percival c. wren

P. C. Wren

Percival Christopher Wren (1875–1941) was a British writer, mostly of adventure fiction. He is remembered best for Beau Geste, a much-filmed book of 1924 involving the French Foreign Legion in North Africa, and its sequels, Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal.

Working life

Born, as plain Percy Wren, in Deptford, South London, England in 1875, Percy was the son of a schoolmaster. His literary influences included Frederick Marryat, R. M. Ballantyne, G. A. Henty, and H. Rider Haggard. After graduation with an Master of Arts degree from St. Catherine's College, Oxford, a non-collegiate college for poorer students, Percy worked as a boarding school teacher for a few years, during which he married Alice Shovelier, and had a daughter (Estelle, born 1901). In 1903 he joined the Indian Education Service as headmaster of Karachi High School (now Pakistan). While in India, he joined the Poona Volunteer Rifles with the rank of Captain, before his service was terminated in October 1915 after sick leave. He resigned from the Indian Education Service in November 1917. It is presumed that his wife died in India, for no record of her return to Britain has been found; his daughter having died in England in 1910. From there it is claimed that he joined the French Foreign Legion for a single tour of five years though he would have been 42 years of age on enlistment, somewhat older that the usual recruit. He lived out the remainder of his life in England concentrating on his literary career. One of the few photographs of Wren known shows a typical British officer of the Edwardian era with clipped moustache, wearing plain dark blue regimental dress.

Wren was a highly secretive man, and his membership of the Legion has never been confirmed. When his novels became famous, there was a mysterious absence of authenticating photographs of him as a legionnaire or of the usual press-articles by old comrades wanting to cash in on their memories of a celebrated figure. It is now thought more likely that he encountered legionnaires during his extensive travels in Algeria and Morocco, and skillfully blended their stories with his own memories of a short spell as a cavalry trooper in England. While his fictional accounts of life in the pre-1914 Foreign Legion are highly romanticised, his details of Legion uniforms, training, equipment and barrack room layout are generally accurate. This may however simply reflect careful research on his part.


Wren dedicated an early edition (no date known) of "The Snake and the Sword" to "my wife Alice Lucille Wren". An early edition of "Driftwood Spars" reads "To the memory of my beloved wife". Isabel was his second wife. She had previously been married to Cyril Graham Smith, a civil engineer employed in the Indian educational service at Poona. In 1927 Graham Smith filed for divorce, with Wren named as corespondent. The divorce was granted, and a letter by Isabel to Ronald Colman (who played Beau Geste in the silent film) in 1929 on behalf of her "seriously ill" husband, suggests she and Wren had married at least as early as 1928 (actual date 03 Dec 1927). "Isobel" was the heroine of "Beau Geste". At his death Wren was also survived by his son Percival Rupert Christopher Wren, born in Karachi, 1904. He was married to an American actress, Judith Wood.


  • The Indian Teacher's Guide to the Theory and Practice of Mental, Moral, and Physical Education (1910 Bombay)
  • Indian School Organization, Management, Discipline, Tone, and Equipment, Being the Indian Headmaster's Guide (1911 Bombay)
  • The Direct Teaching of English in Indian Schools (1911 Bombay)
  • Dew and Mildew: Semi-Detached Stories from Darabad, India (1912 UK)
  • Chemistry and First Aid for Standard VII with H.E.H. Pratt (1913 Bombay)
  • Father Gregory; or, Lures and Failures: A Tale of Hindustan (1913 UK/1926 USA)
  • Physics and Mechanics with N.B. Macmillan (1914 Bombay)
  • Snake and Sword (1914 UK)
  • The Wages of Virtue (1916 UK/1917 USA)
  • Driftwood Spars (1916 UK/1927 USA)
  • Stepsons of France (1917 UK/1917 USA)
  • The Young Stagers, Being Further Faites and Gestes of the Junior Carlton Club of Karabad, India... (1917 UK/1926 USA)
  • Cupid in Africa; or, The Making of Bertran in Love and War - A Character Study (1920 UK)
  • With the Prince through Canada, New Zealand, and Australia (1922 Bombay)
  • The Snake and the Sword (1923 USA), reprint of 1914 text
  • Beau Geste (1924 UK/1925 USA)
  • Beau Sabreur (1926 UK/USA)
  • Dew and Mildew: A Loose-Knit Tale of Hindustan (1927 USA), reprint of 1912 text
  • Beau Ideal (1928 UK/USA)
  • Good Gestes: Stories of Beau Geste, His Brothers, and Certain of Their Comrades in the French Foreign Legion (1929 UK/USA)
  • Soldiers of Misfortune: The Story of Otho Belleme (1929 UK/USA)
  • Mysterious Waye: The Story of "The Unsetting Sun" (1930 UK/USA)
  • The Mammon of Righteousness: The Story of Coxe and the Box (1930 UK/USA)
  • Sowing Glory: The Memoirs of Mary Ambree, The English Woman-Legionary (1931 UK/USA)
  • Valiant Dust (1932 UK/USA)
  • Action and Passion (1933 UK/USA)
  • Flawed Blades: Tales from the Foreign Legion (1933 UK/USA)
  • Beggars' Horses (1934 UK)
  • Port o' Missing Men: Strange Tales of the Stranger Regiment (1934 UK/1943 USA)
  • Sinbad the Soldier (1935 UK/USA)
  • Explosion (1935 UK)
  • Spanish Maine (1935 UK) Published as The Desert Heritage in USA
  • Fort in the Jungle: The Extraordinary Adventures of Sinbad Dysart in Tonkin (1936 UK/USA)
  • Bubble Reputation (1936 UK) Published as The Cortenay Treasure in USA
  • The Man of a Ghost (1937 UK) Published as The Spur of Pride in USA
  • Worth Wile (1937 UK) Published as To the Hilt in USA
  • Cardboard Castle (1938 UK/USA)
  • Rough Shooting: True Tales and Strange Stories (1938 UK/1944 USA)
  • Paper Prison (1939 UK) Published as The Man the Devil Didn't Want in USA
  • The Disappearance of General Jason (1940 UK)
  • Two Feet from Heaven (1940 UK/1941 USA)
  • Odd - But Even So: Stories Stranger Than Fiction (1941 UK/1942 USA)
  • The Uniform of Glory (1941 UK)
  • The Dark Woman (1943 USA), reprint of 1934 UK text Beggar' Horses
  • The Hunting of Henri (1944 UK), reprint of a short story
  • Stories of the Foreign Legion (1947 UK),reprints of short stories
  • Dead Men's Boots and Other Tales from the Foreign Legion (1949 UK), reprints of short stories

Edited and Revised Works

  • The World of India, Adapted for Use in Indian Schools, edited by Wren (1905 Calcutta)
  • Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, edited and simplified by Wren (1912 UK)
  • Longman's Science Series for Indian High Schools, 11 volumes edited by Wren (1913–14 Bombay)
  • Ernest F. Row's Work, Wealth, and Wages, revised by Wren (1950 Bombay)
  • First Lessons in English Grammar (1961 Bombay)
  • Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, edited and simplified by Wren (1963 Calcutta)

External links

See also

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