The Legion by Gustave Babin

The record of the French Foreign Legion in World War I is exemplary by any standards.  The RMLE (the last task organization that the Legion fought in for most of the war, 11 Nov 1915-20 Sep 1920) was one of France’s most decorated units.   There were 42,883 Foreign Legion volunteers during the war.  Of these, 157 officers and 5,172 legionnaires were killed.  Another 500 officers and more than 25,000 legionnaires were wounded.  This amounted to a casualty rate of almost 70%.   This short article summarizes those heroic sacrifices made by the Legion during that conflict and explains why the French showered this unit with awards and special citations for bravery.  It originally appeared in the French Weekly  periodical L’Illustration on 19 Jan 1918.  Gustav Babin was a long time French reporter and later war correspondent for L’Illustration.  I found this English translation on Hathi Trust.  It appears to have been donated by William Farnsworth to the Harvard University Library.  William Farnsworth is undoubtedly the father of  Henry Weston Farnsworth, a Harvard graduate who joined the Foreign Legion on 05 January 1915 and was killed on the battlefield 28 September that same year near Navarin Farm, Champagne, France.  This must have been one of several books and papers of Henry and his father that was donated to the library for the Henry Weston Farnsworth Room (created in 1916 in honor of Henry).   Pictures below show the two fourragere and the Legion honor guard referred to in the article.

The Legion by Gustave Babin



About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
This entry was posted in Articles, World War One. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Legion by Gustave Babin

  1. Shawn says:

    Jack, during my Marine Corps career I was a member of 2nd Bn 5th Marines for about 4 1/2 years. The Fifth and Sixth Marines during the battle of Belleau Wood won the French Fourragere and to celebrate that honor all Marines while in these units are priviledged to wear it during their time in the unit. I still have mine. We wear the one pictured above that is green with red piping. However, our tips are black. I have seen in the old pictures though that the tips are gold as pictured above. The original members of these units were authorized to wear the Fourragere as a personal award for the rest of their careers no matter what unit they were in. It was during the battle of Belleau Wood that two time MOH winner Dan Daley famously encouraged his troops on by saying ‘C’mon you sons of bitches, did you think you were going to live forever?’. It doesn’t get any harder than that!


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