Is there still a Belgian Foreign Legion

The British Foreign Legion - A phantom between military policy and migration discourses

Unlike France and some other colonial powers, the UK never had a permanent Foreign Legion. There were, however, attempts to do so. A British Foreign Legion was recruited for the Crimean War, but it was not used. Parts of this force later came to South Africa as military settlers. From the First World War to the early Cold War, there were repeated voices in politics and the press calling for a foreign legion based on the French model in order to make exiles of the crown useful. The article discusses these approaches to establishing a British Foreign Legion at the intersection of military and migration history in contrast to the French development and analyzes which influencing factors have led to calls for the establishment of a British Foreign Legion at certain points in time and which ultimately the permanent establishment of such an institution prevented.

Unlike France and some other colonial powers, the United Kingdom never possessed a Foreign Legion on a permanent basis. Nevertheless, there were several attempts in this direction. During the Crimean War a British Foreign Legion was recruited, however it didn’t see action. Some of its soldiers then became military settlers in South Africa. From World War I till the early Cold War period the creation of a British Foreign Legion after the French model in order to utilize refugees for the crown’s purposes was repeatedly called for in parliament as well as in the British media. This article discusses the attempts to establish a British Foreign Legion that are located at the intersection of military and migration history, contrasting them to the respective French developments and analyzing both the factors that contributed to these attempts and those which eventually inhibited the establishment of such an institution on a permanent basis.

In November 2005 the London Times wrote an article about current developments in Her Majesty's armed forces with the lurid title: "How British Army is almost becoming foreign legion"[1]. The article stated that a limit would be sought because of a massive increase in foreign soldiers, the number of which had increased thirty-fold since 1998, when restrictions on recruiting from the Commonwealth of Nations were relaxed. In total, these soldiers made up six percent of the total force of the British Army in 2005, to which a further three percent came from Nepalese gurkhas. The article ended with an information box, which, under the title "The French Way", listed the most important facts about the current French Foreign Legion in a concise form.

So the recruiting of foreigners seemed to be something typically French here. This testifies to the long-term fame of the Foreign Legion, founded in 1831, whose reputation as one of the toughest troops in the world, but also as a gathering place for adventurers, dropouts and criminals, has been ambivalent since the 19th century. The "Légion étrangère", which until 1962 represented an important pillar of French colonial imperialism, was effectively recruited from two groups: unemployed and hopeless members of the European lower classes and political refugees[2]. Other colonial powers also used comparable units. The Netherlands recruited numerous foreigners from 1830 to 1909 for the Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indische Leger to secure the Dutch East Indies, and in 1920 a Spanish Foreign Legion ("Tercio de Extranjeros") based on the French model was established, but always one had a large proportion of Spaniards and after several name changes finally became »La Legión«[3].

Great Britain, on the other hand, never managed to establish a permanent foreign legion. This is all the more astonishing as the United Kingdom, in the transition from the early modern mercenary armies to the modern national armies, in contrast to its European rivals, decided not to introduce general conscription and instead relied on a professional army and numerous armed forces recruited in the colonies. Sarah Percy tried to explain this special development with the fact that there were two strong norms in Great Britain: aversions to a standing army and to mercenaries[4]. The latter manifested itself, for example, in internal criticism of the use of German mercenaries during the American War of Independence[5].

After all, in the 19th and 20th centuries there were various approaches or at least discussions to establish a British Foreign Legion, which, however, never led to a lasting result. These approaches and discussions will be discussed below for the first time in connection with and in contrast to the French development. In particular, it is important to analyze which influencing factors have led to calls for the establishment of a British Foreign Legion at certain points in time and which ultimately prevented the permanent establishment of such an institution. The focus is on the interplay of military and migration policy factors and the supply and demand for (primarily European) mercenaries.

After a brief overview of the mercenary system since 1800, when the premodern mercenary armies were widely believed to have been ousted by the modern national armies, the first section will examine approaches to a British Foreign Legion in the 19th century. The second section deals with the relevant discussions in the age of the world wars, which should never lead to a concrete result. The third section then focuses on calls for a British Foreign Legion in the early Cold War and also gives an outlook on developments up to the present day.

