Moroccan tirailleurs

Moroccan tirailleurs

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Title: Attack of the 1st Moroccan infantry regiment, June 28, 1918, at 5 h 5 m.

Author : RENOUARD Charles Paul (1845 - 1924)

Date shown: June 28, 1918

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Exhibited at the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts in 1919 Photographed by François Antoine Vizzavona.

Storage location: Rmn photographic agency, Druet-Vizzavona fund website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Vizzavona

Picture reference: 97-027517 / VZC9955

Attack of the 1st Moroccan infantry regiment, June 28, 1918, at 5 h 5 m.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Vizzavona

Publication date: May 2009

Historical context

Moroccan colonial troops in "the second battle of the Marne"

Liberated from the eastern front by the Brest-Litovsk Treaty (1917) which saw Russia withdraw from the conflict, German forces moved towards the western front to launch the final offensive. During this "Battle of the Aisne" a counter-offensive by French troops took place on June 28 near Cutry. The assault by soldiers of the 1er Moroccan infantry regiment is decisive.

Image Analysis

Moroccan soldiers in attack or in representation

The image Attack of 1er Moroccan infantry regiment, June 28, 1918, at 5 h 5 m. is a black and white photograph of a work by Paul Renouard, designer and engraver famous for having depicted the great events of his time, such as the Dreyfus trial. It represents, from an off-center perspective, the charge of soldiers rolling down the slope of a hill. In the foreground on the left, very close to the viewer and as if seized from life by the artist, a short man, rifle and bayonet pointed forward, looking at once serious, determined and focused. Dressed like him in the attire they used in 1918, two other soldiers on his left charge with the same movement, but the prospect makes them about to come out of the frame. In the background, three men still stand out, although much less clearly, from a mass which visibly advances with the same momentum and which becomes more and more imprecise, until it merges with the relief and the mist of the dawn.

Interpretation

Moroccan soldiers fully join the army and the homeland

Renouard's work emphasizes first of all the cohesion between the soldiers of the 1er Moroccan infantry regiment. Charging as one man, they form a single body, united by the fight. It is only because he has the privilege of being immersed in the action that the viewer can distinguish a man in it, as if by accident, and for only a moment. The image then signifies advancement and reconquest: the indefinite nature of the mass that extends to the horizon suggests that a large number of men (as many as are needed) are ready to fight. And this welded and moving mass seems unstoppable: it sweeps over its objective, irresistible. Finally, the confusion of men with the relief and the elements could mean that these soldiers, even "colonial", are fully anchored in the homeland, nourishing its soil with their blood, marrying body and soul with it in the ordeal of fire. From a perspective that is both documentary and historical, Renouard clearly shows that the man in the foreground is Moroccan, but above all that he belongs to the regiment and to France.

  • battles
  • War of 14-18
  • Moroccan tirailleurs
  • colonial troops

Bibliography

Stéphane AUDOIN-ROUZEAU and Jean-Jacques BECKER (dir), Encyclopedia of the Great War 1914-1918, Paris, Bayard, 2004.Marc MICHEL, Africans and the Great War. The call to Africa (1914-1918), Paris, Karthala, 2003.Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

To cite this article

Alban SUMPF, "The Moroccan tirailleurs"


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