Sunday, October 18, 2009


The Foreign Legion on parade

It’s the first Sunday after St Michael’s day and this is the day that the 2nd Parachute Regiment of France’s Foreign Legion opens the doors of its headquarters at Camp Raffalli to the people of the Balagne in northwest Corsica.

Lying on the beach at Arinella yesterday, we had seen stick after stick of parachutists dropping out of the bellies of large grey aeroplanes and landing in neat rows on the ground. But today it was about military bands, regimental songs and honouring the regiment’s current and past heroes.

We were a little late for the prise d’armes du camp and the main road outside Camp Raffalli was crowded with parked cars. Fortunately, our lateness meant we were able to take up a position outside the Salle d’Honneur within the camp and got a perfect view of the proceedings.

The ceremony didn’t disappoint. As usual with this regiment, there was not a gesture, a note, a garment or a leaf out of place. Even the gravel had been combed into neat lines for the occasion! The most moving part, for me, was right at the start when a group of former legionnaires, in plain clothes but wearing their berets, marched to their place of honour singing their regimental song. In the moment of silence after they had passed, nothing could be heard but the screech of a red kite in the skies overhead.

During the ceremony, one of our neighbours living here in Lumio was given a special honour: Lucien Thomas, a former legionnaire who spent many years in Africa and elsewhere, was elevated to the position of Officer of the Légion d’Honneur. Hearty congratulations, Monsieur Thomas.

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