Mercenaryism in the Age of National Armies

Contrary to the popular belief that mercenaries perished at the end of the 18th century together with the "Ancien Régime" and had given way to an age of national armies based on general conscription, there were still numerous mercenary armies in the 19th century, roughly divided into three spheres can be divided: First, the classic European mercenary system continued in certain places well into the 19th century (for example in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until 1859 and in the Papal States until 1870). Second, colonial wars were generally not waged with conscripts, but with professional soldiers from imperial power, African and Asian colonial units, and troops made up of European mercenaries. And thirdly, in practically every armed conflict in Latin America, troops were recruited in Europe and countries such as Argentina occasionally also recruited military farmers for the military protection of sparsely populated areas. So there was an almost global mercenary market with a large number of employers in three spheres, between which the transitions were fluid both structurally and individually.

The history of the modern British and French Foreign Legions began in the 1830s, but there were forerunners. Both countries made use of mercenaries in the early modern period, but the direct forerunners can be found in the period of upheaval around 1800. On the British side from 1794 in the wars against revolutionary France, Hanoverians, Hessians, Baden and French exiles were deployed in large numbers, and from 1803 to 1816 there was a "King's German Legion" which, after the dissolution of the British Crown in Personal union connected Electorate of Hanover was formed and in 1816 was transferred to the army of the newly created Kingdom of Hanover[6]. In France, in 1815/16, part of the Napoleonic foreign regiments formed the Hohenlohe Regiment (until 1821 "Légion étrangère royale"), which was dissolved in the course of the July Revolution in 1830, but whose soldiers (as well as those of the also dissolved royal Swiss regiments) provided a recruiting base for formed the new Foreign Legion[7]. In contrast to Great Britain, there was in France a far stronger tendency towards continuity even before the establishment of the modern Foreign Legion, which resisted the secular trend towards the restriction of mercenaries.

In the 20th century, the European mercenary system then narrowed down essentially to the French and, to a lesser extent, the Spanish Foreign Legion. While the latter restricted the recruitment of foreigners more and more, in the age of the world wars and then the wars of decolonization, the latter greatly expanded its numbers in order to reduce it radically after Algeria's independence in 1962. After that, the global focus of mercenaries shifted to Africa with its numerous civil wars, in which Europeans and Americans were sometimes also deployed[8]. The emergence of military companies after the end of the Cold War then led to a renaissance of mercenaries in privatized form[9]. A number of such companies also emerged in Great Britain, such as "Watch Guard International" as early as 1965, "Sandline International" in 1995 and "Aegis Defense Services" in 2002. In 2006, the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC) even set up an industry association. Significantly, not a single permanent member of the UN Security Council has ratified the Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 and entered into force in 2001.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, foreign military service, which was mainly ideologically motivated, developed parallel to mercenaryism and with it partially overlapping structurally and in terms of individual biographies. In numerous armed conflicts that somehow had the character of "wars of liberation", there were international volunteer associations in the 19th century (such as Bolivar's British Legion from 1819 to 1824 or Garibaldi's International Legion from 1860). The best-known examples from the 20th century are the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War and the foreign associations of the Waffen-SS. The character of the French Foreign Legion approached such "ideological" troops in the exceptional situations of the two world wars, when volunteers who wanted to fight for France out of political sympathy were formally foreign legionnaires[10]. British and American plans in the early Cold War for the formation of mercenary anti-communist troops also pointed in this direction, as will be shown later.

