Yesterday I was searching my personal records for some family information and came across an array of paperwork and photographs dating from my early school years, through my first jobs, the commencement of my military training and leading through to my retirement.
As a school boy in the 1940’s and 50’s it was from books and stories from relatives and family friends returning from wars that stirred our fertile imaginations and our dreams of excitement.
The French Foreign Legion was a regular discussion point at school and I recall being totally absorbed in the novels, ‘Beau Geste’ and ‘Beau Sabreur’, written by ex French Foreign Legionnaire, P C Wren in the early 1900’s.
These discoveries and recollections from my youth reminded me of two Legion related events.
In 1992 whilst working in Paris, I was fortunate to attend a massive military parade on The Avenue of the Grand Army. The last contingent in the parade was a battalion from the Legion. The Legion prides itself on being the first into action and the last to leave the battlefield. The latter is reflected in the way they march to the accompaniment of their military bands. I can’t recall the length of their stride or the number of beats to the bar from their band but suffice to say they are both significantly slower than all other French military units.
The second event dates from 1959 not long after I’d been commissioned in the 30th Infantry Battalion, The New South Wales Scottish Regiment of the Citizens Military Forces . The Legion and its legends were often the subject of spirited (alcohol induced) discussions in the Mess after parade.
The day after one such discussion, I wrote to the Legion’s major barracks in Marseille expressing my intention to enlist.
By the time I received a reply in November, 1959, common sense had prevailed and my original intention had totally evaporated.
The reply from the Legion was amongst the papers I discovered yesterday and it is reproduced here in full.
Back in the day I had a smattering of school boy French and fully understood the content of the letter which became the subject of much mirth both at work and in the Mess.
I still have my copies off Beau Geste and Beau Sabreur and I’m going to reread them starting tonight.
One thing is for sure, as I’m now over the age of 40 and I won’t be reapplying.
Hoo roo for now