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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searing Memoir of Service in the French Foreign Legion
When Simon Murray joined the Legion in early 1960, he was an English only-just-ex-public schoolboy (Bedford College) who had previously spent about eight months "before the mast" after leaving behind a --partly-- unrequited love affair. So far, so classic and in fact he even contrived a happy ending: after five years in the Legion, the lady married him and he became...
Published on 22 Mar 2005 by Ian Millard

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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No picnic in Algeria
We got some good sadistic stuff about selection, initiation and training around the start of Murray's Legion career. Let's face it - that's what we want from a book about the Foreign Legion isn't it?

Halfway through the story petered out a bit in the desert and the hills. There wasn't enough variety to sustain interest. Towards the end the thing became...
Published on 6 Jan 2012 by Gargoyle


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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searing Memoir of Service in the French Foreign Legion, 22 Mar 2005
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
When Simon Murray joined the Legion in early 1960, he was an English only-just-ex-public schoolboy (Bedford College) who had previously spent about eight months "before the mast" after leaving behind a --partly-- unrequited love affair. So far, so classic and in fact he even contrived a happy ending: after five years in the Legion, the lady married him and he became extremely wealthy in South-East Asia.
As for his time in the Legion, what stays with the reader is the sheer brutality of both the training staff (and other) NCO's, as well as that of many of the recruits, who ranged from the few --like Murray-- who might have been officers in their own armies, to the utterly barbaric or simply primitive. Murray had the advantage of fitness, youth and a command of French.
The Legion in Murray's day was in transition, from the old "joining to forget" army of yesteryear, to the highly trained rapid response commando Legion which began to emerge in the 1960's. There was also the difficulty of Algeria: Murray played a role, at ground level, in fighting the F.L.N.; after de Gaulle gave in to the F.L.N., many of the French and German Legionnaires joined the O.A.S. and tried to topple de Gaulle. Murray stayed aloof. He became corporal, then sergeant, was offered officer status but refused it (all officers must have or take French nationality).
The diaries are written well, grippingly so. At times, Murray's life is in peril in a very concrete sense. Yet amid the brutality and danger, the author never loses humanity, as when he is disgusted as several legionnaires machinegun a donkey. You can remove a young man from the Lansdowne Club, but...Murray never becomes just one of the pack.
This book is now a classic of military, adventure and autobiographical literature. Read it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matchless adventure story, 22 Mar 2007
By 
N. Clarke "genco1901" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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They don't make Englishmen like Simon Murray any more. Still a fresh-faced teen, he struggles with conflicting loyalties to family, country and the love of his life, and decides to join the French Foreign Legion. It is scarcely conceivable that a modern teenager would have the strength of character to do the same, but the 19-year old Murray soon finds himself in Algeria, facing a regime of brutality unimaginable by modern standards, as an underfunded, politically riven French army attempts to hold together its crumbling African empire. Then as now, the task proves difficult to say the least, as Murray and his multinational comrades sweat, dig and march over fly-blown hillsides, taking appalling disease, injury and terrible food in their stride.

Murray's story, expanded from diary entries, gives a fascinating account of a bygone age when young men were willing to accept terrible hardships for the sake of adventure, but he doesn't shy away from criticisms of French military policy or the many near-psychotic thugs that he found himself serving alongside. What is clear at the end is that the experience stood him in good stead - we would all benefit from such clarity of purpose and vision. The little details stand out - Murray's attachment to England, and the home comforts that he received in the post; the random acts of savage brutality perpetrated by his comrades; and the esprit-de-corps of the Legion, despite the grumblings and myriad nationalities of those who served in it. Far better written that any contemporary account by SAS veterans padding out their five minutes on the balcony, this deserves to remain in print for a very long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 28 May 2013
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This review is from: Legionnaire: The Real Life Story of an Englishman in the French Foreign Legion (Kindle Edition)
Really interesting tale of five tough years in the FL. Brutal training must make these soldiers among the best in the world, but I wonder how much easier it is now, forty years later
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proper blokes read !, 24 May 2012
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This review is from: Legionnaire: The Real Life Story of an Englishman in the French Foreign Legion (Kindle Edition)
Beau Geste it isn't, but a fantastic insight into the cold, hard, rough environment of a permanently grueling and challenging career. 'Career', however, is far too polite for what was an existence that most would describe as doing hard time in a Russian prison. S.A.S. selection is a a couple of months in a theme park by comparison. This book was a thoroughly gripping read about a man's ability to mentally and physically 'take it on the chin' for 5 years and come out as one of the world's biggest movers.Top stuff Simon!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legionnaire by Simon Murray., 19 Mar 2012
The real life story of a young man who joins the French Foreign Legion.

A fantastic book of high adventure and unbelievable hardship - by today's standards.

Simon Murray, a young man of 19 years joins the French Foreign Legion in early 1960. And what entails is the five tough years that he spends there and all that happens to him to turn the boy into a man.

The book is written in diary form, and once started is very difficult to put down. What would seem like torture to most is the accepted way of life to the Legionnaire. They truly are - a breed apart!

I read this book 20 years ago, and when I opened it again it was like meeting an old friend...

When you've turned the last page, you will want to sit back for a moment or two, stare into space and think WOW!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary and gripping - worth every penny and more, 17 April 2002
By A Customer
Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. This has to be one of the best I've ever read. What he went through in the French Foreign Legion is just incredible - from the training to real live fighting. it is presented as a diary of his time with them. A real insight to the life of a Legionnaire. A must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 11 April 2014
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This review is from: Legionnaire: The Real Life Story of an Englishman in the French Foreign Legion (Kindle Edition)
Quite simply one of the best books I have read on the legion.I was hooked right from page one it's brilliant pure class loved it!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book I've read for years, 18 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Legionnaire: The Real Life Story of an Englishman in the French Foreign Legion (Kindle Edition)
Simple honest writing, with a depth of narrative seldom seen these days. Gripping is an under estimation of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of life, love and adversity in the foreign legion, 12 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Legionnaire: The Real Life Story of an Englishman in the French Foreign Legion (Kindle Edition)
Read this book some years ago and loved it. bought Kindle and saw book on book site and decided to read again after ten plus years.. great read from start to finish . Anyone interested in military life and history should read this book its got action , pathos, and a humanitarian presence which touches home . T
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars page turner, 8 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Legionnaire: The Real Life Story of an Englishman in the French Foreign Legion (Kindle Edition)
Lots to think about now that I've finished this book- Murray grows up as you read through the chapters. Recommended
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