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Senegal campaign February - May 1917

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I am researching a British officer who served exclusively in West Africa with the Nigeria Regiment during WW1. His service papers note that he served during the "operations in French Senegal February - May 1917". There doesn't appear to be any record of these operations in the Official History of WW1. Can't find anything in any of the other more obvious published sources, and have been unable to find anything after doing an online sweep.

Can anyone suggest a source for information on the 1917 Senegalese campaign?

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I'm baffled by this. Senegal was part of French West Africa, on the furthest western edge of the coast and a long way from any German territory. I thought the Nigeria Regiment were in Kamerun, later divided into French Cameroun and the British Cameroons, to the east of Nigeria, from 1914 to 1916 and then went to German East Africa.

So why would there be a Senegal Campaign in 1917? Could this be a misreading of a handwritten record?

Liz

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There were several uprisings during the war across French and British West African territories.

Some were inspired by the Senussi faith.

Britain and France worked together when required with troop deployments and on operations.

Harry

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ID: 4   Posted (edited)

Harry

My 47-year-old copy of Crowder's West Africa Under Colonial Rule will no doubt have been superseded in various ways but from that I see that the main problem in 1917 in Senegal was the recruiting campaign, and the Governor-General of French West Africa reported in July that no further recruitment was possible without risking revolt.

But would the British have involved troops in that and referred to it as 'the Senegalese Campaign'?

Crowder mentions that the Nigeria Regiment was involved in assisting the French in Zinder in Niger against a Senussi-inspired Tuareg siege 'apparently at German instigation' in late 1916-early 1917. This was between its deployment in Kamerun and departure for East Africa, and Zinder is not very far from Kano in northern Nigeria, from where many of the Nigerian troops were recruited - not way over to the west like Senegal (Kano- Dakar is well over 2,000 miles; Kano-Zinder 170, Kano-Agadez c 450 miles).

EDIT Pure speculation: could this be what the record is referring to, in that the Nigerians joined French West African troops to put down the Tuareg rebellion in Niger, and as we know, the 'Senegalese Tirailleurs' were from all over FWA?

Liz

Edited by Liz in Eastbourne

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I tried trawling Times archives with just "Senegal" in 1917, but the Times reported nothing

I assume the OP is into medal collecting and hence has given no other details of the man's name

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I tried trawling Times archives with just "Senegal" in 1917, but the Times reported nothing

I assume the OP is into medal collecting and hence has given no other details of the man's name

Oh, yes...

Also it was not the record but the OP who used the term 'Senegal campaign' - the record evidently spoke of 'operations in French Senegal', which could be a very different matter, fitting assistance in an insurgency. I still doubt very much that they would have been in Senegal though.

Since we've taken the trouble to do some research on the question it would be nice if the OP were able to tell us more.

Liz

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Thanks for all the responses, sorry for not following up sooner, was away for a while.

The British officer is Captain Cecil Damer Priest, 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, attached 1st Battalion Nigeria Regiment and 4th West Africa Service Brigade. Apart from the "Senegal" operations of 1917, the only other active service that Priest saw in WW1 was in the "Nigeria 1918" campaign that led to the award of the Nigeria 1918 clasp to the Africa General Service Medal. His service papers, so far as Senegal is concerned, clearly quote under "Campaigns" that he took part in the "Operations in the French country (Ha?re Senegal)" from Feb -May 1917.

The word Senegal is clear and unmistakable, but the 3rd letter of the word Ha?re is indistinct. I have tried Googling various combinations of letters for Hasre, Havre, Haure, etc, but have drawn a blank so far. Obviously Senegal is separated from Nigeria by a number of countries and a considerable distance. There was, however, a British connection in the sense that the former British colony The Gambia is surrounded by Senegalese territory. This could have provided a suitable base for introducing British troops in to Senegal.

Any thoughts?

