Tirailleurs Senegalais

by Mitch on October 31, 2010 0 Comments

French authorities trained these Senegalese soldiers in the 1930s. Such troops were expected to help defend France’s claims to French West Africa against European rivals.

Tirailleurs Senegalais in World War I France.


The Tirailleurs Senegalais were West African Colonial Army troops who fought for the French during World War I, World War II, and in numerous conquest, police, and colonial counterinsurgency operations. Despite the name, the Tirailleurs Senegalais were composed of soldiers recruited and conscripted from throughout French West Africa and not just from Senegal. However, recruitment and casualty burdens for Senegalese soldiers often numbered among the highest of the Tirailleurs Senegalais.


The Tirailleurs Senegalais were created as the first permanent units of black African soldiers under French rule in 1857. From 1857 to 1905 the Tirailleurs Senegalais was primarily a mercenary force composed of slaves and Africans from low social ranks although a small group of well-born Africans ...

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by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

The battle of Adowa from an Ethiopian perspective.

A process of political centralization was clearly underway in Ethiopia on the eve of European penetration. To be more precise, what was being attempted, beginning with the reign of Emperor Tewodros II (1855–68), was a restoration of the Solomonic empire of the early Christian era. Ancient Ethiopia, centred on the holy city of Axum in the northern province of Tigray, its civilization a fertile blend of pre-Muslim South Arabian, Hebraic and Hellenistic influences, its Christianized emperors claiming descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, had been a major regional political and military power and a key participant in the three-cornered trading network linking India, East Africa and the Mediterranean basin. Over the succeeding centuries, however, the rising tide of Islam had forced the empire to retreat into the more remote central and southern portions of the Ethiopian highlands. Already ...

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by Mitch on October 5, 2010 2 Comments

After investing Tuyen Quang with a belt of trenches anchored in several surrounding villages, the Black Flags assailed the French-held fort with intermittent mining, bombardment and direct assaults.



It was also a century ago that a mean little war took place in a distant and fetid place—called, by its own people, Vietnam.


By William F. Coffey


The men of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Regiment were excited. No more boring garrison duty at Sidi-bel¬Abbes, headquarters of the French Foreign Legion. They had been ordered to prepare for duty in Tonkin, some unknown land in the Far East. Action and adventure beck-med. The ceaseless drudgery of garrison life in North Africa vas over.


Since motorized vehicular transportation was unknown in 1883, the battalion, 600 strong, marched every step of the 60 lot dusty miles north to the Algerian port of Oran, each man heavily burdened with his equipment ...

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Battle for Kufra 1941

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

A1940 Chevrolet WA is seen in the configuration developed by the LRDG for their operations in North Africa. The vehicle illustrated carries a Lewis gun behind the cab and a Browning .30 cal M1919 with AA barrel above the dashboard.

8 March 1941.


France had fallen, her empire in tatters, but her flag still flew from the isolated but strategically important ex-Italian fort of El Tag which dominated the Kufra oasis in Southern Libya. Free France had struck a blow, a beginning in the campaign to recapture France and defeat the Axis.


Colonel Leclerc and the intrepid Lt Col d’Ornano (commander of French Forces in Chad), on the orders of De Gaulle in London, were tasked with attacking Italian positions in Libya with the motley forces at their disposal in Chad which had declared for Free France. Kufra was the obvious target. The task of striking at the heavily ...

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Italian Desert Specforce

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments
Una Fiat-SPA AS42 "Sahariana" delle Compagnie Auto-avio sahariane.
From late 1941 improved Italian leadership brought about some changes in doctrine: camel-mounted units were reduced in number and strength while well-armed, fully motorized patrols were formed. Mobile patrols were now intended to cover wider areas from their fixed strongpoints, and they had to effectively fight against enemy units, not just to discover where they were. Also, soon after the end of the spring 1942 campaign, the Italians made a coherent attempt to improve their defences. Motorization acquired a greater importance, and more and better armed Compagnie Sahariane were formed. These units were kept active in the areas most likely to see enemy activity, with the aim of discovering their whereabouts and fixing them in place until reinforcements could be summoned. This was the first step to developing a doctrine for desert warfare clearly based upon the LRDG example. Between summer and ...
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Book Review: Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur.

