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Remembered Today:

The French at Gallipoli


Umeu

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Hey everyone,

 

I'm looking for some information about the French at Gallipoli, in particular the BTS (Senegalese tirailleurs). I've read the most highly recommended sources about the Senegalese (West-African in general) participation in WW1, but there's very little information about Gallipoli, or really about particular battles or campaigns. I've also checked French sources for as far as they were accessible to me and readable, but there's very little information about the French, in any of the languages that I master. I've scoured google, but there's very little information to be found. 

 

More specifically I need information which answers these questions:

 

From which place were the French units shipped to Gallipoli? (France, Morrocco? Egypt, Greece?)

When were the last BTS units evacuated and where were they evacuated to? 

What were their daily rations (most of them were muslim, so I assume their food would be different, or did they have dispensation like some British units?)

What did the muslim BTS think about fighting other muslims? 

How were they treated by the French? (It's relatively early in the war, and as I understand, there was still unwillingness among French generals to make use of African troops)

 

I hope there's someone who can help :) Thanks in advance!

Edited by Umeu
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  • 1 year later...

Ume, a source that might be of interest is from the Turkish general staff, military history area. They’ve published two volumes that translate interrogations of captured soldiers, and I remember seeing French soldiers from the African continent represented. 

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Keith_history_buff

There were seven battalions of Senegalese at Gallipoli. The account of a British newspaper correspondent advises they were dressed in dark blue uniforms at the start of the campaign.
 

1st Division

  • 4e régiment mixte colonial
    • 1e BTS – Armée D'Afrique
    • 2e BTS – Armée D'Afrique
    • depot battalion, 4e RIC – Troupes Coloniales

6e régiment mixte colonial

  • 3e BTS – Armée D'Afrique
  • 4e BTS – Armée D'Afrique
  • depot battalion, 6e RIC – Troupes Coloniales

2nd Division

  • 7e Régiment Mixte Colonial
    • 8e BTS – Armée D'Afrique
    • 12e BTS – Armée D'Afrique
    • depot battalion, 7e RIC – Troupes Coloniales
  • 8e Régiment Mixte Colonial
    • 7e BTS – Armée D'Afrique
    • depot battalion, 5e RIC – Troupes Coloniales
    • depot battalion, 8e RIC – Troupes Coloniales

 

Overall

  • 7x Tirailleurs Sénégalais battalions (BTS)


As I understand it, the administrative practice of the French was to group battalions into "regiments", in the same way that the British would group battalions in an Infantry Brigade. 

In terms of the last units evacuated, I guess you would have to check the various war diaries (J.M.O. - journal des marches et opérations). It would be worth seeing whether anyone has done any similar research, and whether this is documented on the French language forum Pages 14- 18. 

I do not know if there are war diaries at the battalion level, or at the Régiment level. I've only looked into a bataillon de marche who deployed overseas, and they had their own diary. 

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As Keith's OoB is undated, I assume that it is for April 1915 (?)

Also of possible interest is that for August 1915, given below per the British Official History, Military Operations, Gallipoli Vol.II,

 

Corps Expéditionnaire d'Orient

 

Commander: General Bailloud

 

1st Division: General Brulard

1st Metropolitan Brigade:

  • 175th Regiment

  • 1st Regt. de march d'Afrique (2 Bns. Zouaves, 1 Bn. Foreign Legion)

  • Foreign Legion Battalion (2 Coys.)

2nd Colonial Brigade:

  • 4th Colonial Regiment

  • 6th Colonial Regiment

6 Batteries of Artillery (75mm)

2 Batteries of Artillery (65mm)

 

2nd Division:

3rd Metropolitan Brigade:

  • 176th Regiment

  • 2nd Regt. de marche d'Afrique (3 Bns. Zouaves)

4th Colonial Brigade:

  • 7th Colonial Regiment

  • 8th Colonial Regiment

9 Batteries of Artillery (75mm)

 

Corps Artillery:

