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The Origins Of The Kenya Regiment.  
(Len Weaver [KR 4910])
 




3945 1914 Africa Star Italy Star War medal 1939 - 1942 British War medal Atlantic Star Pacific Star France Germany Star Africa General Service Star Victory Medal Air Crew europe Star Defence Medal Burma Star



Chapter 2
the ORIGINs of the kenya regiment

The colonial period of Kenya’s history is remarkably short. British East Africa was proclaimed a Protectorate on 18 June 1895; it graduated to Colony status in June 1920 - only seventeen years before the formation of the Kenya Regiment; and it was granted independence on 12th December 1963. It was thus part of the British Empire for less than seventy years. During the early part of its existence it attracted settlement from many parts of the Empire as men of resource and enterprise responded to the generous invitations issued by the Government prior to WWI or to the soldier settlement schemes introduced after WWI. Many of those who served in the Kenya Regiment were members of settler families the majority of which had some history of military service. For a few of the very early settlers this service dated back to specific campaigns against the Nandi, Kikuyu or Turkana tribes during the early years of the twentieth century; of the 2,321 settlers of fighting age in 1914 two-thirds saw active service with the East African Mounted Rifles, the King’s African Rifles and other units; and ten years after WWI there was no shortage of volunteers for the Kenya Defence Force. Few colonies had quite the same turbulent military history as Kenya and the close links with the KAR, the East African Mounted Rifles and the Kenya Defence Force did much to condition the raison d’etre of the Kenya Regiment and the values and attitudes of those who served in it.

Conflict had been endemic in East Africa for centuries before the arrival of the British as colonial rulers. The old Arab/Swahili states were frequently at war and at times even Mombasa and Malindi were aggressive rivals. Rampaging warriors from such tribes as the Galla and the Masai in the interior were a constant threat to the safety of inhabitants of the coastal strip. In the interior various tribes fought each other constantly in order to capture livestock, women and slaves, the latter being mainly at the instigation of Arab or Swahili traders during the nineteenth century. A very significant figure in the colonial history of East Africa, the Consul General at Zanzibar, Sir John Kirk, was well aware of the potentialities of the interior but understood that its capacity for development would not be realised until the slave trade and its attendant atrocities had been largely abolished. Kirk was a man of strong personality and considerable charm who had great influence with the Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Barghash. As Hobley recounts in his book Kenya From Chartered Company to Crown Colony:

Barghash was very anxious to increase the trade and prosperity of his dominions, and so Kirk induced Sir William Mackinnon, the founder of the British India Steam Navigation Company, to arrange for a regular line of steamers to Zanzibar. This step greatly pleased the Sultan, for the steamship service enabled the merchants to easily export produce and to import manufactured goods of Western origin. Zanzibar grew in importance and became the clearing house for the produce of the coast and the distributing depot for imported goods.

In 1877 the Sultan offered Sir William Mackinnon a lease of the coast land as a mark of gratitude for his having put Zanzibar in communication with the outer world, but the Foreign Office would not support the proposal so it fell into abeyance1

The growing importance of Zanzibar attracted the attention of Germany and for the next few years a period of intense political intrigue ensued. However, the Sultan eventually became so alarmed by Germany’s territorial aspirations that the offer of a concession to the British was renewed. A British East Africa Association was now formed under the Chairmanship of Sir William Mackinnon and in May 1887 it started to administer Barghash’s coastal strip north of the Umba in the name of the Sultan; later that year the Association also secured a number of treaties with tribes in the interior. On 3 September 1888, Mackinnnon’s Association was granted a royal charter and it became the Imperial British East Africa Company, charged with the administration of a vast but ill-defined territory.

The next few years were full of excitement and adventure as the Imperial British East Africa Company strove to stop slave trading, to curb tribal wars, to set up trading posts and to establish internal security. It was a time when military service and civil administration were virtually synonymous; civilian administrators occasionally led military expeditions and military officers administered provinces and set up trading posts. Experienced campaigners such as Lugard, Macdonald, Jackson, Ainsworth, Ternan and Smith were frequently accompanied by other Army officers who were often on leave in Africa to satisfy their taste for pioneering and adventure as builders of ‘Pax Britannica’. In so doing they had to recruit and train a variety of local militia including rifle companies, guards for trading and administrative centres, and armed porters for escorting caravans. The success of their enterprise can perhaps be judged by the British government’s decision to proclaim Uganda as a British Protectorate in 1894 and British East Africa as another in 1895. In September 1895 the miscellaneous troops in Uganda were grouped together to form the Uganda Rifles, and those in British East Africa became the East African Rifles with headquarters at Fort Jesus (Mombasa). For the next few years both Regiments were almost continuously involved in fighting local campaigns.

Following the turn of the century it became increasingly clear that a closer relationship between these regiments in British East Africa, Uganda, British Somaliland and Nyasaland (Central African Rifles) would add to military efficiency and create some economies through standardisation of equipment. On 1st January, 1902, the King’s African Rifles came into being with the original forces of the protectorates incorporated as described below:

1st (Central Africa) Battalion, eight companies ( Formerly 1CAR )

2nd (Central Africa) Battalion, six companies ( Formerly 2CAR )

3rd (East Africa) Battalion, seven companies and a camel company.(Formerly the East African Rifles)

4th (Uganda ) Battalion, nine companies. (Formerly the African Companies of the Uganda Rifles)

5th (Uganda) Battalion, four companies. (Formerly the Indian Contingent of the Uganda Rifles)

6th ( Somaliland) Battalion. (To be formed later from three infantry companies, the camel corps, militia and mounted infantry of the local forces in British Somaliland.)2

The disposition of these Battalions was to change when the Indian contingent returned home and operations against the Mad Mullah in Somaliland ceased.3

