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Mauritius is a large island in the Indian Ocean, lying 1,200 miles from the south eastern coast of Africa and 700 miles east of Madagascar. At the time of the First World War the population of Mauritius was 372,000. It was largely made up of Indo-Mauritians, the descendants of Indian indentured labourers, and Creoles, the descendants of African and Madagascan slaves, as well as communities of Franco-Mauritians of French ancestry and British colonists.
Before the war, Mauritius was defended by around 1,000 British and Indian troops, who were based in the Imperial garrison. In October 1915 an act was passed to recruit a local defence force (CO 169/30) and in 1916 a little over 500 recruits joined the Volunteer Force. They formed three companies of infantry, a company of artillery, a company of engineers and an ambulance corps (WO 95/5450). This allowed the regular army troops in the garrison to be deployed where they were most needed, with the exception of the 59th Royal Garrison Artillery and the 25th Company, Royal Engineers, who stayed to bolster the volunteer force. In 1915 a naval wireless station was built on a site in Rose Belle (CO 167/813).
In 1917 a labour battalion was raised and over 1,500 Mauritians served in Mesopotamia (WO 95/5279). A further 520 Mauritians joined the British and French Armies and close to 200 Mauritians joined the Merchant Navy. The following gallantry medals were awarded to men enlisting from Mauritius: one Distinguished Service Cross, 12 Military Crosses, two Distinguished Conduct Medals, four Military Medals, 19 Croix de Guerre, one Medaille Militaire, one Medaille d’Honneur and three Legions d’Honneur (CO 171/89).
Sir John Chancellor
Sir Henry Hesketh Bell
- Original correspondence January-June, 1915 CO 167/813
- Acts 1912-1916 CO 169/30
- Government gazettes, 1918 CO 171/89
- War Diaries, Mauritius Home Forces, 1914-1919 WO 95/5450
- War Diaries, Mauritius Labour Corps June 1917–November 1919 WO 95/5279
- Mauritius defences WO 78/5403