Non-fiction

French Foreign Legion Friday: Week One

What better way to end the week than ending it like a French parade?

Indeed the French Foreign Legion always marches last on Bastille Day, because they march really slowly–88 steps per minute as compared to the rest of the French Army’s 120. Plus they sing.

A few things to note while you’re no doubt moved by their wavering and noble voices.

  • Those sharp white hats are a symbol of the French Foreign Legion. They (the hats) are known as les képis blancs.
  • These guys are “sapeurs.” Back in the 17th Century every unit in the French Army had a few of these brave men who would go on ahead of the troops to clear the way with their axes. Of course this entailed quite a bit of danger, so sapeurs were allowed privileges like growing beards in exchange for greatly reduced life expectancies. The sapeurs still lead the legion symbolically with their traditional leather aprons and axes and song.
  • Article Seven of the Legionnaire’s code reads:  Au combat, tu agis sans passion et sans haine, tu respectes les ennemis vaincus, tu n’abandonnes jamais ni tes morts, ni tes blessés, ni tes armes. Translated, it means: In combat you act without passion and without hatred. You respect defeated enemies and never abandon your dead, wounded or arms. I’m not big into armies, but something about marching slowly and respectfully, without passion or hatred seems like the best way to go about it, if you are an army.
  • The Legion’s most sacred relic is Captain Danjou’s wooden hand. Next week, we’ll hear all about Captain Danjou and the French Alamo.

    Danjou's hand is a symbol for a tragic sort of army.

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