Blogs & Publications

A selection of personal blogs over the last 10 years that I've decided to share with the general public, some of the views expressed do not necessarily reflect my state of mind today as I've of course matured and settled down.  

The events in these diaries reveal a lot about my personal experiences however trivial or superficial, I play with different story-telling techniques, I articulate my sense of riding a motorcycle in California and Colombia , the pain of conflict, environmental issues and my own personal experiences.

 If you're interested in using some narratives or adaptations please contact me.

Diaries of a Legionnaire Part I

Selection, Instruction, Combat Parachute, Mountain and Jungle Training. Tam decides to give 5 years of his life and join the French Foreign Legion. Part 2 to follow. 

Discorsos de Paz - Blog from the Americas

Arrival in Las Vegas, Nevada, Tam buys a motorcycle and travels California ending up in Colombia South America to get involved in the Peace Process and participate in many socio-community projects in the department of Cauca and others. Struggling in Colombia as an entrepreneur and assessing the security risks Tam decides to spend a month in Mexico before returning to Europe to join the French Foreign Legion. 

Find out more...

Crossing Borders, From Beirut to Bethlehem 

Embarking on a journey through the Middle East and covering events since his last visits before the Civil War in Syria. Beirut to Bethlehem tells a story of the places around the Middle East, Lebanon, Turkey, Malta, Cyprus, Israel and Palestine. With ongoing violence in the region travelling from one country to another is not that simple. Tam tells his stories getting abducted by armed groups in Tripoli, photographer for the elite in Beirut and his arrival in his place of origin, the Holyland. 


Chapter from Novel 'Born Again'

Yosef Hadid had a intense yet languid gaze in his high-set eyes of green-brown complexion. His thick bushy eye brows festooned over his sun burnt face in the height of the hazy summer glow of Jerusalem in 1946. The officials, manual workers and bureaucrats were busy taking their lunch of fresh bread, olives and humous. The perfume of fresh oranges and coffee, the blossoming of jasmin flowers and the scent of roses was the only palpable feeling on the bright and breezy day in the heart of the holy land.

 This was the British Mandate of Palestine, the Ottoman Empire was no more, only its relics remained embodied in its architecture and outdated culture, defeated and consigned to chapters in the history books among the Habsburgs and the Romans. Yosef was duly carrying about his duties as a police officer, he admired the British and made an effort to learn English which enabled him to get high profile positions to protect high level personnel within the British administration. At the time, there was no hatred of jews, anti-semeticism was something borne out of Europe. Arabs had nothing against their semetic brothers and sisters, what the region experienced was mass migration from European countries and the Soviet Union together with the rise of right-wing paramilitary groups such as Irgun and Haganah keen to implement the politics of Zionism at all costs.


Colonel Walter Parr was an English man of great stature, with fine Auburn hair parted to the side like a true aristocrat, he wasn't a man of the trenches but more of a diplomat nowadays. Colonel Parr carried and executed war in hotel boardrooms with a glass of brandy and a havana cigar. Eton educated and hereditary to a line of noble English men, his destiny was politics and not to get his hands soiled in war again. During total war, all men from adolescence to their 40's were obliged to do some kind of military service. A man of privilege can choose, and so the young liutenant quickly went on to become a pilot for the Royal Airforce. With Churchill's Spitfires, Walter Parr, or Wally as he was affectionately called, narrowly escaped death numerous times over the skies of Dresden and Berlin, chasing down the Luftwassen over the channel and escorting fleets of supply ships over the Atlantic. Wally was awarded a Victoria Cross for his contribution in the 2nd World War and was given a comfortable posting overseas in the last days of the British Empire when Great Britain was in huge debt, broke and in poverty in the aftermath of the war. This was an administrative position of sorts, while Churchill was sympathetic to the Zionists and allowed them to come in masses, he was now gone from British politics and the new labour party had too much on their plate at home to be a global policeman. The colonies disappeared one by one in succession, Great Britain no longer capable of restoring order nor willing to take the risks for a faraway land and foreign people.


Most people working for the British Empire stubbornly clung on to grandiose images of themselves and of the superiority they presented. Yosef Hadid was the Colonel's loyal servant, providing everything he needed, groceries to the family home, translation, intelligence and providing safety among the increasingly tense political situation with so many undocumented migrants arriving by sea together with their need for proper housing, work, sanitation and education.


