Tirailleurs Sénégalais for my WW2 colonial French army

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The Foreign Legion is well known as a force for foreigners fighting for France. But in addition to the legionnaires, the French also made use of ‘tirailleurs’—units made up of troops recruited from their colonies in Africa and Asia.

Tirailleur translates as ‘skirmisher’, ‘rifleman’, or ‘sharpshooter’, and was a designation given to indigenous infantry recruited in the various colonies and overseas possessions of the French Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The first unit of Tirailleurs Sénégalais was raised in 1857. Despite their name, the Senegalese Tirailleurs drew in troops not just from Senegal, but from across West Africa.

The Senegalese Tirailleurs served France in many wars, including World War 2, when 179,000 men were recruited for service both in Africa and Europe. 

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I decided that my WW2 colonial French army needed some of these stalwart soldiers. So when it came to equipping my army with support weapons, I chose tirailleur machine gun and mortar crews from Perry Miniatures’ excellent WW2 French range.

I painted them with their ubiquitous red chechia hats. Yes, I know these colourful hats were more for parade than combat, but, hey, it’s my wargames army, so I can do as I want! 

The Senegalese Tirailleurs saw extensive service during the war, but after the liberation of France, they  were replaced with newly recruited French volunteers in a process known as blanchiment, or ‘bleaching’. This led to several incidents of violence, most notably the Thiaroye massacre in 1944, where French troops killed dozens of tirailleurs after they mutinied against poor conditions and revocation of pay.

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4 thoughts on “Tirailleurs Sénégalais for my WW2 colonial French army

  1. Nice work… do you have any photos of WW 1 French Tirailleur uniforms ? A friend from England sent me an article about Greek volunteers [from Anatolia] fighting in Gallipoli [Cape Helles] under the auspices of the French Foreign Legion .Not sure what colour their uniforms would have been -light blue or khaki -any idea Arteis ? They were dressed similar to Tirailleurs or more likely Zouaves with waist coats .my friend posted photos on a WW 1 forum site that he directed me to- some of them did however appear to be wearing the Greek -‘Tsarouhia’ footwear with the pom -poms on them . I could convert some Hat ACW Zouaves in 1/72nd to add to my Gallipoli diorama I suppose – or purchase some Hat ACW Zouaves in 1/32nd [would these be comparable to 1/35th size ?] for a bigger size vignette .
    The Article is :- In the wake of Agamemnon’s Army .
    Thank you,
    Nick Papadopoulos.

    1. I had never heard of this, Nick – so can’t really help. I saw that the website you mentioned above says the Greeks were uniformed as per the Foreign Legion.

      1. Hello again Rolly /Arteis …the man who sent me the information [In the Wake of Agamemnon…] was a man called …Keith Hollick …he has posted uniforms on Pinterest . Thank you for your reply . Nick P.

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