"Goumier" is a term used for Moroccan soldiers, who served in auxiliary units attached to the
French Army, between 1908 and 1956. The term was also occasionally used to designate native soldiers in the French army of the French Sudanand Upper Volta during the colonial era.
The word originated in the
Maghrebi Arabicword "qum" (قم), which means "stand up". Later a "goum" was a unit of 200 soldiers. Three or four goums made up a "tabor". An "engine" or "groupe" was composed of three tabors.
Each goum was a mix of different tribes. Initially they were recruited predominantly from the
Chaouiaregions of Sidi Boubaker, Ouled Said, Settat, Kasbeth Ben Ahmed, Dar Bouazza, and Sidi Slimane.
The designation of "goumiers" was originally given to tribal irregulars employed as allies by the French Army during the early 1900s in southern Algeria. These mounted allies operated under their own tribal leadership and were entirely distinct from the regular Muslim cavalry (
Spahi) and infantry ( Tirailleur) regiments of the French Armee d'Afrique. [ [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2501/is_n2_v20/ai_21187377/pg_2|Maghraoui, Driss. "Moroccan colonial soldiers: between selective memory and collective memory - Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in North Africa".Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Spring, 1998] ]
Algerian goumiers were employed during the initial stages of the French intervention in Morocco, commencing in 1908. After their terms of enlistment expired, the Algerians returned to their homeland, but the advantages of indigenous irregulars were such that they were replaced by Moroccan levies. Retaining the designation of goumiers, the Moroccans served in detachments under French officers and Algerian non-commissioned officers, both of whom were usually seconded from the Spahis and Tirailleurs. ["Zouaves & Tirailleurs: les regiments de marche et les regiments mixtes" Jean-Louis Larcade, ISBN 2-9515171-0-6] .
These semi-permanently employed Moroccan goumiers were initially raised by General Albert D'Amade to patrol recently-occupied areas. Goumiers also served as scouts and in support of regular French troops, and in 1911 they became permanent units. Nominally, they were under the control of the
Sultan of Morocco, but in practice they formed an extension of the French Armyand subsequently fought for France in third countries (see below). However, their biggest involvement was in Morocco itself during the period of French "pacification".
Initially, the Moroccan Goums wore tribal dress with arm bands, but as they achieved permanent status they adopted the distinctive brown and grey striped jellaba (a hooded Moroccan cloak) that was to remain their trademark throughout their history with the French Army. Their normal headdress was a turban. Goums included both infantry and cavalry elements. Their traditional and favoured weapons were
sabres or elongated daggers.
An equivalent force known as the "Mehal-La Jalifiana" was raised in
Spanish Moroccousing France's goumiers as a model.
World War I
The Goumiers did not see service outside Morocco during the
First World War. Their existence did, however, enable General Hubert Lyauteyto withdraw a substantial portion of the regular French military forces from Morocco for service on the Western Front. Remaining separate from the regular Moroccan regiments of the French Armee d' Afrique, the Goumiers gave valuable service during the Rif Wars of the 1920s. They subsequently became a form of gendarmerie, keeping order in rural districts of Morocco.
World War II
Four Moroccan groups (
regimental-sized units) served with the Allied forces during World War II. They specialised in night raiding operations, and fought against the forces of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germanyduring 1942-45. Goumier units were also used to man the front lines in mountainous and other rough terrain areas, freeing regular Allied infantry units to operate along more profitable axes of advance.
North Africa 1940-42
In May 1940, 12 Moroccan Goums were organized as the 1st Group of Moroccan Auxiliaries (French: "1er Groupe de Supplétifs Marocains" - G.S.M.) and used in combat against Italian troops operating out of
Libya. After the armistice of 1940, the Goums were returned to Morocco. In order to evade strict German limits on how many troops that France was allowed to maintain in North Africa, the Goumiers were described as having Gendarmerie-type functions, such as the maintenance of public order and the surveillance of frontiers, while maintaining military armament, organization, and discipline. [Gaujac, p. 68]
The 1st GSM (Groupe de Supplétifs Marocains) fought on the Tunisian front as part of the Moroccan March Division from December 1942, and was joined by the 2nd GSM in January 1943. After the
Tunisia Campaign, the French organized two additional groups and retitled the groups as "Groupe de Tabors Marocains" (G.T.M.) Each group contained a command Goum (company) and three Tabors (battalions) of three Goums each. A Tabor contained four 81-mm mortars and totalled 891 men. Each infantry Goum was authorized 210 men, one 60-mm mortar, two light machineguns, and seven automatic rifles. [Gaujac, p. 58]
An anonymous junior officer from the U.S. 26th Infantry Regiment, a unit which fought alongside the Goumiers in Tunisia, wrote:
