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Legionnaire: Five Years in the French Foreign Legion

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  563 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
“A pleasure to read and nearly impossible to put down.”
–Army Times

“Embodies an experience that many have enjoyed in fantasy–few in reality.”
–The Washington Post

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 P
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ebook, 368 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Presidio Press (first published January 1st 1978)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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KOMET
I first became aware of Simon Murray when I watched on TV one night a special program about the French Foreign Legion in which he acted as the narrator. I was rather impressed with him, so when I came across this book (after having read the Douglas Porch history of the Legion in the early 1990s), I was eager to read it.

From the moment Murray enlists in February 1960, he is put through the rigors of training, which at times was quasi-sadistic, for the NCOs exercised considerable control over the
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Mike
A 5 year, 4 Star diary of a young Englishman who joins the French Foreign Legion in 1960 when he is turned down by the British Army and is stuck in an iron foundry job. He spends his tour in Algeria, the first two years during the Algerian War for independence. Plenty of patrolling the desert and occasional fighting. The second part of his tour of duty is spent in an FFL moving to a peacetime role. Overall, an interesting picture of the famed fighting organization. Cruel training, lots of wild, ...more
Mike Steinborn
A good book to read when you're feeling sorry for yourself, when you're feeling that your life is just too hard. When I read about the hardships, punishment, and outright sadism Simon Murray experienced in his five years in the French Foreign Legion, my life appears to be a mere picnic by comparison!

But the experiences also seem to have resulted in a camaraderie with comrades-in-arms that lasted far beyond the five years the author signed up for. And they appeared to have well-prepared him for l
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James
A classic military memoir. I can't help but be simultaneously struck by the youthful energy of this five-year diary and at the same time by the unusual level of insight and reflection on his own thoughts, actions, and emotions and on the events of the world around him. Mr. Murray is not only an excellent observer and storyteller, he is very tough and very talented, as shown both by his accomplishments during his five years in the Legion and by his success in the business world in the decades aft ...more
Will
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent read. It is just a bunch journal entries composed into a book. The tone changes with the authors mood, and because he is a grunt in the French Foreign Legion, his moods can go from cheerful to royally pissed in a snap. He is a brit so there are some strange words tossed around. My likes about this book are pretty much every thing. My dislikes are, well, I don't have any dislikes. In my opinion, this is a great book.
Biosyd
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why would an Englishman join the French Forign Legion in the 1960's? After reading this book, I still don't know. It was however; an amazing adventure. He was lucky to come out alive...."that which does not kill you, will make you stronger".
Andy Lucy
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The seminal book by an Englishman who ran off to join the Legion, Murray served through a very difficult period on Legion history. De Gaulle, after having promised the pieds noir and the Legion that Algeria would always remain l'Algérie Française, reneged on his promise in 1959, and agreed to allow an Algerian referendum on freedom. Following the vote to separate from France, many pieds noir and some Legion regiments engaged in an attempted putsch, which failed. As a result of this, de Gaulle al ...more
Alexandre Zulato
Mr. Murray has been there and done that. And with a dose of flair rarely seen these days.

Apart from a really impressive first-hand account of a turning point in the Legion, coinciding with the very end and short afterwards of the Algerian War, it is a riveting text, an open-hearted account of a young gentleman's venture through a rough, tough environment, under a humble and positive attitude.

Even readers who are not that much into military history might find this book a refreshing narrative of a
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Stephen Rice
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First read it when I was 15 and recently reread, a real life Boys Own story of a young Englishman from a privileged background who entered service with the French Foreign Legion.
Perhaps the greatest mystery is why he decided to join, which was never discussed. Set out in the style of a diary, tracing his journey from green recruit to hardened Legionnaire. Almost makes you want to sign up - almost .....
ValeriZentsov
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is actually well written, in an engaging and sympathetic voice, with a quality unexpressed by the trashy cover.

The book is probably one of the most vivid portrayals of the struggles and rewards of life in the French Foreign Legion in the early 1960s.
Nash Mascaro Crimson River Productions
Absolutely loved this book. I've always had an interest in military history and the Legion has been something of a mystery to me. This is a great insight into the history and day to day reality of life in the legion. Highly recommended.
Andrew Burton
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic read

Great read from start to finish
Style and format was excellent for the subject matter would definitely recommend for getting an insight into the legion
Maier Mircea
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books about the Foreing Legion out there . It explains very well the life of a Legionaire in Africa before 1964 when the Legion was stationed there . A lot of adventures within every page of the book . The life of a Legionaire from the perspective of an Englishman . I would recommand this book to anyone who is interested of finding out more about the Legion`s history and day to day life in Africa and for anyone who loves to read army stories . Do not compare it to the modern day ...more
Iustin
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I expected this to be more akin to a documentary, however it was much better: a mostly unfiltered journal, many times daily (especially at the beginning). This gives a much better understanding and sense of "being there" than prose; the result is excellent and I enjoyed the book tremendously.
Anthony Falso
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a great account of a man's life. Written in such a humble fashion. It was lent to me for a holiday read and I couldn't put it down.
Michael
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very, very difficult to put down. A fascinating book. I see that Henry Kissinger was also a reader of this memoir.
Max Nova
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, memoir
Merde! The French Foreign Legion is tough. I had seen a passing reference to the Legion in another book - something along the lines of "a legionnaire will drop dead before he stops marching." These guys were supposed to be the hardest of the hard-core. There doesn't seem to be much decent written about the Legion in English, but Simon Murray's "Legionnaire" seemed to get reasonable reviews.

