PORTRAIT OF COLONIAL VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS: THE “TONKINESE RIFLES” (1905)

This vintage real photo postcard presents us with a glimpse of history in southeast Asia during colonial times. The postcard features a group of soldiers; three are Vietnmese and one is French. The caption under the photograph describes the group of soldiers as a  “Groupe de Tirailleurs Tonkinois”. The Tirailleurs were soldiers comprising several regiments of local ethnic indochinese infantry organized by the French colonial authorities.The Tirailleurs were originally established in Vietnam in 1880. The regiment members in this photograph came from the noted “Tonkinese Rifles”. Initially these regiments were known to have problems with a high rate of desertion. Eventually, with French marine officers, the Vietnamese force became effective. They were positioned to occupy France’s indochinese possessions, These troops also served in Indochina, China (Boxer Rebellion), Russia (1918-1919), Syria (1920-1921), and Morroco (1925-1926). They also participated in World War I. In 1945, some regiments rebelled against the occupation of Vietnam by Japan. Despite a fierce resistance, the Tirailleurs were nearly annihilated. The illustration below shows a soldier from a regiment (Annamite Tirailleur) that fought alongside the “Tonkinese Rifles”. This postcard was published by R. Moreau (Hanoi) and is part of a series (no. 1138). The postcard was postmarked at Ninh Binh in 1905 and has a French stamp. Ninh Bình is a province in North Vietnam’s Red River Delta.  SOLD