Friday, July 1, 2016

The Start of the Somme Offensive Commemorated

Somme marked by uniformed men across UK with #wearehere

Go tell the Spartans, passer by,
That here, obedient to their word, we lie.

Simonides of Ceos

When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For their tomorrow, we gave our today.

John Maxwell Edmonds

Video and Twitter remarks.

Scottish view of commemoration.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Building a Mid-War French Force for Through the Mud and the Blood

French infantry in the trenches. (
Les Poilus!

One of my chum's sons, already an avid wargamer, has expressed an interest in playing a Great War miniatures game, with a particular interest in the French. Or some other options (he likes the underdogs), but since I'm learning and blogging about the great Verdun campaign just now, I seized on his interest as an opportunity to build a French force for Through the Mud and the Blood.

He's OK with either early war or something later. But , although they would look glorious in les pantalon rouges, the early war French would be at best a platoon of 58 corporals and riflemen with a three sergeants and a solitary lieutenant as platoon commander. Not much chance of one of the regiment's two machine-guns, even.

But by 1916, though drabber in the horizon bleu, the platoon becomes much more interesting. A greater range of infantry armaments and more complex tactics to use them effectively created a more diverse platoon organization. Still commanded by l lieutenant and three sergeants, the platoon now consisted of 40 men, including 4 dedicated rifle-grenadiers (with two ammo carriers), 2 automatic-riflemen (with 2 ammo carriers and 2 assistant gunners), and a squad of 8 grenadiers (including throwers, ammo carriers, and assistants).

I also (since this was my delayed tax-refund splurge, and I was buying from Old Glory 25s and thus using my discount from their Army Member programme), got some support elements. The platoon will be able to call on some Hotchkiss HMG support, a 37mm infantry gun, and some trench mortars, if needed. There are some special figures to represent any trench-fighting party they may send out at night to recce the enemy lines to to grab a prisoner or two. And they will have some extraneous chappies hanging about: some spotters for the divisional artillery,

I'll be going through all my old Lardy Specials as well as delving into the M&B forum to see if any ideas crop up that might be useful. But undoubtedly of most value will be all the posts on the excellent Roundwood's World blog about his Verdun Project. I'm also finding the website of the 151e Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne (a living history group) invaluable.

As a starter, I'd like to portray an attack and a counterattack from the fighting over the Bois des Corbeaux (like my mum, I love the corbies) on the left bank of the Meuse, part of the beginning of the second stage of the Verdun campaign in March 1916. But first I need to do some painting!

French field kitchen and baggage. (

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Verdun: Snippets

It's been quiet here at The Hissing Fuse. Family matters and a project at work have taken a good deal of my free time and, more importantly, my energy and attention.

I do plan to play through a couple of the Verdun games I mentioned in the last post and report on the outcomes, but I'm handicapped by (a) lack of time, (b) lack of an opponent to give the games a proper two-sided playing, and (c) lack of a safe, cat-free space to leave games set up from one playing to the next. I'll try to play through the four (of the total of six games) that I own at some point, and when I do I'll relate what I find.

However, my Verdun game collection has grown slightly of late! I have been working my way through Alastair Horne's excellent, though dated, The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, and had just finished the section on the chasseurs' fight for the Bois des Caures when what should arrive in the post but Coup de Grace, the latest module for John Gorkowski's In The Trenches tactical system. This has two scenarios on the Bois des Caures fighting--a German probe and the main assault. I may make that my first tabletop foray into Verdun.

Two of my friends have also shown an interest in Great War tabletop gaming with miniatures, so this made me pull out the different rules sets I have on hand and do a review (just for myself :-). Although this year's tax refunds ended up going to pay off bills from our wedding last spring (or, more literally, to fill the holes in our bank accounts from paying those bills), I do feel like a small treat would be in order, and Verdun seems to be the topic of the moment, so I've been trying to decide whose tiny Frenchmen (and possibly Germans, if I choose a scale in which I do'nt already have German troops) I might want to splurge on. Peter Pig makes lovely figures with lots of animation, but they're on the small side for 15mm. Battlefront/Flames of War does suiable French (since by 1916 le kepi and les pantalons rouges had given way to the the Adrian helmet and l'horizon bleu, but their only Germans have the later stahlhelm, not the still-hanging-on-in-February-1916 picklehaube. Blue Moon do rather large 15s. Great War doesn't do 1916 French in 28mm, but Brigade Games do. And there's always the 6mm Baccus line to be considered. A lot depends on whether one goes skirmish-level (Through the Mud and the Blood or Price of Glory), company-level (No Man's Land or If the Lord Spares Us), or battalion-level (Great War Spearhead or Square Bashing).