British Foreign Legions in the 19th century

As early as the founding phase of the 1830s, there were significant differences between the French and British approaches. The French Foreign Legion was founded in 1831 with the main aim of evacuating the mercenaries of the dissolved royal foreign regiments as well as the refugees of the 1830s uprisings, who poured into France from various countries, in particular from Poland, for the conquest that began under the previous government To make Algeria usable. The new government of the "citizen king" believed that it could kill two birds with one stone, namely to get rid of people who were seen as potential troublemakers without damaging their liberal image - after 1830 there was great enthusiasm for Poland in liberal circles in Europe[11] -, and at the same time to spare the life of one's own country sons in a less popular military expedition. The integration of numerous Polish refugees into the Foreign Legion attracted the attention and, in some cases, criticism of the European liberal press[12].

In 1835 France ceded its entire Foreign Legion by treaty to the Spanish government under Isabella II, which was in a war of succession against the Carlist that lasted until 1839. Almost all of the first generation of Foreign Legionnaires were killed in this civil war[13]. Ironically, the ranks of the Foreign Legion were to be replenished essentially by the Carlist who had fled to France[14]. Although the final stabilization of the French Foreign Legion can only be set with the Crimean War, a mercenary force under this name already existed permanently in the first quarter of a century after 1831.

A comparable upheaval that would also impact the military constitution as the July Revolution was lacking in Great Britain. The liberal government of Palmerston also supported the Spanish Queen Isabella and put a British Auxiliary Legion in her service[15]. It is true that this unit was listed two decades later in a compilation by the War Department of the British Foreign Legions as the Spanish Contingent together with the Foreign Legions of the Crimean War[16], however, the foreigners were in the minority. The ex-post term "Foreign Legion" thus meant a unit in foreign service, not a unit made up of foreigners. At the time, in addition to the official title, it was alternatively referred to as “Spanish Mercenaries” or “British Mercenaries in Spain” in the press[17]. In effect, the force under the command of Sir George De Lacy Evans consisted mainly of British and Irish volunteers, including many army and rural lower classes who had been socially relegated by the enclosures[18]. A prerequisite for the recruitment of the Legion was a suspension of the Foreign Enlistment Bill on June 10, 1835, which linked military service to a foreign power to the approval of the Crown for all British subjects[19].

The Auxiliary Legion, however, similar to the French Foreign Legion, also recruited an unknown number of Poles in exile, some of whom had already been in Napoleonic service and for whom a small unit of their own was formed. When they were recruited, the Committee for the Relief of Polish Exiles paid eight shillings per person into the Legion's fund, “with the understanding that hereafter they renounce all further claims upon its assistance”[20]. Other foreigners also served in the "Auxiliary Legion", including Baron Richard von Stutterheim, who had left the Prussian service because of a duel and was later to command the "British German Legion" during the Crimean War[21]. Most of the survivors of the initial 10,000 volunteers quit their service after their two-year contract expired. A much smaller "New Legion" recruited in 1837 was disbanded the following year[22]. While the French government set up a "Nouvelle Légion" in 1836 in order to channel the stream of refugees, mainly from Poland to France, and to win units for the further conquest of Algeria[23], in Great Britain there was no need for such a step in terms of military, colonial or refugee policy.

A unit comparable to the French Foreign Legion and also named so was then set up almost two decades later for British intervention in the Crimean War[24]. The demand for quickly available mercenaries played together with the availability of a large number of refugees with no prospects in the wake of the 1848 revolutions. In contrast to France with its conscript army, a rapid expansion of the British professional army was difficult after the entry of the war by the western powers[25]. The "Enlistment of Foreigners Act" passed at the end of 1854 made it possible to recruit foreigners "for the duration of the present war"[26]. After that, the mercenaries were given free travel to their homeland or to another continental European destination or, as a special incentive for both politically persecuted people and men from precarious economic circumstances, a passage to North America guaranteed[27]. Was originally aimed at a strength of 5000 men[28], with more than 15,000 volunteers joining the British Foreign Legion, recruitment success exceeded expectations. They were divided into a German, Italian and Swiss legion and came from the following countries[29]:


Recruited into the British Foreign Legion in 1855

Prussia2544 Piedmont1719 Switzerland3000 Poland1500
Bavaria1048 Lombardy837 Belgium412
Hanover816 Parma218 Netherlands376
Swimming548 Modena114 Hungary72
Holstein488 Tuscany85
Hesse464 Rome59
Austria400 Naples25
Total recruited7112Total recruited3057Total recruited3000Total recruited2360
Strength at the end of the warStrength at the end of the warStrength at the end of the war
Soldiers and NCOs8665Soldiers and NCOs3535Soldiers and NCOs3073

Source: TNA, FO 924/4579: A Map showing the number of Men obtained in 1855 for the British Foreign Legion and ibid., WO 32/8324: Draft on verbal instructions through P.S., April 26, 1856.

