The best books about life in the French Foreign Legion

Joel Struthers Author Of Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion
By Joel Struthers

Who am I?

One has to learn about France's Military history to understand the Legion. I served in her ranks, and my efforts are to help educate those interested in facts. That is why I wrote the book Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion and continue to laisse with the Legion to try and help increase recruitment.


I wrote...

Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

By Joel Struthers,

Book cover of Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion

What is my book about?

In Appel, Joel Struthers recounts the dangers and demands of military life, from the rigours of recruitment and operational training in the rugged mountains of France to face-to-face combat in the grasslands of some of Africa’s most troubled nations.

Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel is a fascinating story that debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military. Struthers provides insight into the rigorous discipline that the Legion instills in its young recruits, who trade their identities as individuals for a life of adventure and a role in a unified force whose motto is “Honour and Loyalty.”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962

Why did I love this book?

Not a book that covers the legion directly but the war in Algeria is a big part of the Legions history, and notably the Legion’s 2e régiment étranger de parachutistes. The Algerian War lasted from 1954 to 1962. It came close to provoking a civil war on French soil. For those interested in the Putsch, then get into this book. More than a million Muslim Algerians died in the conflict and many European settlers were driven into exile. Above all, the war was marked by the unholy marriage of revolutionary terror, and repressive torture. 

By Alistair Horne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Savage War of Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Algerian War lasted from 1954 to 1962. It brought down six French governments, led to the collapse of the Fourth Republic, returned de Gaulle to power, and came close to provoking a civil war on French soil. More than a million Muslim Algerians died in the conflict and as many European settlers were driven into exile. Above all, the war was marked by an unholy marriage of revolutionary terror and repressive torture.

Nearly a half century has passed since this savagely fought war ended in Algeria’s independence, and yet—as Alistair Horne argues in his new preface to his now-classic…


Book cover of Legionnaire: Five Years in the French Foreign Legion

Why did I love this book?

This was ‘the book’ that ultimately led to my joining the Legion to attain the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment (2e régiment étranger de parachutistes). 

I had the distinct honour to interview Mr. Simon Murray, and discuss his meaningful book. Mr. Murray's compelling first-hand account of his time with the REP during the Franco-Algerian war (1960s) is the example of what a Legionnaire represents. Mr. Simon Murray, CBE is a British Hong Kong-based businessman, adventurer, and author.

By Simon Murray,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Legionnaire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of the greatest adventure stories in years.' - Chris Patten

'The drama, excitement and colour of a good guts-and-glory thriller.' - Dr. Henry Kissinger

The French Foreign Legion - mysterious, romantic, deadly - is filled with men of dubious character, and hardly the place for a proper Englishman just nineteen years of age. Yet in 1960, Simon Murray traveled alone to Paris, Marseilles, and on to Algeria to fulfill the toughest contract of his life: a five-year stint in the Legion. Along the way, he kept a diary.

Legionnaire is a compelling, firsthand account of Murray's experience with this…


Book cover of The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force

Why did I love this book?

If interested in the Legion's history this is the book to read. As its title suggests it’s a complete history of the legendary fighting force. The author Dr. Douglas Porch is an American military historian, and academic. Dr. Porch has written more than eight books and numerous other publications, mostly about French Military History and French Colonialism. 

By Douglas Porch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The French Foreign Legion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Known for its austerity and discipline, deprivation and sacrifice, the French Foreign Legion is perhaps the most intriguing and famous fighting force in the world. For 170 years, jobless, homeless and loveless men have found in the Legion a sense of purpose worth all the rigors and risks of serving in the world's longest-standing mercenary army. One of the rewards for which men sign on with the Legion is French citizenship, and every legionnaire may claim it after serving three years with good conduct. The Legion has never had any problem attracting recruits: seven out of ten applicants are still…


Devil's Guard

By George Robert Elford,

Book cover of Devil's Guard

Why did I love this book?

I had read this years ago but listened to the audiobook recently. Story of a former German Waffen-SS officer fighting with the Legion in the First Indochina War. The book is presented by the author as nonfiction but considered to be untrue by military historians and usually sold as fiction. Regardless it’s a great read and or listen. This is my Legion entertainment choice! If interested a book set is available with its best-selling series (six books) that has sold over a million copies.

By George Robert Elford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Devil's Guard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The personal account of a guerrilla fighter in the French Foreign Legion, reveals the Nazi Battalion's inhumanities to Indochinese villagers.


Book cover of Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu

Why did I love this book?

My 5th choice which I’m currently listening to is not directly Legion related however for those who are interested in the Legion’s history The 1954 Siege of Dien Bien Phu is an important one. Having visited Dien Bien Phu as a tourist, and to pay my respects to the Legionnaires who fought. So, the more I can read and or listen to about this pitch battle the better. The author, acclaimed scholar, and reporter was a prominent war correspondent in Indochina during the 1950s and 1960s. 

By Bernard B. Fall,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hell In A Very Small Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu ranks with Stalingrad and Tet for what it ended (imperial ambitions), what it foretold (American involvement), and what it symbolized: A guerrilla force of Viet Minh destroyed a technologically superior French army, convincing the Viet Minh that similar tactics might prevail in battle with the U.S.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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