1 Heavy Battery, 120mm, long (4.7-inch)

1 Heavy Battery, 155mm, long (6-inch)

2 Heavy Batteries, 155mm, short (6-inch)

2 Siege guns, 240mm (9.4-inch)

Battery of naval guns

 

 

Regarding the withdrawal: Most of the French force on Gallipoli left for Salonika on 29th September 1915, but 21,000 stayed on under Brulard (from Jean-Charles Jauffret's Gallipoli lecture of April 1996, reprinted in 'The Straits of War'). My impression is that 21,000 number was further reduced by December and the RND took over a substantial stretch of what had been the French line from 11th December 1915

 

To the surprise of the RND they found the French line well organised and protected. Asquith wrote to his father (the PM) “All the French have cover, not only from the rain, from shrapnel too; built of semicircular sections of iron such as might be used for lining a tube railway. They have stacks and stacks of firewood: and an enormous timberyard of planks: excellent washing places: carpenters chops with steam-saws: all arranged with perfect orderliness and precision – largely bought in England eg the semicircular iron sections they use for shelters.” Elsewhere it was noted that the excellent iron sheets (bought in England) were over ¼ inch thick, and as such much thicker and offering better protection than that supplied by the British army.

 

In his history of the RND, Jerrold also notes “Though the ground on which the camp and the reserve lines stood was rocky to a depth of some feet, the trenches and dug-outs were both deeper than our own.” Jerrold also notes that the French system of artillery liaison was much better than anything which the RND had come across before in the British army.

Edited by michaeldr
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Hi Michael

 

I have plotted the approximate positions of the French Artillery at Helles for the 16th September 1915. The information was taken from the Mémorie des Hommes web-site, Pièces Justicatives du Journal des Marches et Opérations du CEO (1915, 3 Avril - 16 Septembre) file.

 

I hope it is of interest.

 

Kind regards

Alan

 

 

 

 

French Artillery Positions 16-9-15.jpg

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Michaeldr,

 

What a refreshing  change to see a flattering depiction of French practice from a British observer !

 

The impression I get from British - and, indeed, German - accounts of the war in France and Flanders is that the French were unhygienic and slapdash in their trenchcraft, with a tendency to leave their ordure lying about and their dead unburied.

 

The French contingent at Gallipoli seems to have punched above its weight.

 

Phil

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8 hours ago, alantwo said:

 

I have plotted the approximate positions of the French Artillery at Helles for the 16th September 1915. The information was taken from the Mémorie des Hommes web-site, Pièces Justicatives du Journal des Marches et Opérations du CEO (1915, 3 Avril - 16 Septembre) file.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice work Alan. Do you mind sharing the kml or kmz file that GE produces?

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14 hours ago, phil andrade said:

The French contingent at Gallipoli seems to have punched above its weight.

 

 

They did indeed,and in the process suffered heavier casualties than some others e.g. Anzacs

I understand that one of the Gallipoli Association's tours this year intends to address some of the neglect which this sector has suffered in the past, with a day devoted to the French part of Helles and another spent on a visit to the site of their landing at Kum Kale. (I'm already looking forward to next May :thumbsup:)


 

Alan,

Many thanks for that most helpful map, which illustrates how reliant the whole of the Helles front was on the contribution of the French artillery, their excellent 75s and their ample supply of ammunition.

 

regards

Michael

  

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Michael,

 

Do you know how many French actually served at Gallipoli in the campaign ?

 

The number 74,000 comes to my mind, but memory might not be serving me here.

 

I think that about one in five of all the allied dead in the Dardanelles were French.

 

I would be interested to see how their casualties compared with those of the British and Anzacs on a proportionate basis 

 

Phil

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Keith_history_buff

Although the title of the original post does imply an interest in all 24 infantry battalions (in 2 divisions) and supporting units of the Corps expéditionnaire d'Orient, the scope was then narrowed down to the contingent of (7) battalions of Tirailleurs Sénégalais, and several specific questions.

