Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Military historian Gilbert (Sniper: The Skills, the Weapons, and the Experiences) focuses on the French Foreign Legion, beginning with its 1831 formation by royal decree as an infantry force for overseas service. Gilbert gained access to the Imperial War Museum sound archive along with permission to use material from that key source. The book consists of excerpts from these and other firsthand accounts skillfully linked to vivify his informative and insightful interpolations. He sets the scenes with a vivid backdrop, letting the first-person passages take center stage. The reader peruses the nightmarish horrors of the battlefields but also the daily life of barracks, barrooms, and brothels, such as the congas ('young girls') in 1950s Indochina. One soldier wrote: 'Cheerful and hardworking, they knew, biblically, very nearly everyone in the battalion and gave not one damn for rank.' The history traces the legion through colonial and postcolonial eras, through both world wars, Vietnam, Algeria, Bosnia, and the Congo. These vibrant legionnaire voices are agonized, bitter, brutal, fearful, and haunting, but some speak with pride and praise ('It's a soldier's dream'), recalling the legion as a 'life-changing' experience. Maps." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"These vibrant legionnaire voices are agonized, bitter, brutal, fearful, and haunting, but some speak with pride and praise ('It's a soldier's dream'), recalling the legion as a "life-changing" experience." Publishers Weekly
From the archives of the British War Museum, a complete history of the most exciting and brutal fighting force in the world.
About the Author
Adrian D. Gilbert is a writer and editorial consultant specializing in military and historical subjects. He has contributed to several military TV documentaries and written for a variety of publications including Time Out and The Guardian. He lives in the UK.