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Our Friends Beneath the Sands: The Foreign Legion in France's Colonial Conquests 1870-1935 by Martin Windrow

Our Friends Beneath the Sands: The Foreign Legion in France's Colonial Conquests 1870-1935

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April 2010 Editor's Choice.

An in depth look in to the elusive French Foreign Legion between 1870 and 1935. This is an army that has always had an air of mystery about it and here we have an insight in to what it was really like. An absorbing and enthralling book that pays great respect to the men who fought in the Legion.

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Dear Reader,

When I was asked to recommend a single book out of all those that I have worked on this year, the choice was remarkably easy. Martin Windrow’s Our Friends Beneath the Sands is the sort of book that comes along only once every few years. It is on a gloriously romantic subject – the ‘Beau Geste’ period of the French Foreign Legion. It is unique: to my knowledge there is no other book in any language that covers this subject in such compelling detail. And it is popular: even before it went to press writers and historians, such as Saul David and Professor Richard Holmes, were queuing up to read and comment on it.

But none of these are the real reason I chose it. There are some authors who have such a beautiful turn of phrase, such a gift for picking exactly the right words for every situation, that they immediately command your attention and hold it, effortlessly, right up to the last page. Having worked with books for almost twenty years now, I know how rare that gift is.

If you are even remotely interested in the Foreign Legion, the romance of the Sahara, or the glory and brutality of a lost colonial world, then I urge you to read just the opening pages of this book. And I defy you not to want to read on.

With best wishes

Keith Lowe
Weidenfeld & Nicolson


Our Friends Beneath the Sands: The Foreign Legion in France's Colonial Conquests 1870-1935 by Martin Windrow

Ever since the 1920s the popular legend of the French Foreign Legion has been formed by P.C. Wren's novel Beau Geste - a world of remote forts, warrior tribes, and desperate men of all nationalities enlisting under pseudonyms to fight and die under the desert sun. As with all cliches, the reality is far richer and more surprising than this. In this book Martin Windrow describes desert battles and famous last stands in gripping detail - but he also shows exactly what the Foreign Legion were doing in North Africa in the first place. He explains how French colonial methods there actually had their roots in the jungles of Vietnam, and how the political pressures that kept the empire expanding can be traced to battles on the streets of Paris itself. His description of the Berber tribesmen of Morocco also reveals some disturbing modern parallels: the formidable guerrillas of the 1920s were inspired by an Islamic fundamentalist who was adept at using the world's media to further his cause. Martin Windrow's previous book THE LAST VALLEY received fabulous reviews across the English-speaking world. As a follow-up this unique book, which is the first to examine the 'golden age' of the Foreign Legion in such detail, is bound to follow suit.

About the Author

Born in 1944 and educated at Wellington College, Martin Windrow is an Associate of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Foreign Legion Association of Great Britain. He has worked in publishing since the mid-1960s as a commissioning editor and author.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th April 2010


Martin Windrow

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Weidenfeld & Nicolson an imprint of Orion Publishing Co




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