Yosef accompanied Walter for his lunch in front of his office at the King David Hotel. Yosef kept a look out with his darting eyes and austere square-lined jaw line while Walter studied the headlines of the Jerusalem Post journal describing all the incidents of the increasing escalation between the Arabs and the Jews together with the rising threat of the right-wing paramilitary groups known as Irgun and Haganah using violence to install political power in the region with fierce Zionist ideology. While the situation on the ground dictated that all revolutionary groups should be suppressed, concessions were made to these groups in light of their collective suffering in Europe, especially within the death camps such as Auchwitz Birkanau and Rosenwald. Irgun had already attacked British troops earlier that year and there was a looming threat of something bigger to happen. The British and Palestinian authorities were aware of this.

Yosef saw a delivery truck parked next to the King David Hotel where they were sitting, men disguised as employees to the hotel began to disembark large cylinders to the basement of the hotel. Yosef found this a bit odd and decided to tell the Colonel to pack his things, finish his coffee because of a perceived threat to the area. Yosef had been a police officer for at least 10 years and could discern suspicious behaviour from a distance, he also knew the hotel staff, its contracters and all the local faces of Jerusalem. Something was not right. Colonel Walter finished his coffee and got his car with his chauffeur patiently waiting inside. Yosef commanded his team to investigate the suspicious delivery of cans. One of his men approached the suspect and shots were fired, at the same time a small explosion ensued in front of the hotel causing panic. People were seen running in different directions with many of the British troops running directly to the small explosion used as a decoy to allow the primary bomb to the detonated within the basement of the hotel. Within a couple of minutes, the blast shook the earth with the concrete slabs and bricks flying out into lethal projectiles from the epicenter of the explosion. The deafening sound of the blast stunned everyone into paralysis and confusion unable to take cover in time around the hotel. As the windows smashed and the bellow of smoke mushroomed out of the building, half of the building imploded crushing those within the opulent concrete walls of the hotel. Colonel Parr and Yosef Hadid, stopped the Jeep as soon as the first shockwaves were felt a couple of kilometres away at Damascus gate. They both gave a sideways glance at each other as the black and red bellows of smoke burst into the horizon. The look of fear and apprehension, more explosions and the risk of being turned into victims balanced against the obligation to investigate as members of law enforcement in the country. Their instincts to restore order ensued, Yosef made a rapid U-turn and headed at maximum velocity towards the carnage. Within a few moments, their open top Jeep was enveloped in dust and smoke rendering visibility almost impossible. The fires continued to rage from the hotel rooms that still remained standing; half the hotel was blown away where they were enjoying breakfast just a few minutes earlier. It was evident that if the two stayed there there was a very small probability that they would survive. There were bodies strewn about, some of them still groaning with missing extremeties and severe open wounds lying in pools of blood. This was a terrorist bomb directed at the heart of the British Administration, but also target innocent bystanders, employees of all ethnicities, families, residents of Jerusalem and the armed forces of Palestine's interim government who weren't placed to wage conflict or impose colonial law. Perhaps it was the lack of mandate or force which allowed the British authorities to be attacked, a vulnerable foreign power, diminishing in its ability to lead and take charge of the situation in a former Ottoman territory striving for a new identity in the aftermath of the Two Great World Wars. Terrorism is ugly, but it is a means to an end – a Jewish state of Israel. There was no more negotiating, no more ambiguous treaties for the Jews and Arabs, no more middle men, no more soft power, no diplomatic solution anymore and no more pussy footing. Anti-semeticism in Europe - from the pogroms in Russia and the systematic genocide of the Nazi regime which sent all survivors to the Holy land precipitating into one of the most formidable diasporas of the 20th century. Jews were not the victims anymore, they were determined, ambitious and most of all angry about how they were treated over the centuries. They were to have their own army, government, language and state – at great cost and suffering.


Officer Hadid and Colonel Parr stood in shock among the wreckage unable to take a comprehesive strategy to mitigate the disaster in the heart of Jerusalem. Confused amidst the obfuscated views of of the seriously damaged surroundings and the panic. The two were one of the first groups of officials to arrive on the scene with the fitness to assist the disaster relief effort.


“Hadid, we need ambulances, fire-fighters and urgent medical attention on dozens of seriously injured people”, a colleague of Yosef yelled among the chaos and confusion.


“Take all the injured people to a safe zone a hundred metres away, while we focus on putting out the flames and start our search for any survivors among the wreckage”, Hadid was able to command the situation with his calm and authorative demeanor.