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Only that the most frequently-occurring word fitting your clues that I can think of for northern Nigeria and right across the northern part of West Africa is 'Hausa'. Many of the Nigerian soldiers and some of the French West African ones would have been Hausa. There were also Hausa fighting for the Germans in Cameroon. 'Hausa' isn't exactly an ethnic group, more of a conglomeration of peoples speaking the language. They were and are traders, very widely spread across the region, as well as being soldiers.

EDIT

Wrong, see below!

Liz

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Now I come to think of it - even more likely is surely 'Haut-Senegal'? Haut-Senegal et Niger was one colony, administratively, at this time, so 'Haut-Senegal' might include Niger, where we know Nigerian troops assisted the French in late 1916-early 1917.

Liz

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This map shows where the territory was. Haut-Senegal is modern Mali. On the previous information given I was thinking about Senegal, closer to the coast - but if it's Upper Senegal and Niger, then it could well refer to the trouble in Zinder and Agades and surrounding areas in Niger.

Liz

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Dear Liz, I have re-read the service papers again and can confirm that you are absolutely correct, the writing is a bit sloppy but when you know what you are looking at it clearly reads "Operations in the French Country (Haute Senegal)". do you have any other additional details regarding this operation other than that it involved "trouble in Zinder and Agades and the surrounding areas in Niger". Get back to me when you get a chance. Pete.

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Glad that’s sorted out, Pete. It should be ‘Haut’ without an ‘e’ but I expect a British clerk might easily make a mistake. You made it difficult for us in your OP by not giving us the exact wording of the record.


Harry (Bushfighter) referred to the Senussi rebellions in #3 and I mentioned the Niger rebellion in #4. I’m sure he knows more about it than I do. I lived in Kano, Nigeria for a total of four years and near Bamenda, Cameroon (where there’s an impressive German fort) for five, and visited all the countries along the west coast, so I am generally interested in the area but no specialist on the impact of the First World War there.


If you Google various terms such as ‘siege of Agades 1916 Nigeria Regiment’ or 'Tuareg rebellion 1916’ you’ll find quite a lot. There’s an interesting article here – rather detailed:


Also an extract from Hew Strachan’s ‘The First World War’, Vol 1.


Also a Nigerian colonial government report for 1917, with a couple of bits on the military involvement in the war:


'MILITARY OPERATIONS.

External (excluding East Africa).—Active assistance was rendered to the French Military authorities in the Territoire du Niger between January and May in connection with the operations for the relief of Agadez. The following personnel from Nigeria took part in these operations:—27 officers and 10 British non-commissioned officers of the Nigeria Regiment, 5 officers and 3 sergeants of the West African Medical Staff, and 425 native rank and file (exclusive of gun carriers and Maxim gun carriers). These forces operated in two columns, based on Katsina and Sokoto respectively. Reserves of troops and armed police, which are not included in these numbers, were held in readiness at Sokoto, Kano, and other accessible stations. Four companies of the West African Regiment were despatched from Sierra Leone to Lagos, and three of these proceeded to Zaria where they remained in reserve. '


Hope you find what you need.


Liz

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Dear Liz, that is excellent. Now understand campaign. Many thanks for your assistance. Pete.

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If anyone interested in this topic can get hold of a copy of West Africa Under Colonial Rule by Michael Crowder then they will find a very lucid account of the Great War French recruiting situation in West Africa.

Read Chapter 2: West Africa and the 1914-18 War.

Harry

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I agree, Harry (see my post #4).

Crowder was a terrific historian of West Africa, and very readable: he became interested in the subject before he went to Oxford when he did his National Service in the Nigeria Regiment. I met him a few times 1968-70 because I lived on the campus of what is now Bayero University, Kano.

Sadly he died in 1988 aged only 54.

Liz

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I've found another useful book on my shelves: French Colonialism in Tropical Africa by Jean Suret-Canale.

It's going for a penny in paperback here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/French-Colonialism-Tropical-Africa-1900-1945/dp/0876637020/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456855108&sr=1-1&keywords=French+colonialism+in+tropical+africa

The sub-chapter Resistance During the (Great) War covers the subject under discussion adequately.

Harry

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