It should be possible for the OP to use the link to navigate to the war diaries.
https://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr/fr/arkotheque/inventaires/ead_ir_consult.php?fam=3&ref=6&le_id=1

 

 

image.png.d32e12ecf34c3fec22c23921fbbaa6f7.png

 

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Hello,

 

If I remember well the number of French troops who fought at Gallipoli was about 80.000 of whom 18% were from North-Africa or "Senegalese" (so higher than on the Western Front), knowing in the French army any black soldier was supposed to serve in a bataillon sénéglais, even if they were not from Senegal. The name of Senegal was kept because the first battalion was raised there.

 

I have to say that walking the French battlefields of Gallipoli was very special to me, especially going down in the valley of the Kereves Dere. It's difficult to access and it seems to be a place where nobody goes...

 

977699684_100_65782.jpg.18bd36db283ff93544f8a02501756684.jpg

 

993892435_100_65412.jpg.c21219d470048b50571f633a129d2aa9.jpg

 

Sly

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Hi Phil,

 

Yes , there are 4 ossuaries beside the tower at the end of the cemetery. 12.000 unknown French soldiers are believed to be buried there.

 

4067613114_4ac1b97c43_b.jpg.35981a4d714ab406a0ef255a3d1f5f6c.jpg

 

4066874745_8dc7c8ec33_b.jpg.705ca1e2ea1ad3dc1dc8506196fd8397.jpg

 

Sly

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8 hours ago, phil andrade said:

Do you know how many French actually served at Gallipoli in the campaign ?

The number 74,000 comes to my mind, but memory might not be serving me here.

I think that about one in five of all the allied dead in the Dardanelles were French.

I would be interested to see how their casualties compared with those of the British and Anzacs on a proportionate basis 

 

Phil,

 

The British Official History, Gallipoli Vol.II gives the total French contribution as being 79,000, of whom 47,000 became casualties (killed, wounded & sick)

Jean-Charles Jauffret in his lecture does not quote total figures, but he does mention at least one notable example of the ferocity of the fighting in the French sector:

during an attack between 5th and 8th May in the Kereves Dere casualties were Officers 246 (75%) and 12,632 men (57%)

[for 500 metres of ground gained] see p.145 'The Straits of War'

 

Regarding the plaques which appear as though they are designed and placed randomly on the main French  tower;

they were in fact each taken from various memorials and eight burial grounds and placed there when the French concentrated all there fallen in this one spot, post war (1919-1926)

 

regards

Michael

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According to memorialgenweb.org, the 4 ossuaries at the cemetery contain the remains of some 20,000 men, though not all of them from Gallipoli. Some are from Lemnos.

 

Of the 2236 individual graves, at least 360 are from Lemnos, transferred in 1922-23 from the cemeteries on the isand.

 

Some remains were repatriated to France in 1922-23 at the request of the families, but probably not many from Gallipoli, as they may not have been identifiable after 7 years.
I've seen a total figure of 5,704 bodies repatriated from the armies of the Orient/Levant, mostly from Macedonia, but the figure certainly must include men from Gallipoli, Lemnos, Egypt, Palestine and Syria.

 

Adrian

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Thanks, Sly and Michael.

 

It appears that more French than Australians died in the campaign , although I’ve read that fifty thousand Australians served at one time or another at Gallipoli , which suggests that the proportionate loss of the ANZACs was heavier .

 

Then again, the French were exposed to the intense fighting for a shorter period : indeed, the figure you cite, Michael, of nearly thirteen thousand casualties suffered by them between 5th and 8th May is really appalling, even by Gallipoli standards. Were these battle casualties, or were the sick included ? If the figure is for battle casualties proper, that’s more than the BEF lost in a comparable period at Neuve Chapelle, which was regarded as particularly severe at that time.  I reckon that the sick were not included in that figure, and the implications for the ferocity of the fighting are all too clear .

 

Editing : thanks to you, too, Adrian ....that valuable post was not seen by me until just now.

 

Editing again : if I seemed suspicious about the estimate furnished by Jean-Charles Jauffret, my circumspection is justified by this reference from Robert Rhodes James’ Gallipoli page 155 :

 

....between April 25th and May 12th the French had suffered 12,610 casualties out of a total strength of 22,450.