A British soldier ran up to Colonel Parr with blood covered all over his face and coagulating open wounds to the head, soiled in debris and dust.


“What's the situation, how many of our men are missing, I need you to secure the zone and make all efforts to assist the emergency services in evacuating the site, understood?”, Colonel Parr ordered his injured soldier in spite of his wounds, noticing that his injuries were rather superficial compared to the motionless bodies scattered about. It was a desperate situation with the country chronically lacking the experience and provisions to deal with such an attack. The British only had a few dozen men in Jerusalem and one medic who was likely to be far away. Urgent communications needed to be transmitted to seek help, both Parr and Hadid had a thousand things to do at once, a difficult split second decision needed to be made to find missing personnel, get them into safety and sourcing the relevant specialists to aid the rescue effort. There was no racial prejudice, no ethnic boundaries, no nationalism or imperialism in these moments of crisis. However, as Commander of the British Forces, Parr had a duty to protect his men first and foremost. The Colonel thought about the ensuing scandal in Britain with the number of casualties, the failed mission in the Middle East to restore order, stable, enduring peace and his inability to prevent such an incident occuring in the first place. It was unthinkable that such as sensitive site to the British administation was fitted with such quantities of explosives unbenowst to him or his colleagues. A new era of conducting war was ushered in, the enemy wore civilian clothes and were highly trained and secretive, delivering their destruction under our noses, not in aircraft or from trenches with heavy artillery, but with homemade bombs from the same people we purportedly supported. Anyone was a suspected enemy at this point, no one was to be trusted fully, the only man Colonel Parr could have confidence was Officer Yosef Hadid. Colonel Parr owed his life to Hadid, he would never forget his deeds and instinctively brave actions in the face of imminent and real dangers. Colonel Parr was indebted for life and he couldn't even contemplate how he could repay his debt to Yosef Hadid.


The Aftermath


Almost a hundred men and women were killed as a result of the King David Hotel bombing. Many of the victims were totally innocent and had no political ideology, they were simply carrying out their daily duties or routines. Many of the victims were Jewish, a higher number of Arabs and a significant portion of were British civil servants and members of the Armed Forces that miraculously managed to survive the horrors of the Second World War. The Israeli paramilitary forces, Irgun took responsibility for the attack admitting how it was all part of a coordinated plot to get rid of British rule to seek independance from foreign powers or any political interference from the Arabs. As foreseen, the attack was condemned in Great Britain and briefly featured in the daily newspapers which stirred a debate as to the validity and effectiveness of Britsh presence in the region together with Britain's role in other colonies such as India, Africa and China. Britain was facing a crisis back home with her celebrated war time leader, Winston Churchill, stepping away from the political spotlight for good. War time debts were colossal and the politics of Britain turned its attention to resolving domestic crises, the government simply couldn't justify acting as the policeman of the world, or foreign adventures.


"I've just received a telegram from London that we'll be finishing our mission in Palestine in the next few months", Walter confided to Yosef the morning after the terrorist attcack on the King David Hotel.


Yosef stood still with his gaze of foreboding danger and confusion. On the terrace in the diplomatic estate of the Colonel overlooking the sparsely populated folding landscape of the ancient capital Jerusalem, Yosef turned his head away from Walter in reaction to the news, unconscious reciprocation, facing rejection and imminent abondonment.

"If you leave, the paramilitary Israeli groups have won, and they will continue to massacre people to create their Zionist state, there's no Palestine for the Arabs", Yosef implored looking out from the well groomed garden balcony of Walter into the chaos of an ungovernable land ahead.

Extract from Publication 'The Scourge of Gold' 

The garimpeiros wake up late after working in the night, either by transporting materials on their backs like mules, or digging wells, operating moto pumps to filter tons of rocks and soil to extract the precious yellow metal. The illegal gold miners, known as garimpeiros, work and live furtively, always trying to avoid the Forces Armées Guyanaise or the Brasilian authorities in a cat and mouse struggle with no end. Like the drug trade, as long as there is a demand for illegal or legal gold, there will always be people determined to seek and destroy one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet, forming part of the Amazon basin and one of the world's most important sources of fresh water together with a myriad species of plants and organisms – many of which are completely unkown to humankind.


