“Legion Composee d’Etrangers”

Eighth grader Monti Anza-Zipagang from Hillsboro, Oregon recommends. . .

The French Foreign Legion by James Wellard

Have you ever heard of the French Foreign Legion ? If so then from where ? There are many ways to have heard of them!  Actually I learned about them from a movie called The Mummy 2, when I was a kid.

But what do you really know about them, aside from what you’ve seen or read? What role did they play in France’s expansion? What were their tactics in battle? Who started the Legion ? I won’t spoil it so that leaves you one option, and that is to read the book, (though I will give you some info.).

The book, the French Foreign Legion (rather uninventive title, don’t you think?) by James Wellard is a pretty straightforward history of the legion. It tells how they helped pacify and conquer North Africa in the 19th century. Then it explains how they protected settlers and built up the region’s infrastructure. Third was the subjugation of Indochina near the end of the 19th century , 1883-91, which mostly involved taking down warlords and their forces  known as Pavillions Noirs or Black Flags named after the large flags they carried into battle. This was relatively easy due to the warlord’s inferior to obsolete weapons and untrained forces, with most legionnaire casualties being due to disease . Moving on through the years, we see the Legion’s continued service through the early 20th century until it’s decline in the 1960s.

Personally, I find the main reason to read this book is for the information. The book fills in various holes in knowledge about the legion. Its main focus is the development, deployment, exploits, and the soldiers’ experiences. Some pieces of information I found interesting were who they recruited– convicts and prince–and their tactics, charging headfirst into withering enemy fire. The writing style itself is a plus, as the author is rather unbiased. He balances out the accounts by showing why some hated, and others loved, the legion. There are also the small excerpts from accounts of various legionnaires. My personal favorite, being a fan of horror movies myself, was when a man started a fight that spread to the others in the barracks which was ended when a commanding officer told a machine-gunner to fire into the windows.

To, I suppose, summarize this summary: this book has been a pretty good read.  Information has been the main selling point as well as the author’s unbiased writing . All in all a great book though the occasional suicidal charge and one-armed man hoisting himself onto a horse with his teeth is rather entertaining.


Several of Monti’s classmates have also allowed us to publish reviews of what they’re currently reading.  And for recommendations from kids of all ages, check out our Kids Recommend section.


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