Le Boudin

Le Boudin is the official march (and anthem) of the French Foreign Legion, as well as the regimental march of the Foreign Legion Command (COMLE). The march’s origin is unclear. Its first version was probably composed around 1860 by a certain Wilhem, the then head of the Legion’s Music Band. However, the actual parols must be younger, because they refer to the 1880s Tonkin conflict and the famous 1863 Battle of Camerone.

Le Boudin is a type of blood sausage or black pudding. In Africa, in the 19th century, the legionnaires also nicknamed boudin their rolled/packed tents (resembling sausages), attached to the top of their backpacks. The refrain relates that the boudin should be bonus food for the Alsatians, Swiss, and Lorrains — the main groups in the Legion in the 1870s-1880s. Nevertheless, Belgians (according to the text) are not allowed to be rewarded with boudin because – politely translated – “they are not so good shooters.”

The origin of the jocular rivalry between these nationalities, depicted in the text of the march, is unknown as well. All of these nationalities are French-speaking. The official website of the Foreign Legion mentions the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War. According to the website, Belgians weren’t allowed to take part in this war on the French side due to a request sent by Leopold II (the then Belgian King) to French Emperor, Napoleon III. The Belgian King wanted Belgium to remain neutral in the conflict to not provoke the Prussians.

However, following the defeat of Napoleon at Sedan in early September 1870, the newly proclaimed French Republic allowed Belgians to take part in the war. That’s why we could find them in the ranks of the Legion and in volunteer units.

That being said, the most likely reason for the jocular rivalry displayed in the text could be a decree issued by France in 1873, which confirmed that only Alsatians, Lorrains, and the Swiss could be allowed to join the Legion at the time (since March 1871). Nevertheless, the principal argument for that decision was to eliminate German-speaking elements in the Legion after the 1870-71 war, and not to punish Belgians.

Today, the refrain is also sung before each lunch at a farm (basic training), as showed in the second video (where the tune is cut in the middle, however).

Tiens, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin
Pour les Alsaciens, les Suisses et les Lorrains.
Pour les Belges, y en a plus, pour les Belges, y en a plus,
Ce sont des tireurs au cul. (bis)

Au Tonkin, la Légion immortelle
A Tuyen-Quang illustra notre drapeau,
Héros de Camerone et frères modèles
Dormez en paix dans vos tombeaux.

Au cours de nos campagnes lointaines,
Affrontant la fièvre et le feu,
Oublions avec nos peines,
La mort qui nous oublie si peu.

Sonnerie A:
Nous sommes des dégourdis,
Nous sommes des lascars
Des types pas ordinaires.
Nous avons souvent notre cafard,
Nous sommes des légionnaires.

Sonnerie B:
Nos anciens ont su mourir.
Pour la gloire de la Légion.
Nous saurons bien tous périr
Suivant la tradition.


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