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

Ben Kiernan. Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. x + 724 pp. $26.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-300-14425-3; $40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-300-10098-3.

Reviewed by John M. Cox (Department of History, Florida Gulf Coast University)
Published on H-German (October, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher

A Major, Provocative Contribution to Genocide Studies

With this monumental book, Ben F. Kiernan has made an immense contribution to the field of genocide studies--and to fields ranging beyond it. The result of extensive research and deep reflection, it challenges scholars of genocide with its bold theses; delivers a laudably inclusive inventory of genocidal violence spanning many centuries; and represents a powerful example of a well-synthesized world history, one that will be highly valuable for scholarly as well as non-academic audiences.

Rather than simply subjecting his readers to an oppressive account of human ...

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Warfare in Africa WWI

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

For the Great War in Africa, although the product of European devices and desires, was fought principally by the Africans themselves. In all, somewhere over 2 million Africans served in the First World War as soldiers or labourers, and upwards of 200,000 of them died or were killed in action. By comparison with Europe such figures are low—the first represents between 1 and 2 per cent of the total population of Africa. But in a local context a comparison with twentieth-century industrialized nation states is inappropriate; never before in the history of Africa had manpower been mobilized on such a scale.

Both during the war and after it, British and French propaganda accused the Germans of militarizing Africa: they had, said Lloyd George on 24 January 1919, ‘raised native troops and encouraged these troops to behave in a manner that would even disgrace the Bolsheviks’. Such rhetoric was ...

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The Africans who fought in WWII

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

Jagama Kello, middle, left home at just 15 to fight Italian invaders

By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst


The 70th anniversary of World War II is being commemorated around the world, but the contribution of one group of soldiers is almost universally ignored. How many now recall the role of more than one million African troops?

Yet they fought in the deserts of North Africa, the jungles of Burma and over the skies of Germany. A shrinking band of veterans, many now living in poverty, bitterly resent being written out of history.

For Africa, World War II began not in 1939, but in 1935.

I greeted Gandhi with a military salute and asked him: 'What are you going to do for Africa now that India is going to be free?'
Marshal Kebby Nigerian soldier

Italian Fascist troops, backed by thousands of Eritrean colonial forces, invaded Ethiopia.

Emperor Haile Selassie was ...

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H-Diplo Review Essay: Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

H-Diplo Review Essays


Published on 17 September 2009

H-Diplo Review Essays Editor:  Diane N. Labrosse H-Diplo Review Essays Web Editor:  George Fujii Commissioned for H-Diplo by Jonathan Winkler

Martin Thomas.  Empires of Intelligence:  Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914.  Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2008. xii + 428pp.  Maps, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.  $49.95 (cloth).  ISBN 978-0-520-25117-5.

Reviewed for H-Diplo by Peter John Brobst, Ohio University


Nearly ten years ago, Malcolm Yapp called for a new look at the "Great Game" of empire in Asia and the Middle East.  The distinguished historian of the subject remarked on "how few books are written about what one may call imperial plumbing." And yet, he noted, "there were more policemen than soldiers in British India and it was on the policemen that the Raj ultimately rested."  Scholars had "somehow neglected the key element in how empires ...

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by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

The British used aircraft in the Third Afghan War in 1919, and with great success against an uprising in Iraq from 1922 onwards. The famed Handley Page V/1500 was called into action and ordered to bomb the royal Palace in Kabul. On 24 May 1919, a lone plane flown by Captain Robert "Jock" Halley appeared on the Kabul sky. After circling for a while it hovered above the royal palace and dropped its entire ammunition load that consisted of four large sized bombs. Although the bombing itself did little physical damage but it had a great psychological impact on the citizens - the women of the royal harem rushed on to the streets in terror - and in a few days King Amanullah had called a truce.

Thal Fort at the entrance to the Kurram Valley was besieged by the Afghan Army during the third Afghan War.

The Third Anglo-Afghan War ...