The classification of Belgians, Dutch and Hungarians is not apparent from the sources. The core of the Polish Foreign Legionnaires were members of the Russian army, who had been taken prisoner of war in August 1854 when the Franco-British capture of the Bomarsund fortress on the Åland Islands[30]. In addition, (rather unsuccessful) attempts to recruit German-Americans led to diplomatic tensions with the United States[31]. In addition to these European legions, there were Turkish infantry and cavalry contingents under British command with a total strength of about 20,000 men[32].

The geographical origin of the British Foreign Legion was similar to that of the French Foreign Legion. However, unlike the French, the British could not rely on a network of domestic recruiting stations, but rather developed extensive activities in a relatively short period of time on site or in the headquarters of the individual subunits controlled by the British for the German Legion Island of Helgoland and for the Swiss Legion in Schlettstadt, Alsace. The British recruiting efforts in large parts of Central, Southern and Western Europe were apparently so desperate that in the summer of 1855 rumors spread that parts of the French Foreign Legion were also being loaned or ceded to Great Britain[33].

The British government commissioned the aforementioned Baron Richard von Stutterheim with the recruitment in Germany, who after the end of the Carlist War had been in the service of Brunswick, Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark and had already recruited mercenaries as secretary of the Mexican legation in Berlin in 1853/54. Stutterheim dispatched several hundred recruiting agents[34]. In Italy, recruiting was the responsibility of a "Board of Officers" consisting of the British General Percy and two Italian colonels with experience in various southern European armies[35]. In Switzerland, where the conclusion of new military surrenders with foreign countries was forbidden in the constitution of 1848 and the recruitment of Swiss was made a criminal offense in 1853, but individual entry into foreign services remained legal until 1859[36], the British embassy recruited an organizing committee made up of officers from the Swiss Army, which included an instruction officer and an employee of the Federal War Commissariat and at the same time emigration agent, and that at the border on French and Piedmontese soil as well as secretly, apparently in Switzerland itself, numerous recruiting stations set up[37].

The social background of the volunteers is likely to have corresponded to that of the French Foreign Legion, which, contrary to its reputation of being a collecting tank for criminals, romantic dropouts and adventurers with a bourgeois or even aristocratic background, was primarily unemployed, outsiders and Attracted poor people with often low family ties and asylum seekers[38]. The Times claimed that among the mercenaries motivated by a "hatred of the Muscovite cause" to participate in the "great struggle between freedom and absolutism" were "frequenly men of gentle, and, occasionally, men even of noble birth"[39] and concluded a Swiss newspaper based on British sources from the impeccable demeanor of the legionnaires during an inspection by Queen Victoria "que ce n’est pas parmi les rebuts de la société que le recrutement s’est opéré"[40]. Such voices attempted primarily to refute the strong opposition to the Foreign Legion in Great Britain, which, as a German letter writer complained, the words "› mercenaries, "" hirelings, "" banditti, "and, in fact, the whole stock of opprobrious epithets in the English language «[41].

