Previously Balladeer’s Blog has examined Garrison Tales From Tonquin (Tonkin), the 1895 collection of short stories by James O’Neill, an American who served in the French Foreign Legion in Algeria and Vietnam during the 1880s and 1890s. I’ve also covered the Legion at Camerone and during the Great Syrian Revolt of the 1920s.
SECOND MADAGASCAR AFFAIR – This time around I’ll take a look at the French Foreign Legion during the 2nd Madagascar Conflict/ Expedition. The fighting went on from December 11th of 1894 to September 30th of 1895. This entire affair was so mishandled by French politicians in Reunion, by the War Minister and by General Jacques Duchesne that they basically killed thousands more of their own troops than were killed by the opposing forces.
TAKING IT FROM THE TOP – Typically for my French Foreign Legion posts, I’m not on their side in the war that the French government sent them to fight. It was the usual colonial nonsense, in this case exploiting unrest in the targeted country to use as an excuse for intervening and making Madagascar a French Protectorate. Regular readers know I don’t write sentiments like that to please politically correct fools, it’s just how I sincerely feel. If I felt any other way I wouldn’t hesitate to say so.
DECEMBER 1894 – On December 11th France declared war on Madagascar after its rulers refused to willingly become a French Protectorate. Though the French Army would be running this military campaign, the French Navy and their Marines kicked off the action by bombarding and then seizing Toamasina/ Tamatave on the eastern coast of Madagascar.
Though that location would have been ideal for a fairly quick march on the capital city of Tananarive/ Antananarivo, the French Army had beat out the French Navy for control of this war by UNDERCUTTING THEIR BID. (!) To stay within the lower costs the War Ministry had allocated, the army’s General Duchesne instead insisted on starting their campaign at Majunga/ Mahajanga on the northwestern coast of Madagascar, nearly doubling the amount of territory to be fought through.
JANUARY 1895 – In a relative feeling of “Team Spirit” the French Navy cooperated by now taking the area designated by the army for their landing site. On January 15th Majunga/ Mahajanga was bombarded and seized, fortress and all. Soon, however, the cosmic unsuitability of this location became apparent. Continue reading