Although the intense military activity that so characterised the last decade of the nineteenth century subsided to some degree at the turn of the century, the newly formed KAR became involved in a number of campaigns prior to WWI which merited the award of the Africa General Service Medal. This medal was sanctioned in 1902 to replace the East and West Africa Medal to which 22 bars had been awarded. During the lifetime of this award, which extended over a period of 54 years - the longest life of all British Service Medals but with a span of 36 years between the last two bars - a total of 45 bars were awarded. Thirty-four were awarded with the Edward VII obverse, ten with the George V and only one with that of Queen Elizabeth II. where the yellow and black ribbon was commonly known by members of the Kenya Regiment as the “Colorado Beetle” or the “Kenya Caterpillar”

The most extensive series of the Africa General Service campaigns lasted almost twenty years from 1901 to 1920 and was mounted against the ‘Mad Mullah’ of Somaliland4. The actual campaigns were SOMALILAND 1901, SOMALILAND 1902-04, JIDBALLI, SOMALILAND 1908-10, SHIMBER BERRIS 1914-1915 and SOMALILAND 1920 and these collectively represent the most protracted offensive sustained against any one individual in British military history.

Some of the KAR campaigns which took place in British East Africa (Kenya) prior to WWI were hardly more than skirmishes against the Kikuyu and Turkana tribes but a few were more significant and are summarised below:

EAST AFRICA 1904. This was a punitive expedition against specified sections of the Kikuyu and Embu tribes as the result of frequent murders of friendly natives. This expedition was commanded by Captain F.A. Dickinson and comprised 5 officers, 135 rifles of the 3KAR, 60 police and 300 Masai levies. Over 11,000 stock were captured at the cost of 3 men killed and 33 wounded. The number of enemy killed was estimated at 797 Kikuku and 250 Embu. Lt. Richard Meinertzhagen was on this expedition and it is quite remarkable that his diary entry for 18 March 1904 includes the prophetic comments:

I am sorry to leave the Kikuyu, for I like them. They are the most intelligent of the African tribes that I have met; therefore they will be the most progressive under European guidance and will be the most susceptible to subversive activities. They will be one of the first tribes to demand freedom from European influence and in the end cause a lot of trouble. And if white settlement really takes hold in this country it is bound to do so at the expense of the Kikuyu, who own the best land, and I can foresee much trouble.5

EAST AFRICA 1905. This clasp was awarded for two expeditions to the Sotik and Kisii country . The former was commanded by Major L.R.H. Pope- Hennessy with 4 coys 3KAR and a detachment of 1KAR. This force eventually captured 5,000 head of cattle which were marched back to Molo. The expedition against the Kisii was commanded by Captain E.V. Jenkins with 1 coy of 3KAR and resulted in at least 137 of the enemy killed.

NANDI 1905 – 06. Commanded by Lt. Col. E.G.Harrison and comprised 540 men from 1KAR, 780 men from 3KAR 260 armed Police, 1,000 Masai levies, 100 Somalis, 500 armed porters, 8460 unarmed porters and 10 machine guns. Against this large force the Nandi had their traditional weapons and a few firearms. The Nandi had 750 killed and 30,000 cattle and goats captured whilst H.M. Forces casualties were 90 killed and wounded. The Nandi were moved into a smaller reserve and thereafter no further trouble occurred.

EAST AFRICA 1913. An expedition under command of Captain W.T.Brooks 4KAR was despatched to Didinga country on the borders of the Uganda Protectorate to exact compensation for their raids against the Dodos tribes. Initial surprise was achieved at the first village and some tribesmen were killed and stock captured but the Didinga subsequently fought back ambushing from close quarters with each tribesman carrying five to six spears. When Captain Brooks decided to extricate his force with 2000 cattle and 11 badly wounded he was met with constant attacks but he managed to withdraw back to Madial with 2037 head of cattle, 1660 goats and 62 donkeys having lost three killed and 10 men wounded. The Didinga casualties were unknown but they remained successfully subdued.
 
The Turkana tribe in the Northern Frontier District remained the most troublesome provoking three campaigns against them – EAST AFRICA 1914, EAST AFRICA 1915 and EAST AFRICA 1918. However, the task of mounting expeditions against marauding tribesmen was a very different proposition to the one that faced the British Colony from its Southern border in August 1914.
 
When war was declared on 4 August 1914, the East African Protectorate was altogether unprepared whereas the Germans in their neighbouring Colony had been anticipating the event for some time and seven months earlier had posted an officer of outstanding ability, Lt Col. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, to take command of the Schutztruppe, their defence force. Lord Cranworth starkly contrasted the relative capabilities: ‘When war broke out the Germans possessed an overwhelming military superiority. They had probably at least 300 white men trained to arms, 8000 high class native troops, 70 machine and 40 field guns. Against these the British could muster about 700 native troops and two machine guns, one of which was out of action.6 It is therefore hardly surprising that unfounded rumours spread throughout the country and that much of the white population started converging on Nairobi. In her White Man’s Country Elspeth Huxley captures the excitement and confusion of that time:

On August 4th a volunteer enlistment office was opened in Nairobi House. The first wave of excitement washed hundreds of settlers through its doors. Some had paused only to seize a rifle and pocketful of ammunition and to saddle up a mule before riding into the capital. Many of the Uasin Gishu settlers arrived in a body. The news reached them in the midst of an agricultural meeting at Eldoret They leapt on to their waiting mules, rode through part of the night to the nearest station at Londiani, boarded a train and arrived some thirty-six hours later – hungry, unshaved, without clothes or money. Some of them had fought against the British fourteen years before.

