Fighting for the French Foreign Legion

Memoirs of a Scottish Legionnaire

By Alex Lochrie

front cover - Fighting for the French Foreign Legion

Mention of the French Foreign Legion tends to conjure up thoughts of isolated fortresses in the desert defended against hordes of attacking tribesmen by tough, rugged men, each with some private motivation beyond simply serving their unit. Obviously, life in the modern Legion is very different from this and it was with great anticipation that I read "Fighting for the French Foreign Legion: Memoirs of a Scottish Legionnaire" by Alex Lochrie. I hoped that my preconceptions would be dispelled or confirmed by someone who has been there and done it and I was not disappointed.

Having spent a successful ten years as a police officer, a combination of circumstances resulted in the author attempting suicide on Troon Beach. With the failure of this attempt came the stark realisation that a dramatic change was required and he headed for France to start a new life. Once there, a chance encounter with a pair of Legionnaires on leave persuaded the author that the French Foreign Legion may offer the combination of excitement and direction that his life at that time had been missing. There follows a personal account of selection, training and subsequent deployment with the REP, the 2nd Parachute Regiment of the Legion, to Central Africa, Iraq and finally Sarajevo.

The chapters on selection and training give a fascinating glimpse of the mechanics of the Legion. Truly this is not an environment for the faint-hearted and the author confirms most people's notion that the Legion is tough and uncompromising, even in comparison with military life in general. Moving on to the author's deployment in Central Africa and then Iraq, further insight is gained into the operation of the Legion and the perception that it is indeed an elite force.

However there is a definite shift in gear in the chapters relating the Legion's participation in the UN peacekeeping operation in Sarajevo, both in terms of the level of activity and the author's description of events. Whereas earlier chapters simply recount episodes that he deemed interesting or entertaining, the reader is left in no doubt as to the author's views on the political situation surrounding the Bosnian conflict and the media's reporting of events. He pulls no punches when expressing his opinions on the various politicians, military chiefs and reporters with whom he had dealings. At the same time his loyalty to his unit, his comrades and his immediate superiors is never in doubt. One feels that this is an attitude shared by the majority of service personnel who risk their lives in such operations.

As clearly stated by the author, this book is not intended as a recruitment advert for the Legion. Rather, it is an honest and fascinating account of one man's experience in arguably one of the world's toughest military units. It certainly won't tempt me to make the trip to the Legion's recruiting office but it has given me the incentive to go and learn more about its history and traditions. In that case I'd say that for Mr Lochrie, this has been a been a job well done.

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