When you hear about the Foreign Legion you can think of Laurel and Hardy in a desertlike environment, dressed in a hkaki-uniform and on top of it all a kepi. And life in the Legion is hilarious.

Life in the Foreign Legion is not funny at all. You can learn this from the book by Susan Travers, in which she relates her life. She grew up in England with her parents and brother. She received little love in her circles. In her teenage years her parents decide to move to the southern part of France. Here Susan attends school and she has French and English strains in her life. For a short period she lives in Italy where she tries to make her own the proper etiquette of the well-to-do.

As soon as she gets the opportunity she joins the jetset in the thirties of last century. She travels through Europe, visits friends, enjoys tennistournaments. She stays at the castle of an American friend when she gets the news about the outbrak of the second world war.  She moves to England , where he parents had moved to. Susan decides to join the Free French, under the leadership of general Charles de Gaulle. She gets a crash course as a nurse, but that is not the kind of work she wants to do. She can drive a car and she wants to be a driver with the troops. Via West Africa and East Africa she ends up in the Near East, she works in Palestine, Libanon and Syria, as a driver for the Free French, and especially for the Foreign Legion.

In the end she is the private driver of colonel König of the Legion. A loverelation blossoms between the two. The colonel, in the meantime general, gets a position in Northern Africa. Here he is involved in a famous battle, the battle at Bir Hakeim. The loverelationship with the married general is getting more distant when the general is climbing the ranks. Susan describes her journey through Europe in the final months of the war.

After the war she is at a loss. A homely life in England or France is not what she is looking for. She decides to apply officallly with the Foreign Legion. With the help of one of her warbuddies form North Africa she manages to get accepted. She is the first woman in the Forein Legion. She ends up in Vietnam where she gets to know a subaltern. A remarkable relationship as she herself has officerstatus. They get married and get children. The family moves to Marocco to get a break from the hard times in Vietnam. But after a short while her husband has to move back to Vietnam, she stays in Marocco with her two children. When her husband returns he is not a shadow of his former self. Through one of their armycontacts he manages to get a quiet job in France. There they stay for the remaining years of their lives.

The main thread in the book is relationship of Susan with König, who later on becomes Secretary of Defense in France. The last time Susan and König meet is in Paris when Susan receives a high national order from König. Susan only wanted to publish her memoires when all the main characters in her life had passed away.

Susan Travers – Tomorrow to be brave – 2000 (with many pictures and a good map)

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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