The volunteers brought their own rifles, ranging from huge double-barrelled elephant guns to light carbines. Some were provided with ammunition, some were no. Uniform varied according to each man’s taste. His hat might be a khaki helmet, a battered felt with an ostrich feather tucked into one side, or even a cloth cap. His shirt was generally a sort of tunic with huge pockets, and sleeves chopped off at the elbow. He might wear shorts, breeches or slacks; gaiters puttees or even tennis shoes. A bright handkerchief was often knotted around his neck, a bush knife stuck into his belt. His mount was often a mule and generally a vicious, obstinate and uncontrolled one at that. He was hung about with home-made bandoliers, water-bottles, tins and anything that occurred to him as potentially useful.7

There was a complete lack of any order or discipline and, as the bars in the town were open all night despite the declaration of martial law, rumours abounded of imminent invasion by legions of ‘squareheads’ and the possibility of an air attack, the enemy having been quite erroneously credited with possesing a large air force. However, having reported for duty to Nairobi House, which had become the Volunteer Forces Headquarters, these enthusiastic irregulars initially ‘organised themselves into bands in a manner reminiscent of the Crusading era’8. The Boer settlers from the Uasin Gishu plateau formed the ‘Plateau South Africans’, and the well-known settler Russell Bowker, sporting his snarling leopard’s cap, rallied his followers into ‘Bowker’s Horse. Other separate collections of volunteers included Arnoldi’s, Ross’s and Wessels’s Scouts. It was in this state of enthusiastic diversity that the East African Mounted Rifles came into being.

The East African Mounted Rifles

Some order eventually developed out of the chaos as the East African Mounted Rifles became established and, not without some difficulty, absorbed the extraordinary collection of independent units into a single corps of mounted volunteers comprising six squadrons with maxim gun and signalling sections.

Formed in Nairobi on 5 August 1914 the East African Mounted Rifles comprised over 400 volunteers by the end of August. However, these men were regarded as far too valuable to be retained as troopers in a small mounted corps and the regiment did not survive the duration of the war Within a few months many were transferred to other units to satisfy the demand for men who knew the country, the natives, and the language, and wholesale transfers took place early in 1916 following the arrival of Lt.Gen. Smuts and the South African brigades when many EAMR men were appointed staff officers. As Captain Wilson proudly stated: ‘The record of the East African Mounted Rifles must be almost unequalled as regards the proportion of men who received commissions from the ranks.’9 The similarities between this experience and that of the Kenya Regiment in 1939-40 were to be considerable.

Most of the members of the EAMR were expert riders, crack shots and they had the immense advantage of knowing the country, the conditions and the lingua franca of the country, Swahili. They knew little and cared less about formal soldiering and they were somewhat taken aback when they found themselves being issued with regulation uniforms and expected to undergo formal training. Their rather cavalier attitude to army life is well reflected in the following commnt provided by Elspeth Huxley:

A camp was formed on the racecourse but most of the troopers lived either in one of the hotels, in the recently opened country club, with Nairobi friends or even at Government House.

“Where are troopers Ridley and Thompson?” enquired the second-in-command who was inspecting the camp one evening, observing that two of the sentries were missing ”Oh, they’re dining at Government House” the sergeant replied “but H.E.’s promised to send them home early in his car”10

As they prepared for war during the month of August, the EAMR developed into a more uniform and disciplined unit. The only concession to individuality being to allow the members of ‘Bowker’s Horse’ to retain the letters BH on their helmets. It is perhaps unfortunate that at the battle of Longido they suffered the indignity of having a German patrol creep up on them at night and rustle 57 of their horses; after that they were frequently called Bowker’s Foot.11

Another of the squadrons was commanded by an ex- Lancer who named it “Monica’s Own” after the Governor’s youngest daughter and then armed his squadron with lances which were steel-tipped bamboo spears made in the railway workshops and adorned with red and white pennons. However, the Regiment’s historian was to moved to comment: ‘It is to be recorded with thankfulness that in spite of the most desperate feats, entirely unintentional, not one of these gallant lancers succeeded in impaling himself, his horse or his comrade. Their lances, alas, were never blooded on the field of battle. They were soon discarded, to the sorrow of the Squadron Commander, but to the relief and safety of the troopers’12

Following the outbreak of hostilities, eight hundred Somalis met in the tin village near Muthaiga and marched down to Nairobi House in a body to offer their services to the Government. They were organised into a troop of mounted scouts under Lord Delamere’s brother-in-law, Berkeley Cole, who was a well-known settler and a younger son of the Earl of Enniskillen. This unit became known as Cole’s Scouts and it was not only the most unorthodox part of the EAMR, it was also the most aristocratic as the other officers included Lord Cranworth and Denys Finch-Hatton, whose father was the 13th Earl of Winchelsea.

In September, when the EAMR started patrolling, they soon discovered that the Germans were not their only problem. They were under-equipped and under-supplied and faced the perpetual threat of attack by wild animals, malaria, blackwater fever and dysentery. Mules and horses succumbed to tsetse fly, and shortage of water for both man and beast was a critical problem. Yet the EAMR were still able to operate effectively in this hostile environment. It is difficult to assess accurately the impact made by them during September and October 1914 but the views of various commentators on the beginnings of the East African Campaign are summarised by Edward Paice as follows: ‘yet for a crucial two months, the only period in the war when the Germans might realistically have been able to invade the Protectorate, the settler units succeeded in holding the border’.13

The whole conduct of the war in East African was soon to change with the disastrous defeat of the Indian Expeditionary Force who, under the blimpish General Aitken, attempted to take the German port of Tanga. After suffering 300 casualties, Aitken gave the command to retreat and the British left behind sixteen machine guns, 455 rifles and 600,000 rounds of ammunition. The strike force of 8000 men had been seen off by just 1000 mostly African German troops. Captain Richard Meinertzhagen who had formerly served in campaigns against the Nandi and the Kikuyu with 3KAR and was now a member of Aitken’s staff, considered the assault ‘the best example I know, of how a battle should not be fought, not only in the events leading up to the fight but in its conduct from the General Officer Commanding to the rank and file who suffered’14 Aitken was reduced in rank and allowed to retire with the pay of a Colonel and he died, a bitter man, in 1924.

