Tricolor Over the Sahara: The Desert Battles of the Free French, 1940-1942

Tricolor Over the Sahara: The Desert Battles of the Free French, 1940-1942

by Edward L. Bimberg


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This is the story of the early struggles of an ill-equipped ragtag French force, among the first to pledge its loyalty to General de Gaulle. It fought a lonely, almost secret war against the numerically superior Italian troops deep in the wildest parts of the Sahara, hundreds of miles from the main campaigns along the African coast. These daring Free French raids with their long thirsty treks and small-scale oasis battles have been nearly forgotten, although their path is marked by the graves of many hundreds of French, Italian, and native soldiers. Bimberg details the exotic units that participated in this struggle, including the Tirailleurs Sénégalaise du T'chad (African Infantry), the Compagnies Sahariennes (Saharan Camel Companies), and the Groupe Nomade du Tibesti (a tribal militia recruited in the Tibesti Mountain region of the great desert).

Despite antiquated equipment and some of the world's worst terrain, the Free French were among the most dedicated soldiers in the Allied camp. The backdrop to their fierce fighting includes the barely surveyed Tibesti Mountains with their 10,000 foot volcanic peaks, interspersed with treacherous shifting sands—terrain which would prove to be an enormous challenge to the worn out, patched-together motor vehicles of the Free French. Much of the action takes place in the most remote areas of Italian Libya, the desert province of Fezzan with its fortified oases of Mourzouk and Koufra, each strongly defended by the Italians. While these skirmishes were a sideshow to the epic battles of North Africa, they were immortalized by heroic acts by the French and African troops alike, efforts that ultimately led to success in this far corner of the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780313316548
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/30/2002
Series: Contributions in Military Studies Series , #217
Pages: 152
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.38(d)
Lexile: 1310L (what's this?)

About the Author

EDWARD L. BIMBERG is an independent researcher. He entered Federal service with the National Guard cavalry regiment just prior to World War II. Five years later, after serving overseas in North Africa, Corsica, and Italy, he returned to civilian life, working as an advertising copywriter and penning free-lance articles on military and equestrian subjects. For the past 30 years he has owned a series of riding schools in New Jersey, while continuing to pursue his writing. He is the author of The Moroccan Goums: Tribal Warriors in a Modern War (Greenwood, 1999).

Table of Contents


The Desert Before

The Stirrings of War

Combat—Mourzouk and Koufra

The Ghost Raiders

On to Tunis

Enter, the Legion

The Western Desert

Looking Back


Appendix: Uniforms


Selected Bibliography


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