Marching with the Devil: Legends, Glory and Lies in the French Foreign Legion
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'In 1894 a French Foreign Legion General said, "Legionnaires, vous etes faits pour mourir, je vous envoie la ou on meurt." Legionnaires, you are made for dying, I will send you where you can die. When I was in my mid-teens and first read those words they were powerful and confronting. I read them as a challenge and an invitation. The words, and the feelings they evoked, remained with me until I was ready. On 20 May 1988, I enlisted in the French Foreign Legion.' Based on his diaries, this is a frank account of how Mason came first in basic training, trained other Legionnaires, went to Africa, did sniper, commando and medic's training and took part in two operations, both in the Republic of Djibouti where a civil war nearly crippled the nation. It tells of his daily life in the Legion, in the training regiment, in Africa and with the Legion's Parachute Regiment. But more than this: David's gripping account reveals his disillusionment, frustration and disappointments, and how the Legion today is not what it seems.
young Legionnaires like Meng. They took what they wanted by force. Even though the rest of us knew what was going on, none of us did anything about it. Predatory homosexuality, alcoholism and endemic sexual infections were commonplace. Because everyone, including caporals, felt isolated, exposed and vulnerable, they said and did nothing. 24 TO CALVI Nous, on n’a pas besoin de ça. On est la Légion, n’est-ce pas? (Us, we don’t need it. We’re the Legion, aren’t we?) I was at last going to the
four corners, an L-shaped, two-storey block served as home to one of the regiment’s companies – the three compagnies d’instruction, and the compagnie de commandement et de service. Set back from the parade square on all sides bar the south, and separated from it by a ring road, were various utility buildings, including the regimental headquarters, to the north, and the infirmerie, to the east. Once clear of the sentry post, the bus followed the road around to the western side of the parade
slung, hands on his hips, indicating with a tilt of his head that I should return to the track. Kronk simply said, ‘Idiot.’ ‘In Legion, wait for orders,’ Bronski said in his broken English. ‘Nix “Ambush right”, do again and boom-boom’ – and he punched the air in front of him, indicating the penalty for any repeat offence. He let out a belittling laugh as the other recruits looked at me and smirked. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and asked for some clarification. ‘Je tire quand?’ (I
The following morning I woke with a headache, my tongue felt swollen and I found it difficult to breathe without gagging. It was obviously the drugs. Despite feeling so sickly, one activity in the infirmerie immediately attracted my interest. We twenty or so patients were woken at 0600 and, as best we could, made our way on foot or wheelchair to the salle de soins, a room where drugs were given and temperatures taken. While we waited in line outside the salle, a medic appeared carrying a couple
only person with all the information.’ The lieutenant pursed his lips and sent me on my way. I was happy to leave, but I was happier to get the hell out of Monclar and down to Rue Éthiopie. As soon as a free evening presented itself, I went into town for a girl. I wanted – no, I ached for – the touch of another person. Even if I paid for her time and her body, perhaps for a moment I could convince myself there was more to the world than the Legion. I met Fatima in the unassuming Bar de