A savage war of peace: Algeria 1954-1962 Alistair Horne

ARRSE Rating
5.00 star(s)
I was ignorant of the Algerian war of independence, mainly because French people don't talk about it much & there hasn't been much coverage of it in the English language. My knowledge extended about as far as having watched the film " la bataille d'Alger" and reading vague stories about atrocities here and there committed by the FLN.

This book is a really comprehensive detail of the build up to the war, its protagonists, conduct and outcome for all involved. All this without getting bogged down in irrelevance or verbosity. The author is also careful to get the right balance when it comes to describing the decisions & actions of the different parties without being judgemental. If you were to read the book with a settled idea of who was right & wrong, then you'll probably be disappointed.

The book explains the conditions which set the scene for the creation of the FLN, such as lack of opportunities, education & civil service jobs for the majority Arab Muslim population.

The descriptions of the massacres in Setif & Phillipeville against European settlers are pretty tough to read & some of the coffins in the images are too small.

What's really striking though is the scale of the French military deployment into Algeria in order to destroy the FLN. There must have been constant parachute deployments by the paras in their pursuit of the FLN and the stance was fast and aggressive. Its fair to say that the top end regiments are unlikely to have lost a battle. Which wasn't experience of the conscript units, some of which suffered appalling casualties when caught in ambushes. There's some fascinating details about booby trapped radios & impersonating FLN call signs by the French with good military outcomes.

A big part of the book is dedicated to describing the political scene in France which was having a hard time getting its head around what was happening. By the end of the war, De Gaulle must've been fairly acclimatised to loud bangs around him as the numerous assassination attempts failed.

The author also puts into context the hostility of de Gaulle towards NATO & the UK joining the EC from the formers lack of support for France in what it was doing, especially post-Suez.

There's little point in re-writing the book for this review, suffice to say that I think it's an important read to better understand a period of time & geographical neighbour which are both close to us and yet so far away.

By all accounts, the fall out from the war is still acutely felt in France; the effects are still being felt and in some cases the consequences are still being played out. The Algerian national identity is clearly rooted in the war of independence, so there's no chance of that diminishing at any point in the near future, whilst the feeling of grievance still lives so large.

Le Pen's FN has its genesis in the Algerian war in a previous iteration so seeing it perform well in opinion polls indicates to a part of France's make up which was very present in French Algeria making a modern re-appearance in la France métropole.

Give it a read.
 
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Mufulira42

Old-Salt
I was ignorant of the Algerian war of independence, mainly because French people don't talk about it much & there hasn't been much coverage of it in the English language. My knowledge extended about as far as having watched the film " la bataille d'Alger" and reading vague stories about atrocities here and there committed by the FLN.

This book is a really comprehensive detail of the build up to the war, its protagonists, conduct and outcome for all involved. All this without getting bogged down in irrelevance or verbosity. The author is also careful to get the right balance when it comes to describing the decisions & actions of the different parties without being judgemental. If you were to read the book with a settled idea of who was right & wrong, then you'll probably be disappointed.

The book explains the conditions which set the scene for the creation of the FLN, such as lack of opportunities, education & civil service jobs for the majority Arab Muslim population.

The descriptions of the massacres in Setif & Phillipeville against European settlers are pretty tough to read & some of the coffins in the images are too small.

What's really striking though is the scale of the French military deployment into Algeria in order to destroy the FLN. There must have been constant parachute deployments by the paras in their pursuit of the FLN and the stance was fast and aggressive. Its fair to say that the top end regiments are unlikely to have lost a battle. Which wasn't experience of the conscript units, some of which suffered appalling casualties when caught in ambushes. There's some fascinating details about booby trapped radios & impersonating FLN call signs by the French with good military outcomes.

A big part of the book is dedicated to describing the political scene in France which was having a hard time getting its head around what was happening. By the end of the war, De Gaulle must've been fairly acclimatised to loud bangs around him as the numerous assassination attempts failed.

The author also puts into context the hostility of de Gaulle towards NATO & the UK joining the EC from the formers lack of support for France in what it was doing, especially post-Suez.

There's little point in re-writing the book for this review, suffice to say that I think it's an important read to better understand a period of time & geographical neighbour which are both close to us and yet so far away.

By all accounts, the fall out from the war is still acutely felt in France; the effects are still being felt and in some cases the consequences are still being played out. The Algerian national identity is clearly rooted in the war of independence, so there's no chance of that diminishing at any point in the near future, whilst the feeling of grievance still lives so large.

Le Pen's FN has its genesis in the Algerian war in a previous iteration so seeing it perform well in opinion polls indicates to a part of France's make up which was very present in French Algeria making a modern re-appearance in la France métropole.