:"Two companies of Goums...were stationed next to our CP, and these had sent out two raiding parties the same night... Mostly mountain men from Morocco, these silent, quick-moving raiders were excellent at night raids, and in surprise attacks. How successful they had been was attested by the two [French] officers who had command of the companies of the Goumiers. The companies lacked most of the clothing, equipment and weapons necessary for warfare. Several raids had remedied that. Inspection of their clothing revealed a good many German articles of clothing under their conventional brown and white vertical striped robes. Their rifles were mixed German and Italian, with a few old French rifles firing clips of four. Mess equipment, and a good deal of the food was also of enemy origin, as were the knives, pistols, blankets and toilet articles. From questioning of the Italian prisoners, it was evident that they had either heard or experienced the merciless raids of the Goums, and they wanted no part of them. Part of the Goums' success lay in their silence as they moved forward, and in their highly perfected art of camouflage. One anecdote ran that one warrior had so successfully camouflaged himself all day in full sight of the Germans that a German officer had wandered over to what he thought was a bush, and had urinated on the motionless head of the Moroccan soldier who bore the trial well, but who marked that particular officer down for special attention that night. Goums did not take any prisoners, and it was well-known to the Germans and Italians what befell anyone who ran afoul of those Moroccans. There was certainly no desire to have our battalion tangle with either of the two raiding parties sent out the same night." [http://www.bluespader.org/uploads/1/071_1.html]
Separate from the groups, the 14th Tabor did not participate in the fighting in Europe and remained in Morocco to keep public order for the remainder of the war. [Gaujac, p. 68]
The 4th Tabor of Moroccan Goums fought in the Sicilian Campaign, landing at
Licataon July 14, 1943, and was attached to the U.S. Seventh Army. [Gaujac, p. 68] [ [http://www.farac.org/php/article.php3?id_article=64|François Lescel (2002), "Fédération des Amicales Régimentaires et des Anciens Combattants website article no. 366 (March 2002) "Goumiers, Goums, Tabors" (French language text)] ] The Goumiers of the 4th Tabor were attached to the U.S. 1st Infantry Division on July 27 1943and were recorded in the U.S. 26th Infantry Regiment's log files for their courage. Upon their arrival many Italian soldiers surrendered en masse, while the Germans began staging major retreats away from known Goumiers presence. [cite web |url=http://www.bluespader.org/uploads/SicilyTranscript.pdf |title=S-1 Journal, 26th Infantry Regimental Combat Team |accessdate=2007-05-16 |format=PDF |work=bluespader.org ]
The Italian campaign of World War II is perhaps the most famous and most controversial in the history of the Goumiers. The 4th Group of Moroccan Tabors shipped out for Italy in November 1943, and was followed in January 1944 by the 3rd Group, and reinforced by the 1st Group in April 1944. [Gaujac, p. 68]
In Italy, the Allies suffered a long stalemate at the German
Gustav Line. In May 1944, three Goumier groupes, under the name "Corps de Montagne", were the vanguard of the French Expeditionary Corps attack through the AurunciMountains during Operation Diadem, the fourth Battle of Monte Cassino. "Here the Goums more than proved their value as light, highly mobile mountain troops who could penetrate the most vertical terrain in fighting order and with a minimum of logistical requirements. Most military analysts consider the Goumiers' manoeuvre as the critical victory that finally opened the way to Rome." [http://www.sonic.net/~bstone/archives/990909.shtml] The Allied commander, U.S. General Mark Clark also paid tribute to the Goumiers and the Moroccan regulars of the Tirailleur units: :"In spite of the stiffening enemy resistance, the 2nd Moroccan Divisionpenetrated the Gustave [sic] Line in less than two day’s fighting. The next 48 hours on the French front were decisive. The knife-wielding Goumiers swarmed over the hills, particularly at night, and General Juin’s entire force showed an aggressiveness hour after hour that the Germans could not withstand. Cerasola, San Giorgio, Mt. D’Oro, Ausoniaand Esperiawere seized in one of the most brilliant and daring advances of the war in Italy... For this performance, which was to be a key to the success of the entire drive on Rome, I shall always be a grateful admirer of General Juin and his magnificent FEC."
However, the military achievements of the Goumiers in Italy were accompanied by widespread reports of war crimes: "...exceptional numbers of Moroccans were executed—many without trial—for allegedly murdering, raping, and pillaging their way across the Italian countryside. The French authorities sought to defuse the problem by importing numbers of Berber women to serve as "camp followers" in rear areas set aside exclusively for the Goumiers." [http://www.sonic.net/~bstone/archives/990909.shtml] According to Italian sources, more than 7,000 people were raped by Goumiers. [http://www.cassino2000.com/cdsc/studi/archivio/n07/n07p09.html] The victims, later known in Italy as "
Marocchinate", included women, children and men, including some priests. The mayor of Esperia (a " comune" in the Province of Frosinone), reported that in his town, 700 women out of 2,500 inhabitants were raped and that some had died as a result. In northern Latiumand southern Tuscany, it is alleged that the Goumiers raped and occasionally killed women and young men after the Germans retreated, including members of partisan formations. [http://www.dalvolturnoacassino.it/DOC/marocchinate2.pdf] On the other hand a British journalist commented, "The Goums have become a legend, a joke… No account of their rapes or their other acts is too eccentric to to be passed off as true." [Parker, Matthew. "Monte Cassino: The story of the hardest-fought battle of World War Two. " p. 269 ]
The French Expeditionary Corps executed 15 soldiers by firing squad and sentenced 54 others to hard labor in military prisons for acts of rape or murder. [Gaujac, p. 69]
During their fighting in the Italian Campaign, the Goumiers suffered 3,000 casualties, of which 600 were deaths. [Gaujac, p. 69]
In September 1943 the 2nd Group of Moroccan Tabors participated in the liberation of Corsica, and fought the Germans in the mountains near
Bastia, by Cape Corse. [http://www.farac.org/php/article.php3?id_article=64|]
The 2nd Group of Moroccan Tabors was part of the French Forces that took
Elbafrom the Germans in June 1944. The operation was called Operation Brassard. The island was more heavily defended than expected, and there were many casualties on both sides as a result of the severe fighting.