The statement by the command of the “Swiss Legion” that many of the recruits had “little if anything to lose at home” certainly reflected the social profile of the majority of the recruits more correctly[42]. An unknown proportion of the Swiss volunteers had previously served as mercenaries in the Neapolitan service[43] and with regard to those recruited in the city of Bern, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung explicitly emphasized the lack of employment opportunities[44]. According to an article in the "Times", the "German Legion" consisted to a large extent of "artisans [...] of various classes, and a very large number were agricultural laborers"[45]. According to the memoirs of the legionnaire Wilhelm Westphal from Hamburg, the recruiting agents in Germany were most successful in the port cities,

"Where they would find thousands of young men who would do almost anything except work. They would go into some beer saloon where they would treat a number of young men and then describe to them the easy and independent life of a soldier in the British Army, and had no trouble at all to persuade them to join the German Legion, particularly after they got their men under the influence of several glasses of beer. They would, however, give them no time to reconsider their decision[46]

With the contractual option of a crossing to North America, as mentioned, it was explicitly aimed at men who were trying to start a completely new life. In fact, a correspondent for the Times reported in January 1855 from Kiel on the prospects for recruitment in Germany: The field is ample, and many who now emigrate would greatly prefer the service of England[47]. ”And the following year Colonel Mack of the German Legion stated that there were many among his people,“ who are not at all disposed to return to their homes - or indeed dare not do so, who are anxious to proceed to America "[48]. This comment related mainly to legionnaires such as those from Prussia who were considered deserters in their homeland because of military service for Great Britain.

A not inconsiderable number of the German volunteers were revolutionaries from 48 and in particular veterans of the Schleswig-Holstein War from 1848 to 1851[49]who were subsequently stranded in northern German coastal cities. Some of them had fought as "brummers" in Brazilian service in the La Plata War in 1851/52[50]. There were also 48ers from Baden and Hungary who had fled to northern Germany[51]. In his memoirs, a lieutenant of the Swiss Legion mockingly dubbed his comrades in the German Legion as "yellowed forty-eight men of the revolution":

“Some of your NCOs seemed to have just stepped down from the professors' chair and slipped into their uniforms, wore glasses on their noses and let hair fall under their shako, of which a Göttingen or Heidelberg boyfriend could have been proud[52]

A certain number of German refugees also managed to join the "Swiss Legion" under a false identity[53].

Political refugees thus once again proved to be an important recruiting reservoir. After the waves of emigration following the 1830s revolutions and the Polish uprising of 1830/31, at the end of the 1840s, the again largely failed 1848 revolutions and the Polish uprisings of 1846 and 1848 again turned many people into refugees and some of them into foreign legionnaires . In 1850, the Swiss and French authorities worked together on the transfer of 48 refugees who were present in the Confederation to the Foreign Legion. However, more than 12,000 exiles volunteered[54] only a few dozen for service in Algeria[55]. It was not for nothing that the Piedmontese government recommended in January 1855, in the run-up to their own entry into the war, that their British and French allies rely on the Polish emigration to recruit foreign legionnaires. The influential Pole in exile, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, rejected this, pointing out that the Western powers did not take national Polish interests into account[56].

In contrast to the French Foreign Legion, which fought against Russia from the summer of 1854 and suffered 1625 dead and wounded[57], its British counterpart did not come into active use. Although some regiments arrived in the Orient before the peace treaty of March 30, 1856, the fighting was largely over by that time. Intensive discussions about the future of the British Foreign Legion began in the months that followed. The Times regretted

"To see so great an effort, and, we must add, so successful a result, suddenly come to naught. We could whish that a portion at least could be retained [...] In any future war [...] nothing will bring foreigners so thickly to our standards as the knowledge that many by this means have arrived at comfort, independence, even wealth and honor, in our colonies or elsewhere. Whatever is done, care should be taken to make the creation of a new army as easy as can be made[58]

As alternatives to dissolving the unit and repatriating its members, colonial assignments and possibly even a continuation of the recruitment of foreigners based on the French model or the emigration of legionnaires to British colonies were discussed. Arguments in favor of the first variant were the allegedly positive experiences of the French as well as recruitment problems domestically as a result of rising living standards of the lower classes[59]. In contrast to Algeria, the main base of the French Foreign Legion, India, the core area of ​​British colonial imperialism, was not yet under direct government administration. A transfer of the "British Foreign Legion" to the "East India Company" ruling in India was considered in 1855/56, but did not materialize[60].

