The French colonial army and the great war.
By 1914, France had the second largest colonial empire in the world after Great Britain. At the outbreak of the Great War, France had been fighting colonial wars in North-Africa, West-Africa, Madagascar, and Indochina since 1830. While fighting these campaigns, France created two colonial armies: the Armee D'Afrique and the Armee Coloniale.
Initially, the Armee d'Afrique was created during the French conquest of Algeria (1830-57) and later expanded to Tunisia and Morocco, recruited from residents across the Maghrib. (2) The soldiers were drawn from European settlers known as pieds-noirs and indigenous peoples. (3) European infantry units were known as Zouaves and dragoons as Chasseurs d'Afrique. Other European troops of this army included the famous Foreign Legion, Battalion d'Afrique (Bat d'Af), and the discipline companies. Indigenous infantry were known as tirailleurs (sharpshooters), such as the Tirailleurs Algeriens (together with the Tirallieurs Tunisiens often known as Turcos), while indigenous cavalry carried the name of Spahis (horsemen, from the Ottoman Turkish Sipahi).
French marines (initially part of the French Navy) participated in the conquest of West-Africa (from the 1850s to the 1890s), Madagascar (in 1895 and 1896), and Indochina (during the 1880s and 1890s). In 1900 the French government transferred the marines from the Ministry of Marine to the Ministry of War, when they became known as the Armee Coloniale. Additional indigenous units included the West African Tirailleurs Senegalais (abbreviated as B.T.S.), the Madagascan Tirailleurs Malgache, and the Southeast-Asian Tirailleurs Tonkinois. These indigenous units played an important role in the conquest of empire and they were quickly thrown into the crucible of the Western Front, along with the men of North Africa.
Over 600,000 African, Asian, and other indigenous peoples of the French colonial empire served in the French Army in World War I. (4) At the outbreak of the war, there were only 88,108 indigenous troops in the French Army. (5) After the war began, then, over 500,000 indigenous soldiers were recruited from all of France's colonies. One reason that most of the recruiting took place after the opening months of war was that the indigenous colonial troops who were initially deployed suffered enormous casualties (over 60 percent were wounded or killed). Heavy losses of metropolitan soldiers also forced the military authorities in Paris to look for more cannon fodder to fill the gaps in general combat personnel. A not inconsiderable role was played by the constant lobbying of General Charles Mangin (1866-1925) for indigenous colonial troops, which clearly influenced the French High Command's decision to draft more men.
On the eve of the Great War, the French Army created and implemented a formal apparatus and bureaucracy to draft colonial troops. In the opening months of the war, units of West- and North-African men served as both volunteers and draftees. In subsequent years, the vast majority of these men were draftees. After heavy losses in 1914 and the first half of 1915, the French Army extended its search for men beyond the African mainland (e.g., to Indochina and Madagascar). All of these levees met with some resistance, and the drainage of men from local economies caused varying degrees of social and economic disruption throughout the French Empire.
West-Africa was a crucial source of troops for the French Army in the Great War. In West-Africa, recruitment was supposed to be voluntary, but in reality only 13.4 percent of the 52,000 men inducted from December 1915 to the middle of 1916 were volunteers. (6) The response to this levee en masse came in two forms: desertion and full-scale armed revolt. In the first four months of 1916, 4,481 men (or 8.9 percent of the effectives recruited) deserted. (7) Along with military recruitment came increased taxes, financial support needed by the metropole for the war effort. These demands angered the West-Africans and sparked a major revolt in western Upper Volta, which lasted from December 1915 to July 1916. Entire villages emptied into the countryside and flight across the border to British, Portuguese, and Liberian territories respectively became increasingly common. (8) The Second Regiment of Tirailleurs Senegalais had to be sent in to put down the revolt. This distracted attention from the war in Europe and weakened the morale of the unit. French West-African Governor Francois Clozel (1860-1918) and General Joseph Gallieni (1849-1916) had foreseen such disruptions and not all colonial officers supported increasing the African contingent of the army. (9) Nonetheless, French West-Africa managed to pay the "blood tax" that the metropole demanded.
From the beginning of the Great War, the number and use of West-African soldiers was decided in Paris, with the French administrators in West-Africa simply implementing metropolitan decrees. Although in 1917 the hunt for West-African soldiers continued, it was much more limited than the previous year. As a result, the number and extent of revolts lessened. This short reprieve did not last for long. When Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) became premier of France in the late fall of 1917, he decided to expand the draft in West-Africa. In December 1917 and January 1918, Clemenceau, over the objections of metropolitan generals and despite West-African Governor Joost van Vollenhoven (1877-1918)'s dire warnings, decided to draft 50,000 West-African troops and extended the draft for the first time to French Equatorial Africa. (10) To assure the success of the enlarged levee en masse, Blaise Diagne (1872-1934), the leading West-African politician in the French Chamber of Deputies, was named Commissioner General of Recruitment, a rank equivalent to Governor-General. (11)
The draft of 1918 was the most important and successful of the war; for the first time, large numbers of West-Africans willingly joined the French Colonial Army or were directed by local elites to do so. (12) Blaise Diagne proved persuasive with local elites and there were no major revolts. By giving the men a bonus and exempting their families from taxation, Diagne managed to recruit over 77,000 men from French West- and Equatorial Africa. (13) Not all the draftees could be immediately shipped to France because of a shortage of transport ships. (14)
Clemenceau's expanded draft strained the metropolitan army, which had to provide training and cadres for this new indigenous colonial army of approximately 120,000 men. (15) After the armistice in 1918, the draft was continued and mobile draft boards were created. Approximately 12,000 to 14,000 men were drafted each year, a practice that would continue until the Second World War. (16)
The other large sources of French indigenous troops were French North-Africa, that is, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Of these colonies, Algeria provided the largest reservoir of men. In the early months of the war, many Algerian recruits were volunteers. In November 1914, 4,700 Algerians volunteered, the largest monthly total of war. (17) By the spring of the following year, the number of volunteers dropped precipitously and by the fall of 1915, 136,000 North-Africans served in the French Army. This recruitment crisis eventually forced France to resort to the draft, which became extensive by February 1916.18 Typically, the first three months yielded the largest number of recruits, while the summer and harvest time had the lowest. The recruiting efforts in 1916 were also complicated by the government's demand of 17,500 civilian workers in Algeria. Despite expanded use of the draft, West-Africa would send more troops to the metropole after 1916 than North-Africa. The North-African population no longer made up the majority of indigenous troops after 1916 in the French army because the most experienced and loyal North Africans were killed in the first two years of the war.
Algeria and Tunisia were reservoirs of troops for the French Metropolitan Army, but the colonies also drained away desperately needed troops. The French Army still needed to maintain large numbers of troops in North-Africa to keep control of these colonies. For example, on 13 November 1916, there were 1,627 officers and 69,931 men in Algeria. (19) There were over 37,000 men in Tunisia, while the French were fighting a large counter-insurgency campaign in Morocco. Among the troops in North Africa were capable combat units such as Zouaves, Turcos, Foreign Legionnaires, and Chasseurs d'Afrique. These men could have been of great use on the Western Front, but they could not be dispatched because Southern Tunisia and Algeria were in a continual state of revolt. (20)
The revolts in Algeria and Tunisia were made worse by the announcement of full-scale conscription in the fall of 1916. Similar to upheavals in parts of West-Africa, a revolt occurred in the South Constantine region of Algeria. In the towns of MacMahon, on 11 November 1916, Algerians attacked the residence of the administrator and the military archives that listed the names of young men available for military duty. (21) By the end of 1916, the revolt had become more widespread and the French had to send between 6,000 to 8,000 men to quell it. Fighting continued throughout 1917, and up to 16,000 French colonial forces including several battalions of West-Africans, were sent to the region. Control was not fully restored until the fall of 1917. (22)
With casualties dramatically mounting on the Western Front, the French began to ship fourteen battalions of Indochinese troops, known as Tirailleurs Tonkinois, to Europe. Very few of these men were volunteers or well trained. (23) Large numbers of Indo-Chinese mutilated themselves to avoid forcible recruitment, while others threw themselves overboard after the transport ships departed. (24) Sanitary conditions abroad the transport ships were poor; thirty percent of the men of the 13th Battalion of the Tirailleurs lndochinois arrived either dead or sick. (25)
Just like African and South-East Asian colonies, the fairly recently acquired colony of Madagascar was not exempt from the "blood tax." Raising battalions of Tirailleurs Malgache was a difficult process and the recall of numerous European soldiers back to the metropole further complicated recruitment. (26) Nonetheless, 1,097 Malagasy soldiers were recruited in 1914 and 1915. They were sent to North-Africa for further training and acclimatizing in the fall of 1915. Serious recruitment of Malagasy men began in early 1916, at the same time as in Indochina, and, by March 1916, over 4,700 men were inducted. (27) A typical Malagasy battalion had 68 European officers and NCOs and 956 Malagasy tirailleurs. (28) Most of the Malagasy men did not reach the Western Front or the Armee d'Orient until 1917. When they arrived, they were used in a support capacity. A shortage of transport ships further slowed recruitment. (29) Later on, in 1917, after Clemenceau became premier, recruiting would be reinstated as France became increasingly desperate for troops.
Closely linked to the recruitment of French colonial troops was the deployment and organization of these men. Studying this enables one to see how French colonial troops fit into the overall French military strategy on the Western Front. Heavy casualties of both colonial and metropolitan troops affected the deployment and organization of the soldiers. Units that suffered high losses or virtually disappeared forced constant reorganization of the soldiers. The organization and deployment of colonial troops affected their combat performance, morale, race relations, and living conditions behind the lines.
At the outbreak of the war, getting colonial troops to France rapidly was a major problem. The easiest colonial army to deploy was the Armee d'Afrique because it had a detailed mobilization plan and was more thoroughly integrated into the French Army. Furthermore, it had major ports for embarkation (such as Algiers, Tunis, or Oran) and was much closer than other colonies. The first units from North-Africa landed in France before 7 August, with the majority of units arriving the second and third weeks of August. (30) This was temporarily thwarted by the presence of two German battle cruisers, Goeben and Breslau, who bombarded some North-African ports in the very first days of the war; they threatened to disrupt the transport of badly needed French colonial troops from North Africa. Once these ships left in the direction of the the Ottoman Empire, the scare was over.
