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Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps - CAPI

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When World War One broke out in 1914, Portugal was a neutral country. However colonial clashes in Africa, in Angola,  and the effect of the German U-boats on Portuguese trade routes to the UK, her main partner, caused tensions with Germany. In February 1916, Portugal at Britain's request seized German and Austro-Hungarian shipping in Portuguese ports, and a month later Germany declared war on Portugal.

Portugal during World War One


In response to the declaration Portugal raised an expedition force of an infantry division of 55,000 men, The Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (Corpo Expedicionário Português or CEP). The CEP deployed to the Western Front in February 1917 and came under the command of the British Expeditionary Force.


Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (Corpo Expedicionário Português or CEP)


Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps


The French Army requested assistance from the Portuguese on 26th December 1916 for artillery personnel to man French heavy artillery batteries. In response an independent Heavy Artillery Corps (Corpo de Artilharia Pesada Independente or CAPI) was formed in January 1917. The CAPI would come  under French Army command and operate independently  of the Portuguese Expeditionary Force (CEP). The personnel would be recruited from the Army together with some Navy personnel.


Corpo de Artilharia Pesada Independente or CAPI


The advance party moved to France in May 1917 to await the arrival of the first gunners, under the command of Colonel John Climacus Man Teles.


Preparation of barracks and administration was complete by August. The main body from the 2nd Lisbon Coast Artillery and Naval personnel began arriving in September, being complete on 17th October 1917.  The total personnel from the CAPI consisted of 44 officers and 750 OR's.



Portuguese CAPI Soldiers


On 22nd October 1917, the Portuguese Gunners began training at  Bailleul-sur-Thérain, and Mailly , in conjunction with French Artillery units being rested from front line service.  Those at Bailleul- would be instructed of 320 mm rail guns, at  Mailly Paris 190mm rail guns.


Four 320mm rail guns that were at rest and were known by the names of "Bourrasque", "Tempête", "Simoun" and "Cyclone".



Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps 320 mm Rail Guns



Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps 190 mm Rail Gun


Training was completed on 4th November, equipment had been taken over, and the Corps was ready to fight.


The Corps was now absorbed into the French Order of Battle and designated Corps Artillerie Lourde Portugais. It was to consist of three Groups of 3 batteries and a Depot Battery.


A second contingent of Gunners arrived in January 1918 consisting of 26 officers and 500 OR's bringing the total CAPI personnel in theatre to 70 officers and 1,258 OR's.


Colonel Tristan da Câmara Pestana took over command from Colonel Man Teles on 15th January 1918.


Colonel Tristan da Câmara Pestana


In February, personnel from the the 2nd and 3rd Groups moved to Le Havre where in April they moved to the UK to train on British equipment. They trained at Horsham where there are references to problems of indiscipline, causing problems for the British. http://comum.rcaap.pt/handle/10400.26/6864


Corps Artillerie Lourde Portugais


The Corps Lo Artillerie  Lourde Portugais would consist of  three Groups, each consisting of three batteries of one rail gun.  In each Group, one Battery would operate  320-millimetre (12.6 in) railway guns the other two 240-mm (9.5in) or 190-mm (7.5 in) railway guns.  There was also a Depot Battery.



Group 1 - 1st / 2nd / 3rd Battery | Group 2 - 4th / 5th / 6th Battery | Group 3  - 7th / 8th / 9th Battery







Matériel de 194 mm

TAZ Modèle 1870/1893



194 mm

18,300 m

83 kg

Matériel de 240 mm

TAZ Modèle 1893/96 Colonies



240 mm


162 kg

Matériel de 320 mm à glissement

 Modéle 1870/80, 1870/84 et 1870/93


320 mm

20,500 m

387 kg


The establishment of the CAPI was:




3 x Group
























The batteries were single gun batteries. The Combat Train consisted of a single gun, ammunition wagons, gun stores wagon, and wagons with material for fixing tracks. There was  also  a  Cantonment Train  consisting of command cars , accommodation, dining room and kitchen, infirmary, and workshops.


Combat Actions


1st Battery - 320mm


12 March 1918 - 1st Battery under command of Captain Gonçalo Pinto moved to Vailly (15 km W of Soissons) in the Aisne Sector under the control of French 6th Corps awaiting orders.


16 March 1918 - Aerial photography identified German gun batteries hidden in woods and the Battery deployed to Soupir (5 km W of Vailly) south of the Plateau of Chemin des Dames. They engaged the target at a range of  18 km and  firing 60 rounds with observation conducted by air plane.  The mission was reported as being successful.


27 March 1918 - The next action was firing from the  Sommesous extensions, in the South of the Marne Sector. This was in support of a French  counteroffensive.



Portuguese Independent Artillery Corps 320 mm Rail Gun firing




2nd / 3rd  Battery - 240 mm


18 May 1918 the 2nd and 3rd battery deployed in the Hurlus (65 km W of Reims) network positions engaged targets at a range of 10 km.


Post Armistice

On 10th November an order was issued which disbanded the CAPI. At the end of November the personnel were informed they would remain in France to work on removal of trenches and barbed wire. They continued on this work until March 1919.  The men of the CAPI finally got to go home in April 1919, boarding an English steamer in Cherbourg on 3rd to return to Portugal.


A total of 1, 639 Portuguese served with the CAPI, five of whom died from accidents and other non combat incidents.


Portuguese National Cemetery Richebourg France



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