We set up our base or poste fixe avancée along the River Approuague as part of our team of Gendarmes Mobiles and Legionnaires, also known as a DAF or Detachment Autonome au Foret. As the name suggests, this team is autonomous in the jungle for a period up to 6 weeks to exercise control, seizure and destruction of all materials associated with illegal gold exploitation in the zone. Our principal mission is to control all movement all the river and to safeguard our own material from loss or destruction. A sentinelle on the look out at all times 24 hours 7 days a week for the duration of the entire mission equipped with a radio, binoculars, OB70 night vision goggles with our motorized canoes moored on the ponton just in front. A few times a day we hear the whistles of the sentinelle to warn us of an approaching vessel. 9 times out of 10 it was a group of nature tourists or fishermen armed with a few fishing rods and sandwiches.


 The frequency of the these recreational groups started to put us off guard following weeks of surveillance and preparation to apprehend these increasingly illusive garimpeiros. We knew that there were hundreds around us within a 50km radius, operating with impunity and without effective control from the authorities. The garimpeiros on the East side of French Guyane are almost all from Brasil, many of them have been active for decades in the illegal gold trade and know much better the territory, logistics and savoir-faire than any Gendarme or Legionnaire who has been part of the national territory protection operations from a few months to 3 years. We listen to their clandestine network of radio communications from a seized radio, their command post is in the Franco-brasilien border town of Oiyapoque in the Brasilian Northwest state of Amapa less than 100km away coordinating all movements, materials and noteworthy events. However, our efforts to decypher the cryptic messages and coded languages proved to be futile even with the aid of native Brasilian legionnaires employed to render significance to these communications. Our Brasilian Sergent-chef turned off the radio for a few days to figure out other strategies to intercept garimpeiros. While nothing changes for our DAF if we capture garimpeiros with their materials or not, meeting targets or bilans simply gives us something to report or bragg about. News of other DAFs capturing entire vessels filled with provisions and carburants makes our immediate superiors proud yet envious of the efficacity or chance bestowed among our colleagues. We receive news of 1.2kg of gold found on another site lead by another section in our company setting off a cascade of gossip and speculation as to whether the seized gold was handed over to the Gendarmerie. I later spoke to the Caporal-chef responsible for the mission in private a few months later who woefully confided with that he did indeed give it all to the Gendarmes. The Caporal-chef was rewarded with a pat-on-the-back and his story published in our monthly journal Le Kepi Blanc.


A DAF for a mission is composed of mostly legionnaires, but the chef of the DAF is always a Gendarme – a sous-officer, sergent-chef, adjutant and sometimes an adjutant-chef, higher grades, such as the officers, Captains and Colonels pay the occasional visit and rest largely base arrière. Any legal action by the DAF can only be taken with the authorisation of the DAF chef. This often leaves the Legionnaires a bit disillusioned or frustrated, unable to take action without the presence of these Gendarmes, many of which have very little understanding of the terrain and the operations due to their limited 3 to 4 month period in Guyane. Many legionnaires, in particular the sous-officiers, are more accustomed to roaming freely, being in charge of the mission on the field and making the calls to fire or no fire in any altercation. After all, we are in French territory and not Afghanistan, under French law in spite of being stranded in the middle of jungle. We legionnaires, watched the Gendarmes come and go, exercise their authority, reminded us of our mandate to provide support to the Gendarmerie throughout the entire duration of the mission. The only use of force we could potentially deploy is in legitimate defense, when the danger is real, actual and in proportionate to the threat. It is uncommon for the garimpeiros to open fire against us, almost unheard of, however, other acts of agression such as the voluntary collision of boats and the brandishing of machetes has been well documented. One afternoon as the team was preparing dinner of captured calabrese sausages and rice, I was informed that I would be setting up an ambush less than 1km downstream.


The Brasilian Sergent-chef tested my knowledge of the definition of ambush in front of the team and I replied with words to the effect 'attacking the enemy by surprise from a priviliged position'. My response was met with sniggering and laughter. Working in such large groups of personnel naturally has a mob effect of deriding and even demeaning other colleagues to gain some kind of superiority over others. It is particularly marked in the legion where authority is principally gained from length of service rather than intelligence. The young sergent Gendarme was to accompany 3 legionnaires to do what he described as faire la sonnette, rather than an ambush. We were simply tasked with informing the rest of the team when any boat was approaching.