In the fall of 1914, French colonial troops would be deployed along a 275 kilometer front on the French left flank, center, and right flank. Important high-ranking colonial officers, including Generals Alex, Jules Lefevre (1852-1916), Georges-Louis Humbert (1862-1921), Louis Franchet d'Esperey (1856-1942), and Mangin could be found in every Army group, except the Third Army, which was devoid of any colonial units. (31) Before the soldiers went into combat, there were numerous problems in getting to the front. There was no time for training new men, who were rushed to the front exhausted. (32) Major supply problems occurred when these troops reached the front. One junior officer wrote that "logistics were difficult and often impossible." (33) During the Battle of the Frontiers (August 1914), most of the French soldiers were not only terrified by the slaughter they saw, but also demoralized by supply problems.
The Armee Colonial Corps entered serious combat on 20 August 1914, spearheading the attack of the French Fourth Army in Lorraine near the Ardennes.
Many of the colonial units were slaughtered in Neufchateau and Rossingol Wood. There was poor coordination with metropolitan divisions and what was left of the Armee Colonial Corps soon had to be pulled out of the line.
The subsequent arrival of fresh colonial troops helped bolster the morale of the battle-weary rank and file French infantry. (34) At the Battle of the Marne in September, the First Moroccan Division played a key role. During the race to the sea in the fall of 1914, the Tirailleurs Senegalais were introduced to continental combat for the first time. Seven battalions of West-Africans arrived in France at Marseilles throughout September 1914, joining the front-line forces following the Battle of the Frontiers and the Battle of the Marne. Approximately 10,000 West-Africans served in France in 1914. (35) The Tirailleurs Senegalais served in separate battalions, as had been planned form the beginning, and were not grouped into metropolitan regiments. The West-African battalions could, however, be placed with other (white) colonial infantry battalions to form mixed regiments. The French West-African forces performed well, but suffered from the cold weather and took horrendous casualties. (36) By November 1914 at Dixmunde (Diksmuide), the West-African battalions had ceased to exist.
When the war of position commenced at the tactical level, the French high command did not organize the deployment of French colonial and metropolitan troops well. One colonial unit, the Bataillon d'Afrique (Bat d'Af), was one of the few units to be rotated in and out of the front lines. The men of the Bat D'Af were constantly taken out of the trenches and sent back to their camp in the rear for two days a week in December 1914 and January 1915. (37) This erratic movement in and out of the trenches was highly unusual at this point of the war. Regular-unit rotation did not become standard operating procedure in the French Army until General Henri-Philippe Petain (1856-1951) devised the noria system during the Battle of Verdun in 1916. (38)
In 1915, it became clear that there was going to be little war of movement on the Western Front. Tens of thousands of French cavalry had been waiting behind the lines for a breakthrough. In July, some of the cavalry, including the Chasseurs d'Afrique and the Spahis, were turned into light-infantry units. (39) The year 1915, with its Artois and Champagne offensives, was the bloodiest of the war for the French Army and the need for more infantry was intense. Now there was less emphasis on recruitment of Spahis than of Tirailleurs Algeriens. (40)
Because of heavy casualties from exposure to cold weather, the French decided not to use West-African soldiers on the Western Front in 1915. Instead, they were sent to fight with the French Army Corps at Gallipoli. Thus the only French colonial troops remaining on the Western Front came from North Africa. In the winter of 1915-1916, the French high command decided to deploy large numbers of indigenous troops in their coordinated offensive with British forces on the Somme River planned for the summer of 1916.
Throughout the spring of 1916, soldiers poured into the metropole from all over the colonial empire. For instance, General Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934), the French governor of Morocco, sent fourteen battalions of Turcos, Tirailleurs Marocaine, colonial infantry battalions, and West-African Tirailleurs from Morocco. (41) By 10 June 1916, there were eighteen battalions of West-Africans serving on the Western Front, with five more Bataillon Tirailleurs Senegalais (B.T.S.) in the south of France, two more coming from Morocco and ten B.T.S. coming from West-Africa who were due to arrive at Frejus in the South of France between 23 June and 2 August. There were 12,169 Tirailleurs Senegalais in this last group of arrivals. Added to this, there were four battalions of Tirailleurs Malgache, two in Salonika and two in France, and a battalion of Somalis in the South of France. Finally, there were three battalions of Indochinese troops in France, two more in Salonika, and one en route from Tonkin with fifteen more battalions to arrive later in the year. (42)
While French colonial troops from North Africa were prominent in the first three months of the Battle of Verdun, precious few remained by the height of the battle when the Germans captured Fort Vaux in early June 1916. Most of the colonial infantry had been redeployed for the upcoming Somme offensive. Only the 308th Brigade and the Regiment dTnfanterie Colonial du Maroc (R.I.C.M.) remained at Verdun, but they were soon joined by four battalions of the Tirailleurs Senegalais. The R.I.C.M. and the Second Zouaves Regiment were later ordered to retake Fort Vaux.
From the late summer until December, French colonial troops, especially Turcos and Tirailleurs Senegalais, distinguished themselves at Verdun. West-African units were kept from wintering several extra weeks because General Mangin, who was leading the counter-offensives, considered them crucial. Immediately after the capture of Fort Douamont, the two West-African battalions were sent to winter in the south of France or in Algeria. (43) By the middle of December 1916, the battle ended with the French back at the positions from where they had started in February.
There were significant numbers of colonial troops at the Battle of the Somme, which began 1 July 1916 (the 132nd day of the Battle of Verdun), including two Colonial Army Corps at and 31 battalions of West-African troops. More West-Africans served in the Somme offensive than had ever served any previous colonial campaign and it represented the first large-scale use of sub-Saharan troops on the Western Front. There were a few veteran troops in these battalions, but most were green draftees. The morale of these recruits, who were usually forced into French service, was much poorer than that of previous West-African troops who had served in colonial campaigns as volunteers. (44) These West-African recruits often had many problems functioning in mixed units because of problems of amalgamation.
After the fierce fighting of July, West-African troops were withdrawn either for retraining or to hold the second line of trenches. It was clear to colonial commanders like General Pierre Berdoulat (1861-1930) that these troops, although very brave, needed further training in continental warfare. Older, veteran West-African soldiers were often encouraged to take young, unexperienced tirailleurs under their care in the finest French Army tradition dating back to the Napoleonic wars. (45)
In September, the West-Africans returned to the Somme front to fight for seven weeks. They fought as part of the Colonial Army Corps and were amalgamated with white colonial regiments. By late October, the West-Africans were exhausted from many weeks of fighting. They suffered from the dropping of the temperature and were sent to recover in winter camps in the south of France. This, along with sending a regiment of colonial infantry to the Balkans, greatly diminished the number of colonial combat effectives on the front line. (46)
In March 1917, the West-Africans returned to the Western Front to participate in the infamous Nivelle offensive. They arrived at a Western Front gripped by one of the coldest springs in memory, even if the winter had been warmer than usual. They suffered from such severe frostbite that their white NCOs had to load their rifles for them. (47) Soon, many West-Africans not only suffered from frostbite on their arms, fingers, and feet, but they also had pulmonary problems. In the first two weeks of April, 1,103 men were evacuated to the rear for trench foot or "affections pulmonaires." (48)
Approximately 850,000 French troops (54 divisions) took part in the Nivelle offensive, many of them colonial troops. (49) In fact, colonial troops formed the spearheads of most assaults and played a larger role in this offensive than any before or after the attack on the Aisne River. Twenty-four battalions of West-Africans, one Indochinese battalion, one Malagasy battalion, the Pacific Battalion, and a battalion of Somalis served with the colonial infantry along with several North-African regiments and divisions, including the famous Moroccan Division. (50) The Pacific, Malagasy, and Indochinese battalions saw combat for the first time. Virtually all colonial soldiers on the Western Front were part of Mangin's Sixth Army. This was not accidental, for Mangin had great affection for and pride in these soldiers and believed that they were the elite of the French Army. The Colonial Army Corps formed the left and right wings of his army and the North-Africans were in the center of the line.
In 1918, the last year of the war, French colonial soldiers gained their greatest fame in Mangin's counter-offensives that summer. Here American troops of the First and Second Infantry Divisions advanced with the Moroccan Division, which was placed in the center of the attack. The Moroccan Division was a mish-mash of all types of colonial units, which included colonial infantry battalions, Algerian tirailleurs, Moroccan troops, Zouaves, Foreign Legionnaires, and a battalion of Malagasy troops. (51) There were also six battalions of West-African troops in Mangin's Tenth Army.
The spearhead of this offensive was made up of sundry colonial units, with the seventh Tirailleurs Algeriens, the Foreign Legion, and the Chasseurs Malgaches performing extremely courageously. West-African troops were not concentrated in any particular division and were spread out in different divisions. Two B.T.S. were in the Moroccan Division and others served with the 15th Colonial Infantry Division and with the metropolitan 128th and 69th Divisions. (52) Against the express wishes of many colonial officers, West-Africans had been amalgamated into metropolitan units. The West-Africans fought well, despite being subjected to highly noxious poison gas attacks by German artillery. Of the 7,995 West-Africans who fought in Mangin's offensive, 2,388 were listed as killed, wounded, or missing, a loss of 30 percent. (53) This was considerably lower than the Nivelle offensive in the previous year, but colonial units often had the highest casualty rates in this offensive. They were victims of Mangin's favoritism.
With the exception of two battalions that took part in the Allied offensive in Picardy, most West-African combat battalions remained in rest camps throughout August until the middle of September. Six B.T.S. fought with the 15th colonial Infantry Division in Mangin's Tenth Army and participated in the American Offensive at St. Michel. (54) Despite the onset of colder weather in mid-October, which brought about some evacuations of sick men, the West-Africans maintained high morale, fought well and captured 1,800 Germans. (55) Several West-African battalions advanced side-by-side with American troops all the way to the Ardennes by the beginning of November 1918. Three battalions of West-Africans would end the War on the Yser River where they had started their involvement in the Great War in 1914.56 Up to 4 November, West-Africans took part in the Allied offensives. The French kept them at the front one month later than usual because of their continued high morale and combat effectiveness, even in the face of heavy casualties, frozen feet, and respiratory problems.
