ON 24 February 1916, at the request of its old British ally, Portugal inspected 36 German merchant ships anchored in its ports. On 9 March 1916, Germany declared war on the young and still fragile Portuguese republic. On 17 January 1917, The Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (Corpo Expedicionário Português or CEP) was officially established, taking its orders from British military HQ. From 2 February 1917 to 28 October of the same year, some sixty thousand men left Portugal for France.
Three long days at sea, accompanied by the fear of submarine attack before reaching Brest… followed by an 800km journey of a similar duration to the train station in Aire-sur-la-Lys. The 1st Division, led by General Gomes da Costa, established its headquarters in Thérouanne, while the 2nd, under the command of General Simas Machado, based itself in Fauquembergues. The CEP’s command post was in Roquetoire in the Château de la Morande (whose grounds were the setting for the Croix de Guerre ceremony on 13 October 1917 in the presence of the President of the Portuguese Republic).
The Portuguese troops got on well with the local population, attending processions, funerals, and festivals such as the Feux de la Saint-Jean summer solstice celebration, where they played the cavaquinho, an instrument resembling a guitar. On a more serious note, the military education of these troops gathered momentum in early 1917 at Mametz, Clarques and Audincthun.
From 11 May to 5 November 1917, their units took up position on the front line; the Portuguese sector formed the shape of a trapezium around Neuve-Chapelle, Laventie, La Couture and Saint- Venant, where the Manoir de la Peylouse became the official residence of Fernando Tamagnini, the commander of the CEP, in June 1917… (download the pdf to read more)