- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: Hellgate Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555716334
- ISBN-13: 978-1555716332
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 110 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Life in the French Foreign Legion: How to Join and What to Expect When You Get There 1st Edition
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About the Author
In 1983, Evan McGorman read a magazine article about the French Foreign Legion and was amazed to discover it still existed. For the next six years he was consumed by the romantic notion of running away to join. In 1989, after having served four years in the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, he went to France where he signed on for a five-year stint with the Legion. This is his first book. He currently resides in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.
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Top customer reviews
As a Canadian teenager, McGorman became entranced with the legendary image of the Legion. After serving 4 years in an artillery unit of the Royal Canadian Army, Evan enlisted in the Légion Étrangère in 1989 on a 5-year contract. Based on his experiences, this book is his good-faith attempt to strip away the romance surrounding the contemporary Legion and give a true picture of service within its ranks to anybody contemplating joining.
McGorman begins his narrative where it logically should, i.e. with the addresses of the Legion's recruiting centers in France; he himself joined in Paris. He covers just about everything you need to know: enlistment requirements, what to bring - French/English dictionary, shaving gear, toiletries, towel, cigarettes, watch, wallet, personal address book (all of which might fit in that sack at the end of the stick) - the enlistment contract, changing your name, aptitude tests, orientation, basic training, learning French (rapidly), singing and marching, the legion's Code of Honor, the signature Képi Blanc cap, ranks, saluting, addressing superiors, the annoying corvée (menial chores), guard service, corporal punishment, phoning and writing home, doing laundry, weapons, physical training, meals, and regimental structure. Once graduated from basic training, Evan is assigned to the Legion's single parachute regiment. Subsequently, his narrative includes everything you'd need to know about regimental life: parachute training, company structure, commando training, daily schedule, vacation leave, pay, theft, desertion, tips on deserting, the practical benefits of being a Legionnaire (e.g. being a Babe Magnet), specialist training, holidays, and the perception of the Legion as a band of hardbitten, unsavory mercenaries.
During his stint, McGorman did tours of duty in Africa - Chad and Djibouti - as well as one with the UN peacekeeping force in Sarajevo. Much of the book is dedicated to his experiences in those places.
Finally, Evan ends his narrative where it logically should, i.e. with the mustering out experience: an unexpected tax bill from the French government, inducements to re-enlist, tidying up administrative details, the final paycheck, corvée to the very end, the Certificate of Military Service, and the good-bye address from the Commandant of the Legion.
The subtitle of LIFE IN THE FRECH FOREIGN LEGION is HOW TO JOIN AND WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU GET THERE. What McGorman provides is exactly that, a comprehensive overview done in an informal, lucid, and informative style much like you'd get in a conversation over several beers. While the author lays claim to no regrets about his years with the Legion, he's soberingly honest about why he wouldn't necessarily recommend it: the incessant corvée, the boredom, the constant hold the organization has on your time - the same complaints any soldier or sailor will have about any military outfit anywhere. But, he also says it was the experience of a lifetime.
If you've never been fascinated by the concept, mystery, and history of the French Foreign Legion and are content with the daily grind of the same old rut, then this book is not for you - 0 stars. But, if Beau Geste beckons from the other side of the citadel wall, then it's worth every one of five stars simply as a primer for the experience. Personally, I guess I'll just put the sack and stick back in the closet and take out the trash (corvée) as ordered by my Commanding Officer Wife.
Running and cleaning (corvee) seem to be the two big habits the officers immediately instill in new recruits as soon as they get within sniffing distance of the base. If one cannot jog for miles on end then one should refrain from even daydreaming about a gig with the French Foreign Legion. Yes, it still does indeed offer protection for certain lamsters too. Thus, some of the wild rumors and gossip stories about the FFL are not necessarily untrue, however the action and adventure many new recruits expect are often in short supply. Though McGorman does provide a few very fascinating reflections about his deployments to Africa and Sarajevo. One definite truism beyond everything else: new recruits will be in top physical condition within a week or so of arriving at the doorstep of the FFL.
By far the most important aspects he emphasizes over and over are if one cannot run for miles and if one has an aversion to corvee they’ll become disillusioned very quickly and probably contemplate desertion, which is an all too common phenomenon in today’s FFL. New recruits pine for the action and adventure but find desertion an appealing option when day after day a mop and broom are consistently thrust into their hands.
When one first enlists the only personal items the FFL allows them to keep are just a few things: 1. the few toiletries they brought along, 2. their wallet and 3. their watch. After that it’s all life in the FFL from sun up to sundown. From the forced eating of raw sardines (McGorman explains the how and why) to the ease of saving money during an enlistment period, the FFL means business.
A couple of surprising and unexpected points McGorman explains in the book are how the FFL really shouldn’t be considered an “elite fighting” force, which is something that’s probably news to many given that it’s often assumed that it is; and he also addresses the fact that there are barely any obnoxious hazing rituals, to the FFL’s credit hazing is kept to an almost nonexistent level.
For a book that’s truly informative and really outside the box, give McGorman’s ‘Life in the French Foreign Legion’ a read.
In particular, I like the authors comment about "you'll spend more time on the end of a broom than on the end of a rifle." And I liked his discussion of the marching cadence being slower in the Legion than in other military troops. I was able to look up a video on YouTube to see exactly what he meant about marching, and chanting and singing.
I think the book does an excellent job of achieving its goal, which is to remove some of the mystery around the legion. I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about but the Legion is really about.