It is tempting to speculate that had the assault succeeded and von Lettow been captured, the war in East Africa would have been over by Christmas. Instead, the extraordinary humiliation of the British defeat at Tanga was to have an immeasurable effect on the conduct of the ensuing four year campaign. With the morale of his troops very high, von Lettow believed he had a chance of holding out almost indefinitely in the vast territory of German East Africa. He resolved to serve the Kaiser by tying down as many British Imperial troops as possible for as long as possible, thereby diverting them from Europe’s Western Front. In 1915 von Lettow’s strategy centred on the hundred mile section of the Uganda railway which skirted the German border within a one to three day marching distance of the Kilimanjaro foothills. He reasoned that if he could inflict sufficient damage, the British would be forced to divert more troops from other theatres of was in order to protect their main artery of transport and communications and then to drive him south.


The German efforts to sabotage the railway provoked an immediate response by the EAMR:
 
Detachments of the East African Mounted Rifles combed the frontier to flush our raiding parties, and they did their work no less methodically, perhaps even more skilfully, than von Lettow’s bushwackers. The Germans often made long detours, risking death from thirst or hunger, even for days, before an EAMR patrol vacated an area. If the EAMR could not halt the strikes against the railway, they could at least make the Germans sweat to reach that objective.

This was no band of tenderfeet. The EAMR trooper’s knowledge of the country, at least that on the British side of the border, was unmatched So too were his skills at bushcraft and concealment. German raiders could never be certain that a nearby family of grazing zebras were not in fact EAMR Somali mules or Abyssinian ponies with stripes painted on their bodies, that the grass which they ate did not conceal a large party or riflemen who might open up at any moment. In the saddle, moreover, the EAMR held an advantage of mobility denied to all but the few mounted units.15

In helping them counter German attacks, the EAMR received much valuable information from Captain Meinhertzhagen who, following the defeat at Tanga, had been charged with organising an Intelligence Corps. He recruited more than one hundred African and Swahili agents. These moved continually in and out of German East Africa gathering information on Schutztruppe operations. The main objective set for these agents in 1915 was the defence of the railway and they were able to provide Meinertzhagen with valuable details of raiding plans and patrol dispositions. Much of this effective espionage was the result of a paper shortage as explained by Charles Miller in Battle for the Bundu:

Schutztruppe officers improvised their toilet paper from copies of coded messages, orders and other secrets, and the British spies made a practice of visiting the officers latrines at night, to retrieve what Meinertzhagen called “a constant source of filthy though accurate information” Among other things, the DPM –dirty paper method –enabled Meinertzhagen to collect the signatures of nearly every high-ranking German and military official, including Governor Schnee and General von Lettow. These were invaluable in authenticating documents captured in the field.

But DPM’s most important results were effective countermeasures against raids on the railway. Their amorality would have done credit to the CIA. One can picture Meinertzhagen chuckling like a mad scientist as he made eighty miles of track invulnerable for some weeks by placing animal carcasses around the only waterhole in the area and putting up a large sign reading “Poison” next to the waterhole itself. “We know that the first German patrol to visit the area turned back without drinking and as they relied on the water, one member of the patrol perished of thirst on the homeward journey and we had an official complaint about international usage respecting poisoned water to which we have not replied…. It may be an offence to poison water, but surely there is nothing wrong in labelling water as poisoned when it is not so treated?”

An even bigger coup that came from DPM information involved blowing the cover of an Arab spy in German employ who had performed invaluable service in reporting on unguarded sections of the railway. Meinertzhagen wrote this man a letter, thanking him for his assistance to British intelligence and enclosing fifteen hundred rupees. He then saw to it that the letter was intercepted with the result that the Germans promptly hanged the Arab and caused the British instigator a twinge of conscience16

During the closing months of 1915 the EAMR was employed in intensive field exercise in preparation for a general offensive and then moved to Longido early in 1916 where they were visited by General Smuts on 22 February 1916. On 4 March the Division started moving as the infantry battalions trickled out of Longido and, after experiencing some intensive action near Geraragua, at Store Camp and at the Soko River, the EAMR eventually arrived in Arusha on 24 March 1916. After several weeks spent preparing for the next push the EAMR entrained at Kajiado and arrived at Mbuyuni on 28 April ‘On the arrival of the EAMR at Mbuyuni the process of dissolution began in earnest and the Regiment as such ceased to exist. Officers, non-commissioned officers and men were scattered in every direction.17

What was left of the EAMR was now organised into a single Squadron under the command of Major Clifford Hill. Although now only a small unit in a large army, this Squadron became the advance guard of the column moving along the Usambara railway. ‘Behind us plodded the infantry, four battalions of them, and somewhere behind were two batteries of guns; so we knew that any enemy force we might meet would be satisfactorily dealt with. But we also knew that the first blow would fall on the advance guard, and that whatever the final issue the EAMR would probably take it in the neck.’18

On another occasion the escort comprised the Legion of Frontiersmen and the EAMR with one troop forming the advance guard and another was rearguard to the column. Some commentators on WWI have included the Legion of Frontiersmen as part of the EAMR and it is important to differentiate between them. Although known quasi-officially as the Frontiersmen this unit actually debarked at Mombasa from Plymouth on 4 May 1915. Officially gazetted as the 25th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers they were referred to by Grogan as the ‘Boozaliers’ and they were in his opinion ‘the most extraordinary military unit in British history’19
Its combatants included the twenty-seven stone Capt. Northrup (later Sir Northrup) Macmillan, an American whose sword-belt measured sixty four inches, the legendary big game hunter and naturalist, Lt Frederick Courtenay Selous, former members of the French Foreign Legion, Texan cowboys and American soldiers, seal-poachers from Canada as well as members of the North-west Mounted Police, a Buckingham House footman and a General in the Honduras army - who was given the rank of sergeant. Led by the South African Colonel Dan Driscoll DSO - the leader of ‘Driscoll’s Scouts’ in the Boer War - they proved themselves utterly fearless and lethal in battle but wholly undisciplined at other times as evidenced by their wild behaviour after capturing the town of Bukoba which involved ‘looting, boozing and consorting with local African girls’20 However, they were almost invariably in the front line and their outstanding courage cost them dear. Nineteen months after their arrival only 60 of the original 1166 ‘Frontiersmen’ remained alive and Selous himself fell at Behobeho on 4 January 1917. One Frontiersman, Andrew Buchanan, who was elevated from private to lance corporal to sergeant to subaltern to lieutenant to captain in barely eighteen months, wrote a remarkable book about this extraordinary unit which ends thus:

