One more reason to love Spain is that it has a Foreign Legion, known as Tercio de Extranjeros or Bridegrooms of Death.
The unit was started in the 1920s to help Spain in its African campaigns. It was modeled after the infamous French Foreign Legion.
In post-Franco Spain the Legion has deployed to Afghanistan, Yogoslavia, Iraq, and participated in UNIFIL’s Operation Libre Hidalgo.
Today the Bridegrooms of Death largely support UN peacekeeping missions.
Can you join the Spanish Foreign Legion? Yes, foreigners can join but you need to possess a Spanish visa or citizen in good legal standing. Be 18 years of age or not 29 and pass a physical, medical, and psychological examination.
History of the Spanish Foreign Legion
- Founded in 1920 by royal decree of King Alfonso XIII;
- It has had several names over the years, and by the end of the Rif War it had become known as just the “Spanish Legion;”
- Following its operations in North Africa and Morocco, in 1934 the unit was ordered to return to Spain to help put down a workers revolt in the Asturias
- Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from 1939 to 1975, was the founding deputy commander of the Legion in 1920 and later commanded the entire Legion from 1923 to 1926.
- After Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the legion was reduced in size and returned to its bases in Spanish Morocco
- In 1950 Four Tercios of the legion were established
- In 1970, legionnaires opened fire and killed 11 demonstrators in Zelma in the Spanish Sahara (modern-day Western Sahara). The incident influenced the Sahrawi anticolonial movement. Spain has long since abandoned the territory and handed it over to Morocco.
- In the 2000s, after the abandonment of conscription, the Spanish Legion began to again accept foreigners.
Below you can watch a very cool old video of Franco’s Foreign Legion. These guys look legit.
Weapons of the Legion
The Bridegrooms of Death use a variety of weapons, among them the most prominent are:
- G36-E rifle with 40mm grenade launcher as a modular attachment
- HK MG4
- MG3 machine gun
- HK USP 9mm handgun
The Bridegrooms’ of Death Special Ops Unit
The Spanish Foreign Legion has its own special operation unit called La Bandera de operaciones especiales de la legión (BOEL) which translates to Legion Special Operations Battalion.
Unit members are volunteers from within the Legion. They receive training in maritime Warfare, diving, Arctic and mountain Warfare, sabotage and demolitions, parachute operations, Close-Quarter Combat, insertion and extraction methods. They also undergo an equivalent of SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school. I must say, it sounds pretty badass to be part of this unit.
Most of the Legion’s specialized training takes place at Ft. Bragg in the United States. Interestingly enough, it seems for a short period of time their SOF unit reported to US Special Operations Command but now reports to Spain.
If you enjoyed this little gem of military history then please share it and comment below.
¡Viva la muerte! or for you Gringos…”Long live death!”