This film is part of Free
Gaumont Graphic No. 373
Indian soldiers arrive at Marseilles in the early months of World War I
This 30-second item shows Indian cavalry troopers and infantrymen marching in column in Marseilles. The soldiers in question were part of the Indian Corps sent to France (later designated as Indian Expeditionary Force A) and were to supplement the British Expeditionary Force sent in the first weeks of the war. They are probably marching from the port in Marseilles to the initial camp of the Indian Army at Marseilles Borely racecourse in the south of the city.
The Indian Army were part of Britain's war planning from the early weeks of WWI. Soldiers of the Indian Expeditionary Force boarded steamers in Bombay in August 1914 and arrived throughout October and November of that year. And yet this brief silent film, even without captions, conveys the lack of preparation for the nature of war on the Western Front. The cavalry troopers shown are lancers - soldiers on horseback armed with nothing but lances and sidearms. The infantrymen lacked the warm clothing needed for winter warfare in Europe - the absence of winter greatcoats led to hurried attempts by the Indian Army in Marseilles to borrow coats from the French.