On our side, there is one sorrowful disaster to record which touches this narrative deeply. In the final action which my unit undertook- the only one after my departure- the remnants of the band, steel-true men who had come through everything until then, were pitted against overwhelming odds, when covering a retirement, and fought till they were cut to pieces. It was a tragic ending.21

The EAMR Squadron continued to undertake the roles of advance and rearguarding these large infantry columns with considerable panache but their numbers were consistently depleted by malaria: ‘as each day’s march began there were some who had to be left behind to the tender mercies of the Field Ambulance.’22

By the end of 1916 the EAMR had dwindled to a major, a sergeant and two troopers. It was never disbanded. It simply faded away. It left no records; it appeared in no army lists. The only relic that remains is a list of names carved on the cavalry war memorial in Hyde Park among the Lancers and Hussars, an august company to which the regiment’s humble mules gave it entry.23

For almost two years the role of the EAMR was almost that of training corps for the specialised requirements of those units comprising the three Divisions conducting the East African campaign. As Captain Wilson lamented: ‘If it were only possible to record the subsequent histories of its individual members after their transfer to other units, an added glory would be reflected on the Regiment’24

It can thus be maintained that the EAMR and its members made an outstanding contribution to what was arguably the most bizarre campaign of WWI. The Allied casualty list was high: 976 officers and 17,650 men were killed and 44,571 porters died out of the total of 260,000 who had become involved in this extraordinary ‘white man’s war’ deep in the inhospitable African bush. When von Lettow finally signed the surrender papers three days after the Armistice his fighting strength was down to 155 Germans and 1,156 askari: 1300 soldiers remaining out of a force that had once been ten times that size but had proved itself more than a match for the quarter of a million troops who had tried in vain to capture them. Much of this success can be attributed to the outstanding leadership of Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck which generated ferocious loyalty from his askari. In his book My Reminiscences of East Africa, von Lettow states:

I believe it was the transparency of our aims, the love of our fatherland, the strong sense of duty and the spirit of self-sacrifice which animated each of our few Europeans and communicated themselves, consciously or unconsciously, to our brave black soldiers that gave our operations the impetus which they possessed to the end. In addition there was a soldierly pride, a feeling of firm mutual co-operation and a spirit of enterprise without which military success is impossible in the long run.25



I was personally fortunate enough to get some flavour of this man’s genius for leadership early in 1953 when I was in Dar es Salaam staying at the New Africa hotel which lay in the shadow of the imposing Lutheran church built by the Germans. Much press coverage had been given to the impending visit of General von Lettow Vorbeck back to his old battleground and I went down to the docks as the Union Castle liner, the Rhodesia Castle, arrived with the hope of catching sight of this man who, in Tanganyika at least, had certainly become a legendary figure in his own lifetime. My main recollection of the scene at the dock is that of a small elderly man almost totally engulfed by wildly excited old askari with whom he was conversing in very safi Swahili.26 Although I was some distance away, I was soon fascinated by this man’s remarkable personality and wondered whether any British KAR Commander would ever have evoked a comparable display of affection from his former troops. Apparently the official sent to meet him and escort him to Government House had to wait some considerable time before von Lettow eventually decided to disengage from his old askari. It is perhaps not surprising that those members of the Kenya Regiment who were seconded to 6KAR occasionally heard an askari proclaim proudly ‘Baba yango alikuwa askari Mdaichi’ My father was a German soldier.

Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck had eventually surrendered to Lt. Col. E.B.B. Hawkins of 4KAR on 14 November 1918. On 29 June 1954, Guy Campbell was present27 when her Majesty the Queen presented new colours to the 4th battalion KAR at Jinja in Uganda (Major David Campbell, his twin brother, was with the battalion at the time). A telegram was received which read as follows: ‘Greetings to the old enemy’. It was signed ‘von Lettow-Vorbeck’

The Nominal Roll of those who served in the EAMR was included in Captain Wilson’s The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles and is reprinted in Appendix X. Over 750 names are listed and well over half that number of names re-appear on the Kenya Regiment Nominal Roll. Many of these names are unusual, and the similarity of Christian name initials suggests that at least a third of those who served in the EAMR had descendants who served in the Kenya Regiment.
 
Many of the family linkages are very straightforward as in the case of the Brumage family: William Brumage arrived in Kenya in 1906 and farmed in Ruiru His elder son Douglas Oliver Brumage OBE served with the EAMR during WWI, with the KDF between the wars, and then with the East African Pioneer Corps during WWII. His son, William John Brumage (KR133), served with the KDF, joined the Kenya Regiment the day after it was formed and, following the outbreak of WWII, was commissioned in the KAR. Occasionally other family linkages require some intelligent guesswork. For example, Trooper Stanton A.A. of the EAMR’s F squadron is Athol Alfred Stanton who started farming in Molo in 1906: his son. Athol Aspland Stanton (KR287), born in Molo in 1911, joined the Kenya Regiment in 1937. However, it would appear that he was given another number (KR3791) upon rejoining when the Regiment was reformed in 1950. If that is the case, it can be assumed that Athol Alexander Stanton (KR6965) who joined the Regiment after the Mau Mau Emergency is his son.