 

It’s the time span that Jauffret alludes to that needs alteration. But, heck, the figure cited by RRJ is still awful, especially in view of the number engaged.  I find that the French total of 47,000 for the campaign includes 20,000 sick. This being so, it’s apparent that roughly half of all the French battle casualties can be attributed to the first three weeks.  In this sense their experience was singularly intense. I wonder if this persuaded the French to cut their losses and tone down their commitment .

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade
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I would like to share some sketches of Ottoman positions around Kerevizdere for those who might be interested. Quite useful for fixing certain features on the field like: 

 

-Locations of Hotchkiss and the Nordenfelt emplacements in Ottoman first line on Yassi Tepe (Le Rognon).

-Ottoman casualty clearing station in Kerevizdere (see red arrow on first image). (There is also a burial ground there which is unfortunately inaccessible today and known by very few people)

-Regimental HQs.

 

2.jpg.3d49151b0005de9a63eaffae51137102.jpg

 

3.jpg.7fce967ae9036bc0b3a9e65e5ba9c5ce.jpg

 

kd.jpg.c49d60697bfdad70478449b10720284a.jpg

 

I apologize if my post is off-topic since it's not directly related to the title "French at Gallipoli."

Edited by emrezmen
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According to the "Armées françaises dans la Grande Guerre", vol VIII (the Orient campaign), page 549 is the detailed list of the French casualties of the C.E.O (Corps Expéditionnaire d'Orient)  from 25 April 1915 to 6 January 1916.

https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6374254b/f571.image

 

Killed in action: 182 officers, other ranks 3.524

Wounded: 354 officers, others ranks 17.017

Missing: 42 officers, other ranks 6.050

 

Sly

 

edit: thank you very much Emrezmen for the maps !

Edited by Sly
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57 minutes ago, Sly said:

According to the "Armées françaises dans la Grande Guerre", vol VIII (the Orient campaign), page 549 is the detailed list of the French casualties of the C.E.O (Corps Expéditionnaire d'Orient)  from 25 April 1915 to 6 January 1916.

https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6374254b/f571.image

 

Killed in action: 182 officers, other ranks 3.524

Wounded: 354 officers, others ranks 17.017

Missing: 42 officers, other ranks 6.050

 

Sly

 

edit: thank you very much Emrezmen for the maps !

 

Thank you. I know there are people here visiting Gallipoli regularly, and I thought that the sketches might be useful for discovering some new stuff on this more or less the obscure part of the front.

 

A large portion of the missing is KIA as we all already know. Some sources give the total POW number as 120. See (I don't know if this has been shared here before):

123.jpg.fece71f1d4225a81b4864ca80355da50.jpg

Source: https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/prisoners_of_war_ottoman_empiremiddle_east

 

Also see my previous post about Allied POW at Gallipoli:

 

 

 

 

Edited by emrezmen
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1 hour ago, Sly said:

According to the "Armées françaises dans la Grande Guerre", vol VIII (the Orient campaign), page 549 is the detailed list of the French casualties of the C.E.O (Corps Expéditionnaire d'Orient)  from 25 April 1915 to 6 January 1916.

https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6374254b/f571.image

 

Killed in action: 182 officers, other ranks 3.524

Wounded: 354 officers, others ranks 17.017

Missing: 42 officers, other ranks 6.050

 

Sly

 

edit: thank you very much Emrezmen for the maps !

 

Sly,

 

Thanks so much for this.  It’s the first time I’ve seen the French official casualty list for the campaign set out in such detail.

 

Obviously, nearly all the missing were dead : the same applied to the British. Very few prisoners were taken by the Turks in this fighting.

 

Of particular interest to me is the fact that 11,000 of the 27,000 total battle casualties had occurred by mid May.  This exposes my suggestion that half of them were suffered in the first three weeks as an exaggeration .....but not by much.  There was clearly a furious French effort in the opening phase of the fighting, with a commensurately high loss.

 

Phil 

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I forgot to mention those who have died before the landings, like the 648 sailors of the "Bouvet" sank on 18 March, and certainly some others too...

 

Sly

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