MORALE AMONG FRENCH COLONIAL TROOPS ON THE WESTERN FRONT DURING WORLD WAR I: 1914–1918

  • William Dean

Abstract

The traditional images of the French Army in World War I on the WesternFront from Cyril Falls’s to Marc Ferro’s surveys (both entitled The Great War 1914–1918) have been that of the grizzled yet determined French peasant or worker – thepoilu. It is clear from recent research that this is far from accurate and that theFrench forces were far more heterogeneous than portrayed by previous images.1Men were called from all over the French empire to serve in the frontline and inlogistics units. Virtually every part of the French Empire responded, althoughsomewhat grudgingly, even including Tahiti, which provided a Bataillon Pacifique.Bringing men to a foreign land and culture to fight in a new type of horrific war wasquite a strain on these 600 000 soldiers.2 The bulk of these soldiers were drawn fromNorth and West Africa, with smaller numbers coming from Madagascar, Indochinaand Equatorial Africa. This article is an attempt at giving an impressionistic glimpseof this subject describing colonial morale both at the frontlines and behind the lines,seeing how they compare to their metropole comrades and trying to gain anunderstanding of the vie quotiedienne of the colonial soldier.
Published
2011-08-10
How to Cite
Dean, W. (2011). MORALE AMONG FRENCH COLONIAL TROOPS ON THE WESTERN FRONT DURING WORLD WAR I: 1914–1918. Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies, 38(2). https://doi.org/10.5787/38-2-89
Section
Articles