The transfer of legionnaires to British colonies, on the other hand, came up against financial limits in the face of tight budgets after the costly Crimean War. When Colonel Mack asked about the conditions for Germans who wanted to emigrate to Canada, the War Department answered that nothing could be offered except for the contractually guaranteed free passage[61]. And when a group of New Zealand colonists lobbied for the settlement of the legionnaires in New Zealand, where there is a lot of land but little (and therefore expensive) labor and where reinforcements are urgently needed in the conflicts with the Maori[62], the "Emigration Office" rejected this proposal, pointing out that there were no funding options[63].

An offer from the Argentine Consul General to settle laid-off legionnaires in Argentina as farmers therefore appeared interesting[64]. 10 acres of land for soldiers and 15 acres for NCOs, three years' pay and free cattle were offered. In the first six years, the settlers would have to pay 20 percent of the income from agriculture as taxes, while the income from animal husbandry would be tax-free; after that the land and cattle should belong to the settlers[65]. Military uses of the settlers like a decade later by former papal mercenaries who were lured to Argentina under similar promises, but then pressed for use in the bloody Triple Alliance War (1864-1870)[66], were not included in the conditions. On the British side, the offer seemed to be particularly attractive to Italian legionaries, whose settlement in their own colonies was obviously not particularly enthusiastic. In a pamphlet to the members of the "Italian Legion" stationed in Malta after the end of the war[67] it was pointed out that the governments of several Italian states refused to issue passports to some legionnaires. The British government was ready to settle these men in Canada or South Africa, but the Argentine offer was better; in the British colonies "gli uomini incontrebbero grandi difficoltà in un clima tanto freddo e tanto differente da quello d’Italia"[68]. Eventually about 160 Italian legionaries moved to Argentina, where they strengthened an existing Italian military colony in Bahía Blanca, an outpost in an area still largely dominated by indigenous peoples[69].

For the German legionaries, prospects as military colonists soon emerged. British officers of the German Legion in particular lobbied for such a solution. One of them, in a letter to the editor, suggested using it in tropical colonies, which could save both money and the lives of British soldiers. The core of his argument was the supposedly different drinking behavior of German and British soldiers:

“The German soldier is proverbially sober and tractable. Those qualities are not peculiarly those of Englishmen; and it is a well-known fact that, in our tropical possessions, a large proportion of the troops which guard them die off through the want of sobriety which is the characteristic of the German[70]

The Germans, however, should not be settled in the tropics but at the Cape of Good Hope. According to a plan that took shape in the summer of 1856, the members of the German Legion were offered the option of settling in the Cape Colony or the adjacent British Kaffraria as "Military Settlers". The conditions included seven years of service, during which the colonists could be used in attacks from outside and had to take part in military exercises. They also had, well Victorian, "Muster every Sunday for Church parade". In return, they were given land on which they were obliged to build a house, as well as free family mobility[71]. The plan had a long tradition, starting with the ancient military colonies of Alexander the Great and especially the Roman Empire, through the settlement of Serbian and Wallachian fortified farmers on the Habsburg military border against the Ottoman Empire from the 16th century to the Russian ones established in 1816 Military settlements (voennye poselenija), which, ironically, were definitely closed in the same year as the German "Military Settlers" arrived at the Cape[72].

Similar questions arose for the members of the "Swiss Legion". A letter from headquarters in Schlettstadt to the War Department in April 1856 recommended that the unit be disbanded. For various reasons, it should not be used in the colonies. Canada is "a Colony much sought after by our own Population for the purpose of Emigration & I venture to suggest that sending Foreign Troops there would be injurious to the prospects of our own Countrymen". Political reasons speak against settling in South Africa together with the Germans: “The Swiss although brave soldiers are exceedingly Republican in all their ideas, - & I fear would easily corrupt the Germans, when instead of a Safeguard to our Frontier they would become a Scourge. "After all, Australia is not suitable" as the men would undoubtedly desert immediately "[73].

