Why the French Foreign Legion might approach you on a beach this summer

Why the French Foreign Legion might approach you on a beach this summer
The French Foreign Legion are recruiting. Photo: AFP
If you're on a French beach this summer you might be getting an unusual invitation - to join the French Foreign Legion.

What's happening?

France's famous Foreign Legion is running short of recruits so is running a campaign to try and sign up men (and it's only men, women are excluded from the Legion) while they are enjoying a break at the beach.


What is the Legion?

The elite combat unit – formed in 1831 – is the only part of the French army that accepts foreign recruits, and today has people from around 150 countries among its 8,000 troops. It is also the only unit that accepts former prisoners, except those convicted of “rape, blood crimes and drug trafficking”.

The Legion has a fearsome reputation, partially due to its famously brutal training and partly due to its reputation over the years as the place that one could run away to escape a shady past or nurse a broken heart.

If you've ever watched any major French military parades you will certainly have noticed the Pioneer unit of the Legion – they're the ones who sport beards, white gloves and buffalo leather aprons and carry axes (the axes are for use on trees, not people).

Legion soldiers are often on the frontline of any military conflict and they also carry out domestic missions such as combating piracy and people smuggling around France.

The Pioneer corps of the Legion in their traditional garb. Photo: AFP

What do they need?

This year the Legion needs to recruit 1,245 men of any nationality aged between 17 and 40, Warrant Officer Sang-Jin Lee told French newspaper Le Parisien.

“We recruit all year round. But in the summer, there are fewer candidates, so we go where the people are: the beaches,” he added.

And if you speak French, the Legion will be particularly keen to sign you up. Although their recruits come from across the world, the orders are all given in French.

Recruits get a crash course in basic military French, but officers want to increase the number of French speakers and people who have a knowledge of French culture and customs.

A Legionnaire with the regimental motto Marche ou Crève (march or die) tattooed on his face. Photo: AFP

Why should I sign up?

Well the starting salary is €1,200 and you get 45 days holiday a year once basic training at Castelnaudary in south west France is completed. If you serve five years or are injured on active service you can apply for French citizenship and there are also intensive French classes so it's a good way to learn the language.

Set against that, the training is intensive (some say brutal), the culture hyper-macho and if you do make it through the first six months, Legionnaires tend to be on the front line of most military conflicts, so it won't be an easy service.

The Legion does have its own vineyard for veterans though. 


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