Colonial troops not assigned for occupation duty in Germany at the end of the war demobilized at varying rates. Demobilization went rapidly for West-African soldiers. During 1919, 69 battalions were disbanded and, during 1920, another ten, leaving only fifteen in service by 1921. (57) Only the usual shortage of transport ships kept demobilization from moving even more quickly. There were some small-scale riots at demobilization centers, no doubt over the slow pace of the process, and there was some disillusionment and violence when some tirailleurs returned home. (58) Indochinese troops were also disillusioned when they returned home. A little over a decade later, former Tirailleurs Tonkinois imbued with growing nationalism in Vietnam revolted at Yen The in 1930. (59) Demobilization for North-Africans was fairly easy because of the short distance of transport, but large numbers of them were used in the occupation of Germany, Hungary, and Istanbul as well as the campaigns in the Middle East and Morocco. As late as 1920, there were 111 battalions of Algero-Tunisians in Europe. (60)
Expanding parameters of deployment, fluctuating force levels and heavy casualties played havoc with colonial-troop organization on the Western Front. This often chaotic system of troop organization severely hampered the development of primary group loyalty. Racial perceptions by the French high command also affected the organization of French "native" troop units as was clearly illustrated with the issue of amalgamation of white units with indigenous soldiers. Poor tactical organization greatly influenced combat performance. Failure to find appropriate organizational strategies also lowered the morale of French colonial troops.
In the French Colonial Army, primary group loyalty was possible during colonial conflicts in Africa and Asia because most of them were relatively short and experienced, by twentieth-century standards, low casualties, with the exception of Madagascar. But in the First World War all primary group dynamics were disrupted and destroyed. Most of the colonial-war veterans, both rank and file and junior officers, were killed or maimed in the opening year of the war and organizational confusion disrupted the structure of companies, battalions, and regiments. (61) Reinforcements were sent to the wrong units, which further disrupted primary group loyalty.
Unit cohesion and primary group loyalty were further hampered by poor relations between various North-African units. There were numerous ethnic, linguistic, and regional differences in Algeria, which led to the creation of homogenous regiments. (62) There were no "pals" battalions in the French Colonial Army because of casualties and constant reorganization. This was a major difference between the French Colonial and Continental Armies and between the French and British Colonial Armies.
Another factor hampering the development of primary groups and organizational cohesion was the shortage of officers and cadres who had any experience commanding Arab or other "native" troops. This problem continued to worsen throughout the war. Some military leaders wanted to place metropolitan officers in indigenous units, but there was a shortage of translators. (63) Given such problems, it should not be a surprise that North-African units performed badly in the spring offensive of 1915.
One solution to the officer and non-commissioned-officer shortage, which the French ignored, was to place more Algerians in positions of authority. Promoting numerous Algerians to officer rank would have improved morale in the units and probably enhanced combat effectiveness. Racism and, to a lesser extent, language barriers prevented the French colonial military authorities from doing this.
Another strategy to solve the problem of tactical leadership and unit cohesion was through amalgamation. The mixing of indigenous and European infantry was first tried with West-Africans and colonial infantry in the Dardanelles in 1916. (64) Amalgamation created mixed regiments with one European soldier for every three indigenous soldiers. (65) Of course, the principal reason for this arrangement was to supervise and better control the actions of indigenous troops, whom the French did not fully trust. The policy proved problematic, because few officers were aware of their units' languages, customs, and religious practices.
By the summer and fall of 1918, troops of color had nonetheless secured a reputation of being excellent soldiers. The proof of the French high command's respect can be seen in a proposal to create an Armee Noire after war. (66) A rapid reduction of European French troops was anticipated and West-African troops could fill this gap. It was also argued that the use of black troops was economical. (67) Besides practical economic considerations, French military authorities also wanted to use West-African Tirailleurs because they believed these men were shock troops par excellence.
Initially, French colonial troops were poorly prepared to fight a conventional war against the Germans on the European continent. At first, colonial troops did quite badly on the Western Front, but when given appropriate equipment and training, they were at least equal to their metropolitan brothers-in-arms. Adapting colonial troops to new tactics, such as infiltration, or new technologies, such as tanks and rolling barrages, proved nonetheless a major challenge.
Much of the uniqueness of colonial troops, apart from superficial things such as their different uniforms or physical features, receded as the war progressed. At the beginning of the war, none of the colonial units had appropriate training for continental warfare, although the same could be said of many metropolitan units since Plan XVII, the French strategy at the beginning of the war, had not yet filtered down to the metropolitan units in the provinces. As the war went on, colonial combat performance improved, and colonial units became more closely integrated with the rest of the French armed forces. By 1918, most colonial units had the same training and technology as metropolitan units and colonial units learned to work with tanks, rolling barrages, and attack aircraft. At the end of the First World War, the colonial units were at their peak as combat troops.
At the outbreak of the war in Europe, French colonial officers in Morocco, such as General Humbert, the commander of the First Moroccan Division, were concerned about their soldiers adapting from colonial to continental warfare. (68) Defying the expectations about their battle readiness, the first colonial units dispatched to the front performed as well as metropolitan units. Immediately, some colonial units won quick but minor victories along the center and right of the French line. At the same time, neither colonial nor continental units grasped the necessity of digging field fortifications, and there were constant problems of liaison between various brigade, division, and corps-size units. (69) Inappropriate tactics led to the destruction of the Colonial Army Corps as well as metropolitan units in the Battle of the Frontiers.
In opening operations, many West African battalions performed quite badly, as exemplified by the combat at Maison Blanche in Flanders in the third week of October 1914. Here, in an attack on a German trench, a Senegalese battalion tired and accidently fired on their advancing comrades. (70) This brought German artillery and machine gun fire and the West-Africans refused to advance despite the efforts of European and non-commissioned officers. (71) There was no choice for the French but to call off the attack. Later at Dixmunde, the Tirailleurs Senegalais fought more tenaciously because they did not believe the Germans would take prisoners. (72)
The year 1914 proved a terrible one for both North- and West-African troops with incredible casualties. Both groups had a mixed record in combat, with the North-Africans at times engaging in outright albeit minor-scale mutinies. The high casualties, the generally low morale and mixed combat performance were not reflections of ethnicity but of a lack of preparation for continental warfare. The soldiers were poorly led and used on a strategic and tactical level just like many metropolitan units. Added to this, Arab or black African units rarely had appropriate equipment and were often placed on the most dangerous part of the front. (73)
The spring of 1915 began badly for French colonial troops, especially the North-African soldiers near Ypres. On 22 April, Algerian troops became the first victims of a deadly new weapon on the Western Front: gas. They responded to this new weapon by fleeing their positions. (74) In the next month's Artois offensive, the Zouaves and Foreign Legion regiments took heavy casualties. (75)
Of all the colonial units that participated in the (Second) Artois Offensive, the Moroccan Division experienced the most success. It attacked at 10:00 A.M. on 9 May in three waves. The first wave was destroyed, but the other two silenced the German guns in the first line of trenches after intense hand-to-hand combat. (76) Of all French units, metropolitan or colonial, it was this division that penetrated the deepest into the German lines. They soon became isolated and decimated by the Germans, however, because French metropolitan soldiers on the flanks did not make the same rapid progress. The Moroccan Division took very heavy casualties, with one regiment of 1,937 soldiers being reduced to 50 men. Due to such enormous losses, the division was sent to Belfort to be reinforced and reorganized. (77) For its high morale and great courage, the division was awarded the first of its many unit citations. (78)
This first French offensive in the new era of trench warfare revealed many problems. French artillery often failed to destroy enemy barbed-wire or machine gun nests. (79) Once a German front-line trench was captured, French soldiers failed to organize it properly for defense against German counter-attacks. This was partially caused by the failure to transport quickly new barbed-wire, axes, shovels and other key equipment. (80) By June, when the French Foreign Legionnaires and Algerians had developed new and effective tactics, such as developing units of nettoyeurs des tranchees ("trench raiders"), the offensive came to an end because of high casualties. (81) Most colonial units performed quite well in the Artois offensive, but their ranks were severely thinned. A massive reorganization followed, with green draftees filling the ranks of French colonial units. More colonial troops were called upon to fight in the fall offensives in Champagne.
General Joseph Joffre (1852-1931)'s Champagne offensive, launched in September 1915, featured two colonial army corps, the Foreign Legion and the 48th Division from the Armee d'Afrique, and a regiment of Moroccan troops. About one-third of the narrow front was held by French colonial units. French colonial officers continued to make numerous mistakes in the Champagne Offensive. Amazingly, after more than a year of fighting, French soldiers still advanced in line, marching upright to the cadence of their officers, as the 21st Regiment Infanterie Coloniale did in its assault of 21 September. (82) This, of course, presented excellent targets to German machine gunners and made it much more difficult to get through even slightly intact obstacles and barbed-wire. After an hour of this insanity, an unnamed colonel intervened and told what was left of the colonial infantry to advance in the prone position. (83) Such suicidal refusal to adapt to the new condition of warfare happened up and down the line.
The only French colonial unit to do well (if that word can be used in this context) was the 48th Division from the Armee d'Afrique. Its limited success resulted from two important tactical innovations: the heavy use of grenades in clearing trenches and outflanking enemy positions instead of straight frontal assaults. These new tactics could be seen in the Second Regiment Mixte's attack on Navarin Farm on 6 and 7 October. Here some companies made a fourkilometer deep break in the enemy line and destroyed German phone communications and infantry with grenades. Eventually, they captured some German 77-millimeter artillery pieces and massacred their crews. The Turcos and Zouaves were in no mood to take prisoners after ferocious hand-to-hand fighting. (84) Unlike the previous spring offensive, there was widespread use of grenades, which proved well-suited for trench warfare. Another reason for success at Navarin Farm was that reinforcements of Zouaves, Turcos, Legionnaires, Moroccans, and metropolitan troops were rushed there, along with supplies, especially grenades, needed to capture German positions. (85)
Despite the excellent combat effectiveness of some colonial troops, too few French metropolitan or colonial units performed well enough tactically to come even close to rupturing the German line. Even if one colonial unit performed well, its neighboring unit on the left or right flank might panic and flee the battlefield, making the effective unit's advance futile. This happened, for example, to the first company of the Tirailleurs Marocains: together with other Moroccan companies, it had advanced so deep into German lines that it had captured a German flag. (86) To the right of the Moroccans elements of a metropolitan unit, the 170th Infantry Division, occupied the newly captured German trenches. When German artillery and machine gun fire concentrated on the 170th Division, soldiers panicked and surrendered to the Germans. The Moroccans spiked the German artillery pieces and fell back.
