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Friday, October 26, 2018

Force Publique soldiers of Belgian Congo

The Force Publique was a gendarmerie and military force in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1885 (when the territory was known as the Congo Free State), through the period of Belgian colonial rule (Belgian Congo – 1908 to 1960). In 1914, the Force Publique, including the Katanga companies, totalled about 17,000 askaris with 178 white officers and 235 white NCOs. The majority served in small static garrisons called poste with primarily a police role. 
With the outbreak of World War I, the Katangese units were organized in battalions (Ie, IIe, and IIIme) for military service in Northern Rhodesia and the eastern frontier districts of the Congo. The Force Publique was able to assemble another battalion from smaller units; originally called the IIIe but changed to the 11e to avoid confusion with the Katanga IIIme battalion. During World War I (1914–18) an expanded Force Publique served against German colonial forces in the Camerouns and German East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi), as part of the East African Campaign. The Force Publique performed well on the battlefield, winning the respect of their British and Portuguese allies, as well as that of their German opponents. 
The involvement of the Belgian Congo (the modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo) in World War II began with the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940. Despite Belgium's surrender, the Congo remained in the conflict on the Allied side, administered by the Belgian government in exile, and provided much-needed raw materials, most notably gold and uranium, to Britain and the United States. Congolese troops of the Force Publique fought alongside British forces in the East African Campaign, and a Congolese medical unit served in Madagascar and in the Burma Campaign. Congolese formations also acted as garrisons in Egypt, Nigeria and Palestine. 
Durso produced two types of the Force Publique soldiers : a) "with Fez" and b) "in European uniform". These nice figurines were made in 40s/50s.

The Force Publique in German East Africa during World War I

Force Publique leaving for Italian East Africa, where they were to play an important role in the Siege of Saïo, c.1941.

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