New book on the way

Peter Lyderik

Hyper Active Member

Peter Lyderik

Hyper Active Member
The info is from Highland Park Public Library, Illinois :)

Contents: An early history of the Legion -- Algeria! -- 1885 -- Le Cafard -- Oil slick -- Grim march -- In the Legion -- Beyond the desert -- Morocco that was -- Baraka -- Principles of war -- A quest for redemption -- Middle atlas -- Rif on fire -- Beau travail! -- Epilogue: mon Legionnaire.


Hyper Active Member
A lot of good books but I do not like to read so much. Luckily today we have easily available audio books so you can listen book while run.

Peter Lyderik

Hyper Active Member
Review: At the Edge of the World by Jean-Vincent Blanchard
France’s ‘civilising’ force was a magnet for misfits and fugitives, says Lawrence James
Lawrence James
July 8 2017, 12:01am,
The Times
Remember Luck of the Legion? This firm-jawed and resourceful cartoon-strip sergeant fought the enemies of the French Empire, chiefly rebellious desert tribesmen, in the Eagle during the 1950s. At his side were plucky comrades including Bimberg, a rotund Italian who was always hungry and cried “sapristiâ€￾ whenever nonplussed, which was often.
Forever fighting against the odds, Luck’s band epitomised the Foreign Legion of popular imagination which existed in adventure novels such as PC Wren’s Beau Geste and action films such as March or Die.
Jean-Vincent Blanchard has given us the reality behind the legend. The result is a vividly told epic of endurance, skirmishes, ambushes and sieges on the frontiers of France’s empire in Africa and Asia. He is a professor of French studies at an American university who is equally at home discussing the mobile brothels that followed the legion across the uplands of Morocco as well explaining the political forces which sent them there.
Woven into the narrative is the biographical story of Louis Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934). He was a dedicated warrior proconsul who was schooled by the Jesuits and fought his way up to become a marshal of France; he was a national hero for patriots who shared his vision of the French worldwide “mission civilisatriceâ€￾. He and the legion were the advance guard of the genius of France which was inviting the world to share its enlightenment and science. This was what Lyautey believed and so he set great store by establishing hospitals manned by French doctors: the discoveries of Pasteur saved lives in Algiers and Hanoi.
The Foreign Legion was the cutting edge of this great enterprise. It was founded in 1831 to fight in France’s new colony in Algeria and soon found itself a magnet for men from the murkier margins of European society: fugitive criminals, debtors, failed gamblers, and restless and reckless young men who craved the excitement of war. French officers trained them and imposed that discipline which, together with comradeship, was the cement of the legion.
Mobile brothels also provided solace and satisfaction. An illustrated account of the legion’s exploits in Morocco published in 1937 included a photo of an officer with a young prostitute. The caption read: “Fed up with the women of Europe. I went there to have a taste of the soldiers’ girl not the sentimental type.â€￾
An abundance of cigarettes and rough red wine sustained morale too. Outside one mess was a placard that read: “Alcohol kills. But the legionnaire does not fear death. Alcohol kills slowly. But the legionnaire is not in a hurry.â€￾
There was also fatalism. “You are legionnaires meant to die, so I am sending you where one does,â€￾ an officer told his men as they struggled through the jungles of Indochina in 1884. Such men were often brutal, but, as Lyautey remarked, one “did not build empires with virginsâ€￾.
On the whole the French people approved of empire building. Yet there were misgivings. In 1885, when preparations were in hand for the invasion of Madagascar, Jules Ferry, the prime minister, justified the expedition by telling the National Assembly that “superior races have a right with regard to the inferior racesâ€￾. A left-wing deputy riposted: “Oh! You dare say that in the country where the Rights of Man have been proclaimed!â€￾ Ferry answered that France had “the duty to civilise inferior racesâ€￾ and once again the legion found itself in the vanguard of civilisation.
The final subjugation of Madagascar was completed 12 years later, after a grinding war of attrition against stubborn opposition in a malevolent environment. Impenetrable jungle, mosquitoes, red ants, rabid dogs, and rapacious crocodiles wore down the legionnaires. One column adopted the motto “March or Dieâ€￾, but even the legion’s characteristic mordant humour was not enough to withstand outbreaks of insanity. Demented men shot themselves. “I don’t know anything that’s more unsettling than these suicides,â€￾ wrote one officer. “Some kind of madness takes over your mind . . . You worry that this destructive fever might possess you at any moment.â€￾
It was just as bad in the Atlas Mountains. Zinovy Peshkov, a White Russian emigré legionnaire recalled how “all our kit was lost, our clothing was in shreds and we used to pin it together with thorns. Our shoes had gone and we used our putties round our feet. The really hard legionnaires discarded all footgear . . . What really amazed me was that we all enjoyed life. The harder [it was] the more enjoyable it was, but there were also inhuman things perpetrated sometimes by us and condoned by officers.â€￾
Blanchard concludes with an account of France’s war in Morocco which dragged on until 1927. The legion faced a new type of adversary, Abd el-Krim, a charismatic national leader and president of the Rif Republic. His mobile forces were armed with modern weapons and, in 1921, they annihilated a Spanish army at the Battle of Annual. To even the odds, Lyautey deployed aircraft and, as an insurance policy, requested poison gas which was already being used by Spain. Paul Painlevé, the French prime minister, refused: there were moral limits to how one extended civilisation.
The Rif war ends this book and pointed towards the future of the legion, which, after 1945, returned to its old battlefields in Algeria and Indochina, where it fought prolonged rearguard actions against nationalist guerrillas. One hopes that Blanchard will cover the legion’s role in France’s retreat from empire.
On a lighter note, one of the delights of this book is the photos that show variations of the French military moustache. There are the “imperialâ€￾ with goatee beard, the standard bristly walrus and the magnificent, elegantly trimmed, waxed and upward sweeping handlebars of Lyautey.
At the Edge of the World: The Heroic Century of the French Foreign Legion by Jean-Vincent Blanchard, Bloomsbury, 263pp; £20

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