Senegalese riflemen in the First World War

In 1914, the call to the colonial troops place as of the entry in war of France. These soldiers come from the French West Africa (AOF) and engaged in the conflict will border the 200,000 men. Known for their commitment with the combat, the Senegalese riflemen – who bear this name because the first regiment was created in Senegal –, is one of the military bodies belonging to the Colonial army. It was made up on July 21st, 1857 by Louis Faidherbe, general governor of the AOF, which wished to have indigenous units of combat in order to stage with the insufficiency of metropolitan manpower. For the little story, the term “rifleman” indicates, according to the military terminology, “a combatant who progresses in order dispersed while drawing on several occasions, with insistence”

During the First World War, the History regards the Senegalese riflemen as the principal element of the “black force”, according to the expression of the Mangin general. On September 17th, 1914, the first colonial troops arrive indeed in metropolis, at the origin of the quotas of units of mixed walk (Europeans and Africans); one counts there more than 10,000 Senegalese riflemen. These regiments raised to Black Africa forward initially by North Africa, before joining the Western face in Europe by Marseilles or the face of Minor Asia, in Dardanelles. At the last quarters 1915,30.000 new Senegalese riflemen reinforce the first manpower; the decree of October 9th, 1915 took part in this surge, ordering the mobilization of the Africans of more than 18 years, but especially offering 200 francs to the volunteers. In 1916, 51,000 additional riflemen will join them. The valorous participation of the Senegalese soldiers by 1914 systranLinks, brand spirits of the European combatants. They are emphasized as of the first months of the conflict, in Yves and Dixmude, then they take part largely in the resumption of the fort of Douaumont in 1916. One finds them in April 1917 in the battle of the Way of the Ladies, where 7,000 of them are killed on the 15,000 engaged, including nearly 2,000 the first two days of the offensive. In 1918, they are illustrated again, in the middle of the battle of Rheims for the release and the defense of the city; a Monument with the heroes of the black army was set up besides there to pay them homage in 1924. At the exit of the conflict, the French colonial army counts to 89 regiments of colonial infantry (RIC) made up Senegalese riflemen, of which nine were decorated by the military decoration with quotations or the Military Cross 1914-1918. Presented by German propaganda like cannibals, little disciplined according to our allies British but honoured by the French Army and called later by the academician Léopold Sédar Senghor the “black Mastiffs of the Empire”, the Senegalese riflemen will be on all fronts, but will pay the full price of it. More than 30,000 Senegalese riflemen will perish indeed at the time of the first world war, on the 135,000 who were useful in Europe – a frightening mortality rate of 185 per thousand. Laurent Albaret


  1. Salif Mamadou Bocar Mamoudou NDIAYE says:

    Mon grand père Bocar Mamoudou NDIAYE du village de voudourou dans le cercle de Matam (région de Saint louis ) au Sénégal a participé à la première guerre mondiale juste vers la fin . D’après les explications que m’a données mon père , il a été mobilisé juste après sa naissance en janvier 1918 .Il était revenu saint et sauf avec ses trois autres amis avec une belle photo de souvenir que je détiens par devers de moi .j’aimerai avoir plus d’informations en ce qui concerne le régiment qu’il appartenait et combien de temps il a fait en France , l’itènére qu’il a suivi depuis le vllage de woudourou jusqu’en France et de la France jusqu’au Sénégal ( jusqu’au village de woudourou mon village natale.Mes remerciements .

    • Andreu Gaetan says:

      Bonjour Monsieur Salif je suis actuellement à Saint-Louis pour faire des recherche sur les tirailleurs Sénégalais dans un devoir de mémoire du centenaire de cette guerre pour ma région natale qu’est le Nord Pas de Calais , serait -il possible , si cela ne vous dérange pas de bien vouloir me communiquer des information sur votre grand père M Ndiaye

      Avec tout mon respect Merci.

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