Wednesday evening a few of us popped across to London for a very special book launch and for once it wasn't one of ours. Martin Windrow, Osprey Editor, founder, guru etc was proudly showing his latest book, 600 or so pages (plus appendices) on the French Foreign Legion of the classic years.
Our Friends Beneath the Sands: The Foreigh Legion in France's Colonial Conquests 1870-1935 starts in a place you wouldn't expect but the action soon shifts to the hot deserts of Algeria, before moving onto Vietnam, Benin, Madagascar, Morocco, The Western Front and back to Morocco again. This is the Legion of Beau Geste and (ahem) Jean-Claude van Damme's Legionnaire but the truth is much more interesting than the fiction.
Windrow writes succinctly, vividly and with authority on both the political and social background to the Legion and its campaigns and the military actions that took place. As you might expect he is at his very best on the battles and the soldiers that took part in them. Camerone (which precedes the events in this book) would not be the last time elements of the Legion were trapped and surrounded by numerically superior forces and forced to fight it out in vicious firefights like the siege of Tuyen Quang in 1885.
The maps are excellent which you might expect from Windrow but which is unusual for a book of this type. The photos brilliantly capture the men of the Legion and their battlefields in which they fought on, although it is a shame there are no colour photos of the ground the author walked when researching it.
Altogether definitely worth it for anyone interested in the French Foreign Legion or looking for fresh outlook on the colonial experience which is not centred on the British Empire.