By the middle of October 1915, Joffre had to halt the Champagne offensive. In his memoirs, the commander-in-chief particularly praised the colonial troops that fought that October. (87) Meanwhile, Joffre rather disingeneously claimed that he had to halt the offensive not because of failed strategy and tactics, but rather due to growing distractions in the Balkans. (88)
On 21 February 1916, the German general Erich von Falkenhayn (1861-1922) launched his massive assault on the French at Verdun; three days later French colonial troops from the Armee d'Afrique of the 37th Division were sent to plug gaps in the massive hole in the French line. These soldiers were split into small groups under non-indigenous officers and sent to defend unprepared positions. (89) The raw recruits were of mediocre quality, while the veterans among them were exhausted. When the 37th Division unsurprisingly bolted to the rear, French officers fired machine guns at the backs of these troops. (90) Throughout much of the critical spring of 1916, French colonial troops did not see much service on the front line, with the exception of the Second Zouaves regiment and the regiment of the Infanterie Coloniale due Maroc, both of which consisted of European-heritage troops. These two units participated in the attempt to retake Fort Vaux, but they were repelled with heavy casualties. (91)
West-Africans first appeared at Verdun in the spring of 1916, not in combat roles but as support troops, often driving trucks on the key supply route known as la Voie Sacree. The approximately 20,000 men in these units were drawn from the so-called "non-warrior races" of West-Africa. (92) These units played a key role on the Voie Sacree in supplying the beleaguered troops at Verdun. Indeed, the efficient night-and-day functioning of this narrow lifeline to Verdun was the key to victory. (93) There were problems, for example, in teaching West-Africans how to drive and maintain the thousands of trucks that flowed into Verdun along the Voie Sacree. (94)
In late October, General Mangin directed a mini-offensive to retake Fort Douamont. This highly symbolic counter-offensive was to be strictly an affair of colonial soldiers. In the assault against Fort Douamont, both West- and North-Africans spearheaded the offensive. Curiously, the West-Africans served with the R.I.C.M. and Fourth Regiment Mixte de Zouaves and Tirailleurs Algeriens. (95) The French Colonial Infantry advanced easily through the heavy fog and captured hundreds of German soldiers. (96) It would be the soldiers of the R.I.C.M. who actually captured Fort Douamont after two hours of hand-to-hand fighting. (97)
All colonial units had done well in Mangin's mini-offensives. The West-Africans had thoroughly redeemed themselves and European officers observed that they had "un elan magnifique." (98) Ten West-Africans and men of the R.I.C.M. received medals and citations. (99) The cost for the French forces was high. Only 100 men of the R.I.C.M. Battalion that took Douamont survived, and 359 WestAfricans were killed in the attack. Altogether approximately 47,000 casualties were taken in these counter-offensives. (100)
French Colonial troops generally performed much better than their British counterparts at the Battle of the Somme. Their courageous performance was accomplished with a great loss of life. This battle also saw the largest deployment of West-African troops on the Western Front since the race to the sea of 1914. Their effectiveness in battle made some French generals appreciate their effectiveness as combat soldiers. At the beginning of the battle, French Colonial units experienced more success than the British, who made up the majority of the Allied forces in the offensive. On 1 July, nine French colonial regiments overran the first German line by 11:00 A.M. (101) The French colonial troops were able to do this because of limited German resistance, which could have resulted from their disbelief that any French forces were involved in this offensive. On the second day of the offensive, French colonial forces overran the second German line of defense and were only halted after being shelled by their own artillery. (102) There was obviously a breakdown of liaison with their artillery and fire-direction aircraft. The combat effectiveness of French colonial units suffered when the brigade commander, a Colonel Sadarge, failed to inform both his regimental commanders about the schedule of attack. (103) This resulted in piecemeal assaults. In the first weeks of fighting, French colonial troops took nevertheless 5,000 German prisoners and captured 50 artillery pieces. (104)
Generally, the West-Africans had a fairly good combat record in the Somme offensive. At Asservillers Wood, the Tirailleurs fought in good order while crossing seven lines of trenches. (105) The unit that fought there, the 71st B.T.S., lost one third of its complement in four days of fighting. For the veterans of the Dardanelles of the 61st B.T.S., the period from 9 to 19 July 1916 was among the bloodiest of the war. In an attack on a German position known as Tranchee Marsoins, they fought hand-to-hand with great courage and ferocity and were judged as brave as Europeans. (106) The impressive feats of combat cost the unit 57.5 percent casualties, which was one of the highest casualty rates for any French battalion in the offensive. Later on, some West-African battalions were halted by the sophisticated German defenses.
West-Africans were not the only French colonial soldiers halted by the depth of the German defenses at the Somme. The Foreign Legion was decimated at Asservillers Wood and had to be replaced by the Moroccan Division. Direct frontal assaults by the Moroccans against a German trench named Chancellor failed initially, but, during the night, grenadiers were able to drive the enemy from the position. (107) Temporarily, elements of the Moroccan Division were able to hold the trench until a clever German group pretended to surrender and threw grenades as they got close to French lines. (108) The deceitful Germans were shot down in a French fusillade. However, so many men of the Moroccan Division were killed and their position was so disrupted that the survivors were forced to abandon it. French attacks by both colonial and metropolitan units petered out on the Somme in the fall of 1916.
During the Nivelle Offensive in the spring of 1917, except for some North African units, most French colonial formations did not perform well. Many colonial units suffered the highest casualties of all units engaged. Metropolitan troops made the most territorial gains in this offensive, but they were not used as cannon fodder as were some colonial units. The futility of the Nivelle Offensive was immediately apparent on 16 April, the first day of the assault. At 6:00 A.M., amid driving sleet and snow, General Pierre Berdoulat's troops of the First Colonial Army Corps met a hail of bullets as well as artillery barrages and made little progress. (109) After being forced back into their own trenches, they suffered many night-time counterattacks, with many of the West-Africans being too paralyzed by the cold to fight. (110) Farther down the line, the results were the same for the Second Colonial Army Corps, which suffered even greater casualties. (111) Even the previously successful Marchand Division, the Tenth Colonial Infantry Division, performed badly in the opening days of the offensive. The deaths of several colonels and majors disrupted command at the unit and corps level, and there was a crisis with the corps commander, General Blondat. (112) Mangin judged that Blondat suffered from nervous exhaustion and relieved him of command. (113) After two days of fighting, the Second Colonial Army Corps was so decimated and demoralized that it was relieved by the metropolitan troops of the IIth Corps.
The West-African battalions suffered the most in this offensive. The Tirailleurs Senegalais were among the most poorly equipped units in the Nivelle offensive. At a bare minimum, these soldiers should have been armed with rifles in working condition, grenades and fusil-mitrailleuse for trench fighting, as well as signal flares for liaison, but they lacked all sorts of equipment, while those weapons they did wield were often malfunctioning. (114) It is difficult to determine whether this took place because of criminal neglect motivated by the racial contempt of quartermasters or just pure incompetence. Even if the West-Africans' rifles did fire, they often could not operate them because they were paralyzed by the cold weather. The British liaison officer, General Edward Spears (1886-1974), said of the West-Africans, "They advanced when ordered to do so, carrying their rifles under their arms like umbrellas, found what protection they could for their frozen fingers in the folds of their cloaks." (115)
Despite these difficulties, some West-African units were able to capture part of the German lines. They held German lines and fought throughout the night against German counter-attacks. Numerous West-Africans fought valiantly in horrendous conditions. West-African units often made the deepest penetration of German lines. (116) Of course, not all West-African soldiers fought well in this offensive. Units that suffered extremely heavy losses panicked and fell back to French lines. In many cases, this was quite justified, such as when one unidentified group of West-African troops was fired upon by French artillery and became too disoriented to even take cover in the trenches. (117)
The only colonial troops that enjoyed a modicum of success in the spring of 1917 were the Tirailleurs Algeriens of the 4th regiment and the Moroccan Division. In combat between 17 and 21 April, the First Regiment of Tirailleurs Algeriens advanced well beyond the first line of the German trench system. (118) On 18 April, the unit's advance halted due to a breakdown of communications. At 17:45 hours, the Turcos were given orders to attack at 18:00 hours, just fifteen minutes prior warning. (119) Obviously, there was no time for artillery preparation. From 19 to 21 April, the First Regiment's Turcos were subjected to numerous German counterattacks and they were able to resist them even though they were low on able-bodied men and ammunition. Re-supply in men, munitions, food, and water was made more difficult by the deaths of runners and other liaison agents. Just before midnight on 21 April, this dirty, hungry, and exhausted unit was relieved. (120)
The Moroccan Division was also quite effective in the Aisne offensive. They engaged the enemy with grenades and bayonets. (121) Three battalion commanders fell in the attack, but the men of the Moroccan Division took their objective on schedule and beat off German attacks for seven days. The unit was pulled out of the line on 23 April, but not before it lost nineteen officers and 900 men. (122)
Not all the attacks took place with little planning or notice, as that of the First Turcos was. The First Bataillon d'Afrique had a very detailed plan of attack. The position of each company was precisely laid out and the rate of march specified. The march took place at 75 meters per minute. (123) The first Tirailleurs Algeriens were on the left and the metropolitan 20th Infantry Regiment was on the right. There were two liaison agents for each company. Tables of evaluation and liaison were constructed and seven objectives were assigned with the last objective being the Sommet de Casque. (124)
Reality soon destroyed carefully laid out plans with units of Turcos and Bataillon D'Afrique becoming mixed up with each other. (125) Like the men of the First Tirailleurs Algeriens, the poilus of the Bat D'Af withered under intense machine-gun fire. There was poor coordination with neighboring units. (126) This episode revealed that the French tactical plans of 1917 were still too inflexible and did not take into account the fog of war or friction, to use Clausewitz's familiar terms.
Despite the courageous fighting of North-African units, it was metropolitan units that experienced the most "success" in the Nivelle offensive. The 6th and 20th Corps, which consisted of metropolitan troops, captured 20,000 German prisoners, 150 artillery pieces, and a few kilometers of German occupied territory. (127) French casualties were I 18,000 men, more than double what Nivelle had promised, with the First and Second Colonial Army Divisions suffering the highest casualties. Officially, the Nivelle offensive ended on 9 May, but there were local German counter-attacks in the region until mid-June.