I'm not going to be linking on other media to my posts here in future unless I'm able to put up a substantial piece of research, writing, or analysis. My last post got a bit of stick on one wargaming board for not having a great deal of substance. While that's true, I write here mostly for my own amusement; I don't have the time or budget to write scholarly history or in-depth game reviews or critiques.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Verdun Wargames: An Overview

French fortifications at Verdun (The Illustrated First World War)
There are, that I can identify, six board wargames that focus on the battle of Verdun. I've been able to get my hands on four of the six, and I will try to provide an overview of them here. Later during the course of the year I hope to provide replays of all or most of them.

Most of the Verdun games cover only the opening month or so of the battle, perhaps assuming that if the Germans have not completely overrun the French defenses by then, the battle will lose interest as a game. While that may be an accurate assessment at the entertainment level, it seems to me that it completely ignores the historical context of the battle. Von Falkenhayn did not necessarily expect to capture the city of Verdun outright. He planned to hit the defenses of the fortified zone hard, putting German troops in positions that the French would have to try to recover. But, he assumed, German artillery was so much more powerful than that of their enemies, German skill at creating defensive positions so much greater, that when the French counterattack came, German forces would be in a position to destroy the counterattacking troops. The French would be forced to pull in more troops from other fronts, and the campaign would destroy France's strategic reserves of manpower, already considerably lower than Germany's at the beginning of the war and further depleted by the Allied offensives of 1915, in which France and Britain had suffered far more casualties than they had inflicted.

Historically the Germans did inflict something close to crippling losses on the French in the fighting around Verdun in 1916; France lost in the vicinity of 500,000 killed and wounded (and maybe another 100,000 in  Nivelle's offensive the following year). But Germany had suffered crippling losses as well, because holding the positions that they took required the sacrifice of almost an equal number of troops to those that the French lost in attacking them. So I think one needs to look at more than a week or two of the offensive to determine whether the player can do better than their historical counterparts did.

Singular among the Verdun half-dozen is the most recent title, Roger Nord's Verdun: A Generation Lost. Singular because of all the titles I've seen so far, it attempts to cover the entire Verdun campaign, from its beginning in February to its conclusion in December.  The game includes separate scenarios breaking down the campaign into manageable pieces, but the option is there to play the whole eleven-month ordeal.

Also unusually, V:GL uses squares (each about 1000m across in scale) rather than hexes to regulate movement and fire. Its map covers a wide area around the city and its defensive ring, and it includes both the west and east banks of the Meuse. It gets the second-highest rating of the six, a 6.92 from 19 BGG users. Its rules cover 20 pages covering weather, bombardment, movement, assault, and reorganization of disrupted units, and an additional 12 pages of scenario information and tables. Resources available to one or both players include lifting or creeping barrages, smoke screens, engineers, flamethrowers, gas attacks, night attacks, counterbattery fire, French quick-firing 75mm howitzers, defensive fire, forts, mines, and air attacks. German units are depicted as regiments and battalions; French units are divisions and brigades.

Nord used the same system in his 2005 game The Big Push: The Battle of the Somme, which depicts 1916's other great and sanguinary combat. I'm looking forward to mastering this system, as I'm hoping to use both these games to gather some insights into 1916's two biggest Western Front campaigns.

Verdun: The Game of Attrition was published in 1972 by Conflict Games and designed by the late, great John Hill (father of Squad Leader and Johnny Reb). Its map covers only the fortress ring, and only the east bank of the Meuse. Units are rated for combat and movement and are exclusively infantry and artillery battalions. BGG users rated it 6.71 across 46 responses, making it the third most popular of this sextet (in addition to being the oldest).

One of the things that's remarkable about V:GA is the brevity of the rules. It comes with a generic introduction to board wargames that consists of one page of rules and a one-page FAQ. The rules for the game itself consist of a cover page and three pages of text and diagrams. Four or five pages of rules--most simple Euro games these days come with twice that much.

