Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Slap in Face Reminded Bill of His Legion Duty

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Slap in Face Reminded Bill of His Legion Duty

Article excerpt

Byline: By Andy Fletcher

He has emerged from war zones and battled against a life-threatening disease to pursue a promising new career. Andy Fletcher meets former Foreign Legion recruit Bill Parris.

The pitiful sight of the two Rwandan orphans trying to shake their murdered mother back to life stopped Bill Parris in his tracks.

The swift slap across the face from a superior reminded him that, however much he wanted to help, cold professionalism dictated he simply move on.

As a volunteer in the French Foreign Legion, Bill was a highly trained member of an elite fighting force, programmed to put personal feelings to one side.

Yet here was a stark reminder that he was still human after all.

"To walk away from that stripped me of my decency," admits Bill, who had been sent to Rwanda to help evacuate hundreds of stranded French citizens.

"I tell myself I did what I was asked to do, but there is always going to be a little bit of guilt.

"If you are a human being with any amount of decency you have to have that.

"We were there for the French nationals only, and the locals didn't come into the equation."

Today, 14 years on from that day in Rwanda ( then slipping towards the genocide which laid waste to an estimated 800,000 people ( life is very different for 43-year-old Bill Parris.

He lives quietly in Westerhope, Newcastle, with his wife Julie, 38, and their sons Jack, 11, and nine-year-old Glen.

His days in the Foreign Legion now behind him, Bill is carving out a new career as a writer.

His experiences of life in the Legion are revealed in his first book, The Making of a Legionnaire.

After nine months of gruelling basic training, Bill was stationed with the Legion's Parachute Regiment on the Mediterranean island of Corsica ( " an absolutely beautiful country, which I saw mostly from the back of a truck".

In 1990 he was sent to Rwanda to help rescue around 700 French nationals trapped in a country teetering on the verge of civil war.

The operation was a success, but Bill almost lost his life after becoming separated from his regiment. …

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