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by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments
In October 1941, Major Iwaichi Fujiwara arrived in Thailand to exploit Indian opposition to the British through propaganda and intelligence operations. His small group of officers was called Fujiwara Kikan, or F Kikan. In Bangkok he cultivated a relationship with Pritam Singh, a Sikh leader of the local Indian independence movement. When the war in the Pacific started, Fujiwara and Singh followed the Japanese attack into Malaya (now Malaysia). There they met the newly captured Captain Mohan Singh, a Sikh who was second in command of a battalion in the Punjab Regiment of the Indian army. After his battalion was shattered and surrendered on December 13, 1941, Captain Singh responded positively to Fujiwara’s suggestion that they form the Indian prisoners into a revolutionary army Some twenty-five hundred Indian prisoners of war soon joined the fledgling Indian National Army (INA). Two companies of the INA joined the Japanese in their ...
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Italy and the Mediterranean

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments
An Italian supply convoy in Libya. The desert provided the opportunity for rapid advances, but inevitably these would outrun supplies, forcing them to a halt. This was the main reason why the pendulum of fortune swung so dramatically backwards and forwards during the campaign in Egypt and Libya.
Mussolini's overall strategy up until he brought Italy into the war in June 1940 remains a matter of debate among historians. During the 1930s he flirted with the western democracies almost as much as he did with Hitler. His presence at Munich during the Czech crisis and the part he played in those last days of August 1939 cast him in the role of international mediator. Then again, his prevarications during the first nine months of the war indicate that perhaps he just wanted to be on the winning side. Yet, given the similarities between Fascism and National Socialism, and Mussolini ...
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by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments
The Empire of Japan in 1942.
Imperial Japan in 1942, showing the progressive territorial expansions from 1870.
The Japanese never accepted that defeat indicted policy. To the minds of the surviving leadership, extension of the Emperor's benevolence to the Greater East Co-Prosperity Sphere was either a sacred duty or the natural right of the leading regional power, depending on the philosophical inclinations of the individual. To paraphrase what David Bergamini wrote many years ago, they will wish to proclaim before the shades of their ancestors Japan's gamble to control half the world. –after all, their mentors the British (Navy) and Germans (Army) managed or aspired also!
Japan was the only non-Western nation to construct an empire in the Age of Imperialism. Modeled in large part upon European empires, the Japanese Empire by 1914 included Taiwan, the adjacent Pescadore Islands, Korea, southern Sakhalin Island, and nearly 1,400 islands ...
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by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments
Naval Base
Pre-war Singapore
In 1827 George Windsor Earl, a British colonial official and ethnographer, having completed his tour of Java, Borneo, the Malay Peninsula, and Siam, had this to say of Singapore:
Singapore is situated on an island at the extremity of the Malay peninsula which affords communication between the China Sea and the Bay of Bengal. In addition to the extensive commerce carried on by Europeans, native traders encouraged by freedom from duties enjoyed there, flock from all parts of the world, while the manufactures of Hindustan are there exchanged for rich productions of the archipelago. This port is visited by vessels of all nations and the flags of Britain, Holland, France and America may be seen intermingled with streamers of Chinese junks and fanciful colours of native prahus. (EARL 1837, P . 345)
Earl’s observations were both penetrating and accurate. His description summed up the telescopic growth ...
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Vietnam: World War II and Independence

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

Ho Chi Minh (second from right) shakes hands with French Premier Georges Bidault (left), 1946.

For five years during World War II, Indochina was a French-administered possession of Japan. On Sept. 22, 1940, Jean Decoux, the French governor-general appointed by the Vichy government after the fall of France to the Nazis, concluded an agreement with the Japanese that permitted the stationing of 30,000 Japanese troops in Indochina and the use of all major Vietnamese airports by the Japanese military. The agreement made Indochina the most important staging area for all Japanese military operations in Southeast Asia during the war. The French administration cooperated with the Japanese occupation forces and was ousted only toward the end of the war (in March 1945), when the Japanese began to fear that the French forces might turn against them as defeat approached. After the French had been disarmed, Bao Dai, the last French ...

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Jameson Raid (29 December 1895– 2 January 1896)

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

The Jameson Raid was an ill-fated attempt to support an uprising that would topple the Transvaal (South African Republic) Government to ensure foreign (mainly British) immigrants (uitlanders) were given full political rights. The raid was also intended to eliminate Transvaal resistance to plans to federate all of South Africa.