Despite that brevity and the simple counterset, the game includes period details like multiple varieties of artillery bombardment, counterbattery fire, phosgene gas, flamethrowers, tunnels, weather, demoralization, French fanaticism, and eight types of terrain. I'm going to try this game out first, probably, just because it has such an amazing combination of simplicity and detail.

V:GA was later (2004) republished with a graphics upgrade by Cool Stuff Unlimited. I don't have a copy of this edition, but I see nothing to suggest that the rules were edited or altered from the original edition.

The most popular of the Verdun games is Verdun, a Dagger at the Heart of France, published in 1978, also by Conflict Games (and apparently reprinted at some point by GDW, to judge by some photos of the mapsheet) and designed by the famous Marc Miller (creator of the Traveler RPG as well as designer of many of GDW's historical offerings).

Billed in its BGG description as a "based on" V:GA, this title is also described as "a completely new game". It wins a 7.02 from 25 ratings. The BGG description refers to its mechanics as "conventional", but the game includes artillery ammunition rules as well as spotting, pioneers, poison gas, fortifications, and general supply rules. The map covers a broader area than just the fortress ring, and it includes both banks of the Meuse. Until I can find an affordable copy, that's about as far as my review can go.

In the middle of the pack, in terms of popularity, is Avalanche Press' They Shall Not Pass: The Battle of Verdun 1916, rated on average 6.61 by 82 BGG users. The stunningly ugly map covers the fortress ring on the east bank of the Meuse only at 700 meters per hex. Its rulebook is half-sized (5.5" x 8.5"), yielding about 11 conventionally sized pages that cover the basics like bombardment, movement, assault, morale, and breakthroughs as well as special rules for hasty defenses, fortifications, German pioneers, and French chasseurs a pied. Infantry units are regiments and battalions; artillery units are batteries.

Tied for least popular of the Verdun games is Joseph Miranda's Over the Top! Verdun published in S&T by Decision Games. It gets a 5.86 from 36 ratings. It is part of a series of Great War games that Decision has published, covering eight battles in all from different periods of the war and different theatres.

The other least popular version of the battle is Verdun 1916, published in Vae Victis magazine. I can say the least about this game since I have yet to get hold of a copy of it. Its turns are a day each; its map scale is 850 meters to the hex; combat units are regiments and battalions. Infantry and stormtroop units have combat and movement factors; artillery have bombardment, defense, and movement factors; air units have bombardment factors; and command units have command range, defense, and movement factors. The map, like V:GA and TSNP, shows just the area in the immediate vicinity of the fortress ring, though it does include both the west and east banks of the Meuse. Since it was published in 2002 it has garnered 38 ratings to get it's 5.86 rating BGG.

Several of the macro games that cover the entire war in Europe or the war on the Western Front have scenarios that are billed as Verdun scenarios, but by and large they cover the entire front. While that does allow the player to explore the larger context of the Verdun campaign, they're not in quite the same category as these games, which focus on the Verdun fighting alone.

Coming up: Vimy Ridge Day (April 9). Also, other theatres, other battles--1916 campaigns outside France and Belgium.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Very Quick Post: Inside Fort Vaux

Verdun being a very apt topic just now, I found my eye snagged in passing by some photos from the Hammerhead 2016 game event that happened last weekend in the UK.

One of the games put on show was one of the fighting inside Fort Vaux. The fort was part of the defenses of Verdun, north and east of the city. Like many of the supporting defenses, it was stripped of its guns so they could be used elsewhere, and the garrison had to hold out with resort only to their own small arms and support weapons. In June, after bombarding the fort, the Germans assaulted it several times, with the fighting in its underground galleries being referred to by some as the first battle fought entirely underground. Only after being shelled for six months and being cut off and repeatedly assaulted, out of food and water and with many casualties unable to evacuate to hospital did the fort surrender. Four months later, the Germans abandoned the fort without a fight after a heavy bombardment by French artillery, including 40cm guns. The French repaired the damage they and the Germans had done and extended the defenses of the fort, which they held for the rest of the war.

So, a chap named James Morris created what looks like a wizard wargame depicting the German assaults inside Fort Vaux. There are some photos on this Wargames Illustrated page, about halfway down, showing the map of the galleries the game designer used and an overview of the barracks block and nearby tunnels used in the game.

This blog entry at Steve's Paintingshed also has some photos, including more closeup shots of the model barracks and tunnels.

