The French Foreign Legion has established a reputation as the most formidable of military forces. Created as a means of protecting French interests abroad, the legion spearheaded French colonialism in North Africa during the nineteenth century. Accepting volunteers from all parts of the world, the legion acquired an aura of mystery—and a less than enviable reputation for brutality within its ranks. Attracting recruits from all over the world, these new soldiers explain in their own words why they submitted themselves to such brutal training.
Voices of the Foreign Legion looks at how the legion selects its recruits, where they come from, and why they seek a life of incredible hardship and danger. It also analyzes the legion’s strict attitude toward discipline, questions why desertion is a perennial problem, and assesses the legion’s military achievements since its formation in 1831. Its scope ranges from the conquest of the colonies in Africa and the Far East, through the horrors of the two World Wars, to the bitter but ultimately hopeless battles to maintain France’s imperial possessions.
Before reading this book, all I knew about the French Foreign Legion was from Brynn Kelly’s brilliant suspense series.
That series was a large part of why I requested Voices of the Foreign Legion for review. I’m glad I did, because it was a really interesting read.
Adrian Gilbert used a lot of primary sources and interviews with former members of the Legion in his book, and it gave a fascinating look into a secretive world.
Formed in the nineteenth century, the Legion is made up of men from all over the world. There’s an air of mystery about it all, and members receive new identities upon entering, which is why it is seen as such a “cool” thing for a guy to do. As in the past, many men enter to escape upheaval at home, and I appreciated how many personal accounts – historical and current – were used.
Unlike many military-themed nonfiction books, this one would make a good read for anyone. It’s definitely not all facts, figures, and too much terminology to get your head around.
Another thing that I learnt from this book? Brynn Kelly sure did her research!
Review copy provided by NetGalley.