The French Fusiliers Marins (“Naval Fusiliers”) are units specialised in the protection and defence of key sites of the French Navy on land.
Their origin is rather old: in 1627, Richelieu founded the Régiment de la Marine. It was to provide onboard troops capable of fighting on land or on sea, and commanded by the officers of the ship. These troops were part of the crew, and helped with navigation.
When France entered World War I, several fusiliers-marins were usuless for their duty on board, as most of the fightings were on land. That’s why, on August 7 (exactly 98 years ago today, a 6000-men brigade was created, composed of 2 regiments of fusiliers-marins. This brigade suffered heavy losses during fights in Northern France and Belgium during the autumn and winter 1914-1915. At the end of 1915, the brigad is located in the zone of Nieuport. Because of the threat of german submarines, the French Navy, the Marine Nationale needed these men back. That’s why the brigade and the regiments were no more active at the end of 1915.
During the 16 months spent on the front, this brigade had very heavy casualties (killed, wounded and MIA): 172 officers, 346 NCOs and about 6,000 sailors, more or less the number of men at its creation.
Thanks to the legend on the back of this photograph
1915 Secteur Saint Georges
Fusiliers marins et territoriaux du 6ème sont des amis de tranchées – oncles et neveux disent-ils
which can be translated as
1915 Saint Georges sector
Fusiliers marins and territorials of the 6th are trench friends – they say uncles and nephews
we know that the portrayed men comes from one of the fusiliers-marins regiment and from the 6th régiment territorial d’infanterie which saw action around Dunkerque (August-September and end of October 1914) and in the region of Wormhout, Wilder and Lens between February and April 1915 and again in Belgium (Nieuport and Lombartzyde) from April to December 1915.