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on 27 February 2014
"Fighting for the French Foreign Legion" is an autobiographical account that follows the author prior to joining up and through into retirement, detailing selection and training, as well as his various postings and deployments. That said you may think, considering the subject matter, that it will be a tough nut to crack, written by a gung-ho macho type, an impression which is not necessarily dispelled by its apt title and cover. However, the book works to dispel certain myths about the Legion while strongly reaffirming its reputation as an elite and dedicated fighting unit, where such qualities as professionalism, high standards, and above all, comradeship are valued highly - Once a Legion always a Legion.

By all account the author has had a colourful life, from illustrator, policeman and pilot, to Legionnaire, and his journey far removed from the typical escapism that you would expect of someone running off to join the Legion. Yet what makes this book even more interesting and valuable is the fact that Alex Lochrie was already pushing towards the enrolment age limit as it was

Written in a relaxed and readable manner Lochrie draws you into his story, giving an open and honest account of his life in the Legion, sharing the occasional candid opinion, in a career that spanned the 1980s and 1990s, and the Legion's activities in Operation Desert Storm and the Balkans.

The attractive cover gives you a fair impression of what you can expect of the book. It is a good length and set at an equally good pace, while its format is handy and light enough to be read in a comfortable armchair or out and about. The interesting image section serves also to reinforce the mental picture that Lochrie easily builds in your mind, comprising of photographs and beautiful illustrations, created by the author himself. My only niggle was that I'd have like to see more.

To sum up, for someone like myself who knew little of the French Foreign Legion, you will gain a real understanding into what the Legion is really about, from its organisation to where it is based. I found this book hard to put down and a pleasant surprise, certainly not what I was expecting.
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on 14 May 2013
It is a couple of years since I read this book, but still remember quite vividly a lot of the story and detail it contains. I felt that it was almost two books in one - it has not been partitioned thus by the author, but could easily have been.

It seems obvious in the first part that Alex is proud of the Legion, its Service, and his service with it, and is justly proud to have been a part of the camaraderie it engenders in those who serve with it. He describes how, and why, he came to be a Legionnaire, his training, and his deployment to Africa with his unit.

One of my favourite stories is how, after breaking his leg on a training parachute jump, he was likely to miss deployment to Africa, as he was deemed unfit for active deployment due to the plaster cast on his leg. He remedied this on the evening before embarkation parade, much to the chagrin of the Medical Officer, by simply hacking off the cast with a bayonet !

In the second half of the book, covering his units involvement in multi-national deployments to the Balkans and the middle-east, there seems to be an amount of disillusionment caused by the shackles imposed on operational effectiveness due to 'red-tape' and 'political considerations'. I might guess that this hamstringing was partly responsible for Alex's decision to finally take the offer of a retirement from the Legion, in conjunction with the fact that he was probably the oldest soldier in his unit (but was still able, at that time,to compete with his confederates).

I started the book one Tuesday evening, after work, and was unable to put it down until it was near midnight ; the following night I picked up where I had left off, and couldn't stop reading until it was finished. I just couldn't put it down ! I was both pleased and disappointed to have finished it - I wanted more, but was certainly not disappointed with what I had read.

I am lucky enough to have a signed copy of the book, and deem it to be a prize of my book collection. I have met Alex several times in the shop he helps his wife run in Troon, Ayreshire, and can only say that his charm and unassuming nature belie the toughness and resolve that he needed, and displayed, to make such a success of his service in the Legion.

