PART ONE Incubation 22 February 1960 - Paris I was awake long before the dawn, and by the time there was a grayness in the sky I had finally made up my mind to go. By eight o'clock I was in the Metro heading for the Old Fort at Vincennes--the recruitment center of the Foreign Legion. There were few people about, and those who were had grim Monday-morning faces, probably reflecting my own. From Vincennes station I walked through the streets and eventually arrived at the massive gates of the Old Fort. On a plaque on the wall there was a simple notice: bureau d'engagement - legion etrangere - ouvert jour et nuit. I hammered on the huge doors, which swung open in response, and stepped into a cobbled courtyard to be confronted by the first legionnaire I had ever seen. He was dressed in khaki with a blue cummerbund around his waist and bright red epaulettes on his shoulders. He wore a white kepi on his head and had white gaiters, and I thought he looked quite impressive. I was less impressed with the archaic-looking rifle at his side. He slammed the great doors shut and beckoned me with his head to follow him. I was ushered into a room on the door of which was inscribed bureau de semaine, which I assumed meant General Office or something similar. It was a primitive enough chamber with a bare plank floor and a wooden table and chair. One or two old and tired-looking photographs depicting legionnaires holding the regimental colors, men driving tanks through the desert, and others marching down the Champs-Elysees hung limply on the wall. A sergeant sitting behind the table looked me up and down but said nothing. I broke the ice and said in English that I had come to join the Foreign Legion, and he gave me a look that was a mixture of wonder and sympathy. He spoke reasonable English with a German accent and asked me "Why?" I said something conventional about adventure and so on, and he said I had come to the wrong place. He said five years in the Legion would be long and hard, that I should forget the romantic idea that the English have of the Legion, and that I would do well to go away and reconsider the whole thing. I said I had given it a lot of thought and had come a long way, and eventually he said "Okay" with a sigh and led me upstairs and into an assembly hall. As I walked into the hall, I was confronted with about forty people sitting on benches around the walls. Eighty eyes immediately focused on me, and my own swiveled round the room in a flash. There was not one single face on which my eyes could come to rest and l could say "He is like me" or "We are the same in some way." I knew instantly that I had not the slightest thing in common with any one of them. I took an empty place at the end of one of the benches and contemplated my feet, but I could feel them all staring at me. They were an incredible mixture, dark, gray, white, brown, beards, moustaches, bald, and shaggy, wearing an unlimited array of different garments, but they all looked tough and unkempt and totally different from me. I was wishing to hell that I had worn a pair of jeans and an old pullover instead of a three-piece suit with a double-breasted waistcoat, of all things. A couple of them were snickering on the other side of the room, and l kept my eyes averted although I could feel myself getting hot. We sat for a long time until at last an officer arrived with a couple of men in white coats, and we were told to strip down to underpants. One by one we were called forward and given a series of medical tests. This took two hours, and after it was over we were again left sitting on our benches. The medical tests had loosened a few tongues, and people were chatting away to each other in different languages, mostly German. I keMurray, Simon is the author of 'Legionnaire Five Years in the French Foreign Legion', published 2006 under ISBN 9780891418870 and ISBN 0891418873.