Tag Archive | Foreign Legion

The Anne-Marie

On this day in 1841, the 2nd Regiment of the Foreign Legion of the French Army was created at Bone in Algeria and enrolled 2,240 legionnaires– largely Swiss and Germans– organized in 3 battalions stationed in Bone, Bougie, and Djidjelli.

The regiment fought throughout Algeria for the next decade until it was shipped out to the Crimea to join the allies fighting Russia, freezing at the Battle of Alma and the Siege of Sevastopol then went on to fight in the Franco-Austrian War in 1859.

By the 1860s, they were fighting in Mexico to prop up Maximilian and a patrol of the regiment, just 62-strong under Capt. Jean Danjou (Saint-Cyr, 1848) engaged 2,000 Mexicans at the Battle of Camarón with a predictable outcome.

The wooden hand of Capt. Danjou, treated as a holy relic by the Legion, housed at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne.

Then came service in metropolitan France during the war with Prussia in 1870, the Sino-French War, the Sudan and Morocco, Dahomey, Madagascar, fighting in France again in the Great War where they bled at the Somme, Verdun and along the Marne, then, of course, World War II where they fought in North Africa and later in the Colmar Pocket, ending the conflict on occupation duty in Austria, a country some of its men had left in the 1930s.

Then, like the rest of the Legion, the back to back 17-year armageddon in Indochina and Algeria before they were moved from their traditional “home” to Corsica and reformed. Since then, they have undertaken peacekeeping and intervention activities in Lebanon, Chad, and Bosnia, among others.

Their march since the 1900s is the Anne-Marie, oddly enough a German drinking song in the French Army, but then again, it is the Legion, and the regiment curiously hosted both German refugees during the broken Weimar era, German Jews fleeing from Hitler in the 1930s and 40s, and after WWII, former Wehrmacht soldiers.

The words, translated:

Anne-Marie, where is the journey going,
Anne-Marie, where is the journey going,
She goes to the city
Where the soldiers are.
One two three
Young, young, young Anne-Marie

Anne-Marie, today we want to be funny,
Anne-Marie, today we want to be funny,
We want to go dancing
And we rotate in circles.
One two three
Young, young, young Anne-Marie

Today the 2e REI is a two-battalion strong mechanized infantry unit based in Nîmes, France, and their mascot is a mule.

The Légion Etrangère remembers their own

Alan Seeger was born in New York City on June 22, 1888, and received a BA from Harvard University in 1910 where he edited and wrote for the Harvard Monthly– alongside future 10 Days that Shook the World author John Reed and had  T.S. Eliot and Walter Lippmann in his classes.

A poet and idealist of sorts, he moved to Paris and was a resident of the City of Lights when the Germans came in 1914. A foreigner in France, he did what many both before and after did– joined up in the Foreign Legion. Fighting at the time in metropolitan France, a rarity for the unit, Seeger was killed at Belloy-en-Santerre in the Somme, riddled by a Boche Spandau while cheering on a charge of his fellow legionnaires, age 28.

He gave his last full measure on July 4, 1916 along with 900 other legionaries, including fellow poet, Camil Campanya. Able to seize the battlefield, the Germans withdrew from the ruined village on July 8.

The Legion remembered him in a ceremony on the 100th anniversary last month, and unveiled a marker.

Seeger is perhaps best remembered for his poem, I have a rendezvous with Death.

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ‘twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

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