French colonials on the Somme

Here’s an interesting video presentations about the colonial troops who fought for France in the 1916 Battle of the Somme. I think of that battle as an unmitigated British disaster — France contributed three corps, including the I Colonial, and did pretty well, actually advanced their line. But they got dragged down by the British failure on the north end of the battlefield. You needn’t understand French to appreciate this video, although I’m sure I would appreciate it more if my French went beyond a lazy eighth-grader’s.

In 1915, 6,000 French, Algerian and Moroccan colonial troops died in the first minutes of the first German gas attack at St.-Julien. More were killed trying to escape the gas, mowed down by machine guns. The British and Canadians rushed into the gap, which had surprised the Germans, But that’s a story for another day.


Three French soldiers captured by the Germans in 1918. Two of them are from Senegal. This photo is from a fantastic collection of postcards on, posted by collector drakegoodman.