Uitlander grievances were subject to exploitation by British imperialists, such as Cecil J. Rhodes, the diamond and gold magnate. Rhodes stated that the uitlanders , “possessing more than half the land, nine - tenths of the wealth , and paying nineteen - twentieths of the taxes” (Hensman 1900, p. 1), should be allowed some voice in the government. He had earlier secured Bechuanaland (modern- day Botswana) as a British protectorate and the charter for the British South Africa Company in 1889. In the following year, Rhodes became prime minister of the Cape Colony and envisioned British imperial holdings stretching “from the Cape to Cairo,” with ...

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Strategic Egypt

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments
A column of Axis prisoners captured in Libya nearing the massive walls of the Citadel of Cairo, showing the Mohamed Ali Mosque (above) and the Mosque of Sultan Hassan.
Strategically located in northeast Africa, Egypt was vital to the British effort in World War II to protect the Suez Canal and lines of communication to Middle East oil fields. In 1939, Egypt had a population of about 16 million people.
The British had taken control of Egypt in 1882 to secure the Suez Canal. Supposedly, they had intervened to “restore order,” but the British stayed. London ended its protectorate in 1922 and granted Egypt independence as a constitutional monarchy with adult male suffrage, but it did not relinquish authority in key areas. Great Britain retained control over defense, imperial communications (the Suez Canal), protection of foreign interests and minorities, and the Sudan. In August 1936, the same year King Farouk ...
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The Belgian Congo – Post Colonial Mess

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

Street fighting in the Congo. The weapons are surplus Second World War issue with which the world was still awash in the 1960s.

The Belgian Congo, which dissolved in a flood of political violence immediately upon obtaining independence in 1960. Belgium had done next to nothing to prepare its colony for self-rule. Its departure was simply a reflection of its own inability to continue bearing the burdens of colonial stewardship. When the Belgians left, political authority was vested in a hastily conceived parliamentary government headed by Patrice Lumumba, the leading figure of the Congolese National Movement. He immediately faced dissention within Congo's security forces, which rebelled against the Belgian officers left behind to train them. Most Europeans remaining in the country fled. A month later the southernmost of the country's six major provinces, Katanga (Shaba), seceded. Lumumba appealed to the Soviet Union and to the UN for assistance ...

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Book Review: A Desert Named Peace: The Violence of France's Empire in the Algerian Sahara, 1844-1902.

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

Benjamin Claude Brower. A Desert Named Peace: The Violence of France's Empire in the Algerian Sahara, 1844-1902. New York: Columbia University Press, c2009. xv + 417 pp. $50.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-231-15492-5; (cloth), ISBN 978-0-231-51937-3.

Reviewed by Amal Ghazal (Assistant Professor, Department of History, Dalhousie University)
Published on H-Levant (June, 2010)
Commissioned by Amy A. Kallander

French Violence in the Algerian Sahara between the "Pénétration Pacifique" and the "Blue Legend"

A Desert Named Peace is a study of the different shapes and forms of violence perpetuated by the French, and in some cases violence inflicted on them, as they brought the Algerian Sahara under French control. After the conquest of the Tell, the French embarked on the process of colonizing the Algerian Sahara with the conquest of Biskra in 1844 and completed it with the massacres of the Kel Ahaggar Tuareg at Tit in 1902. This book explores French motivations ...

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Japan - The Road to War Part II

by Mitch on October 5, 2010 0 Comments

Japan’s colonial policies also were affected by the changing mood, as economic vitality replaced power and prestige as the prime goal. Shocked during the depression by the West’s economic nationalism and the unreliability of international markets, which had sent Manchurian exports into a tailspin, Japan’s leaders began talking about the need to make the empire self-sufficient economically. Independence from the Western powers; self-sufficiency within the empire; total Japanese dominance— these became the central goals.

The change was evident across the Tsushima Straits. The colonial government turned in a harsher direction in Korea in the 1930s; by decade’s end, families were being forced to adopt Japanese surnames, and students were allowed to use only Japanese in the classroom. By 1940, three-fourths of Korea’s capital investment was in Japanese hands. The movement toward a tightly controlled, Japan-oriented economy was clearer still in Manchuria, which now took central ...

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