blanc - a 60-75 mile (100–120 km) march in full kit (From Perpignan on a return to the Basic Training camp at Castelnaudary), and graduation ceremony – 3 days to complete.
    • Technical and practical training (alternating with barracks and field training) – 3 weeks.
    • Mountain training (Chalet at Formiguière in the French Pyrenees
      Pyrenees
      The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

      ) – 1 week.
    • Technical and practical training (alternating barracks and field training) – 2 weeks.
    • Examinations and obtaining of the elementary technical certificate (CTE) – 1 week.
    • March ending basic training – 1 week.
    • Light vehicle / trucks school – 1 week.
    • Return to Aubagne before reporting to the assigned regiment – 1 week.

    Special Forces of the French Foreign Legion


    Although the legion has the reputation of an elite fighting force, the legion does not have a special forces wing, but regiments capable of performing within the realm of the French Army Special Forces Brigade
    French Army Special Forces Brigade
    The Army Special Forces Brigade is the French Army's special forces unit. It is based in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques.- History :The BFST is the heir of the Groupement Spécial Autonome created in 1997 and then commanded the 1er RPIMa and a special operations flight belonging to the 4e Régiment...

    , notably the 2eme REP
    2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment
    The 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment is an Airborne regiment of the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 11e Brigade Parachutiste and the spearhead of the French Rapid reaction force.-Indochina:...

     and 13 DBLE. However, most regiments of the legion are Commando
    Commando
    In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

     qualified.

    Recruitment chart




    The following is a chart showing the national origin of the more than 600,000 legionaries of the force from 1831 to 1961, which was compiled in 1963. Original nationalities of the Foreign Legion reflect the events in history at the time they join. Many former Waffen SS and Wehrmacht
    Wehrmacht
    The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

     personnel joined in the wake of WWII 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", but adds that the number of these recruits has been subsequently exaggerated. Bernard B. Fall
    Bernard B. Fall
    Bernard B. Fall was a prominent war correspondent, historian, political scientist, and expert on Indochina during the 1950s and 1960s...

    , who was a supporter of the French government, writing in the context of the First Indochina War
    First Indochina War
    The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East...

    , questioned the notion that the foreign legion was mainly German at that time, calling it:

    [a] canard…with the sub-variant that all those Germans were at least SS generals and other much wanted war criminals. As a rule, and in order to prevent any particular nation from making the foreign legion into a Praetorian guard
    Praetorian Guard
    The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

    , 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.


    When looking at the overall recruitment chart, one must keep in mind that 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. In addition many Alsatians are said to have joined the Foreign Legion when Alsace
    Alsace
    Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

     was part of the German Empire
    German Empire
    The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

    , and may have been recorded as German while considering themselves French.
    Rank Country of origin Total numbers
    1 210,000
    2 60,000
    3 50,000
    4 50,000
    5 40,000
    6 30,000
    7 10,000
    8 6,000
    9 5,000
    10 4,000
    11 4,000
    12 4,000
    13 3,000
    14 3,000
    15 2,300
    16 1,500
    17 1,500
    18 1,300
    19 1,000
    20 1,000
    21 700
    22 500
    23 500
    24 500
    25 500
    26 200
    27 200
    28 200
    29 200
    30 100
    31 100
    32 100
    33 100
    34 |100
    35 100
    36 100
    37 100
    38 65
    39 25
    40 2

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

    Uniforms and equipment of the legion



    Uniforms


    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. The field uniform was often modified under the influence of the extremes of climate and terrain in which the foreign legion served. Shako
    Shako
    A shako is a tall, cylindrical military cap, usually with a peak or visor and sometimes tapered at the top...

    s 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.

    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
    Crimean War
    The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

    . 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
    Tonkin
    Tonkin , also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is the northernmost part of Vietnam, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin. Locally, it is known as Bắc Kỳ, meaning "Northern Region"...

     1884–85, khaki drill jackets in Dahomey (1892) and drab covered topees worn with all-white fatigue dress in Madagascar (1895).

    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 epaulette
    Epaulette
    Epaulette is a type of ornamental shoulder piece or decoration used as insignia of rank by armed forces and other organizations.Epaulettes are fastened to the shoulder by a shoulder strap or "passant", a small strap parallel to the shoulder seam, and the button near the collar, or by laces on the...

    s (replacing the red of the line) worn with red woolen 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
    Sash
    A sash is a cloth belt used to hold a robe together, and is usually tied about the waist. The Japanese equivalent of a sash, obi, serves to hold a kimono or yukata together. Decorative sashes may pass from the shoulder to the hip rather than around the waist...

     around the waist, like other European units of the French Army of Africa
    Army of Africa (France)
    The Army of Africa was an unofficial but commonly used term for those portions of the French Army recruited from or normally stationed in French North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962.-Composition:...

