Colonial infantrymen were footsoldiers belonging to light infantry units.
At the beginning, towards the end of the XVIII century, the role of the Colonial Infantry was to serve as guides to moving columns, act as scouts and flank guards as well as carry out reconnaissance missions.
Colonial infantrymen and chasseurs equally had the duty of protecting troops during stops and bivouacs.
Colonial infantrymen, therefore, were supposed to have special qualities:
instinct, a good sense of discernment, smart and efficient shooting reflexes as well as a good dose of agility.
In the XIX century, colonial infantrymen used to be recruited from various countries of the French Empire, especially African countries, notably Morocco , Senegal , Algeria and Tunisia .
In the XX century, colonial infantrymen first distinguished themselves during the First World War, in the course of which about 20% of them lost their life fighting for France .
1914-1918 - Décorations à l'ordre de l'Armée aux
tirailleurs marocains d'un avant-poste,
ayant vaillamment combattu une attaque allemande.
Collection Ennio Tinelli
During the Second World War, the number of colonial infantrymen from North and sub-Saharan Africa belonging to major units of the French Army reconstituted in North Africa was considerably high. Thus, fighting within the various divisions of the 1st Army as well as within the Free French Forces and the 2nd Armoured Division, they contributed enormously to the liberation of France and Europe as a whole.
18 juin 1945 - Paris -
Le défilé des Tirailleurs
devant le sultan du Maroc
et le général de Gaulle
A good number of colonial infantrymen, operating in regiments or composed battalions, participated in the Indochina War. For the 8 years that the war lasted, they too had their own fair share of wartime glory and agony. Their performance at Dien Bien Phu was exemplary.
Finally, with the decolonization and independence of North African and French Union countries came the dissolution of colonial infantry units.
France, whom they had loyally served, has kept emblems of their glory.
It’s about ten years now since the French Army, conscious of its obligation towards the memory of these faithful servants, created the 1 st Colonial Infantry Regiment in Epinal from a metropolitan infantry regiment. This service is the custodian of all the legends and memories of colonial infantry units which served France for a period of more than 150years.