French colonial forces did not fight against the German offensives until May 1918. Many of the new colonial troops who arrived at the front that tumultuous spring were old men and green draftees. There were prohibitive problems of amalgamation in veteran units. Some colonial commanders sent the very young troops to instruction battalions, while older soldiers were placed in France's geriatric reserve--the territorials. (128) But this did not solve the problems because of a shortage of officers for training. (129) Overall, French colonial combat and support forces performed well. West-Africans, Algerians, and the men of the colonial infantry launched a counter-attack on the canal that connected the Aisne and Marne Rivers. (130) Men of the Moroccan division slowed the German advance near Soissons. Turcos helped establish a defensive front near the city of Rheims. (131)
It was at the Battle of Rheims in June and July that the colonial troops of the First and Second Colonial Army Divisions performed heroically. During this battle, fourteen battalions of West-Africans stood out for their great sacrifice and courage. The climax of the battle came when the Germans launched an offensive on 15 July. The night before the German attack, a French trench raid captured some German soldiers, who, under interrogation, revealed that the German bombardment was to start at ten minutes past midnight. This enabled General Henri Gouraud (1867-1946) to engage in counter-battery fire and disrupt the German barrage. By the middle of July, the German offensive was halted. The effective French defense was partially made possible by the courageous combat of the West-Africans. Men of the 32nd B.T.S. drove the Germans from their positions and captured 20 artillery pieces, 60 machine guns, and four depots of munitions. (132)
The French high command was so impressed with the performance of colonial troops, especially the West-Africans, that there was a proposal to create an Armee Coloniale de Choc. Up to this point, the largest colonial infantry unit was a corps. This new Colonial Shock Army would consist of an amalgamation of West-Africans and European colonial infantry units. (133) These men were to be drawn from units already on the Western Front and from French Colonial units in the Balkans. (134) The latter could not be withdrawn until the Central Powers had been defeated there. Realistically, therefore, this plan could not be implemented until the spring of 1919.
By the middle of July 1918, the Germans were no longer able to attack, upon which the Allied Forces, reinforced by fresh American soldiers, launched full-scale offensives. Also, by July, General Mangin's reputation had recovered from the disasters of 1917 and he returned to command the Sixth Army. Mangin's Army included numerous colonial troops, and they continued to perform well in combat. In Mangin's offensive of late July, Foreign Legionnaires, Turcos, and Malagasy (Chasseurs) were the lead elements of the attacks. For its heroism, the Chasseurs Malgache received a unit citation. (135) The infantry assaults of various colonial units were now coordinated with aircraft attacks, rolling artillery bombardments and tank assaults. Units were constantly rotated to keep up morale and facilitate training. (136) Not every French colonial unit performed well. On 8 August, in Picardy, General Marie-Eugene Debeney (1864-1943)'s colonial battalion halted before a single German machine gun had been fired at it. (137) Another case of poor performance happened with the First Regiment de Chasseurs Malgache in September. While on patrol at night, the unit made a great deal of noise, including yelling halt to a European non-commissioned officer, which prompted the Germans to open fire. Several men were killed or wounded as a result of this blunder. The Malagasy who returned from the patrol were imprisoned for fifteen days. (138)
From September to November 1918, as the German Army continued to retreat, French colonial troops continued to fight in Allied offensives several times. The Turcos performed complicated maneuvers, penetrated German lines, and took hundreds of prisoners. (139) At the end of the war, they would occupy the Palatinate. Malagasy soldiers and Foreign Legionnaires were involved in tank assaults and house-to-house fighting in Bethiere that fall. (140) The Malagasy received more unit citations for their heroism. This was a testament to the high command confidence in these men. From the last year of the First World War through the Second World War, French colonial troops enjoyed a reputation for being excellent combat soldiers.
Even if most colonial soldiers were little familiar with the latest technology that was used at the front after war broke out, some French colonial troops had served in combat with the most advanced arms before the outbreak of the Great War. The French Army High Command had used colonial warfare as a testing ground for new technologies. This was evident in Morocco between 1911 and 1914, for example, where machine-guns, aircraft, automobiles, and radios had been used. But this in no way prepared colonial troops for combat on the Western Front, where they faced for the first time an opponent with large numbers of machine guns and artillery pieces. To make this even worse, their opponent knew how to use these weapons, unlike previous colonial opponents such as the Fons of Dahomey, who had (poorly) used machine guns against French forces in the 1890s.
Most French colonial soldiers had not been trained to use flares, mortars, machine-guns, wire cutters, grenades, or radios. Many of the veterans who had even a modicum of pre-war experience with these tools were dead by the end of the first year of the war. In the first half of the First World War, many indigenous troops were not given proper, up-to-date equipment, and this partially explains poorer combat performance and consequentially lower morale. Later, when indigenous units were given appropriate equipment, their combat performance improved. French colonial troops proved perfectly capable of operating with tanks, rolling barrages, and attack aircraft. By the last year of the war, the colonial troops' competence with new tactics and technology was indistinguishable from that of their metropolitan brothers-in-arms.
Closely related to the high command's view of French colonial indigenous troops was the issue of the alleged unique brutality of these men. From this, a brutality myth developed that applied not only to West-Africans but to other units as well. This myth lasted from the outbreak of the war through the postwar occupation of the Rhineland.
At the outbreak of the war, War Minister Adolphe Messimy (1869-1935) was worried that one of the Moroccan soldiers might commit some sort of outrage against French civilians, which would shock and alienate France's British allies. (141) When the Moroccan infantry actually went into combat, Messimy's worries prove to be unfounded. Messimy's erroneous foreboding reflected the anxieties of many metropolitan officials about using Moroccan and Senegalese troops. This unease would continue throughout the entire war and had a significant influence on the role of colonial troops in France during the Great War.
Perhaps it is understandable that a metropolitan civilian such as Messimy believed in such stories. It is much more surprising, however, that even someone such as Mangin, who had extensively worked with indigenous troops and promoted the Force Noire, accepted the brutality myth. Mangin believed that WestAfricans should be used in carefully prepared offensives and night attacks, as they might leave a traumatic impression upon the Germans. (142) Mangin argued as early as 1914 that the French military authorities should try to cultivate the image of ruthless barbarians to add to the hysteria of the First World War. African troops acquired the reputation of head-cutters who could, almost single-handedly, scare the "boche" (German) all the way back to Berlin. (143)
Later, in 1916, other colonial veterans such as General Jean-Baptiste Marchand (1863-1934) revisited the myth of African brutality. Marchand wanted to exploit the mythic image of West-Africans as barbaric decapitators. (144) It was indeed true that some German soldiers developed an irrational fear of West-African (and, incidentally, Moroccan) soldiers, but it was pure propagandistic fiction that the West-Africans would not take prisoners and mutilated wounded Germans. The numerous Journal de Marches of various Bataillons Tirailleurs Senegalais give no evidence of the mythic brutality of the WestAfricans. It is not clear if Marchand was the instigator of this particular myth. Regardless, Marchand probably knew better since he had so much experience with them.
After the war, the issue of French colonial soldiers' brutality became even more important during the French occupation of the Rhineland. There were 35,000 French colonial troops in 1919 in Mangin's Tenth Army that occupied the region. (145) Many of these men were part of the famous (and heterogeneous) Moroccan Division. The German people, politicians, and, especially, the German press reacted with horror at the use of troops of color by the newly named French Army of the Rhine. The German press called it "die scbwartze Schande" and predicted looting and raping by the "uncivilized" troops. (146) Thus, the French became to some degree victims of the success of their own wartime propaganda, in which they had portrayed the West African Tirailleurs as ferocious headcutters. In reality, the French high command used indigenous colonial troops not as part of some nefarious plot of revenge but because there was a shortage of shipping and rapid demobilization of European soldiers.
German accusations of barbaric behavior by French indigenous troops were pure fabrications. Not only did they maintain a high standard of decency, they were much more free from the vindictive attitudes that were common among many French troops. (147) French colonial troops were kept under the strictest discipline by severe punishments for minor infractions. In one case in April 1920, some Moroccan troops had to fire in self-defense on rioting German civilians. From January until June 1920, there were only 28 convictions for sexual assaults against women by all French indigenous troops, a remarkably low number in comparison to the behavior of other occupying troops. (148) Most of these attacks were committed by North-Africans. The French provided field brothels for the Arab soldiers, but the latter preferred local German ones. (149)
French colonial and metropolitan military authorities did not seriously focus on the morale of the rank-and-file until the army mutinies of 1917. By the fall of 1917, morale reports were required from all French units. This has created a wealth of archival material for the last year of the war. It is much more difficult to get a coherent picture of morale before the mutinies, but isolated acts of indiscipline, or minor mutinies, give some clues. It is evident that morale was affected by inter-racial relations, the physical health of the men, hospital accommodations, conditions of barracks, the frequency of combat, and casualty rates. The destruction of primary groups militated against high morale and poor morale resulted in poor combat performances and vice versa. The absence of experienced colonial officers familiar with particular ethnic or cultural groups' customs and religious practices negatively affected morale. Failure to develop a viable or equitable leave system caused depression among colonial soldiers. In the end, low morale could lead to acts of indiscipline or even mutiny.
In the first year of the war, colonial troops' morale was probably at its lowest ebb, partially because of the shock of encountering a new type of combat, but most importantly because of the extremely high rates of casualties. Lack of proper field equipment, inadequate training in tactical techniques, and absence of decent living accommodations kept morale low. Amazingly, during the Army Mutinies of 1917, few colonial troops mutinied and there were cases of colonial units being used to round up the mutineers. In the last year of the war, the morale of the colonial troops improved because of better housing, food, and equipment. Until demobilization, their morale remained high, but the extremely slow pace of that process caused great anxiety and depression.
