The French Foreign Legion, UK First Edition, 1984
Subject of the book
This book, compiled by John Robert Young, is an illustrated history of the famous French army force filled with hundreds of superb colour and black & white photographs from the history of the Legion in Africa and elsewhere. Founded in 1831 by decree of King Loius-Philippe, the Legion has developed an aura of mystery and heroism since then. Photographer Young was given unprecedented access to the normally secretive Legion, interviewing commanders and men who joined the force for a number of reasons and find in its rank a surrogate family and a safe place to escape their problems. The book includes an in-depth reference section detailing the histories of the different regiments in the Legion.
Deighton clearly identifies with the enigma that is the Legion and its role in various wars, in particular the Second World War and the Algerian War of independence in the 1950s, as well as the Legion's close links to General de Gaulle. Deighton writes that he has known John Robert Young since the 1960s, recognising his dedication over the years in telling the definitive story of the Legion and gaining unique access to the force that no other journalist has ever had. He climbed mountains with the soldiers, went on patrol with them, lived the life of the legionnaire in the desert, and this contributes to the authenticity of the history.
'Thousands of miles away from Orange, Young found himself cutting his way through the rain forest of French Guiana. The Legion patrols the Brazil border and protects the European rocket facilities. Look seaward and you can see the silhouette of Devil's Island. No talk of desertion here; no one has ever succeeded in getting through the jungle alive. All this time John Robert Young lived the hard life of a Legionnaire. They gave him a Legionnaire's clothing and equipment complete with combat jacket with the name tab YOUNG: all was ready and waiting. He slept in the jungle, ate Legion rations (and sometimes wild boar), and listened to the small talk and continued taking superb photos.'