This looks like a great and imaginative game. Congratulations to Mr Morris on an impressive piece of work!

Wikipedia's Fort Vaux page

Some photos of present-day Fort Vaux

De Eerste Wereldoorlog page on the fighting over Fort Vaux, giving a detailed account of the German assault.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Black Contingents in Other European Forces

Tirailleurs Sénégalais in France, 1917 (
My previous post touched on African troops in French service. Of course, France was not the only country to employ Black troops (either colonials or home-country citizens). This paper by Christian Koller examines the African contingents in various armies, Europeans' perceptions of them, and the effect of the war on these participants and their cultures. Papers at this conference explored some of the same themes. And another page includes some rare and fascinating photos of Black soldiers in the British and German regular armies (rather than in colonial units).

British African Troops

King's African Rifles corporal and privates (
The title of "most famous African unit" to serve in the British forces in the Great War undoubtedly belongs to the King's African Rifles. Originally raised and serving as gendarmes (units with both civil police and military responsibilities), the KAR was expanded again and again during the Great War as the activities of Germany's colonial forces in German East Africa kept the British forces scrambling. By 1918, the KAR consisted of 22 battalions, well over 30,000 men. Disease had claimed an additional 3,000 men and combat more than 5,100 either killed or wounded. The KAR was originally formed in 1902 and replaced a number of other localized units from Kenya, Ugnada, British Somaliland, and Nyasaland (present-day Malawi). The KAR continued in their role as gendarmerie after the war and served around the globe in World War Two, continuing their reputation as brave and skillful fighters.

Other African units, which together made up the West African Frontier Force, were the Gold Coast Regiment, the Nigeria Regiment, the Sierra Leone Battalion, and the Gambia Company. Another unit from East Africa was the Somaliland Camel Corps.

Men of the South African Native Labour Contingent (Mail & Guardian)
South Africans had mixed feelings about the war. Some attempted to overthrow the Union government, and though the initial coup failed, an armed uprising persisted for nearly a year. South African forces fought for Britain in German Southwest Africa and in East Africa; a brigade-sized contingent even served in Egypt and on the Western Front. But only White South Africans were allowed to serve under arms. Black and mixed-race South Africans were only permitted to serve as porters and labourers or in France in the South African Native Labour Contingent, part of the Labour Corps.

Rhodesia (technically two entities, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, both controlled by the British South Africa Company, rather than by the Crown or a dominion government) did not share South Africa's equivocal feelings about the war. Many White Rhodesians joined the British Army or the Royal Flying Corps directly, sometimes forming formal or informal Rhodesian subunits. Others volunteered for the 1st and later 2nd Rhodesian Regiments, all-White units that served in South Africa during the tail end of the rebellion there, then in Southwest Africa and in East Africa.

The Rhodesia Native Regiment on parade in Salisbury (Wikipedia)
Rhodesia also raised first one then two Black African battalions (still led by White officers) for what was eventually called the Rhodesia Native Regiment. These troops served through arduous conditions and with great bravery in the East African campaign. When a contingent of 500 RNR soldiers, discharged and on their way home at the end of the war, reached the capital, Salisbury, they were greeted by a huge celebration, including the senior government minister, the territorial administrator, who gave a speech thanking the troops for their service and crediting them for having helped win the war.

But without question the largest force raised in Africa by the British was the conscripted labour force that supported British operations, the Carrier Corps of 400,000 men from East and Central Africa.

British West Indians

Of course, one significant Black contingent in the British forces were not Africans but troops from the West Indies. The British West Indies Regiment contributed eleven battalions to serve in Europe, in Italy, West and East Africa, and in Egypt and Palestine over the course of the war. The Bermuda Militia Artillery sent contingents to the Western Front with the Royal Garrison Artillery. (The Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, a white unit, also served on the Western Front). And civilians contributed to war loans, bond appeals, and other fund-raising drives, contributing considerable sums especially to the air services. One Caribbean soldier, George Blackman, interviewed in 2002, recounted some of his experiences of harsh labour and sporadic combat.