Mainland France, 1944
The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Groups of Moroccan Tabors fought in the campaigns in southern France,
Vosges Mountains, and Alsaceduring late 1944 and early 1945. The Goumiers started landing in southern France on August 18, 1944. Attached to the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division, all three groups took part in the combat to liberate Marseillefrom August 20 - 28, 1944. The 1st Group was subsequently used to secure France's Alpine frontier with Italy until late October 1944, and then took part in the forcing of the Belfort Gap in November. During late September and early October 1944, the 2nd and 3rd Groups fought in the areas of Remiremontand Gérardmer. All three groups fought in the Vosges Mountains during November and December 1944, facing extremely cold weather and bitter German resistance. After hard fighting in the Vosges Mountains and the Colmar Pocket, the 3rd Group was repatriated to Morocco in April 1945. It was replaced in Europe by the 4th Group, which had returned to North Africa after French forces left Italy. [Gaujac, p. 71] [http://www.farac.org/php/article.php3?id_article=64|]
The 1st, 2nd, and 4th Groups of Moroccan Tabors fought in the final operations to overrun southwestern Germany in 1945. [Gaujac, p. 71] The 1st Group fought through the
Siegfried Linein the Bienwaldfrom March 20 - 25, 1945. In April 1945, the 1st and 4th Groups took part in the combat to seize Pforzheim. In the last weeks of the war, the 2nd Group fought in the Black Forestand pushed southeast to Germany's Austrian border. During the same period, the 1st and 4th Groups advanced with other French forces on Stuttgartand Tübingen. By mid-1946, all three groups had been repatriated to Morocco.
The total of Goumier casualties in World War II from 1942 to 1945 was 8,018 of which 1,625 were killed in action. [http://www.farac.org/php/article.php3?id_article=64|]
Following the War goum units saw service in French Indo-China until the fall of Dien-Bien-Phu in 1954, taking part in the Hoa Binh campaign against the Viet Minh forces.
Following Moroccan independence
With Moroccan independence in 1956, the Goums were incorporated into the new Royal Army of Morocco. Following negotiations between the French, Spanish and Moroccan governments, it was agreed that both regular and auxiliary Moroccan units could be transferred into the new "Forces Armees Royale" or FAR. Fourteen thousand Moroccan personnel were according transferred from French service. The modern Moroccan military includes both a Royal Gendarmerie and Auxiliary Force Companies. Both forces have an overlapping rural policing role and are in that sense the successors of the Goumiers.
Notes and citations
* Bimberg, Edward L. "The Moroccan Goums: Tribal Warriors in a Modern War". Westport, CT: Greenwood Press (1999).
* Gaujac, Paul. "L'Armée de la Victoire" (Volume 3). Paris: Charles Lavauzelle (1985).
* Martins, Ralph A. "Goumier Flanked U.S. Troops in Sicily." "Cavalry Journal", 52 (Sep-Oct 1943): pp. 30-31
* "U.S. Intelligence Bulletin", "Moroccan Goums." (June 1946)
Indigènes: a DramaFrench filmpresenting the story of four goums. Awarded the "Prix d'interprétation masculine du Festival de Cannes" at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
* [http://www.sonic.net/~bstone/archives/990909.shtml Bill Stone, "Book review. Bimberg, Edward L. The Moroccan Goums: Tribal Warriors in a Modern War" (1999)]
* [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2501/is_n2_v20/ai_21187377 Driss Maghraoui, 1998, "Moroccan colonial soldiers: between selective memory and collective memory - Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in North Africa", "Arab Studies Quarterly" (Spring, 1998)]
* [http://www.sdreader.com/php/cityshow.php?id=C021998 Allan Peterson, San Diego Reader, 1998, "Pizza Man's Atrocity Hunt" (Anecdotal allegations of war crimes committed by Goumiers in Italy)]
* [http://www.gillesdurupt.com/1/leo/ "Portraits de Goumiers"] - 37 photographs taken in 1944 by Léo Durupt in the small French town of
Le Val-d'Ajol- Vosges
* [http://members.aol.com/Custermen85/Units/FrenchOrg.htm Author unknown, 2003, "History of FEC and its Divisions"]
* [http://www.farac.org/php/article.php3?id_article=64|François Lescel (2002), "Fédération des Amicales Régimentaires et des Anciens Combattants website article no. 366 (March 2002) "Goumiers, Goums, Tabors" (French language text)]
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