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Silves history - WWI combatants listed in new exhibition

ww1Pictures and records of those former residents of Silves municipality who fought for the Allies during World War I, (which for Portugal ran from 1916 to 1918) are being recognised in an exhibition in the old casino in Armação de Pêra.

Men from the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (CEP) are noted in, ‘The Combatants of the Municipality of Silves in World War I.’

Lists name men from the various Silves parishes and note their rank and where they served.

Also recorded is the date that the men left by troop carriers from Lisbon and the names of those that were lucky enough to return, whether they received decorations, who was injured and those involved in the bloody and infamous Battle of La Lys.*

The mobile exhibition already has been on display in Pêra, São Marcos da Serra and Alcantarilha and will continue across the municipality through the year.

During August, the exhibition will be shown in the Council building in Silves, for those who miss it in Armação.


* Battle of La Lys

On April 9, 1918, in the valley of the River Lys in northern France, the second division of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps was fighting.
A massive enemy bombardment had cut the supply lines and communications, completely destroying defensive fortifications. This was ‘Portuguese Verdun’ of the First World War.
The British First Army was a weakened force and included several worn-out formations that had been posted to a "quiet sector". This included two divisions of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps, which were undermanned, lacked almost half of their officers, had very low morale and were due to be replaced on the day of the German attack. Portugal had joined the conflict following the declaration of war on Portugal by Germany in March 1916.
The German plan was to break through the First Army, push the Second Army aside to the north, and drive west to the English Channel, cutting off British forces in France from their supply line which ran through the Channel ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne.
In the ensuing battle at La Lys, the trenches were defended, resulting in hand-to-hand fighting against four German divisions with the Portuguese succumbing to the overwhelming attack.
Portugal suffered a heavy defeat with hundreds of soldiers losing their lives, thousands taken prisoners, later dying of their wounds and of sickness.
La Lys was the most dramatic moment of Portugal's participation in the Great War. Portugal mobilised around 100,000 men and sent two divisions (57,000 men) to France and under 20,000 to Africa in defence of Angola and Mozambique. An estimated 8,000 men were killed in the trenches of Flanders and on the battlefields of Africa.
In four years of bloodshed,  between 1914 and 1918, some 65 million combatants were mobilised, of which ten million died and 29 million were wounded, listed as missing or captured.


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-1 #6 Peter Booker 2019-07-06 07:43
"……in the 1st war despite remaining neutral." writes AL.

Germany declared war on Portugal on March 9th 1916; this declaration was rapidly reciprocated. So Portugal officially entered the war in March, 1916 and ceased to be neutral.
+3 #5 AL 2019-07-05 08:46
Quoting Luz-Rez:
Men died fighting the Germans,surely they should be remembered with Honour and Gratitude.

You would think that these men earned the right to be remembered honorably but unfortunately some people's distort view of history think they have the right to insult not only the soldiers that died but also their descendants.
Portugal lost around 12000 men in the 1st war despite remaining neutral.
+4 #4 Luz-Rez 2019-07-05 07:03
Men died fighting the Germans,surely they should be remembered with Honour and Gratitude.
-4 #3 Peter Booker 2019-07-04 08:56
Some of Historyman´s comments are correct. After the disaster at La Lys, Portuguese troops became unreliable, and some even turned their weapons on their own officers. For this reason, they were put to work in areas which did not involve contact with the enemy, such as dock work (although I think that work in Belgian docks would have been a bit difficult), and even forestry work in Hampshire.

It is also true that even the politicians in Lisbon were increasingly doubtful of the necessity or advisability of Portugal´s participation in the trench war in Flanders. This unease was a powerful force behind the coup which led to the accession to power of Sidónio.
-8 #2 Historyman 2019-07-03 08:49
Knowing in detail which Portuguese soldiers were actually in the trenches at La Lys and the much larger proportion 'secretly' put to work unloading supply ships in the French and Belgian docks would help. Perhaps we will never know for sure after 40 odd years of the Salazar dictatorship doing its historical re-writes and to save Portuguese honour this WW1 factoid never got circulation in Portugal. As Lloyd George points out in his memoirs the Portuguese were very reluctant to be there at all and could not be relied upon. After all "Contra os Bretoes" was the only chorus in the Portuguese Hino Nacional up until 1957 and - given its ultra-secrecy since rarely written down and only handed down verbally from earlier generations on a need to know basis - can you be sure it is "Contra os Canhoes" being sung even nowadays??
0 #1 Peter Booker 2019-07-03 08:00
"…World War I, (which for Portugal ran from 1916 to 1918)", you write, Ed. Strictly speaking, of course you are right.

But right from the start of the war in Europe, German forces were attacking Portuguese positions in the south of Angola, and Portuguese troops were dying there in 1914. And so many war memorials in this country, including the ones in Tavira, reflect the actual war (1914 - 1918) rather than the official war (1916 - 1918).

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