Perceptions of the French Foreign Legion have always been ambivalent. The Legion’s image as an alleged reservoir of criminals and runaways from all over Europe has been countered by notions of romantic legionnaires such as fostered in P. C. Wren’s novel Beau Geste (1924) or in Edith Piaf’s song ‘Mon Légionnaire’ (1936). Although an anachronism in the age of national armies largely based on compulsory military service, the French Foreign Legion has served as a model for the Spanish Foreign Legion, founded in 1920, and in Britain voices demanding the institution of a permanent British Foreign Legion emulating the French model would sporadically emerge in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many stories, rumours and myths were related to Foreign Legion recruitment, including issues such as recruitment of criminals, underage or famous runaways as well as alcoholization and abduction of young men by secret recruitment agents. In the run-up to World War I, such notions were so widespread in Germany that Social Democratic MP Hermann Wendel would sneer in a 1914 Reichstag debate about a disease called ‘Legionitis, whose symptoms include discovering mysterious recruitment agents all over Germany’.