Just after 15 minutes after my shift in total darkness I was awoken by the thundering reverberations of a fleet of speed boats with my colleaugue shouting at us to get the message across to the team just under 1km away. The suspects were travelling towards us at great speed and it could be estimated that we heard the boats at a distance of over 10km from the town of Regina where they completely bypassed any control. That night, we were the only control all concentrated in a local area upstream the river Approuague, we probably heard the boats a few seconds before the rest of the team equipped with the personnel and material to apprehend the fleet of garimpeiros and their provisions. It was a strategic failure on our part, worse, the tranmission radio had run out of battery with no second battery supplied by our transmitteur, we frantically tried to put our satellite phone to work but couldn't capture any signal. While we were making futile attempts making communications which was the objective of our mission in the event of the appearance of any vessel, 4 enormous speed boats roared passed and there was nothing we could do to stop them. Meanwhile, we heard the ignition of our boats a couple of minutes later. Judging by the heavy sound of the motors, these garimpeiros were equipped with at least 200 horse powered engines, while we had only 70 horse powered ones. Horse power may not necessarily determine the success of stopping the suspects, however, factor in the time for the only qualified piroguier to get from his hamac to at least 300 metres away from where our boat was moored, have at least 1 gendarme onboard and one authority from the Legion Etrangere. In sum, to mobilise one boat took several minutes from getting the delayed alert, the garimpeiros had a tangible advantage that night. It was our chef to decide in a matter of split seconds whether it would be worthwhile to make a dangerous 2am high speed chase.


Our sergent-chef made the decision while still in his underwear with his pistol attached, with a legionnaire on guard duty conveniently on the ready to jump in the boat. Santos, one of our few Brasilian piroguiers, ignited the engine and they followed the suspects along the rapids which was one of the first and most dangerous obstacles to bypass with rocks and unpredictable currents making the first 500 metres the most hazardous stretch. A few minutes later, two of our comrades came to collect us from our position to follow the our boats and the garimpeiros under high-speed poursuit. Almost immediately, we found large sacs and objects floating in the water and we picked up as many as we could. The garimpeiros had discharged a lot of their material to gain more speed to evade their capture and eventual seizure of their vessels which had a significantly higher cost that the provisions onboard. I put my hands over the side of the boat to pull out sacks of rice, cakes, beers and barrrels of diesel. A few kilometres upstream, we found our Brasilian sergent-chef, piroguier Santos and our legionnaire completely soaking wet after having been rescued in the water. It seems the garimperos had intentionally made large waves to impede the progresssion of our boats and ultimately capsize our boat with our men onboard. Allegedly, one of their significantly larger boats had made an attempt to force its way into our boat. Our chase had abruptly ended and had turned into a rescue mission for our own comrades, which had all luckily escaped injury or death, but had lamentably lost one of our boats together with the motor. Loss of such material was permissible because it didn't even belong to us in the first place, we were using seized garimpeiro material due to budgetary constraints. However, one of our legionnaires lost his brand new French Army issue Heckler and Koch 416 rifle in the boat that sunk to the bottom of the river bed.


All our efforts were now focused on getting the boat out and running again to be fully operational and functional as a DAF. More importantly, it was imperative to find the rifle which could lead to serious consequences for the Sergent-chef who decided to follow the garimpeiros and the legionnaire who failed to secure his rifle on the ligne de vie, a metal cable attached to the interior of the boat. The legionnaire somehow managed to escape full liability because the boat did not have a proper safety cable, it wasn't our boat after all, instead, the vessel did have a rope attached which functioned just as effectively. The chef left us in this conundrum, but in good time he was replaced by our chef section or platoon leader with enough charisma and will power to force us to continue our boat and missing rifle rescue mission. Not a second wasted after our Adjutant Johhny Chef de Section arrived on scene to give the command to strip down to T-shirts and hasten the platoon to the accident scene. We managed to pull the boat to the bank of the river, get the motor and propellor out with the aid of cords and brute force from our arm muscles. The garimpeiros had won that day, they escaped and left us feeling like idiots. However, it wouldn't take long to find them again in the silent waterways of French Guyane, or in the dense Amazon jungle by foot, quad, helicopter or whatever means we had at our disposal to stop the scourge of illegal gold mining in one of our world's most ecologically diverse regions in the world.