John Allen (KR3513) a descendant of the Russell Bowker of ‘Bowker’s Horse’, can claim another interesting family linkage with the EAMR as revealed in the Kenya Regiment archive:

William Russell Bowker was born in the Eastern Cape in 1855, the eleventh of twelve children, the fourth of five sons, born to The Hon. Bertram Egerton Bowker. Bertram Bowker arrived with his parents, as a child of ten, with the 1820 Settlers to South Africa, who settled in the Grahamstown area of the Eastern Cape. In due time Russell Bowker married Helena Birt and they had one daughter, Margeret.

Russell Bowker, after serving with some distinction in the Boer War, visited Kenya in 1901 and was so impressed with the farming/ ranching possibilities he vowed that as soon as he had sorted out his affairs and estates in South Africa, he would return to take up land being offered to settlers by the Kenya Government of the day.

In 1904, Russell Bowker returned to Kenya bringing with him, some thirty odd aspirant farmers, with their families, from various parts of South Africa. The Kenya Government was so impressed with Bowker’s efforts to bring in new settler family units, as they were desperately needed to develop the farming and ranching potential of the new Colony, that they offered him six 5000 acre concessional farm properties, as opposed to the normal 5000 acres at the time. Bowker took up 30,000 acres in the Kedong valley below the Kijabe escarpment, naming his new ranch Mount Margeret Estate, after his daughter. Bowker died in 1920 and was buried on the top of Mount Margeret, on his estate.

Bowker’s daughter Margeret had some years previously married Frank William Douglass who was a large estate owner in the Trans Nzoia, where he ranched cattle and also introduced the cultivation of flax.

Frank and Margeret had a son, Russell Bowker Douglass, who became a noted white hunter in Tanganyika. They also had one daughter, Margeret Frances Douglass, who married Cecil William Allen in 1925 and had one son, John Allen.

It is of interest that Russell Bowker, Frank Douglass, Cecil Allen and Jock Cleverly – John Allen’s great-grandfather, grandfather, father and father-in-law respectively all served with the East African Mounted Rifles in 1915. Probably a unique family combination in Regimental service.28


The EAMR also wished to record another link with the Kenya Regiment and in 1938 they donated that to the regiment the famous silver buffalo which graced the Officer’s Mess for many years and is now held in safe keeping by the Royal Green Jackets. In his Foreword to The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles, Captain J.W. Milligan DSO states that it will ‘help to keep alive the memory of the EAMR and to perpetuate the tradition of the Volunteer Forces of East Africa’.


The Kenya Defence Force

When serving with the Regiment in 1955 I purchased from the old East African Standard bookshop in Delamere Avenue a copy of Grogan’s famous book From the Cape to Cairo. I was much impressed by this book and I wrote to the author telling him so and asking whether he might sign it for me. He not only agreed to my request but invited me to have lunch with him at the Muthaiga Club. It was with some trepidation that I met this controversial founding father of Kenya Colony who had personally known arch-Imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes, Viscount Milner, Sir Leander Starr Jameson, Sir Robert Coryndon and Sir John ‘Empire Jack’ Norton- Griffiths and had been a thorn in the side of all those who had governed the Colony from Sir Charles Eliot onwards; I am very thankful that I took the trouble subsequently to record as much of the discussion as I could which included some brief but interesting comment on the Kenya Defence Force
 
He told me that the concept of a defence force had been first mooted in 1907 when the Colonist’s Association apparently set up a committee comprising Grogan, Gray and another to explore the feasibility of a defence force but it was soon decided that the settlers were too few in number and too dispersed for such a force to be formed effectively. After WWI there was further agitation from the settlers for the creation of a defence force which would provide service rifles to every adult male European living in Kenya Colony. In 1921 the Governor, Major-General Northey, presented to the Legislative Council a Bill for raising a conscript defence force of all European males between the ages of 16 and 60. According to Grogan the Governor, who was a 60th Rifleman, ‘had privately expressed his preference for the name ‘Kenya Rifles’ but that became academic because Delamere chucked the Bill out’. The arguments thereafter apparently focussed on whether membership of a Kenya Defence Force should be purely voluntary, compulsory but with various exceptions and age allowances or rigidly enforced by conscription. When saying goodbye Grogan asked me to give his regards to Guy Campbell and commented ‘When I learned that an Imperial was to command the Regiment I was concerned but your CO certainly seems to be the right sort of chap’29

Following rather more concerted action from elected members in 1926 the whole issue of a local Defence Force was raised again and it generated some heated exchanges in the Legislative Council and elsewhere:

Is there any other part of the Empire where white politicians have clamoured for a European Conscript Defence Force of all males from 16 to 60 years of age-to allow of exploitation being carried a few steps nearer to the verge of native rebellion than would be politic if force were not at hand to crush native objection-besides being so useful in case the whites should again find it necessary to threaten rebellion on their own account?30

It was eventually agreed that the issue should be debated publicly and throughout the Colony. In her book So This is Kenya! Evelyn Brodhurst-Hill gives an interesting account of the debate about it which took place in Eldoret:

The meeting went on for hours and hours, as they are apt to do when Dutch people are present; they speak in Taal and many of them do not understand English well, so each speech must be interpreted.

There was practically no opposition to the formation of a Defence Force – what took up most of the time was a discussion, at times very heated, as to what its functions were to be and whether the D.F. could at any time be called upon to serve outside Kenya.

