The grim "reality" of the French Foreign Legion.

#1
Bonsoir,

I saw an interesting post on the Foreign Legion reddit about another post from an (alleged) former legionnaire about his experiences in the Legion and I think it maybe would be interesting to talk about if this is (still) true:

« I’m going anonymous for this one as it will doubtless ruffle some feathers. The one thing you should absolutely know is that in all probability you are making a huge mistake. Probably the biggest mistake you've ever made in your life. The Legion is not what you think it is. It's not an elite fighting force like some would have you believe. The training you will receive is on a par with a conscript army from the 1980’s and will in no way prepare you for anything like real combat. But that’s not what the Legion is for. The Legion is there to soak up the bullets that would otherwise cost the French Government votes. After all, who will parents blame when their sons are coming home from places like Indochina, Algeria, Chad, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali in bodybags? As an American Adjutant once told me, “Why would they care? My momma don’t vote in France.” The Foreign Legion is simply an expendable force and always has been throughout it’s history. This is the reason that it’s most glorious moments have been it’s defeats, like Camerone.

As I said, the training is abysmal. A good 40% of the guys in my training company were unable to shoot a rifle properly, and the famed “Esprit de Corps” was virtually non-existent. What we had instead was gangs made up of different language speakers and very rarely was there any intermingling between them. The Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians (this was before the Crimea) and certain Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians made up the largest group and they were not fond of Westerners in any way. A lot of them were petty criminals who were on the run in Russia and some were rumoured to be Russian Mafia. All were pretty much scum. Then you had the Poles, a big group, mostly the dregs again, but some good soldiers. Then you had the Mafia Anglais, the English speakers, from all over. The UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia and even some of the non native English speakers who didn’t have much truck with their own. Each group had their own way of doing things and in a lot of ways, they were like I would imagine prison gangs would be. Oh, and if you’re Black, just forget it. The racism is ridiculous and as a black man, you will be ostracised and probably beaten. I will never forget the night all the NCO’s came to our room in the training block and beat the everloving crap out of one of the recruits from Senegal just because he was seen talking to a white girl on one of the rare times we were allowed out of camp.

The officers are shit. There is simply no other word for it. They are disinterested at best and downright hostile towards those under their command at worst. In my entire time there I met one officer that I would consider competent and worthy of a leadership position. Every other officer was awful. We were told that the cream of Saint Cyr was posted to the Legion and if this is true, the French Army may as well throw the towel in now as they haven’t a hope. Lunchtime for them was getting hopelessly drunk for three hours and stumbling back across the road to camp to berate the legionnaire who was unlucky enough to be on gate guard duty at that time. I once saw an officer beat a legionnaire to a pulp in front of his visiting grandparents and then attempt to attack the grandfather when he tried to intervene. I’ve also seen a sergeant beat an American legionnaire so badly he collapsed his chest and would have killed him only for us threatening to bayonet him unless he stopped. The legionnaire's crime? He had his beret tipped too far back on his head. The sergeant's punishment? Nothing, absolutely no punishment whatsoever. For nearly killing someone under his command he didn’t even receive a reprimand. I was sentenced to 30 days in the regimental prison for threatening a superior though.

Anyone who even contemplates joining the Legion should have his head examined. Almost every country in the world has an army and I’m pretty sure yours does. Join that instead. Or go to America and join the Marines. They accept foreigners too. The British Army accept recruits from the Commonwealth countries and Ireland. If none of those works out, then give up being in the military. But whatever you do, do not join the Legion. It sucks.

EDIT: Just to clarify a few things guys. I was in from 1999 to 2004 and served in the “elite” regiment, 2e REP, 3e Cie. All of these things happened either in training or at Calvi during those years. These are by far not the most serious incidents that happened during my time there, they’re just the ones I personally witnessed. I don’t want to mention things I heard or that were witnessed by others as I did not see them with my own eyes, but there were far worse things going on. »

The two parts that personally interest me the most are at first the part about the abusive NCOs and officers. I'm definitely not naive and know that there will be utter scumbags in the Legion and that this will of course also be true for NCOs, that beating is still a normal form of punishment (no problem with that) and that there will be fights and beatings, but this text make it seem as if basically all the NCOs and most of the officers are complete subhumans and that stuff like the mentioned happens all the time. Is this a correct depiction of the everyday life in the Legion (today) or more of an extreme case? The second and personally more concerning part is about the legionnaires basically being bad soldiers. I definitely get that the basic training is very, well... basic because you have to get all those people from around the whole earth who doesn't understand the language on the same level, but from what I heard up to now the training in the regiments would be much better and bring legionnaires at least on the same level as the regular soldiers of other western armies, especially in the 2e REP. Now I think this could have changed since 2004 so my question would be if this was true and if yes if it is still true?