Beginning in September 1914, there were examples of minor mutinies of French colonials. In September, Lieutenant Rabah Boukabouya, an Algerian officer, led some of his men to defect to the Germans and in the same month, twelve Zouaves were shot by firing squads for fleeing from the German onslaught. (150) The same happened to a dozen Turcos and a battalion of Tirailleurs Tunisiens refused to embark in September 1914. (151) Desertion became so severe among the Tirailleurs Tunisiens that General Victor d'Urbal felt that the French military authorities might have to resort to decimation, shooting every tenth man. In that month, eight Tirailleurs Tunisiens were first ordered to wear a sign that said "coward" in French and Arabic and then were shot. (152) French colonial troops were not the only ones shot for desertion; there were also a number of metropolitan soldiers executed. (153)
In February 1915, the French high command was concerned about the loyalty of Muslim troops because of the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war on the side of the Central Powers. This fear generated an intelligence report that said that the Tunisians were the least loyal and that the Moroccans were the most loyal. (154) The Germans put all Muslim prisoners into one prison camp, the Halbmondlager ("Crescent Camp," near Berlin), where they tried to entice them to join the Ottoman Army. For the entire war, however, only five to eight per cent of the French North Africans agreed to join the Ottomans. (155) This did not necessarily mean that over 90 percent of the Algero-Tunisian soldiers were loyal to France; it was more likely the case that they felt loyal neither to France nor the Ottoman Empire and they certainly had no desire to get killed in a war that was irrelevant to their homeland.
Often, new recruits arrived at the front with poor morale or soon became depressed after mingling with disgruntled veterans. Poor health and living conditions contributed to this. New sources of recruitment and fresh men were needed, because, by the end of 1915, the Arab and European soldiers were not only decimated, but those who survived were exhausted and of low morale. New recruits were not able to cope with harsh living conditions even in quiet sectors of the front because of poor preparation and bad sanitation. (156)
Despite the slaughter of Verdun, morale among French colonial troops improved after the initial shock of the German assault. Perhaps this came about because of better training, equipment, and living conditions behind the lines. The government worked hard to improve the morale of North-African troops. Free tobacco was distributed to Algero-Tunisian tirailleurs and some who were wounded were allowed to return home to convalesce from their wounds. (157) Perhaps slogans such as "ils ne passeront pas" ("they shall not pass") and "on les aura" ("we will get them"), although sounding somewhat hackneyed today, really did rally the men. Perhaps the French followed the correct strategy of tenir (holding on), which improved morale, instead of large-scale offensives. Whatever the explanation, the marginal improvement in morale was squandered in the Nivelle Offensive of 1917.
Most of the units that mutinied in the spring and summer of 1917 were metropolitan, not colonial units. Only a few soldiers of the First Colonial Army Corps (Corps d'Armee Colonial or C.A.C.) and one West-African and one Somali battalion mutinied. There were no acts of mutiny among the Armee d'Afrique. Some of the first mutinous acts occurred in the First C.A.C. when sent to the front to participate in the 5 May offensive. (158) After this, the high command prudently sent this unit to the rear, and the First C.A.C. would not play a major role in any of Petain's limited offensives in 1917. Both European and indigenous colonial troops were used to put down mutinies. When the metropolitan 212th Infantry Regiment mutinied on 3 June at the village of Moumelon-le-Petit, "some precautions were taken in the region and the Legion was alerted." (159) The Foreign Legion and many North-Africans were good candidates for the suppression of metropolitan units because they did not experience any mutinous incidents. (160)
By August, most of the mutinies dissipated in the wake of Petain's reforms. The last major mutiny occurred in a battalion of West African troops. At 2:00 P.M. on 13 August 1917, some men in three companies of the 61st Bataillon des Tirailleurs Senegalais refused to return to the trenches. They had served twice in the trenches during the summer as part of Third Colonial Infantry Division. (161) General Puyperoux, the divisional commander, tried to send European officers and noncommissioned officers as well as some West-African interpreters to calm down the mutineers of the First, Third, and Fourth companies. No amount of prodding could get them to go to the front line, so Puyperoux decided to meet with the mutineers the next morning at 7:15 A.M. (162) The night passed without incident.
The next morning, about 250 men met with the company commanders, but they refused to relinquish their weapons. Puyperoux tried to convince the men that the meeting was not a trap. The Tirailleurs told the general that the battalion "was not good, no rest, always making war, always killing blacks." (163) They asked to switch to another battalion. The French had two choices, fight a pitched battle or send the unit to the rear and later shoot the ringleaders. In the end, these men were sent to the rear. (164)
From the fall of 1917 until the summer of 1918, the morale of many North-Africans continued to improve. There were, of course, always demands and complaints. In the First Regiment of Algerian Tirailleurs the men asked for couscous and mutton and complained that some of their uniforms were defective. (165) There seemed to have been a "bread and circuses" approach to improving Algerian and Tunisian morale, and movies were shown to men to raise their morale. (166) Both metropolitan and colonial troops were heartened by the entrance of the United States to the war and the use of tanks.
In 1916 and 1917, West-African morale was poor behind the lines because of poor living conditions. One camp in the south of France was known as Camp Misery during the winter of 1916-17. However, when West-African troops went into winter quarters for the winter of 1917-18, they showed relatively high morale. In 1918, West-African troops remained in good morale. One soldier went so far as to remark, "Before I was a Negro, now I am French." (167) All the morale reports showed that the men were in good spirits. In the summer of 1918, during the various offensives (unlike the Nivelle offensive), the West-Africans were given up-to-date weapons, such as grenades and trench mortars. There were, of course, constant complaints about the rainy and chilly weather. (168) Besides the weather, complaints were leveled about leave policy and an absence of kola nuts, the favorite snack of West-Africans. (169) Many of the West-Africans were homesick, but they still were reported as having good morale at the end of the war.
Meanwhile, most Vietnamese did not want to go to France and many arrived in the metropole in poor health. (170) The Tonkinese troops suffered from the cold on the Western Front. The Vietnamese troops were annoyed by the failure of the French authorities to provide rice, but a bigger problem was receiving letters from their wives, who often told them they had remarried. Officers did try to cheer up these Vietnamese by celebrating Tet. (171) In general, the Vietnamese were given hazardous construction jobs near the front. Most Vietnamese who fought at the front did well and exhibited no mutiny problems in 1917. In 1918, Vietnamese morale continued to improve in spite of continual problems of adapting to the climate.
Malagasy often served in supply units like the Vietnamese, but those who fought at the front fought well. No Malagasy unit revolted in 1917 and all of them seem to have good morale. (172) Still, there were some problems with these troops. The young draftees had incomplete military training. They were poor at marching and wearing backpacks but their morale was very good. (173) Like the Indochinese, these unprepared albeit eager Malagasy wanted to serve at the front.
By 1916, the French military planners had developed a policy of hivernage or wintering some groups of indigenous troops usually from October to April in the south of France. This policy was adopted because the French Army authorities realized that certain ethnic groups could not physically survive the rigors of a northern French winter. Generally, West-Africans, Malagasy, and Vietnamese from Cochinchina were believed to need wintering. It was decided that North-African soldiers and Vietnamese from Tonkin could survive the cold weather in the trenches. French colonial troops did not spend the entire winter months sitting idle in the barracks, however, for some were assigned manual labor and virtually all these men received more training. As French colonial troops were trained in the latest tactical techniques with new technology, their combat performance improved, which in turn bolstered morale. The links between the living conditions, training, and combat performance were often quite close.
When an indigenous North-African soldier was wounded, he took a complicated route toward recovery. First, the soldier was treated in a field hospital very close to the front lines. If he survived the field hospital, he was sent to a sanitary formation in the interior. Here, men were sent to hospital depots in regional convalescent centers. Fifty percent of those men who fully recovered were returned to the front, while the other half were sent to Tunisia or Algeria on eight days leave. Men who were seriously wounded could be sent to their families in Tunisia or Algeria. No Moroccan soldiers were sent home, probably because that nation was not fully under French control. Some of the men who recovered from their wounds were sent to regimental depots in North Africa. No rationale was given for why some men were given leave, while others went to the front or North-African depots. The whole system seemed rather capricious. (174)
To improve the morale of the wounded men in hospitals, they were given free tobacco. (175) Further, the Muslim feast of Moulad was celebrated; Muslim chaplains, copies of the Koran, and couscous were provided for the Tirailleurs' comfort. Catholic priests were proscribed from trying to evangelize Muslim troops. When many of these men recovered and prepared to return to the front, they were provided with new metal helmets, clothes, boots, and soap. (176)
Housing for the North-Africans was not always good, but French military authorities did have inspectors in 1917 to see that the Tirailleurs lived in acceptable conditions. At Forbin Barracks, the heating system was in good condition, the water was of good quality, and there were sufficient latrines. (177) The hot showers functioned perfectly and there was a well installed infirmary. The Tunisians not only complained about poor food, but poor housing at times, often sleeping in barns on bales of hay. (178) In many cases, the Tunisians had to sleep in fields or burned-out villages with little shelter against the cold, rain, and snow.
The suffering of West-African troops from cold weather in the fall of 1914 pushed the French military authorities to adopt wintering in 1916 when the West-Africans returned to the Western Front. By fall 1916 there were over 40,000 West-Africans on the Western Front and barracks and camps were hastily built in the south of France. (179) At one of the major camps, Camp Corneau, conditions were deplorable. Initially, the West-Africans lived in tents but soon they were moved into pre-fabricated Adrian barracks. These barracks tended to be too hot during the day and too cold at night. (180) Heating was a problem because of an administrative backlog on fuel (coal). There was still no electricity and the soldiers used oil lamps (which was not very safe). (181)
In 1916, the French Army was using large numbers of West-Africans for the first time and realized that some special arrangement for the diet of these men had to be made. West-Africans had a similar diet as the Europeans, but kola nuts and millet were added to their diet. (182) Food for the West-Africans was abundant, but did not encourage the most robust health of these men. It was not until after the French Army mutinies that the French military authorities tried to provide appropriate and traditional food for troops from other parts of the empire as well as the Africans.
There were early attempts to improve living conditions by entertaining the troops. An alim and Sudanese musical instruments were provided, and there was also a theater and soccer to relieve the boredom. (183) The camp commander of Corneau said that the camp could no longer be referred to as "Camp de Misiere." (184) Blaise Diagne would still continue his complaints about the camp, but they would fall on deaf ears.
Religion was particularly important in West-African camps, and in general, imams preached fidelity to the French cause to the West-Africans. It was easier for Muslims to practice their beliefs in France than the adherents of traditional religions, because the traditional religious rituals of the latter were difficult to transport. The French Army refused to allow the Roman Catholic Church to work with the West-African Tirailleurs out of a fear that Christian proselytizing would disrupt morale. Not even priests with extensive experience in Africa were allowed to work with the tirailleurs. (185)
Whereas the Algero-Tunisians benefitted from a well-organized and highly supervised system of hospitals, wounded or ill West-Africans were often placed in old seminaries or villas. (186) They tended to be segregated from white and Arab troops. The biggest and best hospital facility for West-Africans was in the town of Menton. Physicians who dealt with West-Africans had to contend with everything from the usual war wounds to pulmonary problems to even cases of the plague. (187) There were very high death rates at Menton from pulmonary problems.
