Monday, June 14, 2010

English Heroes #7

An occasional series recording Englishmen, women and children who have done great things for themselves or others and reflected well on the country of their birth.

Step forward Alex Rowe, Newcastle-born and Gloucestershire-raised.

Amid the pomp of the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris next month, Alex Rowe, Newcastle-born and Gloucestershire-raised, will be invested as a Chevalier of the L├ęgion d’Honneur for his service in the French Foreign Legion.
It is an honour unheard of for an English legionnaire, but Adjudant-chef Rowe is frank: he would much rather have joined the British Army. While his twin brother, Mark, was accepted into the Royal Engineers, Adjudant-chef Rowe was rejected because of a childhood detached retina.
The decision still rankles. While he speaks matter-of-factly about quelling African rebellions and escaping death in a Taleban ambush, mention the British army and he suddenly becomes animated. “I became a sniper, this is the point,” he said, his accent veering between Geordie and French. “You can’t get into the British army because you’ve got a f***ed eye, and you become a sniper in the French Foreign Legion. Something’s gone wrong there.”
Not just a sniper, but one of the most highly decorated of all legionnaires. He has seen action in Bosnia, Kosovo, central Africa, the Ivory Coast and Afghanistan, winning an astonishing five citations for bravery. In his first interview, he told The Times: “Most guys will have one citation, some will have two. Three is very rare. Five is . . .” here he tailed off into a very Gallic shrug. “But I haven’t done anything more than my job.”
A very brave man and an example to all who would give up at the first hurdle, rejected by the British army this Englishman was forced to go abroad to prove his worth. Five citations for heroism in one of the elite armies in the world.
Although he feels neither “One hundred per cent British” nor French, he has never taken out French citizenship and admitted frankly: “I would still have still preferred to have been a British soldier. I have a good life these days, but I’d be at least a colonel in the Parachute Regiment by now — if I was still alive, of course.”
Alex Rowe, this blog salutes you, you're a brave man and an example to us all, the British may have rejected you, but the English never will.

2 annotations:

James Higham said...

Some of the British actions have been appalling over the years.

DerekP said...

From the Times article:
"Every time you talk in a foreign language you get a clip round the ear. It does work

An idea for our schools, perhaps?