Thanks in advance
Tiwaz
 

Papillon

Actual or Former Legionnaire
Legionnaire
#2
Interesting reading. I am going to think this one over before I reply. You raise some interesting points, for me I did not know what I was really joining but one thing I knew it was not the Boy Scouts, so, with that in mind, we all leave with our own experience also the original motivation will play it’s part! Too bad you did not enjoy your time!
PS All armies regiments and sections big their sections up it's how it’s always been
Me I think the REP was a good mob I can compare as served in the British Army.
 

dusaboss

Hyper Active Member
#3
Ye, ye ,ye, heard those stories many times before. Guy, coming out, describing Legion as Hell on Earth.

Please. If he said one good thing about Legion, I don't know... like “at least French bread tastes good” maybe I would believe something from his story. But this way ... No no. I simply can't believe that someone spent 5y in the Legion and can't say one good thing about it. After all, is not so hard to desert.

One thing he is right about. Legion is not elite military unit! If one is too dumb to figure that out maybe he shouldn't try at all.
 

Joseph Cosgrove

Moderator
Legionnaire
#5
(...) « I’m going anonymous for this one as it will doubtless ruffle some feathers. (...)
If you haven't got the balls to say who you are, why say anything? The type of slimebag who sends an anonymous letter to the firm's boss about his fellow workers.

I have no time for these people. No-one went to his front door and told him to join. He wasn't sent a draft card in the post.

(...) Every other officer was awful. We were told that the cream of Saint Cyr was posted to the Legion and if this is true, the French Army may as well throw the towel in now as they haven’t a hope. Lunchtime for them was getting hopelessly drunk for three hours and stumbling back across the road to camp to berate the legionnaire who was unlucky enough to be on gate guard duty at that time. I once saw an officer beat a legionnaire to a pulp in front of his visiting grandparents and then attempt to attack the grandfather when he tried to intervene. (...)
Strange that the officers have three hours lunch break. And also the officers mess is in the citadel which is 5 km from the camp Raffalli. Beating legionnaires to a pulp in front of grandparents :p...
Tiwaz, if you come across any more of these, keep them to yourself ;).
 
#6
Yeah, I thought it was fishy because there is very much salt involved from the side of the poster and being anonymous is not a good sign when it comes to harsh "criticism" like this.

"Its a major exaggeration with just a hint of truth. "
is definitely the vibe I got from it aswell.

I still thought it was worth examining since it kind of overlaps with other experiences I read from former legionnaires just completely exagerrated over the top. But I guess the experience is different for everyone and if you are useless or a troublemaker you will most likely have bad time and as Papillon said, the Legion is not the Boy Scouts.
 

Joseph Cosgrove

Moderator
Legionnaire
#7


This photo is taken from the terrace of a cafe in the citadel, you can see the shadow of the the church's bell. On the left is Caserne Sampiero - The officer's mess. When they have finished eating they would go back to camp and drive through the second gate to the parking lot and be back on parade at at 14h00.
No attacking grand parents (although I don't know what they were doing in the camp), just going about their duty.

One Monday morning the CO, colonel Coevoet 1526284553400.jpeg invited the whole regiment to coffee and croissants in the officer's mess. As I said it was 5 Ks away and we were dressed in sports kit.

I can't see why anyone would go out of their way to invent stories.

On a completely different subject, has anyone heard from Thadeusz, perhaps a PM?
 
#8
Even if it was true. ..what is the point he is trying to make ? = he didn't like it, his time spent in the Legion, the Rep?
I could say more worse things about 2 REI (officiers /sous officers and lower ranks) but that would be totally a waste of my time and energy and i have better things to do (also, it happened so long ago and i have moved on. ..still in fkn Nîmes mind you
 
#9
Interesting comments from Tiwaz, especially in light of the fact that when 13e DBLE participated in the joint multinational warfare exercise at Camp Lejeune in October last year they consistently came out tops against the Marines in both urban combat and across the board weapons handling, with higher kill rates, less injuries and faster course completion times. I think that things have really changes since 2004 with greater transparency, accountability and no where to hide on joint exercises, I also think that the fact that the Legion “is not the boy scouts” results in more resilient soldiers wil a less “unionized” mindset.
 

jonny

Actual or Former Legionnaire
Legionnaire
#10
Oh well, so not much has changed in the Legion since my days in the 1950s then. Tribal clans (Germans, Latins, Hungarian mostly in my days). Stupid officers who couldn’t even read maps and got us constantly lost in the Algerian mountains. So much for the ‘cream of the St Cyr’. What else? Oh yeah, being the fall boys for France, getting yourself killed while nobody cared in France, getting hit in the face by a drunken NCO, etc.

So what? Did you expect the Legion to be a normal, sort of military unit? If I thought that I would have joined the Norwegian army (boooring!!)