The living conditions of Indochinese and Malagasy troops were very similar to those of West-African troops. There was wintering for some Vietnamese soldiers, with the men from the northern part of the colony staying at the front and men from the southern part sent to winter quarters in the Midi, as we saw earlier. In the end, this policy proved impractical and all Vietnamese eventually wintered in the south.
In 1916, French military authorities took few sanitary precautions in shipping over Indo-Chinese Tirailleurs or in their initial lodging in the metropole. The Journal de Marche of the 13th Bataillon Tirailleurs Indochinois discussed the shipping of this unit. Some of the 1,200 men of this unit became infected with cholera, of which 99 died. The latrines were too few and unsanitary, as was the kitchen. (188) Due to the atrocious shipping conditions, Annamite military hospitals were created in France as early as March 1916.
The French segregated the various indigenous colonial units as far as hospitalization was concerned. They were divided into separate institutions for WestAfricans and North-Africans, but Indochinese and Malagasy were hospitalized together. (189) Indochinese hospitals were set up at Frejus and Saint Raphael. Special provisions were made for the cooking of appropriate rice-based cuisine for these soldiers. (190) The Vietnamese were fairly satisfied with the food the French provided for them, even though it was unfamiliar. Bread was replaced by rice. (191) The Vietnamese were likewise satisfied with the clothes they were issued. These soldiers rarely followed military events, and in general the nientalite of the men was excellent. (192)
Malagasy men were often grouped in with West-African and Creoles (soldiers from the West Indies) and similar lodging, clothes, and food were arranged for them. Malagasy troops were placed in pre-fabricated Adrian barracks like the West-Africans and were allowed to winter in the south of France. It was crucial to keep the barracks warm during the winter, so coats and sweaters were often distributed to the men. (193) Each barracks was given a 100-day supply of wood. The Malagasy soldiers did not suffer many of the health problems the West-Africans faced. On doctor reported that the sanitary state was excellent; the soldiers were robust and vigorous. (194) Overall, the living conditions for the Creoles, Malagasy, and West-Africans were acceptable and continually improved.
In the last year of the war, wintering worked quite well. Indigenous soldiers' morale improved, which increased their combat effectiveness. The time of wintering in the south of France was spent in advanced military training. It was also an opportunity to improve unit cohesion in the indigenous units. In the end, wintering played an important role in the conduct of the war in the last six months of 1918.
The Great War came as a shock to all combatants who first engaged in this massive industrial-scale slaughter and perhaps it was the greatest shock to the men from Africa and Asia of the French Empire. The French Colonial Army had to shift from fighting fairly unsophisticated colonial campaigns in austere condition, to large-scale, complex operations with terrifying and sophisticated technologies. Further, it faced cultural shock in a new alien country and climate. It took several years for these men and, likewise, French military elites to adjust to this dramatic change. The use of French colonial troops from all over the world shows, too, that the First World War was truly a global struggle.
France went to great efforts to recruit, mobilize, and deploy indigenous soldiers from great distances. It did so because of their proven record of combat effectiveness in small wars and because it was desperately short of European men in the face of Germanic demographic superiority. It was a total war for both the metropole and its colonies. This not only changed the history of France but had long lasting impact on the history of nations from Algeria to Vietnam. In the end, this global war brought indigenous men from Africa and Asia into close, continuous contact with Europeans.
After several slow years of adjustment, the French military establishment was able to use colonial troops effectively in combat. This was accomplished by improving training, military equipment, and living conditions to raise the morale and combat effectiveness of these men. While the exhausted French Army was struggling to survive the last year of the war, the colonial troops were at their peak performance. The French military was so impressed by the combat effectiveness of these colonial troops that they continued to use them in the inter-war years to occupy Germany, Turkey, and the Middle East. Later in the 1920s, French colonial troops fought major campaigns in Morocco in the Rif Rebellion (192-527) and Syria in the Druze rebellion (1925-27). The Great War led to the "hollow years" in France and French colonial troops played a major role in French military planning in the late 1930s as they faced the Nazi menace. In 1940, nearly 20 percent of French forces in France came from West- and North-Africa, a significant increase from the Great War. French colonial troops continued to fight for France until the early 1960s.
The use of French colonial troops was an important and culturally binding event for the metropole in the colonies. The long-term significance of the tense and tumultuous relationship created between France and its colonies in the Great War is often either misunderstood or downplayed by contemporary historians. In the twenty-first century, French soldiers and the troops of its former empire are still fighting side by side in West-Africa. Today, French forces are fighting in Mali to aid their former colony fighting radical Islamist insurgents. The legacy of this sometimes tragic relationship can be traced back to the crucible of the Great War. Even in the twenty-first century, the global problems created by the First World War remain to be solved.
(1.) See Robert Doughty, Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2008.
(2.) Paul Azan, L'Armee d'Afrique de 1830-1852, Paris: Plon, 1936.
(3.) The French used the term "indigenous" for the African population of their colonies and called the military units made up of Africans "indigenous troops."
(4.) Douglas Porch, "French Army in the First World War," in Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray, eds, Military Effectiveness: The First World War, vol. 1, Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman, 1988, 190-228: 198.
(5.) Jean-Charles Jauffret, "Les Armes de la Plus Grande France," in Andre Corvisier, ed., Histoire militaire de la France, vol. 3: De 1871 a 1940, Paris: P.U.F., 1997, 43-70: 61.
(6.) Marc Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique: Contributions et Reactions a Effort de Guerre en A.O.F. 1914-1919, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1982, 84.
(7.) Ibid., 85.
(8.) Charles Balesi, From Adversaries to Comrades in Arms: West Africans and the French Military 1885-1918, Waltham, MA: Crossroads Press, 1979, 90.
(9.) Ibid., 78.
(10.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 235.
(11.) Myron Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts: The Tirailleurs Senegalais in French West Africa 1857-1960, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990, 45.
(12.) Marc Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 239.
(13.) Service Historique de l'Armee de la Terre [hereafter abbreviated as S.H.A.T.], 7N440, "Telegram from Diagne, Dakar, 3 March 1918" [documents are given titles translated from French into English by the author, ed.]; S.H.A.T., 7N2120, "Note on the recruitment of Senegalese in French West Africa," 21 February 1918; Balesi, From Adversaries to comrades in Arms, 94.
(14.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 260.
(15.) S.H.A.T. 7NN440, "General Commander in Chief of the Armies of the North General Mondrol," 17 December 1917.
(16.) Regarding the use of black troops, see S.H.A.T. 7N2120.
(17.) Gilbert Meynier, L'Algerie Revelee: La guerre de 1914-1918 et le premier quart du XXe siecle, Geneva, 1981: Librairie Droz, 394.
(18.) Ibid., 397.
(19.) S.H.A.T. 7N2108, "The situation of Effectives in North Africa," 13 November 1916.
(20.) Meynier, L'Algerie Revelee, 500-1.
(21.) Meynier, L'Algerie Revelee, 593.
(22.) Ibid., 593-8.
(23.) S.H.A.T. 8N74, "Journal de Marche du 16th Battalion of Tirailleurs Indochinois."
(24.) Joseph Buttinger, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled, vol. 1, New York: Praeger, 1967, 97.
(25.) S.H.A.T. 8N74, "Journal de Marche of 13th [Battalion] Tirailleurs Indochinois, 1916."
(26.) Jacques Vernet, "L'Effort de Guerre de Madagascar de 1914-1918," vol. 2, Master's Thesis, University of Paris, 1972-3, 34.
(27.) Ibid., 39.
(28.) Ibid., 41.
(29.) S.H.A.T. 7N440, "Note for Headquarter of the Direction of Colonial Troops," May 1917.
(30.) S.H.A.T. 24N2905, "List of Elements to Transport," August 1914.
(31.) Edward Spears, Liaison 1914: A Narrative of the Great Retreat, London: Heinemann, 1930, 482-3.
(32.) S.H.A.T. 26N463, "Journal de Marche of the First Moroccan Division," August and September 1914.
(34.) See Joseph S. Gallieni, Memories du General Gallieni, defense de Paris, 25 aout-11 septembre 1914, Paris: Payot and Cie, 1920, 92.
(35.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 288.
(36.) S.H.A.T. 16N195, "General Mangin to the General of the Third Army Corps," 29 September 1914.
(37.) S.H.A.T. 26N859, "Journal de Marche de Bat d'Af," January 1915.
(38.) Named after a contraption used to haul water from a well, it was intended to rotate troops from the front-line before they became exhausted.
(39.) S.H.A.T. Z2N405, "General Berdoulat to the Colonel and Commander of the Chasseurs d'Afrique," 25 July 1915.
(40.) For more details on the Spahis, see Anthony Clayton, France, Soldiers and Africa, London: Brassey's, 1988.
(41.) S.H.A.T. 7N2120, "Minister of War to the Commander in Chief," 30 March 1916.
(42.) S.H.A.T. 7N2120, "Colonial Troops in France or West Africa," 10 June 1916.
(43.) S.H.A.T. 26N870, "Senegalese Battalions Respecive Journaux de Marche."
(44.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 300.
(45.) Ibid., 302.
(46.) Jean Charbonneau, ed., Les troupes coloniales pendant la guerre 1914-1918, Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1931, 123.
(47.) Edward Spears, Prelude to Victory, London: J. Cape, 1939, 264-5.
(48.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 313.
(49.) Charbonneau, Troupes Coloniales, 129.
(50.) Ibid., 130; Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique.
(51.) S.H.A.T. 24N2905, "The State of the units of the Moroccan Division" [July 1918].
(52.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 324-30.
(53.) Ibid., 330.
(54.) Ibid., 331.
(55.) Ibid., 331.
(56.) Ibid., 331-2.
(57.) Shelby Davis, Reservoirs of Men: A History of Black Troops in West Africa, Geneva: Librairie Kundig, 1934, 166.
(58.) Clayton, France, Soldiers and Africa, 346.
(59.) Buttinger, Vietnam, vol. 1, 96-100.
(60.) Clayton, France, Soldiers and Africa, 252.