The Amazon rainforest is a castle built out of sand, which means that the soil is notoriously poor quality because most of the nutrients and essential minerals, including organic material is stored away in the thick and towering vegetation of the canopy. If the trees are destroyed, the heavy rainfall or intense equatorial sunshine kills or washes away many of the nutrients irreversibly. This is known as the demise of primary forest hosting rare species of birds, amphibians, insects, mammals and plants yet to be systematically studied for medicinal therapeutic and cosmetics properties. Belizon lies in the prefecture of Roura which holds the foothills and mountainous regions of the village of Cacao with their Hmong populations brought in by France as friends during the Indochine War in the 1970's. (Not diffcult to imagine the same images repeating themselves in today's Afghanistan with collaborators of the aggressors). Of course, being in the forest is sparsely populated, kilometres of dense equatorial bosque stand ahead of you and the garimpeiro, or the legal gold miners equipped with helicopters to export the valuable pay loads of gold, extracted, processed and refined on site.


Our mandate was simple, support tactically the local forces of order, otherwise known the Forces Armées Guyanaise in protection territorial missions, safeguarding the economic interests of this vast naturally occurring mineral resource. It is an impossible task to police it all, especially, when notion of state and government scantily exists in the jungle. The ‘law of the jungle’ as we called it, to get away with certain behaviours somewhat unorthodox to policing. Following up to minutes or hours or days, we would almost always end of threatening the Brazilian peasant miners drifting in from the River Oiyapoque, mostly, we would find their prostitutes, adolescent helpers and even the elderly working on such sites to make some kind of living, 100rs a day, but paid in installments in pepitas of gold, sold at differing prices depending on how far away you take it and how you present it, starting at 10EUR a gram to 40EUR near the source. Illegal gold makes up a large proportion of the legitimate market, once refined into other items, it loses its traceability while increasing its value. It’s the most valuable currency because its finite, we’re still reprocessing the gold excavated millennia ago and storing it in places like the British Museum in antiquities. But that’s not the point, this is not an essay in the virtues of Gold. Sometimes it’s found on mountains like in Chile or in deserts of Africa like sub-Sahara, which can have a more severe impacts on their natural environments, but not in the same way as the Selva Amazonian.


‘Selva’, has become a motto or devise in the Legion’s 3REI. Adopted by personnel of the 3eme Regiment Etranger D’Infanterie or Troisieme REI. Together with the Guerreros da Selva in Brasil, Colombia and Equador, Legionnaires from 3REI are well trained in milieu naturel equatorial tactics, seasoned with numerous stages at CEFE and international stages facilitated by this branch called Centre de Entrainment Equatoriale. Where mostly men, but also a sizeable proportion of women in French Armed Forces participate during their officer training instruction together with general training among militaire du rang. Drop Pirogue, Drop Helico, Ecole de Neoud, survival courses, combat exercises are on the agendas of stages such as Aguerissement, Specialiste Foret, Stage Ocelot for chef de group, Stage Jaguar for chef de section or platoon, that’s reserved for more superior sous-officiers from Sergeant-chef to Adjutant. Such training facilities made only a fraction of our time in the Legion, what we were accustomed was sporadic bouts of physical exercise and a coup de cafard resulting from long periods isolated existence. However, isolated from humans, an abundance of other species subsisted. Always a ruffle of the camopi, a metallic symphony of amphibians such as the enormous Buffalo frogs, eternally humid, covered in mud, observing the birds cry and the screams of singe hurleurs.


Upstream in the River Oiyapoque lays the autochthone villages of Camopi, tribes of the Oiyapoque region. Camopi has a population of around 600 dispersed along its river bank. With 3REI post fixe avancée equipped with an aerodrome to host the arrival of commercial and military planes. This is border area between national lines and the local Wayapi tribes speaking a form of the Guarani-Tupu branch of languages become involved in the commerce of the West. The Wayapi have been offered French citizenship but we’re mostly born in Brasilian territory, it’s the Oiyapoque to them and little regard is posed towards politics. Many able Wayapi work as Piroguiers, for the Legion, a job that pays at level chef de group for every day spend piloting the extensive waterways, the criques as well as the principle tributaries of the grand Oiyapoque river. These are the same Piroguiers that risk their lives chasing fellow colleagues working in the Garimpeiro trade, I worked with many, Paul, Alcantara, Santos and Monerville brothers and even studying with Fabrice at the CEFE, lifeguarding and aquatic training.


