He faced a whole column of Germans alone during an offensive

Aníbal Milhais: the great feat of a Portuguese soldier during the World War I

Although Portugal was a neutral country at the beginning of the Great War, the fighting between the Germans and the Portuguese in Africa precipitated their entry into the war.

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In March 1916, Germany declared war on Portugal and this country, a traditional ally of the United Kingdom, began a mobilization that brought together almost 200,000 soldiers in the European and African theaters of operations. During the war, some 12,000 Portuguese soldiers fell in combat, being the last war fought by Portugal until the colonial conflicts it faced in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau well into the second half of the 20th century.

During the Great War, there was a Portuguese soldier who stood out for his heroism: Aníbal Augusto Milhais. In April 1918, this 22-year-old soldier from humble origins found himself immersed in the Battle of La Lys, in northern France, as part of the 2nd Division of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps. There, armed with his "Luísa" -as the Portuguese soldiers called the British Lewis machine gun- he singlehandedly faced an entire column of Germans, allowing Portuguese soldiers and British take cover in the rear from an enemy offensive.

Faced with the German advance, Milhais ended up finding himself alone in the enemy rear for four days, until he saw a Scottish military doctor who was about to drown in a swamp. He saved his life and managed to take him to the allied lines. The Scottish doctor was the first to report the exploits of the Portuguese soldier. Upon learning of it, a Portuguese commander told him: "Tu és Milhais, mas vales Milhões" (You are Milhais, but you are worth millions), which is why, since then, he has been known in Portugal as "Soldado Milhões" (Million Soldier).

Upon learning of the facts, Milhais received several notable decorations, including Knight of the Ancient and Very Noble Military Order of the Tower and Sword, founded in 1459 and which is the highest decoration in Portugal. Milhais was the only Portuguese soldier to receive it in that war. France also made him a Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, and Belgium awarded him the Gold Medal of the Order of Leopold II. In 1924 the Portuguese Parliament renamed his hometown of Valongo, in the north of the country, which has since been renamed Valongo de Milhais.

The Youtube channel Yarnhub published an excellent video produced by computer recreating the great feat of soldier Milhais:

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