Marching Step

French Foreign Legion Marching Step

Also notable is the marching pace of the Legion. In comparison to the 120-step-per-minute pace of other French units, the Legion has an 88-step-per-minute marching speed. It is also referred by Legionnaires as the crawl. This can be seen at ceremonial parades and public displays attended by the Legion, particularly while parading in Paris on 14 July (Bastille Day). Because of the impressively slow pace, which Legionnaires refer to as the “crawl”, the Legion is always the last unit marching in any parade. The Legion is normally accompanied by its own band which traditionally plays the march of any one of the regiments comprising the Legion, except that of the unit actually on parade. The regimental song of each unit and “Le Boudin” (commonly called the blood sausage) is sung by Legionnaires standing at attention. Also, because the Legion must always stay together, it doesn’t break formation into two when approaching the presidential grandstand, as other French military units do, in order to preserve the unity of the Legion.

Contrary to popular belief, the adoption of the Legion’s slow marching speed was not due to a need to preserve energy and fluids during long marches under the hot Algerian sun. Its exact origins are somewhat unclear, but the official explanation is that although the pace regulation does not seem to have been instituted before 1945, it hails back to the slow, majestic marching pace of the Ancien Régime, and its reintroduction was a “return to traditional roots”.

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