     (such as the Zouaves or the Chasseurs d'Afrique
    Chasseurs d'Afrique
    The Chasseurs d'Afrique were a light cavalry corps in the French Armée d'Afrique . First raised in the 1830s from regular French cavalry posted to Algeria, they numbered five regiments by World War II...

    ), Native units of the Army of Africa (spahis and tirailleurs) wore red sashes. The sash provided warmth and support as well as (supposedly) preventing intestinal diseases. White linen trousers tucked into short leather leggings were substituted for red serge in hot weather. This was the origin of the "Beau Geste
    Beau Geste
    Beau Geste is a 1924 adventure novel by P. C. Wren. It has been adapted for the screen several times.-Plot summary:Michael "Beau" Geste is the protagonist. The main narrator , by contrast, is his younger brother John...

    " image.

    In barracks a white bleached kepi cover was often worn together with a short dark blue jacket ("veste") or white blouse plus white trousers. The original kepi cover was khaki and due to constant washing turned white quickly. The white or khaki kepi cover was not unique to the Foreign Legion at this stage but was commonly seen amongst other French units in North Africa. It later became particularly identified with the foreign legion as the unit most likely to serve at remote frontier posts (other than locally recruited tirailleurs who wore fezzes
    Fez (clothing)
    The fez , or tarboosh is a felt hat either in the shape of a red truncated cone or in the shape of a short cylinder made of kilim fabric. Both usually have tassels...

     or turbans). The variances of climate in North Africa led the French Army to the sensible expedient of letting local commanders decide on the appropriate "tenue de jour" (uniform of the day) according to circumstances. Thus a legionnaire might parade or walk out in blue tunic and white trousers in hot weather, blue tunic and red trousers in normal temperatures or wear the blue greatcoat with red trousers under colder conditions. The sash could be worn with greatcoat, blouse or veste but not with the tunic. Epaulettes were a detachable dress item worn only with tunic or greatcoat for parade or off duty wear.

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

    Prior to 1914 units in Indo-China wore white or khaki Colonial Infantry uniforms with foreign legion insignia, to overcome supply difficulties. This dress included a white sun helmet
    Pith helmet
    The pith helmet is a lightweight cloth-covered helmet made of cork or pith...

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

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

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

    During World War II the foreign legion wore a wide range of uniform styles depending on supply sources. These ranged from the heavy capotes and Adrian helmet
    Adrian helmet
    The M15 Adrian helmet was a combat helmet issued to the French Army during World War I. It was the first standard helmet of the French Army and was designed when millions of French troops were engaged in trench warfare, and head wounds became a frequent cause of battlefield casualties...

    s of 1940 through to British battledress and American field uniforms from 1943 to 1945. The white kepi was stubbornly retained whenever possible.

    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
    Beret
    A beret is a soft, round, flat-crowned hat, designated a "cap", usually of woven, hand-knitted wool, crocheted cotton, or wool felt, or acrylic fiber....

     (previously worn only by the legion's paratroopers) became the universal ordinary duty headdress, with the kepi reserved for parade and off duty wear. Other items of dress are the standard issue of the French Army. Officers seconded to the foreign legion reportedly retain one foreign legion button on the vests of their dress uniforms upon returning to their original regiments.

    Equipment


    The foreign legion is basically equipped with the same equipment as similar units elsewhere in the French Army. These include:
    • The FAMAS
      FAMAS
      The FAMAS is a bullpup-styled assault rifle designed and manufactured in France by MAS located in Saint-Étienne, which is now a member of the French government-owned Nexter group...

       assault rifle, a French-made automatic bullpup
      Bullpup
      Bullpups are firearm configurations in which the action is located behind the trigger group and alongside the shooter's face, so there is no wasted space for the buttstock as in conventional designs. This permits a shorter firearm length for the same barrel length for improved maneuverability, and...

      -style rifle, chambered in the 5.56x45mm NATO round. In bullpup-style firearms, the action and magazine insert is behind the trigger section. This layout shortens the length of the weapon, while retaining the barrel length.
    • The SPECTRA
      SPECTRA helmet
      The SPECTRA helmet or CGF Gallet Combat Helmet is the ballistic helmet currently in use in the French military, as well as in the armies of several other countries. Built by CGF Gallet , it weighs , is available in two sizes, and is made from Spectra fibers, produced under license from Honeywell...

       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
      Félin
      FÉLIN is the name for the French infantry combat system of the 2000s....

       suit, an infantry combat system that combines ample pouches, reinforced body protections and a portable electronic platform.

