The Foreign Legion

James Kinross tells the story of the French Foreign Legion, a force famous for fighting in Africa, Russia, Mexico, Indo-China and France itself, as well as across the world.

Sidi bel Abbes, says an old handbook on Algeria dated 1878, is cut into two parts by a wide street. On the West lies the military quarter, which can house six thousand men; on the other side is the town, where the Hotel de France is very good and reasonable. Madame Perrot, the proprietor, speaks excellent English. Even in those days Madame would not have been unique in such an accomplishment. Sidi Bel Abbes was a regimental depot of the Légion Etranger. Half a century later its barracks and cafes would be intimately known to the English reading public. For it was here that the Gestes of P.C. Wren were to arrive as bleus. Here that they were to drill, and drink, and listen to the tales of hardened but picturesque legionaries, before departing for the oases and white forts in the desert to the South.

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