The Dutch were all for the Defence Force to be raised at once. They have known for too many generations what it can be to live at the mercy of the natives, and they have no fancy theories; they want security of life and limb. The South African Dutch know what native risings are, and they also know that it isn’t much use waiting to raise your Defence Force until after the natives have risen! They made excellent speeches to the effect that they had served under the Chairman of the meeting and other officers present all through the Great War, and were ready and asked for nothing better than to serve under them again in any trouble31
 

As was the case in Eldoret the proposal to create a Defence Force was endorsed with acclaim throughout the Colony; it was not acknowledged quite so openly, however, that the primary purpose of such a force would be to deal with internal disturbances created by the natives!. The KDF was eventually established under the Defence Force Ordinance 1928 and the Governor, Sir Edward Grigg, who had been trying to get the matter decided for more than two years, must have breathed a sigh of relief. However, his relief was short-lived because when a Labour Government came to power in Britain in June 1929 it soon indicated that it did not share the settlers’ enthusiasm for a Kenya Defence Force. Lord Olivier denounced it as the burgher force the Europeans had long wanted32 and pressure for action built up from Labour Members of Parliament for some decisive action by the Colonial Secretary, Lord Passfield (Sidney Webb)against it. Passfield therefore cut the extra £9,000 for the KDF which the European elected members had inserted in the 1930 budget’33 and on 11th December 1929 he also wrote to Sir Edward Grigg making his feelings very clear and placing the Governor in a difficult position:

You will see that I have taken the line that I am not prepared to ask the Government of Kenya to repeal the Ordinance although, as you will no doubt realise, I am personally out of sympathy with anything in the nature of conscription, and if the Ordinance had come before me as a new measure in the form of a Bill I should certainly have not agreed to its introduction.
 
I should like you to know that the existence of conscription in Kenya is a source of real embarrassment to the Government here; there is very strong feeling on the subject among our own supporters in the House and in many quarters outside the House.

I hope that at any rate it may be possible for you to ensure that in practice the compulsory element becomes in practice a dead letter. Could not the Government at least refrain from action in the direction of penalties of non-compliance with the Ordinance?34

The Ordinance made provision for the compulsory registration of all European males of British nationality in the Colony up to the age of fifty years and for their division into three classes according to age. However, those over fifty could also enrol in a fourth class. The Ordinance specified that the training should be 100 hours in the case of Class I which comprised men between the ages of eighteen and thirty years and not less than twelve hours a year in the cases of Classes II, III and IV. The training sessions were commanded by Colonel Swinton-Home and the actual training by Permanent Staff Instructors from the Brigade of Guards including Sergeants-Major Cummins and Broomfield who would eventually be reassigned to the Kenya Regiment. In practice, however, there were insufficient funds available to apply the training prescribed to classes other than Class I. This lack of training did not matter so much during 1929 and 1930 as many of the early volunteers were experienced men who had served in units like the East African Mounted Rifles and the KAR during WWI .
 
Reference to the Kenya Defence Force Official List published in July, 1931 reveals that a substantial proportion of the officers came from the more eminent sector of the settler community. At that time the Commandant was Colonel Lord Francis Scott DSO, youngest son of the 6th Duke of Buccleuch and a very prominent and highly respected member of the settler community. Scott had served with distinction in the Grenadier Guards during WWI and hosted an annual dinner at the Muthaiga Club for those members of the KDF who had served in the Brigade of Guards35. However, most of the social intercourse within the KDF was less formal and the five day camps at the Soy Hotel near Eldoret frequently involved some heavy drinking sessions, with the result that members of the KDF gradually became known to some as the ‘Kenya Damn Fools’.36
 
Whilst the KDF were ‘playing soldiers’ in the early 1930s, relationships between the Government and the settler community worsened rapidly following the appointment in 1931 of a hard-line Governor, Sir Joseph Byrne, about whom Elspeth Huxley speculated that: ‘Rumours had already been circulated that Sir Joseph Byrne had come out with instructions “ to break the unofficial influence”.37 According to Bennett this started quite dramatically within days of Byrne’s opening of his first Legislative Council:

Delamere was prepared to congratulate him [Byrne] on the economies made in his first months, but they had been achieved without reference to the unofficial members. Indeed, ‘Government by agreement’ had been abruptly ended. Delamere moved to refer the financial position to the Select Committee on the Estimates which had a large unofficial majority; he was voted down by the Government. In broken and incoherent sentences Delamere asked for an adjournment. 38

There is no doubt that Lord Delamere took the Government’s change of attitude very badly. The Government’s outright refusal to accept the elected members’ offer of co-operation embittered the last few months of his life to the extent that one Kenyan paper was subsequently to maintain that Delamere had died of a broken heart.39 Lord Francis Scott succeeded Delamare as the European leader in LegCo and initially attempted to achieve some reconciliation with Sir Joseph Byrne but when this failed the relationship between these two men gradually deteriorated.

By 1935 Italy had become firmly established in Abyssinia and there was also growing concern about German rearmament and aggression. Colonel. Dunstan Adams noted: ‘In Kenya the military resources were pathetically inadequate. It had become evident that the situation in the Colony was fraught with unjustifiable risk. The Commander of the Northern Brigade KAR Col. J.A. Campbell DSO (later Major-General) was doing his utmost to improve matters within the regular battalions of the KAR, the Coast Battery and the KAR Reserve. He had no power over the local Defence Force and this force, though misunderstandings, lack of encouragement and funds had reached the low ebb of its efficiency’40

Although the general military situation gave cause for concern, the decision by the Governor, Sir Joseph Byrne, to take action over the KDF was politically motivated. In order to help patch up some disagreement with Major Ferdinand Cavendish-Bentinck, Lord Francis Scott somewhat ill-advisedly accepted the Chairmanship of an oath-taking Vigilance Committee which had been set up in September 1935 to safeguard the settlers’ interests. This was certainly a mistake. Not only did the title of this Committee recall that of the body which planned the settler’s rising in 1922 but it also raised the possibility that the settlers might now use the KDF to overawe the Government. Byrne responded almost immediately by sending to the Secretary of State a secret despatch concerning the Kenya Defence Force.
 