He is obviously a 'thinking' soldier rather than being trained to obey without thought, and has made useful contributions to his unit's effectiveness by the use of technology. Prior to his time in the Legion, as noted in the book, he was in the Police Force, where he also became involved in the early days of applying science to assist in detection. I hope that one day he may find the time to write a book based on these earlier experiences ('CSI Glasgow'!)
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on 12 November 2009
Is there anyone in the French Foreign Legion who has time to go out fighting these days, or are they all busy writing their memoirs? Since Simon Murray's seminal Legionnaire of 1978 the trickle of books about the Legion has become a tidal wave. I've counted seven in English alone between 2005 and the present. One pictures the lads scribbling away in the foyer of an evening, shaven heads bowed, Kronenbourgs neglected for the time being.
These recent books inevitably have a sameness; the aspiring recruit is fed up/has family or girlfriend problems/wants to relive his old army life/seeks adventure/likes the uniform/glamour of the legion. He is accepted (one of the chosen few) and survives basic training with its boring chores and incredible physical extremes. If his rating is high and he is British, he likely opts to join the elite parachute regiment, 2 REP. Here he makes friends and enemies, endures even more physical hardship, may see some action and is likely to leave after his initial five years are over - perhaps deserting earlier if he can take no more - his obsession with the Legion cured.
Scotsman Alex Lochrie's book, published in 2009, is different, bringing a new dimension to accounts of life in the Legion. He suffered from dyslexia in childhood, had an unsympathetic family, but still carved out various careers as artist, illustrator, advertising manager, policeman, and in his spare time, drove rally cars and learnt to fly. In his late thirties he suffered, dare one say, a mid-life crisis and found himself, like many before him, standing uncertainly outside the ancient gates of Fort de Nogent, the Legion's Paris recruiting base. Once accepted, 38-year-old Lochrie assumed not a nom de guerre but a new age - at 28, ten years younger. To his surprise he was chosen to join the 2éme REP - he had expected the equivalent of the old Pay Corps - and stayed in from 1983-94, leaving when he nearly 50 when a good pension deal was offered him.
There are light moments in the book, the tricks played on the sergeant escorting his group to a caporals' course, and how ladies' tights were discovered to provided as much warmth in -20C temperatures as expensive Arctic underpants. But it is his accounts of duties in the Gulf and in former French colonies of Chad and the Central African Republic that help to provide that extra dimension.
Even more remarkable are Chapters 14-16. Lochrie was part of a UN peace-keeping force based at Sarajevo airport during the harrowing Bosnian War where his use of digital photography became of paramount importance. He experienced great dangers, a soul-destroying atmosphere, corruptness, overwhelming poverty. His anger at journalists who manipulated events to get a good story is palpable. It was here that Caporal-chef Lochrie won the French Military medal, about which he is extremely modest.
A couple of small points. At the stroke of a pen, Lochrie creates a new outfit, the 14th demi-brigade. Maybe he doesn't like using the number 13. And he ends with an untranslatable motto - Legis Pastra Nostra. Probably the famous Legion motto Legio Patria Nostra, the Legion is our Country, is meant. Perhaps someone at the publishers just couldn't read his writing.
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on 6 March 2013
Most men have a midlife crisis, buy a motorbike, have an affair or some other menial thing, Alex Lochrie joined the French Foreign Legion.

This book neither glorifies not discredits the Legion in anyway, the last few paragraphs of the book say it all. Alex is proud to have served with 2REP but is no more proud of this fact as any other veteran or serving soldier is proud of their respective units. Above all the book is an excellent read without glorying battles scenes, if you want blood and guts depicting that sort of thing buy Rambo or some other Hollywood novel.
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on 13 November 2009
First and foremost, this book is a good read. It is the biography of a man whose life experiences were worth writing about, and which are definitely worth reading. Although Alex gives only a brief overview of his pre-army days, it provides an important backdrop to his subsequent achievements.

Dyslexia and unsupportive parents would be enough to crush many people, but not Alex. He is bold, brave, adventurous and intelligent. And through his own inner strength he has triumphed over the critisisms of early authority figures. His life has been an a full one, travelling the world and being activley involved in the recently well publicised war zones. This author is blessed with a rare combination of talents that have enriched his own life and many of those around him; and luckily for the readers of his book he has shared his life story with us.

I think that this book would be a good gift for any young person who just does not fit into the traditional academic system, but who is clearly intelligent and talented (assuming of course that they could be bothered to read it).
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A good read and very adult in its depiction of military life as a decent long term career. Sure you have to get up early, there is no snooze button in the army, and you are expected to stay fit if you don't want to get killed or be a liability to your regiment. But its a good life and Alex Lochrie conveys this very well as well as his reasons for joining and what he got out of it. A fantastic biography and an enjoyable read from a decent man who explains life in the legion as it is today
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on 9 June 2013
I read legionaire first and this gave a nice comparison of a more modern Legion with the 60s version. They have changed a great deal in many respects..more professional. The author being more mature gave a good insight into his private adventure and challanges. Good stuff.
Makes me almost wish I were young enough to give it a try.
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on 28 April 2016
A great Legion book. I've read a few now, the difference with this one is that Alex seems more at ease in the Legion than some other authors. His job as a photographer renders his experiences and opinion a bit different to others. His disgust at the workings and politics of the UN is interesting after his time with them. A great book.
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on 2 June 2013
An interesting guy who seems to have had a colourful life. I enjoyed the book but found it quite matter of fact and sometimes I wanted to know more detail of events or even personal feeling. Overall, however, it provided a good insight into one man's account of the modern Foreign Legion.
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on 20 April 2016
Good book and an interesting account on the FFL, would have preferred more on the FFL and less on the contractor work but I understand given the events the author was involved in that these were important to include.
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