Expatica news

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.