Legio Patria Nostra (The Legion is our Fatherland)

The French Foreign Legion, or La Legion Etrangere, is considered by some as one of the most interesting military units in the world. It is an integral part of the French Army, yet it doesn't have any enlisted Frenchmen. If a native Frenchmen wished to join the Legion, they would have to assume a different identity. This concept of a fighting force that consists entirely of foreigners is not new to France. In fact, this has been going on since the Middle Ages. The Foreign Legion has merely inherited these traditions from such famous foreign fighting units as Napoleon's Polish Lancers and the Swiss Guards of the Bourbon Kings.

The Legionnaires take much pride in their history and their adopted homeland. Their history is, of course, marked by absolute loyalty to France and a "fight to the last man" attitude. Many battles end with just a few Legionnaires equipping their bayonets and charging into the enemy. In light of that, it's not surprising to hear that since 1831, 3,176 NCOs, and over 30,000 Legionnaires have died for France. This is justified, though, as the Legionnaires believe they are foreigners by birth, but Frenchmen by the blood they have (will) spilled.

Although the French Foreign Legion is recognized around the world as a tough and brave regiment of fighters, it does have a somewhat blemished reputation. Since most recruits are forced to give up their passport and are given the option to assume a new identity, it is believed that the Legion is a group of murderers, rapists, and mercenaries. The modern Legion, however, now conforms to the standard French military regulations, so this is very unlikely. The Legion will not give refuge to criminals, and proper action will be taken if an attempt is made by a criminal. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt, as it is rumored that minor offenses are overlooked.

Notable History

The French Foreign Legion was officially born on March 10, 1831. Created by Louis Phillippe, the Legion was originally created as a kind of Army waste bucket. Phillippe had only ascended the throne 7 months prior, so the purging of adherents to the old regime was in order. Many French officers and soldiers were placed in the Legion and sent off to the war in Algeria. Note that the majority of the recruits were from other nations, anxiously abandoning their homeland due to political turmoil or sheer fascination.

Four years down the road, in 1835, the Foreign Legion would be under the control of Spain. At that time, Spain was in the midst of a civil war, and upon agreement that the troops would be supplied and payed by Spain, France would hand over control. The Legionnaires took quite a pounding in this war. They would fight in hundreds of engagements, and of the 5000 men who originally disembarked in 1835, only 500 returned to France.

As the years went on, the Legion participated in many battles. Most notable were the skirmishes in Crimea, Italy, and Mexico. The battle at the Camerone Hacienda in Mexico is a famous battle and symbolizes the heroics (if you could call it heroics) of the Legion. At the beginning of the battle, 3 officers and 62 Legionnaires were faced against over 2,000 Mexicans. The Legionnaires fought for a little over a day, when only five remained. At this moment, the remaining five equipped their bayonets and charged.

In 1870, at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War, many enthusiastic Legionnaires were allowed to take up arms for their adopted homeland. Almost every Foreign Battalion was decimated, but new regiments were formed shortly after. Soon, campaigns would be launched in Tonkin, Sudan, Dahomey, Madagascar, and Morocco.

When World War I broke out, just as in the Franco-Prussian War, Legionnaires were enthusiastic to defend their adopted homeland. Again, the Legion suffered heavy casualties. This led to all the regiments being combined into one. It was to be called the "Regiment de Marche,' and it would be headed by the famous Colonel Rollet, the "Father of the Legion."

As World War II began, the Legion was fresh from a campaign in the Rif. Just as in previous wars, Legionnaires were anxious to join up and defend their homeland. They took part in numerous battles, many of which resulted in just a few Legionnaires charging against the enemy with their bayonets.

More recently, the Legion has had campaigns in Chad, Lebanon, Bosnia, and even the Gulf War.

Uniform

The Legionnaire uniform carries on the traditional palette that was used by Swiss Guards that served French Kings. The most prominent colors include red, which represents sacrifice, and green, which represents hope. These two colors are represented on the Legionnaire's epaulettes. Excluding the blue sash that is worn around the waist, the rest of the uniform is normally a tannish color. The hat (Kepi Blanc) varies in color according to rank.

Kepi Blanc
As of July 19, 1939, the Kepi Blanc (White Kepi) has been the official hat of the Legionnaires. Compared to modern, ultra-sleek combat helmets, the Kepi Blanc looks rather silly. The beak of the hat is stubby, only measuring a few inches; while the part that rests on the head is tall and cylindrical. When the situation demands it, a cover is added to the back of the hat to protect the neck from sunlight. Please keep in mind that Legionnaires are not issued Kepis, they have to earn them. Until the Kepi is earned, a Legionnaire must wear a green beret.

Epaulettes
Before 1868, Legionnaires wore epaulettes that indicated their line. Grenadiers would wear red epaulettes, while riflemen would have epaulettes of yellow. After 1868, the Legion sported epaulettes with a green shoulder strap and red fringe. Along with the change of color, epaulettes were now inscribed with the Legionnaire's rank.

Centurion Bleu
Around 1882, a thick, blue sash was worn around the waist and beneath the clothing as protection. Over time, Legionnaires began to wear the sashes outside of their clothing.

Seven Flames and the Grenade
A badge once reserved for elite French forces, now worn on the left arm of every Legionnaire. It depicts seven flames on top of a grenade with a hollow center. The outermost most flames are pointing downwards.

Code of Honour

Before a legionnaire receives his Kepi Blanc (traditional white hat), he must memorize and recite the following passages:
1.  Legionnaire, you are a volunteer serving France with 
    honour and fidelity.
2.  Every legionnaire is your brother-in-arms regardless 
    of his nationality, race, or religion. You will 
    demonstrate this by the strict solidarity which must
    always unite members of the same family.
3.  Respectful of traditions, devoted to your leaders,
    discipline and comradeship are your strengths, courage 
    and loyalty your virtues.
4.  Proud of your status as legionnaire, you display this
    in your uniform which is always impeccable, your 
    behaviour always dignified but modest, your living 
    quarters always clean.
5.  An elite soldier, you will train rigorously, you will
    maintain your weapon as your most precious possession, 
    you are constantly concerned with your physical form.
6.  A mission is sacred, you will carry it out until the        
    end respecting laws, customs of war, international
    conventions and, if necessary, at the risk of your
    life.
7.  In combat, you will act without passion and without 
    hate, you will respect the vanquished enemy, you will 
    never abandon your dead or wounded, nor surrender your 
    arms.

Rank

Note that the rank of Major is the highest one can go without becoming an officer.

In ascending order:
Engage Volontaire             (Recruit)
Legionnaire de 2em Classe     (Private)
Legionnaire de 1re Classe     (Private First Class)
Caporal                       (Corporal)
Caporal-chef                  (Corporal)
Sergent                       (Sergeant)
Sergent-chef                  (Master Sergeant)
Adjudant                      (Warrant Officer)
Adjudant-chef                 (Chief Warrant Officer)
Major
Aspirant
Sous-Lieutenant               (Second Lieutenant)
Lieutenant                    (First Lieutenant)
Capitaine                     (Captain)
Commandant                    (Commander)
Lieutenant-Colonel            (Lieutenant-Colonel)
Colonel                       (Colonel)
Général de Brigade            (Brigadier General)
Général de Division           (Major General)
Général de Corps d'Armée      (Lieutenant General)
Général d'Armée               (General)
Maréchal de France            (General of the Army)

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