During the First World War, there were roughly 480.000 soldiers and 225.000 workers in France from the colonies, including 134.000 West Africans. Moroccan, Somalian and Senegalese regiments played an important role in the battle of Verdun and the recapture of Fort de Douaumont, near Verdun, on 24 October 1916.
The figure of the Senegalese rifleman has been invoked by generations of immigrant associations as a reminder to French society that African colonial subjects made great sacrifices in blood for the greater glory of France. The contribution of colonial subjects to the French military effort remains to this day an important stake in defining colonial heritage.
Read more in: James Cohen, 'Postcolonial Immigrants in France and their Descendants' in: Postcolonial Migrants and Identity Politics. Europe, Russia, Japan and the United States in Comparison (New York 2012) 23-59.