The majority of the Swiss legionnaires actually returned to their homeland. However, 400 to 800 of them exercised the right to free passage to Canada, some with the intention of entering the United States from there, and 80 more went to the Cape Colony. 240 Swiss and an unknown number of Germans answered the call of a recruiting agent of the Dutch government sent to Portsmouth and went to colonial services in Batavia. A small number of Germans and Swiss were finally accepted into British regiments of the line[74].

The settlement of former legionaries in South Africa was largely limited to Germans. A total of around 3000 volunteers, more than a third of the "German Legion", to whom South Africa had been introduced as "a regular paradise where the finest fruits were growing wild, and where the weather was continual summer" and where, "after we." had worsted the negroes [...] all of the beautiful land would be our property "[75]. 2400 of them were accepted[76] and shipped in three corps with their families to South Africa, where they arrived by February 1857. Their settlement was intended to secure the British territory on its eastern border, an area that had recently been severely depopulated by a famine among the Xhosa[77]. After the "Military Settlers" founded New King William’s Town, Keiskammahook, Brunswick, Hamburg, Breitenbach, Berlin, Charlottenburg, Potsdam, Cambridge, Hanover, Marienthal, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Ulsen and Stutterheim[78], the British government started a recruitment campaign for farmers in northern Germany, of whom around 2000 to 3000 settled in and around the new towns in the years 1858/59[79].

The presence of the German legionaries in South Africa enabled the British government to move most of the British troops from the Cape to India during the great Indian uprising of 1857-58. Finally, volunteers were also recruited for India from among the German legionaries. Around 1100 of them went to India at the end of 1858, where they did not arrive until after the uprising was put down. Some of them soon died of disease, some went into the service of regular British troops and a small number returned to South Africa after a few months.In the following years, most of the remaining German legionaries in South Africa switched to regular British units or quit their service, so that the British German Legion was formally dissolved in February 1861[80].

During the Crimean War, the French Foreign Legion definitely established itself as an elite force for missions in both imperial and European wars and was deployed at a central point in the Sardinian-Austrian war as early as 1859 and then again from 1863 to 1867 in the French expedition to Mexico[81], its British counterpart broke up despite attempts to partially stabilize it and rumors of new recruits that continued for years[82] so quickly up again. In addition to the financial scarcity repeatedly cited in contemporary British discussions, structural and conceptual reasons were responsible for this: Firstly, the French Foreign Legion had a home base in Algeria that was quickly accessible from the mother country, from which it was quickly available for both European and numerous colonial conflicts , while its British counterpart lacked such a central and peripheral base at the same time and was stationed partly in England, partly in allied countries and partly on British outposts in the short period of its existence. Second, the two Foreign Legions followed different approaches to dealing with their multinational structure. If the British divided their troops into nationally homogeneous legions and thereby also made clear the temporary nature of membership in the British Army, the French had given up this system as early as 1835 in favor of mixed units, the so-called amalgame, which basically followed the later official motto "Legio Patria Nostra" corresponded. Thirdly, various offers to former legionaries were linked to this. If at the end of the service in the French Foreign Legion ideally the residence permit in the French mainland or even the acquisition of French citizenship had been obtained, the British pursued a largely improvised colonist policy, not least guided by national stereotypes. The two conceptions were thus very similar to the subsequent colonial-political doctrines of "assimilation" (in the case of France) and of the "association" (in the case of Great Britain).

Revival of the idea of ​​a "British Foreign Legion" in the age of the world wars

In the age of high imperialism from around 1880, when the French Foreign Legion massively increased its holdings and played a role as an integral part of the "Armée d'Afrique" in almost every colonial acquisition of France, Great Britain had no Foreign Legion, either inside or outside the core its colonial units and after the uprising of 1857/58 fundamentally reorganized "Indian Army"[83]. The image of the French Foreign Legion in Great Britain was probably less bad than in Germany, which was much more affected by the recruitment[84]