Why did I choose the French Foreign Legion as a background for my character Raglan? This is often the question I am asked about The Englishman series and with the second book, BETRAYAL, now published in paperback, I have an opportunity to share some thoughts on this unique group of men and why I placed Dan Raglan's character among them. 

There was an undeniable attraction to turn to someone, an Englishman, who had served in the Legion and who had been forced, as a young man, to escape his past. The idea might have been an echo of memory from many years ago when, as a younger man serving as a British paratrooper, I came across soldiers and Marines from other nationalities, among them, US Special Forces, Dutch Commandos and French Foreign Legionnaires. All were soldiers with diverse characters who had volunteered for hazardous duty. Many were well educated and sought a physical challenge that tested their mental and physical capabilities. More than a few had a background they wished to escape.

Legionnaires do not swear allegiance to any flag or government, they pledge themselves to the Legion. And the Legion is their true home: Legio Patra Nostra—The Legion is our Country. Importantly for me, the Legion comprises approximately 140 nationalities, and that gave me an ideal community from which to draw other characters and to give Raglan access to men who once served and now lived across the world. These would prove excellent contacts for when he needed them, when he found himself in foreign lands—and in trouble. And of the approximately 9000 men who serve in the Legion, roughly 450 officers, 2000 NCOs and 6,500 legionnaires many are from Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Russians, Ukrainians, Poles and Romanians are the majority. Asians follow and, perhaps surprisingly, a significant number of them come from China. There are South Americans and fewer recruits from the Western world – so that already made Raglan a rarity - and then other fewer recruits come from Africa. And every Legionnaire is taught French, so Raglan would be multi-lingual.

I doubt there is another fighting unit in the world that commands such an exceptional multicultural society. The Legion comprises men of all races, religions, social classes and political views. Its strict policy of “close your mouth, forget about your past and adapt as quickly as possible” forms recruits into a cohesive team, a solid block of soldiers with a strong esprit de corps. They are ready to fight and even lay down their lives for the new Family and their Homeland - The Legion.

A perfect background for my Englishman, Raglan. 


David Gilman

August 2022

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by David Gilman
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