This is another fine article on the Foreign Legion from the British Newspaper Archive. Like other articles posted here it is an account of the Foreign Legion written on or around their 100th Anniversary / Centennial. It appeared in the July 1931 issue of the illustrated paper known as Brittania & Eve.
I really liked this piece–mainly for the frank and upfront approach of the author, Ferdinand Tuohy, who was a WWI news reporter and post-war foreign correspondent who wrote the book The Secret Corps (1920). He does not go down the easy path that many other Legion Centennial reporters took and tries his damned best to describe what he believes is the actual Foreign Legion circa 1931. Even in the first sentences of this article he is calling out the mainstream media for their versions of “fake news”. Overlooking a couple of glaring factual errors (the “mummified” right hand of Captain D’Anjou and his Under Two Flags reference, for example), Tuohy really nailed it with his claim at the end of the third paragraph that “…if I were asked this moment what is the keynote of the Legion, its outstanding feature, its guiding influence, its leitmotif, I should not reply cruelty, or hardship, or lust (love!), or forgetfulness, or glamour (!), but unhesitatingly–DRINK.” Similar points made by the author also go against contemporary writers who penned puff-pieces about the Legion during the Legion’s Centennial observations. These include the perceptions of interviewed legionnaires that only less than 1% of the Legion might have come from “interesting” backgrounds such as professional tradesmen, military officers, priests, doctors, royalty, etc. The remaining 99% are the dregs and roughest cuts from dozens of countries. Tuohy also points out in several places that the officer ranks were reserved for Frenchmen only and all other nationalities have to aspire to senior NCO ranks. All in all this is one of the better Centennial pieces. (.pdf link is below).
NOTE: This is kind a “proof of life” post since I’ve been AWOL for the past three weeks or so. As I noted in a previous post, I’m working on various research projects, sorting out and indexing my horde of digital files and indexing my sagging bookshelf in order to revitalize this blog a bit. Be patient….good things to come.