British jokes about French soldiers might soon have to stop - one is now guarding the Calais border.
Channel tunnel operator Eurotunnel has appointed a French helicopter commander in a new role as security director to “beef up” precautions over the migrant crisis.
Dominique Schmitlin started his 33-year military career in the army’s combat chopper regiment before joining the Gendarmerie Nationale, which looks after public safety.
He rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, directing teams that protected nuclear power plants, high-profile individuals and major events.
Most recently he led a team that investigated serious aeroplane accidents.
Eurotunnel will be hoping Schmitlin can inject a shot of esprit-de-corps into its security division.
Refugees trying to reach the UK via Calais illegally have overwhelmed border officers several times in the last year.
Migrants have stormed the Eurotunnel entrance, jumped on to lorries or set fires in protest, forcing Eurotunnel to close the railway crossing.
Schmitlin will now be responsible for guarding both Eurotunnel’s 650-hectare site on the French side and 150 hectares in the UK.
His role is more senior than the current head of security job, with a new cross-border remit.
Schmitlin takes charge of 300 guards which look after the tunnel’s security day and night, all-year-round.
A Eurotunnel spokesman told City A.M. the company had hired ex-military personnel before - but the protection of the sites was becoming a larger priority because of all the migrant incursions.
“With the site now fully secure we are perhaps moving into a different world so we are beefing up all our security resources,” he said.
Migrant crisis worries have not dented Eurotunnel’s business performance in 2015.
Group revenues rose five per cent to €1.2bn (£912.9m), excluding the MyFerryLink business, which competition regulators forced it to ditch part-way through the year.
The truck shuttle service set a record, with 1.5m trucks transported over the twelve months.
Update: This article was changed to clarify that it focused on EuroTunnel, not EuroStar, in the headline