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Diamond Bullet Member and the Revered Sir Jim
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Diamond Bullet Member and the Revered Sir Jim
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Les Troupes Coloniales d'Indochine


Tirailleurs Indochinois were from Indochine Française which were broken down from the region they were from such as Tirailleurs Annamites, Tirailleurs Tonkinois and Tirailleurs Cambodgiens. Tonkin is the northernmost part of Indochine, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin whose principal city is Hanoi. Annam encompasses the central region of Indochine which surrounds the city of Hanoi and runs from the Gulf of Tonkin to the mountains which surround the plains of the Red River, confusingly, "Annam" was also used to refer to Indochine as a whole and Cochinchina is a region encompassing the southern third of Indochine whose principal city is Saigon. Cambodge is basically modern day Cambodia. During WWI these troops were mostly one of the 15 Bataillons d'Etapes Indochinois (Indochinese Labor Service Battalions) but there were four battalions that were combatant forces, Bataillon de Tirailleurs Indochinois, the 1er, 2e, 7e, and 21e. The 1ère and 2ème served in the Greece and the 7ème and 21ème in France.

The 7ème Bataillon Tirailleurs Indochinois (7th Indochinese Battalion) which was formed on February 16, 1916 in the Tonkin, at the Seven Pagodas, under the command of Chef de Bataillon Dez. This battalion numbered around 1,000 men. The unit landed in Marseilles and then were directed to Camp de Fréjus, which was located on the Mediterranean coast between Nice and Toulon, where they were to undergo training in military techniques and in a rudimentary soldier's French called parler tirailleur to April 1917. On April 10 the battalion then was attached to the 12ème Division (12th Division) where its companies were divided up within the units of this division:
1ère Compagnie (1st Company) went to the 54ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne at Sept Monts
2ème Compagnie (2nd Company) went to the 67ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne at Ambrief
3ème Compagnie (3rd Company) went to the 350ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne at Sept Monts
5ème Compagnie (5th Company) went to the divisional depot of the 12ème Division at Rozicie
4ème Compagnie (4th Company), the SHR (Battalion HQ) and the Compagnie de Mitrailleuses (Company of Machine Guns) were assigned to Montramboeuf under the command of Chef de Bataillon Dez
The battalion was to be engaged in combat with the 12ème Division at 2ème Bataille de l'Aisne and the Chemin des Dames on May 5,6 and 7 of 1917. The men from these companies were basically used following the attack of the main forces in re-provisioning supplies, sweeping of the conquered German trenches of stragglers and organizing the conquered land for the follow through units.
During the Battle of the Chemin des Dames from the 5th to 7th of May 1917 that the 7ème Bataillon Tirailleurs Indochinois fought there, they suffered 21 killed, 95 wounded and 67 missing in action, presumed dead. It was during this battle that Tirailleur Ngo Dinh Phu killed 2 enemy soldiers in a hand to hand combat and capturing 16 men including a Capitain, for his deed he was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
In June of 1918 the battalion was assigned to a “quiet” section of trenches in the sector near Anould in the Vosges where it remained until June 22 and while there they pushed back an enemy attack. After June 22 the unit was assigned to an area north of Munster called Centre de Résistance Clové where they repelled two attacks accompanied by huge bombardments and asphyxiating gasses finally bieng pushed back between the 29 and October 30 1918. The battalion was resting in Lorraine when the Armistice came. The battalion embarked at Marseilles on February 15 1919, to go back to Haïphong where it is dissolved.
By the end of the war there were 97 Tirailleurs of the 7ème who had won the Croix de Guerre.

Another interesting unit is of 4ème Compagnie du 6ème Bataillon de Tirailleurs Indochinois (4th Company of the 6th Indochinese Battalion) that was one of Bataillons d'étapes which arrived at Verdun in October of 1916 and was with Division Mangin, which was a mixture of different 'Colonial' formations which included Sénégalais, Somalis, Zouaves, Marocains and Algériens, when it assaulted Fort Douaumont on October 24th. They were to go right behind the main force and construct defenses but got caught up in the firestorm of combat in an artillery barrage where one officer and three Tirailleurs were killed. As the unit was constructing defenses during the day, they were attacked by a German unit and in the firefight lost another 13 killed, 20 wounded and 12 missing in action. It was during this action that Sergent Tran Tai Tao and Tirailleur Nguyên Van Dong were to be awarded the Médaille Militaire for thier heroism.
It is unfortunate that the memorial plate that was placed in 1962 at the entry of Fort Douaumont does not mention the action of the 4th Company of 6ème Bataillon de Tirailleurs Indochinois as have participated in this action.
Some of the remains of these troops from this unit are located to the Ossuaire of Douaumont where they were buried by error as Moslem.
Some were also to serve in the avaition service as well, most notably Capitaine Do Huu Vi who was the first Vietnamese pilot to be certified by the French Air Force, Maréchal des Logis Phan That Tao, Sergent Cao Dac Minh who died from a forehead wound after an accident at Cholon on April 28, 1918, and Caporal Mitrailleur Félix Xuân Nha, who was with 'Escadrille A 253 and killed in action in 1917 after shooting down 4 enemy aircraft while on a mission.











Here are some more pictures of them in the trenches ...







Another couple interesting pictures, probably of one of the 15 Bataillons d' Etapes who built these prefabricated Baraque Adrian





More of the history of Les Troupes Coloniales d'Indochine to follow
Patrick
 
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