Nah, mate, the Legion is the Legion, it’s the most famous fighting force in the world, and it doesn’t suit everybody, at all. As for myself, I loved it (served 5 years in the Algerian war as a paratrooper in 2e REP). And we beat the shit out of the terrorists.
607D292B-2AD7-4243-8475-41E2BBD57BDC.jpeg

By the way, I’m third from left in the back row, and the airplane in the background is a Noratlas.
 

jonny

Actual or Former Legionnaire
Legionnaire
#12
Hi Capo, which channel was that on? I would obviously be interested in watching it, too. Or can I find it on Youube, perhaps?
 
#13
Hi Jonny b good,
The show I was talking about was dedicated to la bleuite on Channel 5 (French TV). There is a summary in newspaper Le Monde. It has archive news reels, interview (both FLN and French)
The things Capitaine Léger achieved (what a guy) he could of won the war on his own (if the politicos permitted). Mostly in 1957 (was the year you joined up, wasn't it? )
Léger deserves a thread on his own. The Battle of Algiers, was his victory and not Massu's... My interpertation
The magazine i posted up a few months back. ..mentioned him often. Try to search Capitaine Léger on YouTube and check the interviews. Will make your day.
 
#16
For those not in the know, Capt Paul-Alain Léger (btw, nothing to do with the Luc-Léger test... :)) was not a Legion officer, but belonged to 11e Choc, the ancestor of DGSE (then called SDECE) Service Action. La “Bleuite” was an undercover intoxication operation he organised, where he succeeded in convincing some of FLN leaders, in particular Col Amirouche, commanding Wilaya III, that some specifically-targeted militants were actually traitors and working for the French (which wasn't true).
This resulted in massive purges inside Wilaya III and others, generally involving the most educated and competent FLN members. The operation caused a significant weakening of the FLN structures, but saying that Léger could have won the war alone is certainly exaggerated.
 
#17
What lost the war, was not the armée française (400 00 versus 30 to 40 k maquisards), not even l'asperge, Charles De Gaulle, as in Suez, it was Washington, White house, USA and the President Eisenhower, Ike, if you prefer.
Who ordered you (the French) out of Algeria, after, one of the numerous war crimes committed, including by la Légion (I was 2 REI, if am not mistaken, I hasten to add). De Gaulle, the traitor, disliked the America and we all know why.
All this was hush hush, to avoid disagreements amongst allies against the Soviets. France, in general, has often showed difficulty in facing its past. Best way to keep a secret ? Do not have one... Voilà.
 
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mm66

Actual or Former Legionnaire
Legionnaire
#18
What lost the war, was not the armée française (400 00 versus 30 to 40 k maquisards), not even l'asperge, Charles De Gaulle, as in Suez, it was Washington, White house, USA and the President Eisenhower, Ike, if you prefer. (...)
When the Algerian war ended, on 19 March 1962, President Kennedy had been in office thirteen months...
 
#19
War exhaustion lost the War in Algeria, as it did for every other Colonial War post WWII. The Americans helped out because they mostly hated Colonial Powers, being a former Colony themselves.

During the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Americans basically told the Brits and French to "get out or else", it was a little nudge to say, you aren't the big boys at the dinner table anymore, so best take those colonial aspirations and put them away.

Franco-American relations haven't really recovered since then.

The Americans forced the Brits to agree to the Atlantic Charter as a condition for them agreeing to provide support to the Allies during WWII. It contained eight principle points, they were:
  1. no territorial gains were to be sought by the United States or the United Kingdom;
  2. territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the peoples concerned;
  3. all people had a right to self-determination;
  4. trade barriers were to be lowered;
  5. there was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare;
  6. the participants would work for a world free of want and fear;
  7. the participants would work for freedom of the seas;
  8. there was to be disarmament of aggressor nations, and a common disarmament after the war.
The Americans have basically gone about aggressively enforcing these points since then.
 
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#20
When the Algerian war ended, on 19 March 1962, President Kennedy had been in office thirteen months...
I said, Eisenhower not Kennedy. But if JFK was in power at that time he would of done the same, no doubt.

During and after the second world war. .Téhéran /Posdam /Yalta. ..and Paris (47) conférences. ...was concluded a dis conolasation of the trouble maker i.e. Britain and France.
Of course, it needed time, and was accorded
Britain, achieved a better result faster and more equitable than France did.
Example : India (Pakistan Burma Bangladesh. ..3 4 or 5 times the size of Europe )
Even the Dutch, had to give up the Indonesia
Corsica tried but failed against the French.
Anything else is fake or hidden news

Re read my original post : I mentioned Ike not Kennedy. Kennedy was nothing else but a syphilitic junkie with too, far too much ambition
Re bay of pigs. He had to go. ...world stability kicked in since ...to a certain degree
 

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