Admin moved page Why was the French Foreign Legion Created? to Why was the French Foreign Legion Created
[[File: Free French Foreign Legionnairs.jpg|
200px| thumb|left|French Legionnaires in WWII]]One of the best-known fighting forces in the world is the French Foreign Legion. The unit is a very distinctive and is regarded as an elite fighting force. It is also one of the last remaining mercenary forces in the world alongside the Gurkha regiments in the British army. The French Foreign Legion has been portrayed in countless movies and books and as a result. The Legion has participated in every major conflict that France has fought since 1830 and its soldiers have always fought with distinction.
The Legion was well regarded by many military experts and served as model for other nations, including Spain. Why was the French Foreign Legion created? Why did the French Empire need a unique mercenary fighting force? Why did France create a unique mercenary unit to fill this role?
====History of the French Foreign Legion====
The first French Foreign Legion regiment was dispatched to Algeria. France had recently begun the conquest of Algeria and the Legion
were to play a pivotal role in the conquest of that country. The Legion later saw service in the Spanish civil war (Carlist War) and the legion proved very effective, but the regiment was nearly decimated. The French King re-established the Legion and added another regiment. From then on, the French Foreign Legion was used in every foreign conflict waged by France. The Legion fought in the Crimean War and were instrumental in the defeat of the Russians. In the 1860s Emperor Napoleon III ordered the Legion to Mexico in his efforts to add that Republic to his Empire. It was here that the Legion really established its reputation. The legionnaires fought to the last man at the Battle of Puebla and this cemented the reputation of the Legion as an elite force.<ref>Geraghty, p. 15</ref>
In 1962 when De Gaulle ordered French forces to leave Algeria it seemed that the days
of the Legion were numbered. However, the Legion was retained and was based on the island of Corsica. Since the 1960s it has been extensively involved in peacekeeping and nation-building operation in France’s former African colonies. The regiments also served in the First Gulf War and in Afghanistan. At present, the regiment is engaged in operations in the Sahara aimed at Islamic terrorist networks.<ref> Drew Hinshaw and David Gauthier-Villars (15 January 2013). "France Widens Military Effort in Mali" . The Wall Street Journal., p 7</ref>
The organization and the nature of the Legion have changed very little since 1831. The French Foreign Legion
, (French Légion étrangère) , originally consisted of foreign volunteers. The language of the regiments that comprise the Legion is French. New recruits are all volunteers and they are often refugees or even criminals. The recruits to the Legion undergo a punishing training regime and they are expected to serve for a minimum of five years. The Legion was unique until the end of conscription in France in the early 2000s. The members of the legion were drawn from every nationality, but the officers were mostly French or naturalized French men. The Legion has varied in size throughout its history, but it usually consisted of between two and five regiments. Those who serve in the unit are after their service entitled to citizenship of France. This is because they have ‘shed their blood for France’. The Legion is currently stationed in Corsica, mainland France and French Guiana.
====The Foreign Regiments and the birth of the Legion====
They believed that
they could be used by the monarch to suppress French people and to curtail their liberties. This left Louis Phillipe in a quandary as he had many foreigners serving in his army and they would be difficult to replace and furthermore, the king felt that he could not simply dismiss these men who had given loyal service to France. Then after receiving some advice he decided to set up a regiment of foreigners who would serve in the French army and to placate the liberals and radicals he would ordain that this unit would only ever serve outside of the kingdom.<ref> Collingham, Hugh AC, and Robert S. Alexander. The July monarchy: a political history of France, 1830-1848. (NY, Longman Publishing Group, 1988), p. 14</ref> The monarch saw this as a temporary expedient that would allow him to continue to use foreign soldiers in his army. However, from this temporary policy the French Foreign Legion was to emerge.<ref> Porch, p. 123</ref>
The French were very divided between left and right. The French Revolution had resulted in an ideological divide in French society between conservatives and radicals. The country was to remain divided until arguably the 1980s. This meant that any decision by the king or the government was instantly politicized and often resulted in political crises or even instability. Yet France had to fight many wars and many of these were very unpopular.<ref>Geraghty, p. 18</ref> The French public did not like to see
the loss of French conscripts in foreign wars. The French Foreign Legion which was composed of foreigners could easily be sent to far-flung battlefields. Their losses and causalities were not a source of controversy and moreover, they helped to keep the native-born French losses in wars to a minimum and this was politically expedient. This was the reasons why after the legion was decimated in the 1830s that it was re-found and reformed.
The French high command had a force that could be sent anywhere, and their losses and actions rarely became a source of political debate in the National Assembly or press. This was a key factor in the origin of the Legion and why it is still in existence to this day, despite controversies over its status as a mercenary force and its role in the Algerian War of Independence.<ref>Porch, p. 112</ref>
The birth of the French Foreign Legion coincided with the birth of the French colonial Empire. The formation of the unit
was a result of the need for the French King to reinforce his troops who were engaged in the pacification of Algeria. The campaign was faltering, and the French monarch was reluctant to sent raw conscripts to fight the warriors of the deserts. The French Foreign Legion was formed to participate in the conquest of Algeria. The regiment played a key role in the pacification of the Arab and Berber tribes. The French king and his successors were very much aware of the suitability of this force for their colonial wars. The Legionnaires valor had surprised many and the French High Command saw the potential in a mercenary force for the various 'dirty wars' that would regularly flare up as the French Empire expanded.
The French Foreign Legion is in many ways a relic of a bygone age of Empires, monarchs, and mercenaries. The origins of the Legion were a result of chance as much as planning. It was formed in response to the end of the foreign formations or regiments in the French army. After 1830 the idea of mercenaries serving alongside conscripts was anathema to many French politicians. This led to the creation of a mercenary force that would serve outside force
, this was a result of political expediency. Then there was the fact that the French had imperial ambitions and they need manpower for their long-drawn-out and bloody colonial wars. In Algeria the French Foreign Legion proved itself to be immensely suited to pacification programs in remote areas. This persuaded the French government to make the legion a permanent part of the French armed forces. The men of the legion, who were not French were an expendable force and their deaths in battle did not lead to political repercussion or controversy in France. Indeed, the Legion allowed successive French governments to expand their imperial possessions , while limiting the number of conscripts needed to fight in colonial wars.