    Countries that allow post-foreign legion contract


    In the British Commonwealth
    Commonwealth of Nations
    The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

     countries, its collective provisions provide for nationals to commute between armies in training or other purposes. Moreover, this 'blanket provision' between member-states cannot exclude others for it would seem inappropriate to single out individual countries, that is, France in relation to the legion. For example, Australia
    Australian Army
    The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

     and New Zealand
    New Zealand Army
    The New Zealand Army , is the land component of the New Zealand Defence Force and comprises around 4,500 Regular Force personnel, 2,000 Territorial Force personnel and 500 civilians. Formerly the New Zealand Military Forces, the current name was adopted around 1946...

     may allow post-legion enlistment providing the national has commonwealth citizenship. Britain
    British Army
    The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

     allows post-legion enlistment. Canada allows post-legion enlistment in its ranks with a completed five year contract.

    In the European Union framework, post foreign legion enlistment is less clear. Denmark, Norway, Germany and Portugal allow post-legion enlistment while Holland and possibly Poland have constitutional articles that forbid it. The European Union twin threads seem to be recognised dual nationality status or restricting constitutional article. The United States allows post-FFL enlistment in its national guard, and career soldiers, up to the rank of captain only and to green card holders. Israel allows post-legion enlistment. The Swiss jail or fine their nationals for joining the legion due to its neutrality.

    Spanish Foreign Legion


    The Spanish Foreign Legion
    Spanish Legion
    The Spanish Legion , formerly Spanish Foreign Legion, is an elite unit of the Spanish Army and Spain's Rapid Reaction Force. Founded as the Tercio de Extranjeros , it was originally intended as a Spanish equivalent of the French Foreign Legion, but in practice it recruited almost exclusively...

     was created in 1920, in emulation of the French one, and had a significant role in Spain's colonial wars in Morocco
    Morocco
    Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

     and in the Spanish Civil War
    Spanish Civil War
    The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

     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.

    Russian Foreign Legion


    The Russian Foreign Legion is a recently established expatriate wing of the Russian Military. 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
    Commonwealth of Independent States
    The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

     citizens to get fast-track Russian citizenship, and counter the effects of Russia’s demographic crisis on its army recruitment.

    Israeli Mahal


    In Israel, Mahal ' onMouseout='HidePop("60151")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Land_of_Israel">the Land
    Land of Israel
    The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

    [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
    Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

     to fight in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
    1948 Arab-Israeli War
    The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

     including Aliyah Bet. The original Mahalniks were mostly World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

     veterans from American and British armed forces.

    Today, there is a department within the Israeli Ministry of Defence which administers the enlistment of non-Israeli citizens in the country's armed forces.

    Netherlands KNIL Army


    Though not named "Foreign Legion", the Dutch Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indische Leger (KNIL), or Royal Netherlands-Indian Army (in reference to the Dutch East Indies
    Dutch East Indies
    The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

    , now Indonesia
    Indonesia
    Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

    ), 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.

    Ever Victorious Army


    The Ever Victorious Army
    Ever Victorious Army
    The Ever Victorious Army was the name given to an imperial army in late-19th–century China. The Ever Victorious Army fought for the Qing Dynasty against the rebels of the Nien and Taiping Rebellions....

     was the name given to a Chinese imperial army in late-19th–century. The new force originally comprised about 200 mostly European mercenaries, enlisted 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 which was trained in European techniques, tactics, and strategy. As such, it became a model for later Chinese armies.

    See also


    • Régiments de marche de volontaires étrangers
      Régiments de marche de volontaires étrangers
      Régiments de marche de volontaires étrangers, also known as RMVE or Regiments of Foreign Volunteers were temporary formations of the French Foreign Legion organized from Foreign volunteers during the Second World War...

    • List of Foreign Legionnaires/Category:Soldiers of the French Foreign Legion – notable members of the French Foreign Legion
    • French Foreign Legion Museum
      French Foreign Legion Museum
      The French Foreign Legion Museum is a military museum in the headquarters of the French Foreign Legion at Aubagne...

    • Wild Geese
      Flight of the Wild Geese
      The Flight of the Wild Geese refers to the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on October 3, 1691, following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland...

       - Irish soldiers who fought for France
    • List of militaries that recruit foreigners
    • International Legion
      International Legion
      The International Legion was created in Italy by Giuseppe Garibaldi, on October 5, 1860 - in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Volturnus , where the forces of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies were decisively broken....

    • Memorial to the American Volunteers, Paris
    • Lafayette Escadrille
      Lafayette Escadrille
      The Lafayette Escadrille , was an escadrille of the French Air Service, the Aéronautique militaire, during World War I composed largely of American volunteer pilots flying fighters.-History:Dr. Edmund L...

      , a World War I volunteer air squadron
    • Beau Geste
      Beau Geste
      Beau Geste is a 1924 adventure novel by P. C. Wren. It has been adapted for the screen several times.-Plot summary:Michael "Beau" Geste is the protagonist. The main narrator , by contrast, is his younger brother John...

      , a novel (with many film adaptations) detailing life in the Foreign Legion


    External links



    Books