Black Britons

Arthur Roberts, RSF (The History Press)
And perhaps the smallest, but by no means the least Black contingent in the British forces were those Black Britons who served in the Army, the Royal Navy, and other services lke the merchant marine. The footballer Walter Tull, probably the most famous of these, enlisted, served in France, was commissioned as an officer in the Middlesex Regiment, but was sadly killed in action in 1918. This article from BBC Magazine relates the story of David Louis Clemetson, a Cambridge law student who served as a commissioned officer in the Territorials in Macedonia, then transferred into the Welsh Regiment. He, too, was killed in action in France in 1918. The story of Arthur Roberts, who served in the Kings Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Scots Fusilier, was a happier one; he survived the war to be demobilized, become a skilled tradesman, marry and raise a family, dying only in 1982. For a general study of Black British experiences of the war, military and civilian, Black Poppies: Britain’s Black Community and the Great War seems to be the most recent and comprehensive account. It is available as a Google eBook, as well as in print.

Belgium and Others

Belgium's Force Publique, another gendarme force with White officers and NCOs and African private soldiers, expanded during the war as it fought the Germans in West, Central, and East Africa. Starting 1914 with 17,000 men in four battalions, the FP expanded to about 25,000 men in 1916 and to 15 battalions by the end of the war with another 260,000 men conscripted as bearers.

Portugal and Spain also raised askari (native troops) in their Saharan and sub-Saharan African colonies, but these saw little action in the war.


Kamerun Schutztruppen (Deutsche Welle)
On the German side, the Schuztruppe ("protection force") of the colonies of German West Africa, German Southwest Africa, and German East Africa numbered over 6,300 men, including medical and technical staff. Each colony had slightly different policies; in Southwest Africa, because of Germany's genocidal war with the native Herero population, all ranks in the Schutztrruppe were White--either Germans or disaffected Boers. In West Africa (Kamerun and Togoland), Whites provided the officers and NCOs and Blacks the enlisted ranks.

Schutztruppe soldier saying goodbye to his family (
In East Africa, the 14 companies of Schutztruppen included White officers and technical staff, some White NCOs and technicians, but also Black NCOs (three times as many as White ones) and Black other ranks. Each company also had a body of 250 bearers. Companies also had irregular native contingents, called Ruga-Ruga, of comparable size to the companies (150-200 men). An additional 16 companies were raised during the war, as well as eight companies of riflemen (Schützenkompagnies) which were originally formed by White settlers but became of mixed racial composition as time went on. Sometimes numbering only a few thousand men, the Deutsch-Ostafrika Schutztruppen eventually required close to a quarter of a million British, Indian, and African troops to be posted to the East African theater. At the end of the war, the DOS was still operating in the field, undefeated and uncaptured. When news of the armistice in Europe reached them, they laid down their arms. In 1919, they were honored with a march through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (only officers were able to participate, as the troops had been demobilized in Africa). In 1964, the German government voted to provide back-dated pay to all askaris (native troops) of the Schutztruppe who could present proof of service. As a commmentor to the previous post noted, the test that was eventually settled on was asking the claimants to perform the Schutztruppe manual of arms (weapons-handling drill). All 3250 who showed up to apply performed the drill correctly, more than 45 years after being demobilized.

The War in Africa

The centennial of the Great War has prompted a number of retrospective examinations of the effect of the war on Africa and of Africans' contributions to the war efforts of their colonial rulers. One effort to document the war's effect on the continent is World War I in Africa. The website provides some background to the project, founded by a French geographer and a Tanzanian cultural activist, but overall the site appears sporadically maintained. Their Tumblr blog appears to be updated more often.

Another source is the Great War in Africa Association.

Other pages include:
For a broad review of the Great War campaigns across the African continent, Wikipedia's page is as good a place to start as any. In future posts, I'll look at some different African campaigns individually.
Schutztruppe soldiers in Dar es Salaam (CNN)

Monday, February 22, 2016

February: Verdun and French African Troops in the Great War

German grenadiers and flamethrowers at Verdun. (
Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of Fall Gericht, the German operation to capture the French city of Verdun. Or, more accurately, to draw the French Army into a battle of attrition over the city that would weaken it to the point that France could be induced to conclude a separate peace, leaving its allies Russia and Great Britain to fight on alone or concede victory to the Central Powers.