(61.) S.H.A.T. 7N2109. "The Recruitment of North Africans (Algerians and Tunisians) and the Intervention of Combat Regiments."
(62.) S.H.A.T. 16N194, "Note on the re-organization of native Tirailleur regiments," 24 March 1915.
(63.) S.H.A.T. 16N194, "Muller and Minister of War to the Commander in Chief," 22 February 1916.
(64.) S.H.A.T. 16N195, "Roques, Minister of War to Joffre," 18 April 1916.
(65.) Meynier, Algerie Revelee, 419.
(66.) S.H.A.T. 7N441, "Study on the organization of a Black Reserve Army" [September 1918].
(68.) S.H.A.T. 24N2905. Humbert, "Directives of the commanding General on the means realized of cohesion in the approach and attack," August 1914.
(69.) S.H.A.T. 22N406, "Prescriptions in fire of upcoming combat," 14 August 1914.
(70.) S.H.A.T. 25N550, "Depot of Captain Fromgic the night attack of 24 October 1914."
(72.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 291.
(73.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 288.
(74.) See Cyril Falls, The Great War, New York: Putnam, 1959, 111.
(75.) S.H.A.T. 26N855, "Journal de Marche & Operations 2nd Mixte Regiment," 1st Trimester 1915.
(76.) S.H.A.T. 26W463, "The Glory of the Moroccan Division."
(78.) For Joffre's high opinion of this unit, see Joseph Joffre, The Memoirs of Marchal joffre, vol. 2, trans. T. Bendy Matt, London: G. Bles, 1932, 351.
(79.) Charbonneau, Troupes Coloniales, 72.
(80.) S.H.A.T. 22N405, "General Fayolle, Note Concerning Partial Attacks in Trench Warfare," 27 June 1915.
(81.) Douglas Porch, The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force, New York: HarperCollins, 1991, 357.
(82.) S.H.A.T. 26N865, "Journal de Marches et Operations de 21st Regiment d'Infantrie Coloniale," 25 September 1915.
(84.) S.H.A.T. 26N855, "Report of Lieutenant Colonel Amiche, the 2nd Regiment Mixte of Zouaves and Tirailleurs on the operation of the days of 27 October."
(86.) S.H.A.T. 25N515, "An account of the operations on the day of 6 October," 8 October, 1915.
(87.) Joffre, Memoirs, vol. 2, 361.
(88.) S.H.A.T. 25N515, "An account of the operations on the day of 6 October," 8 October 1915.
(90.) Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History, New York: H. Holt, 1994, 232.
(91.) Charbonneau, Troupes Coloniales, 105.
(92.) S.H.A.T. 16N195, "Letter from the Minister of War to General Commander-in-Chief," April 19, 1916.
(93.) Alistair Horne, The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, London: Penguin, 1962, 161.
(94.) Ibid., 160.
(95.) S.H.A.T. 26N870, "Journal he Marche et operations de 43rd Bataillon Tirailleurs Senegalais."
(96.) Horne, Price of Glory, 314.
(97.) Louis-Eugene Mangin, he General Mangin 1866-1925, Paris: F. Lanore, 1986, 197-8.
(98.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 303.
(99.) S.H.A.T. 26W870, "Senegalese Battalion Journal de Marche of 43rd B.T.S."
(100.) Horne, The Price of Glory, 317.
(101.) S.H.A.T. 26N865, "Journal de Marche of the 24th Colonial Infantry Regiment."
(104.) Charbonneau, Troupes Coloniale, 118.
(105.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 301.
(106.) Ibid., 301.
(107.) S.H.A.T. 26N463, "To the Glory of the Moroccan Division."
(109.) Spears, Prelude to Victory, 492.
(110.) Charbonneau, Troupes Coloniale, 137.
(111.) Charbonneau, Troupes Coloniale, 141.
(112.) Ibid., 143.
(113.) Mangin, General Mangin, 225-6.
(114.) S.H.A.T. 26N870, "Journal de March of the 48th B.T.S."
(115.) Spears, Prelude to Victory, 490.
(116.) S.H.A.T. 26N844, "Journal de Marche 70th B.T.S.," 16 April 1917.
(117.) Spears, Prelude to Victory, 505.
(118.) S.H.A.T. 26N844, "Is' Regiment of the Tirailleurs Algeriens Summary Resume of operations," 17 to 21 April 1917.
(121.) S.H.A.T. 26N463, "To the Glory of the Moroccan Division."
(123.) S.H.A.T. 26N859, "Journal de Marche 1st Bataillon d'Afrique," 17 April 1917.
(127.) John Williams, Mutiny 1917, London: Heinemann, 1962; Hubert Johnson, Breakthrough: Tactics, Technology and the Search for Victory on the Western Front in World War I, Novato, CA: Presidio, 1994, 194.
(128.) S.H.A.T. 16N197, "Transmitted for the decision of the Commander-in-Chief," 12 May 1918.
(130.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 326.
(131.) S.H.A.T. 26N463, "To the Glory of the Moroccan Division."
(132.) S.H.A.T. 26N870, "Journal de Marche of 32nd B.T.S."; Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 327.
(133.) S.H.A.T. 7N441, "Note for the 1st Bureau, 14 July 1918."
(135.) S.H.A.T. 26N463, "To the Glory of the Moroccan Division."
(137.) John Toland, No Man's Land: 1918, The Last Year of the Great War, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980, 283.
(138.) S.H.A.T. 26N875, "Journal de Marche of the First Regiment of the Chasseurs Malagache," September 1918. 139
(139.) S.H.A.T. 26N463, "To the Glory of The Moroccan Division".
(141.) S.H.A.T. 16N194, "Note on the use of Native Chasseurs coming from Morocco," 12 August 1914.
(142.) S.H.A.T. 16N195, "General Mangin to the commander of the Third Army Corps," 29 September 1914.
(143.) Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts, 37.
(144.) S.H.A.T. 7N2121, "Note on the use of Senegalese 10th Colonial Infantry Divisions," October 1916.
(145.) Clayton, France, Soldiers and Africa, 103.
(146.) Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts, 38.
(147.) Clayton, France, Soldiers and Africa, 103.
(148.) Ibid., 103-4.
(149.) Ibid., 104.
(150.) Ibid., 249; Meynier, L'Algerie Revelee, 274-5. Boukabouya subsequently wrote several pamphlets critical of the French military's attitude toward Muslims (see for example Lieutenant indigene Boukaouya (Hadj Abdallah) de tirailleurs Algeriens, Les soldats musulmans au Service de la France, Lausanne: Librarie Nouvelle, 1917).
(151.) Clayton, France, Soldiers and Africa, 250.
(152.) Meynier, L'Algerie Revelee, 275-82.
(153.) Spear, Liaison 1914, 471-2.
(154.) S.H.A.T. 16N194, "H.Q. Africa Section Intelligence Bulletin," 15 February 1915.
(155.) Meynier, L'Algerie Revelee, 454-5.
(156.) S.H.A.T. 16N195, "Major Dicks-Dilly to Commander to the First Mixed Regiment of Zouaves Tirailleurs," 26 December 1915.
(157.) S.H.A.T. 7N2113.
(158.) Mangin, General Mangin, 238.
(159.) S.H.A.T. Dossier Mordraq, "General Antheme to General and Commander Group Army Center," 5 June 1917.
(160.) Porch, French Foreign Legion, 370.
(161.) S.H.A.T. 16N197, "General Puyperoux Compte-Rendu of the Incidents of 61 B.T.S.," 14 August 1917.
(165.) S.H.A.T. 16N1517, "1!I Regiment Tirailleurs Algerians," 29 September 1917.
(166.) S.H.A.T. 16N1507, "Compte-Rendu 2nd Mixed Regiment of Zouaves and Tirailleurs," 4 November 1917.
(167.) Michel, L'Appel a I'Afrique, 384.
(168.) S.H.A.T. 16N1507, "Rapport of Major Laforgere commander of 75th B.T.S. on the state of their morale," 5 November 1918.
(170.) S.H.A.T. 26N874, "Journal de Marche of 13 Bataillon Tirailleurs Indochinois," 18 June 1916.
(171.) S.H.A.T. 25N551, "Note of Brief of General Staff November 1917."
(172.) S.H.A.T. 26N875, "Journal de Marche of Malagasy Tirailleur Battalions."
(173.) S.H.A.T. 16N1507, "Note on the 7th Malagasy Supply Battalion," 10 April 1918.
(174.) S.H.A.T. 7N2113 Annexe to Note Z2780, 17 May 1915.
(175.) S.H.A.T. 7N2113 Officer-interpreter Blancat, 17 Military District Toulouse, 21 February 1916.
(176.) S.H.A.T. 7N212, "Minister of War to the General and Commander in Chief," 5 June 1916.
(177.) S.H.A.T. 7N1992, "Report on the hygienic conditions of the depot of 5th Tirailleurs at Aix en Provence," 3 January 1917.
(178.) S.H.A.T. 7N2107, "Postal control of Tunis, April 1917."
(179.) Michel, L'Appel a I'Afrique, 366.
(180.) S.H.A.T. 7N440, "Colonial Fonnsagrives to General Famm," November 1916.
(182.) S.H.A.T. 16N195, "The Minister of War to Commander-in-chief," 16 April 1916.
(183.) S.H.A.T. 7N440, "Colonel Fonnsagrives, Commander of Camp Corneau to Lenoral Famm, Director of Colonial troops," November 1916.
(185.) Michel, L'Appel a L'Afrique, 380-3.
(186.) Ibid., 369.
(187.) Ibid., 370.
(188.) S.H.A.T. 26N874, "Journal de Marche of the 13th Bataillon of Tirailleurs Indochinois," 20 April-18 June, 1916.
(189.) S.H.A.T. 7N2113, "Justin Godart, Hospitalization of Annamite soldiers," 31 May 1916.
(191.) S.H.A.T. 16N1507, "3rd Indochinois Supply Battalion Report of the Morale of the Troops," 14 September 1917.
(193.) S.H.A.T. 7N2120, "Doctor Colomb, Inspect of the Colonial soldiers, Report on the sanitary evaluation of Colonial Troops."
William Dean is in the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, and is an associate professor of comparative military studies. His most recent work is "Morale of French Colonial Troops on the Western Front," published in Scientia Militaria: The Journal of South African Military Studies.
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|Author:||Dean, William T., III|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2014|
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