French Foreign Legion Paratroop – Voltigeur, 1erREP, Algeria, 1958

“It sounds good but I don’t see any rough stuff anymore. The Legion is soft today. Yeah, in the old days you signed up, and that was it for five years. Off to boot camp, and no questions. Usually for your first day, just to put you in the mood, you were ordered to wipe the barrack floor with your tongue while the corporal kicked you from behind to get you moving faster. But no more. That was the old Legion, when recruits were real men. Des durs!”

Yugoslavian Legionnaire corporal, 12 year veteran, 1983

Of all the world’s elite fighting forces, none have commanded greater respect or generated such an image of mystery and romance as the French Foreign Legion. Since it was founded in 1831, the French Foreign Legion, shrouded in myth, has long been the stuff of adventure and romance – thanks to the movies and novels. Romanticised by Gary Cooper in the 1939 movie Beau Geste as a haven for the lovelorn and those anxious to establish a new identity, the real truth belies the Hollywood heroism of Beau Geste’s comrades in their fight for an Empire against fanatic Arabs in North Africa. This is because the foreign soldiers of the Legion were simply sent to do the dirtiest and hardest work for France. In the past, recruits joining La Legion leave behind their pasts – whether ordinary or shady – and begin anew as legionnaires, the toughest of French soldiers forged by back-breaking discipline.

And while weapons and enemies have changed, the outcome has not, as one in 10 legionnaires will die during their five-year tenure. For the Legion is still France’s first resort in nasty situations and, as the soldiers themselves say, they are sent because if they die “it’s only foreigners”.

This “Casbah Sweeper”- a Voltigeur of the French Foreign Legion Paratroop is lightly equipped for street patrol with the following:

His beret is scratchbuilt as is the cap badge which was acrylic-applique onto a photostat and silver painted.

The paratrooper is wearing a scratchbuilt camouflaged “tenue leopard” 48/56 type BDU – with an elasticated jacket seam. The lizard camo pattern was handpainted and is based on the green-hued lizard camo pattern BDU. The camo patterns were painted first onto the fabric before sewing, then touched up where necessary. I dunked the completed BDU into a tub of light leaf green dye, this “softens” the contrasty painted patterns, giving a more weathered and well worn effect to the fabric. It’s also an optical effect because of the intrinsic scale involved, thus what is smaller should not be glaringly contrasty when compared to 1:1 scale.

Web belt and straps were scratchbuilt, while the scarf was tissue paper (okay… taken from the toilet roll!).

MAT 49 quadruple pouches were similarly scratchbuilt; these ammo pouches were based on photographic and illustrative references and painted and weathered with acrylic paints and pastel chalk.

The MAT 49 SMG was scratchbuilt with bits of balsa, sculpy, card, plastic rod, cotton bud rod, “twistie” wire, leather strap. I scoured the whole of Singapore for a 21st Century MAT 49 SMG, to no avail; and had no choice but to scratchbuild one based on images from the internet. It’s quite a learning experience. (I’ve since managed to get my hands on a 21stCentury MAT 49).

The boots, bayonet, sunglasses, canteen and holder are standard 1/6 scale manufacturers’ gear. The figure is by Dragon, with a repainted headsculpt.