By Edmund Murray
Unicorn Publishing, 2021
Joseph Murray undeniably had an interesting life. In later years he served Winston Churchill, a period covered in his book ‘Churchill’s bodyguard’, during which he gained the moniker ‘Churchill’s legionnaire’ due to his previous service with the Foreign Legion. This book covers that period.
Murray joined the legion aged 19, two years before the outbreak of the Second World War. The book covers his enlistment and training and early postings in Algeria. Whilst legion life could hardly be described as ‘cushy’, Murray did seem to have a knack of making the most of the opportunities he was given to make life a bit more bearable, from joining the band to providing English lessons to locals.
As war broke out Murray, as a patriotic Englishman, was keen to join the fight against Hitler and the Nazis. However, this put him in a quandary, as any attempt to do so would be seen as desertion from the Legion. Despite numerous attempts to exit the service of the legion, ultimately he was bound to his service with the unit. Eventually ending up in Indochina, he did what he could to subvert the Japanese, eventually seeing intense action during as the Japanese invaded China. Close to the end of the war his period of service with the Legion ended, and he became a civilian clandestine intelligence officer with the British Army.
As a memoir Murray’s account is certainly an interesting and unique one. I would have liked to have understood more about his reasons for joining the legion, and perhaps less about his amorous activities, but overall this is a fascinating account of an interesting man and an interesting unit during an interesting period.
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