Instead, the battle would prove almost as costly to Germany as to France. And it drew off French support for the year's planned offensive by the Allies on the Western Front, weakening it and leading in some part to the slaughter that was the Somme. But even with the massive casualties they suffered, the Allied forces on the Somme made some headway over the course of the ensuing months. By the end of the year, despite hundreds of thousands of casualties, the Germans had captured almost no ground around Verdun that the French had not been able to recapture, and in seeking to bleed France white, the Germans had taken staggering losses of their own. Instead of crushing French national morale, the Germans had created of the city a heroic martyr. France issued all troops who served in the region a special medal; the lone supply route into the city was christened "the Sacred Way", and even the villages destroyed in the battle became sanctified as sacrifices to the preservation of France. A public drama, part living history, part secular passion play, is produced every summer to commemorate the siege.

French troops under fire at Verdun. (Getty)
If you have sufficient French, I would recommend the centenary website set up by the French government and a group of regional and historical associations, and/or this site set up by the tourism authority. For an English language introduction, this website from Nederland provides both a brief overview and more detailed accounts of events. Of course Wikipedia has an exhaustive set of articles on the campaign.

February here in the United States is also African-American history month. In 1916, American was still sitting out the war. The brave men of America's 92nd and 93rd Divisions, including the Harlem Hellfighters of the 369th Infantry, the Black Devils of the 370th, and the Buffalo Soldiers of the 371st and 372nd who would later serve in France's Red Hand Division were all still on America's shores.

But France had many African heroes in 1916. France's colonial empire served as a recruiting ground for a large segment of the French armed forces, and unlike Great Britain, France was not chary about bringing its black African soldiers to fight in Europe against white European foes. In fact, France had counted on La force noire to help defend metropolitan France since 1914, and had included both sub-Saharan African troops and North African troops in its strategic force planning since the previous century, recognizing that with the birthrate of metropolitan France unable to keep up with that of Germany, the empire would have to help defend the mother country. France also brought troops from its Southeast Asian dominions to help defend France.

French African troops. (
French troops from sub-Saharan Africa were collectively know as Tirailleurs Sénégalais (though not all of them came from Senegal). They served not only on the Western Front but as part of France's contingent in the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign and as garrisons in various overseas territories. They provided part of the occupation army that secured former German territory after the war. The Regiments Tirailleurs Sénégalais (RTS) continued to serve France and fight loyally in her wars until 1964, seeing action in World War Two, Indochina, and Algeria.

In June 2006, the African contribution to the defense of Verdun was recognized by the opening of a memorial to the Muslim troops--Algerians, Moroccans, Senegalese, and others--who fought for France in the Great War and especially those who died in defense of Verdun. Just last year, the president of Mali, visiting France, made sure to visit Verdun and pay tribute to the sons of his nation who had fallen in France.

Edited to add: I had the following exchange with a reader offline, and I thought it would  enhance the post, so with his permission I'm including it.

Andrew: Interesting that you mention this, as it is strangely under reported. I had never heard about African troops until I saw a bit about them in a documentary several years ago. Besides telling their story, one thing I've never seen any cogent discussion about is the effect of their service *after* they returned home. Before WWI, the colonial European powers looked pretty invincible to the colonials. After having served in Europe and fought Europeans, I suspect the mindset back in those colonies changed for those returning veterans; that aside, they returned home as trained, seasoned troops with tactical and organizational knowledge. The usual narrative is that the European powers bled themselves out in WWI which set the stage for colonial independence movements; but I suspect that colonial veterans of the Great War may have played as much of a part when colonial independence movements took off a generation later.

The Hissing Fuse: There's been more discussion in recent decades of the effect of the wars on those countries. I'm hoping to do a couple of follow-up posts, as I ran across a lot of interesting resources on the web.

Plus, this only briefly touched on African troops in French service. Of course, the British and Germans had large bodies of African colonial troops as well, and the Brits recruited a good many men in the West Indies, both in military and civilian roles.

None of which touches on the European use of South Asians, Southeast Asians, and East Asians, both as soldiers and laborers. One interesting site I ran across covers a good many of these topics at once. Called "War and Colonies, 1914-1918", it catalogues a conference and exhibition of the same name.

Andrew: On a related note, one of my favorite anecdotes from WWI is the decision of Germany to pay back benefits to Askari veterans who served under von Lettow-Vorbeck. Many who reported to claim benefits had no record of their service, but even decades later were able to flawlessly perform the manual of arms given German commands. No good direct link in English, but it's mentioned with sources in the Wikipedia article for von Lettow-Vorbeck here and in a German article in a 1975 issue of the magazine Der Spiegel here.