A Day for the African Army and the Colonial Troops


This World War I poster showing French soldiers fighting alongside black soldiers from Africa celebrates the participation of troops from the French colonies and overseas territories during the war. More than 480,000 such troops were deployed by France in Europe over the course of the war, including 134,300 soldiers from West Africa, 172,800 from Algeria, 60,000 from Tunisia, 37,300 from Morocco, 34,400 from Madagascar, 2,100 from the Somali coast, and 44,000 from Indochina. Initially, most colonial troops were volunteers, but as the war dragged on and casualties mounted, the French authorities increasingly relied on conscription to secure Arab and West African soldiers. Most men in the colonies had no desire to fight for France, and forced recruitment provoked severe resistance. In West Africa, local chiefs provided potential recruits, most often young men from the lower social strata, to the French authorities. Many potential recruits escaped conscription by hiding in the bush or by fleeing to Liberia or to neighboring British or Portuguese colonies. In several countries, there were uprisings against French recruitment policies.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Devambez, Paris


Title in Original Language

Journée de l'armée d'Afrique et des troupes coloniales

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 120 x 80 centimeters



  1. Christian Koller, “The Recruitment of Colonial Troops in Africa and Asia and their Deployment in Europe during the First World War,” Immigrants & Minorities 26, numbers 1−2 (March−July 2008).

Last updated: February 10, 2014