Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is personal view of Spain and Spanish life as seen by a Briton living in a small village in Alicante province.
The other tabs link to similar blogs when I have lived in other places. The TIM magazine is an English language magazine I write articles for.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

To me the Legion!

In a bar I use one of the regular drinkers is a bloke called Angel. You may have met his type in bars in Glasgow or Newcastle. They tell you stories of their past in an inpenetrable accent.

Angel told me today that he was a Sergeant in the Legion, the Spanish Legion originally known as the Spanish Foreign Legion, an army unit first formed in the 1920s. Unlike its French counterpart the foreign bit in its title was not because it was formed of foreigners but because it was put together to fight in foreign lands.  They are in Afghanistan and Lebanon at the moment. Foreigners can currently join the unit though so long as they are Spanish speaking and entitled to residence in Spain.

The Legion is considered to be a crack regiment. Along with colonial troops from Morocco they formed an effective spearhead of the Nationalist armies that took on the legitimate Spanish Government in the Spanish Civil War until they came up against the equally well trained International Brigades. On the other hand they also got their backsides well and truly kicked by irregular untrained troops in Morocco in the late 1950s. Oh, and they shot down a bunch of unarmed demonstators in the 1970s again in Morocco.

The Legion has some funny ways. They can wear beards, leave their shirts open more or less to the waist, their uniforms are plain and they wear tassled kepis. Its members are called Knight (or Dame) Legionnaires, and they call themselves "The bridegrooms of death". When they march in the big military parades they seem to shoot past, swinging their arms high in the air across their bodies at a march step of some 190 steps per minute as against the more usual 90 spm. Their mascot is a fast moving uniformed goat. And when they find themselves in a spot of bother on the battlefield and shout ¡A mi la Legión! (To me the Legion!) anyone within earshot has no option but to lend a hand however great the peril.

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