In Denmark we have a magazine called “Historie” [in English: “History” or in French: “Histoire”] published by the big danish magazine series “Illustreret Videnskab”. Their website is found here: http://www.iv-historie.dk.
What angered me today was receiving their number nine issue for the year which described “De fortabtes legion” [“The legion of the lost”]. I would have chosen “Ærens legion” [The Legion of Honour], but that is not the main issue.
In the article the author of the article has included the fight in Camerone and the fact that ever since 1861 the 62 men lost in that fight had been remembered every year since on that fateful day of April 30th. Susan Travers is also mentioned positively — and rightfully so as she is the only female to have gone through full training in that Legion. Their new role as peacekeeping force is also mentioned, but what angered me was that in the front paragraph — introducing the article — the words are written:
“Fremmedlegionærerne var rodløse udlændinge, som var villige til at ofre livet deres nye fædreland – men de blev for altid betragtet som Frankrigs uægte sønner.”
Bear in mind there is a missing “for” in between “ofre livet” and “deres nye fædreland”, but never mind. Here’s an English translation of that introduction:
“Foreign Legionnaires were rootless foreigners who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their new homeland – but they were forever considered illegitimate sons of France.”
My translation is, sad to say, even polite since “uægte sønner” [illegitimate sons] is the same word that was previously called “bastard sons”, and NOTHING could ever be further from the truth when it comes to the respect a person coming out with fine papers will meet.
Of course, pacifists may look down upon a military career, but one has to be a virtual illiterate to ever believe such nonsense. I applied for the Legion in 1999 but was denied acceptance due to my vision being too poor for their military requirements, and that is perfectly fine. We have kids today and I don’t ever regret any of that. But it DOES anger me that people who want to present neutral information in a historical magazine show so little talent for the culture and traditions they try to describe.
One can either love or hate what any military group stands for, but the honour surrounding the military training of French Foreign Legionnaires is well-known in most areas, and should rightfully be so acknowledged.
PS: I realized this wasn’t about travels as such, but it is very telling about French culture. Those of us with a love for French ideals don’t make any excuses for loving France – despite flaws in other aspects… 🙂
For those who want to read more serious materials about the French Foreign Legion, let me recommend the following titles:
- Simon Murray – Legionnaire: Five Years in the French Foreign Legion – see the description of the book at Amazon: http://www.kortlink.com/free/murray-legion
- Bill Parris – The Making of a Legionnaire: My Life in the French Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment – see description of the book at Amazon: http://www.kortlink.com/free/parris-legionnaire
- Tony Sloane – The Naked Soldier: A True Story of the French Foreign Legion – see the description of the book at amazon: http://www.kortlink.com/free/sloane-legion
And for those who don’t read all that much, a DVD is also available, entitled:
- Foreign Legion — Secretive – Ruthless – Feared. On this DVD British recruits are followed as they join one of the toughest training programmes in the world. You can see more, and even order the DVD from this website: http://www.kortlink.com/free/dvd-legion