We were all outwitted numerous times, perhaps, intentionally so. Piroguier Narino wears a Cagoule or Balaklava on his head when we engage in the chase. He seems keen to meet his targets as a seasoned Garimpeiro hunter, and takes pride in his intelligence furnished for the local DAF. Narino and many others always suspicious of a reprisal as they work evening shifts carrying fuel and other supplies to their domiciles. Most of the anciens have seen all of action for more than 3 decades such as Laboto, resigned to their pirogues but strong enough to mount the rapids at low tides getting heavily involved in franchissement. This is where each passenger and pilot, work to lift the pirogue, either on the shoulders or sliding it along the soaking wet rocks, past a series of rapids, some of the most active sites are beyond these natural phenomenas. The garimpeiros privilege the high tides to transport their material, convoys of carburant, provisions of food, alcohol and heavy equipment such as quads, generators, concasseurs and piping. This activity of intercepting these payloads was made particularly challenging due to the system of telecommunications employed by garimpeiros. Radio posts installed at strategic entries and fluvial lookouts. During my debut mission on the piste Belizon in October 2019, just 7km from the route national, without a Gendarme, keen Sgt Gonzalez had a whim to take the legionnaires on an expedition, not far away from our semi-permanent carbet. A short P4 jeep ride away we discovered a hive of activity, the men took their heavy work materials and left their women unattended and trembling due to our presence. Yelling and starting to break their personal effects, we help ourselves to a chicken wing and a sweet coffee we look towards Sgt Gonzalez. ‘Vamos’, he says and we leave the trembling Brasiliennes to clean up the bagunza we made.


Just one month before when I arrived for my first mission with Adjutant Johnny. Johnny probably mistakenly preselected his recruits with nationality ties, and of course, there are two sides to the coin wins that’s good for us, but if I fuck up, that’s not good for us. UK nationals are very scant in the Legion, Anglophones should stick out for each other to attract the highly skilled bilinguals to the Force. There were only 3 of us in the company. Some say I was protected by Johnny, but that’s not needed either. I was only greeted with Fuck Offs, Cunt, Slag and plenty of dirty anecdotes of his 6th or 7th year in Guyane following multiple tours in 3REI over 20 years of career in the legion. Starting as a Para at REP around 2002, Guyane, Castelnaudary 4EI, Johnny was now Adjutant and chef de section. After years of following orders, a chef de section is relatively autonomous in the field, and in the regiment too. It’s probably the best job one can attain in the Legion after succumbing to Adjudant-chef posts, major du camp roles such as Camp Bernet and Camopi post fix avancée bases. ‘On avant toujours, on avant’, ‘voila du boudin cacaoette, kurwa ya biomach, schlaffen dans le bus ou pirogue’, generous use of German-Anglo-Slavic words picked up following generations of traditions from the anciens. More Majorum, a latin devise to the Legion, ‘The Way of the Anciens’, it’s meaning. A reverence for Les Anciens maintains traditions, songs, tenue and well as physical and physiological qualities. A code of honneur unifies us in to a fully operational combat force, ‘n’abandonne jamais, ni tes armes, ni tes morts, ni tes camarades’, ‘la mission est sacrée, je l’exécute jusqu’ au bout, au péril de ma vie’.


The legion attempts to create an identity among some of the most eccentric personalities from almost every country of the world. Latinos, Slavs, Europeans, some from Spain, Poland, Moldavia, Romanian. There’s a representation of countries from all over the world – and we all find away to understand each other, using words like davai, stoi and other Russian slovas when getting into their conversations. The Foreign Legion is one of the biggest, most complex and anthropologically rich human experiments I have experienced. On many terms, it’s a more formidable fighting force than the regular army, the men of the legion can endure far more isolation, stressful situations a soldier needs, the entry tests are more vigorous, almost everybody is bilingual, the legion attracts a diverse range of backgrounds from disqualified US Marines, highly trained Spetznaz looking for better pay together with a myriad of highly qualified people unable to practice their trade in their home country such as lawyers, engineers and scientists. The British like Johnny and myself were rejects from the British Army, which in my humble opinion, is a superior army in many respects. Nothing can replace the Legion experience, sejours in Guyane and Mayotte, short missions in Polynesia in the Pacific together with multiple armed interventions in the Middle East and Africa in particular. Guyane will always mark any legionnaire for life, through building resilience, adapting to humidity, being wet and in extreme heat, catching parasites, getting injured, getting over it, becoming stronger, more psychopathic, harder and enchanted by the mysteries of the jungle for life.