Give it a read.
Many lessons learnt from this particular affair the use of Alouette III gun ships K Cars, G cars, computerised record keeping, etc. etc, Elimination of troublesome folk who hid behind civil liberty bullshit political barriers. Sigh! the good old days when enemy was dressed different and could be slotted on sight and expected to be,
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
A French friend of mine would sound morse code for 3 on his car horn ('Algerie Francaise'). Not sure he really supported OAS; I think he just wanted to annoy people.
Three short and two long ("Al-ge-rie Fraaaan-caissss") horn blasts was described by Simon Murray in his book Legionnaire about his time in the FFL, which included time in Algeria.

There was a lot of disquiet within the military, with many considering that they were sold out politically. Mutiny led to the disbandment of 1 REP (note: lots of people know that there is a 2 REP, who are the FFL's airborne soldiers; few wonder why '2' and not '1'):

 
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This 2002 film is losely based on Simon Murrays story of when he was in 2 REP in Algeria.


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Offa

War Hero
I think at that time it was the only book in English about the FFL since PC Wren.
'Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford (1971) ostensibly about a former Waffen SS officer recruited into FFL and engagement in Indochina; disputed veracity resulting in a trilogy 'Devil's Guard - the Real Story by Eric Meyer, to set the record straight. All above in English but no match for Jean Larteguy's original 'The Centurians '' (Lost Command). Obviously originally in French, I borrowed the English edition from Aldershot library the day after watching the film.
 
'Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford (1971) ostensibly about a former Waffen SS officer recruited into FFL and engagement in Indochina; disputed veracity resulting in a trilogy 'Devil's Guard - the Real Story by Eric Meyer, to set the record straight. All above in English but no match for Jean Larteguy's original 'The Centurians '' (Lost Command). Obviously originally in French, I borrowed the English edition from Aldershot library the day after watching the film.
I didn't include Devils Guard as its long been discredited as total fiction. There have never been any all German units in the FFL since WW2, according to various histories or I am sure that they would be mention of them.
 

LepetitCaporal

War Hero
The général Bigeard Marcel, IS the héro of the film, 'Les Centurions'...
I recommandé every one to read his bio
The,'Nez cassé', does not mean broken nose, in this terms but to mean he was totally involved in his mission and stuck to the job in hand
Belive me, you will not bé disappointed
He was not the only one
 

combatintman

War Hero
I read this book about once a year because I find the whole story so fascinating and Horne is an accomplished recorder of French history. I wish there were more histories of this fascinating conflict in the English language.
 
I have worked with a couple of impressive French colleagues who had served in Algeria, also with the late Tony Hunter-Choat who served in Algeria in 1e REP before a distinguished British Army and security sector career.
 
I have said this before but Horne's 1940 campaign book, To Lose a Battle, is distinctly dodgy in some points (the structure and role of the different kinds of French armoured formations, a fairly important issue!) and on his editorializing about French politics - he swings between worshipping de Gaulle, trying to debunk him, blames everything on communists, and goes full Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys trying to flirt with this guy's mistress: Gaston Palewski — Wikipédia

(in the edition I have, Horne actually puts in a footnote to tell the tale, he was that pleased with himself - Palewski was a resistant from the very beginning, having previously quit his job in Paul Reynaud's private office to join the air force and be mentioned in dispatches, served in the East African campaign, and led the Free French landing team that took over French territories liberated from the enemy. also he was the minister in charge of the French nuclear bomb, got blown up by the thing, started the Ariane programme, and left Nancy Mitford to marry his other heiress mistress (and princess) on his 68th birthday. if that's not a life well lived. Alistair, what were you thinking?)
 

Mufulira42

Old-Salt
I have said this before but Horne's 1940 campaign book, To Lose a Battle, is distinctly dodgy in some points (the structure and role of the different kinds of French armoured formations, a fairly important issue!) and on his editorializing about French politics - he swings between worshipping de Gaulle, trying to debunk him, blames everything on communists, and goes full Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys trying to flirt with this guy's mistress: Gaston Palewski — Wikipédia

(in the edition I have, Horne actually puts in a footnote to tell the tale, he was that pleased with himself - Palewski was a resistant from the very beginning, having previously quit his job in Paul Reynaud's private office to join the air force and be mentioned in dispatches, served in the East African campaign, and led the Free French landing team that took over French territories liberated from the enemy. also he was the minister in charge of the French nuclear bomb, got blown up by the thing, started the Ariane programme, and left Nancy Mitford to marry his other heiress mistress (and princess) on his 68th birthday. if that's not a life well lived. Alistair, what were you thinking?)
Indefatigable! or was that ship?
 
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