Friday, 30 May 2014

Military History Photo Friday: North African and Portuguese WWI Uniforms

One of the more unusual scenes in Trench Raiders, the World War One novel I'm currently writing, has some of the British troops meeting up with French Moroccan troops. When we think of the war, we tend to think of the British, French, and Germans, while in fact it was a world war. The European powers had vast colonies and they drew troops from these to help with the war effort. Also, many smaller countries jumped on the bandwagon. Few parts of the world remained untouched.

When I was in Brussels last month I got to visit that city's fine military museum. Of course they have a huge WWI section! Above is a uniform of a French Spahi, a colonial soldier from northwest Africa from 1914. Below is the uniform of a Portuguese infantryman from the 35th Battalion, 1917-1918.

The Moroccan troops were a mix of Berbers and Arabs. My characters get very curious about these troops because they've only heard of these folks from books and illustrated newspapers! By all accounts they fought well, although they were poorly supported by the French high command. At the Battle of the Aisne in 1914 the Moroccan regiments weren't even assigned any medical personnel. British medics had to take care of their wounded.

The Portuguese didn't come into the war until 1916 and didn't arrive at the Western Front until the following year. Poorly trained and inexperienced, they fared badly and broke in the face of a large German offensive in April 1918.

For more pics of the museum's WWI collection, check out this article I wrote for Black Gate.

1 comment:

D.G. Hudson said...

I always learn interesting things at your blog, and seeing museum items is a fave pastime.

I had a grandfather in WWI. There was a full photo of him on horse, but grandmother had it cropped to make a portrait. Yikes.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.