And I've got to confess - I loved this book. Murray's unflappable, deadpan commentary livens up a book whic
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Robert Strupp
Amazing story.

Normally I shy away from books laid out like a diary displaying dates on every page, but Legionnaire was an exception. Sometimes the training stories got so brutal I had to put it down and sweat. But you can see that after Simon Murray made it through what he made it through in the French Foreign Legion he could do anything. Hell! even Amway would be easy.

Like George W. Bush's biography this one was written clearly and cleanly. And not being a political biography, Mr. Murray simpl
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David Ward
Legionnaire: My Five Years in the French Foreign Legion by Simon Murray (Times Books 1978)(Biography). This is a firsthand account of one who joined the French Foreign Legion for the minimum five-year hitch, and who not only survived but thrived. This is a brutal and fascinating account. My rating: 7.5/10, finished 1980. I first read this book in 1979 or 1980. My dear Aunt Sue Lowery and I watched a show about the Legion at her home in New Bern, and she had Hayden track it down at the Craven Cou ...more
Oliver
Jun 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
Jesus what is it with me and the Foreign Legion? Meant to read this a while back but ended up reading another book on the FFL. This one is a better account; partly because Murray is a more insightful and better writer - he went on to be one of the founders of the Orange mobile network; and partly because he was a legionnaire at the end of the French Algerian conflict when many Legionnaires supported the "pied-noirs" (French colonists) and at one stage planned to parachute into Paris to overthrow ...more
Mike Norris
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one book that I read over and over again. Simon spent 5 years in the Legion when it was really rough and going through a turbulent time in French history. I enjoy his writing style which makes it easy for me to understand his experiences. Once you've read a bit in to the book you really begin to pull for Simon and hope he makes it through unscathed. I often think of Simon's words when days are difficult and it seems like you'll never get to the end..."never throw in your tennie's".
C. Scott
A gripping diary of an Englishman serving in North Africa with the French Foreign Legion from 1960-65... during the Algerian independence. Murray takes you from his first days of enlistment and basic training through hostile action to La Quille, his honorable discharge. Like many men I have idly wondered if I could make it through a tour with the Legion... this unvarnished, grueling tale gave me pause. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the Legion.
Ian
Bought a copy and read many years ago. Well written and informative account of the FFL from the perspective of a new recruit. Clearly shows how the free-will and conscience of the men is suppressed and subverted so as to turn then into killers, willing and able to attack and suppress civilian populations.
J K Hoffman
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book, based on the real-life experiences of a former Legionnaire and drawn from his diary of his five-year term of service.

I don't normally like memoirs like this, but it was a fascinating look at life as a Legionnaire in the early 60's, which were a pivotal time in the history of the French Foreign Legion.
Amar Pai
Jul 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book back when I read it... assuming it's the same Legionnaire book. If you get one, open it up and see if there's a chapter called "Playing scrabble with pimps." If so, then yes I can recommend this volume with complete sincerity!
Francisco
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un libro increible! Una historia contada desde adentro de la Legión Extranjera, donde se alcanzan las leyendas de los más duros entrenamientos y se alcanzan límites inverosímiles de resistencia. Impresionante.
James
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second, and I would say best, account of life in The French Foreign Legion that I've read. It offers not only an insights into a fighting force that is often shrouded in mystery, but also into the minds of men that are pushed to the limits of human endurance. A very enjoyable read.
Adrian McNeill
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Matter of fact account

The book had me hooked from start to finish. The accounts of life in the legion are funny, sad at times, upsetting at times but I was full of admiration for the characters described in the book
Alastair
Simply and cleanly written. Simon Murray gives an insight to the French Foreign with plenty of daring do. Potentially a little dull if you aren't interested in the history of the French Foreign Legion.
Nate
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"But there is time. And those that totter on the brink, my advice is to go and climb the mountains of life, and do so while you are still young and you will be happy at sixty."
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Adventurer and businessman Simon Murray. As a teenager, nursing a broken heart and determined to prove himself, he joined the French Foreign Legion. Fighting in the Algerian war, he risked his life many times over; combat was at close quarters and was very bloody.

Next, he set his sights on business - he ran some of the most well-known companies in South East Asia and was one of Chris Patten's key
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More about Simon Murray...

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