This despatch presents a compelling case for the disbandment of the KDF. Byrne starts by making much of the findings of a Committee of Inquiry chaired by the Solicitor General - and which included Lt. Col. Dunstan Adams - into the loss of stores in the KDF. Their report, which had been submitted only a few days earlier, revealed a woeful lack of control in that 228 rifles and 86,467 rounds of ammunition could not be accounted for. Byrne cleverly argued that this situation only emphasised the ‘grave state of the Kenya Defence Force’. However, the main thrust of his secret despatch has rather more sinister overtones as is evidenced by the following extracts:

‘I entirely concur with the view expressed in the opening paragraph of the ‘note of discussion’ enclosed with your predecessor’s Secret Despatch of 24 October 1934, namely that the Kenya Defence Force as at present constituted “is of negligible military value and potentially a source of danger.” But for that I should hesitate at the present time, when the international situation is so uncertain, to advocate any immediate change in the organisation’

‘I have just received a letter from the Acting Commandant reporting that ‘in spite of the penal provisions, the Kenya Defence Force Ordinance has become entirely inoperative in Mombasa where the unit has ceased to exist,’

‘Having regard to the considerations outlined [in the two paragraphs above] I have no hesitation in recommending that steps should be taken without delay to establish some effective organisation of the white man power of the Colony, and that as set out in the final paragraph of my Secret Despatch of 12 December 1934, His Majesty’s Government should be asked to order the disbandment of the Kenya Defence Force and the establishment of a security force and of a volunteer rifle company in Nairobi and possibly a smaller unit in Mombasa.’41

The reply from the Secretary of State dated 5h February 1936 was quite unequivocal ‘As I informed you in my telegram of the 4th of February, I have now come to the conclusion that, in the interests of the general security of Kenya, the best, and indeed the only possible, course is to disband the existing Defence Force and replace it by some more suitable military organisation which will enable the potential European man power of Kenya to be utilised in the best possible way42

The East African Standard of 6 March 1936 published both this Despatch and a copy of the letter of resignation of the Commandant of the Kenya Defence Force, Brigadier- General A.C.Lewin. Lewin explained that his reason for resigning was that he found it impossible to carry out his duties as Commandant when not consulted in matters affecting the Force under his Command: ‘My regard and admiration for the officers and men I have had the honour to command during the period of my association with the Kenya Defence Force increases my regret for this unfortunate relationship between the Force and your Excellency as Commander in Chief’43

There was an explosion of protest from the settler community which reverberated throughout Kenya Colony. Lord Francis Scott and Major the Hon. Ferdinand Cavendish-Bentinck, the two European Unofficial Members of Kenya’s Executive Council, immediately resigned and their letters of resignation were also published in the East African Standard thereby fuelling the flames of protest further. Lord Scott’s letter was hard-hitting as indicated by the following extracts:

As you must well know the Kenya Defence Force is part of the organisation of this Colony and in fact part of its constitution and vitally effects the interests of the whole European community. It was originally demanded by us, was organised by us and has been carried on by us in spite of the complete lack of encouragement and assistance from Your Excellency and your Government.

I had no intimation of the proposed change until I read the Secretary of State’s Despatch in Friday morning’s paper, though one might have expected as a small matter of courtesy I should have been informed by Your Excellency beforehand instead of being left to read it in the Press.

In that Despatch the Secretary of State says “I have come to the conclusion that in the interests of the general security of Kenya the best and indeed the only course is to disband the existing Defence Force.” On what grounds has the Secretary of State come so definitely to this conclusion; a conclusion which, of course, is a big affront to everyone who has been a member of the Kenya Defence Force.

Obviously the question of the Kenya Defence Force has been actively discussed by Your Excellency during the last fifteen months or more, and yet never has my opinion or advice been sought, although I have been all that time the accredited representative of the European community on Your Excellency’s Executive Council, and although I have always been actively interested in the welfare of the Kenya Defence Force from its birth and in fact for some time was its Commandant.

I consider that an affront has been given to the whole European community through myself and my colleague on Your Excellency’s Executive Council in that their recognised representatives have been deliberately ignored in a matter vitally affecting the whole community. It seems to me that by your action you have shown that you place no trust or confidence in our judgment and I find that I cannot with any self-respect remain a member of Your Excellency’s Executive Council, and so herewith tender my resignation.44

Cavendish-Bentinck’s letter was shorter and it included the comment: ‘As Your Excellency knows I am in complete agreement with Lord Francis Scott and concur with every word of his letter which I consider states the position so admirably that no re-iteration on my part would serve any useful purpose’

Lord Francis Scott also sent a cable to the British Colonial Secretary: ‘On behalf European community must register strongest possible protest against arbitrary disbandment Kenya Defence Force without any reference representatives Unofficial community who were not even informed prior to publication in Press stop This further instance disregard unofficial opinion has caused such justifiable resentment that Bentinck and I have resigned Executive Council’45

It is tempting to speculate that the Secretary of State, The Rt. Hon. J.H. Thomas, might have regretted stirring up such a furore over the issue of the KDF but if that was the case his feelings way well have been mollified by the a letter he received some two weeks later from Mr J.A. Cable, the former Chairman of the Committee in Kenya which had opposed the introduction of conscription in 1927. Extracts from this letter are given below:

I am no pacifist, but I oppose strongly the selective conscription of white employers for a military force intended for use against unarmed native tribal workers. It was well understood in the colony that this was the object for which the force was formed

I would strongly urge, as I did in evidence to the Royal Commission in 1931, that trusteeship for the natives cannot properly be delegated to local settlers dependent for their livelihoods on cheap native labour, despite their warm persuasion that that they can run the natives far better than the effete officials of Whitehall. In the sense that they can secure a higher return on the natives as trustee stock this is probably true, but the modern conception of trusteeship is that it is for men and women, as human beings, and not merely as remunerative stock.

The abolition of conscription may afflict the Elected Members with one of their recurrent attacks of tropical-high-altitude hysteria; such attacks last about three months. I trust that the colonial office will not be moved by local clamour.46

Well aware of the rising tide of settler resentment over the suggested disbandment of the KDF, the Governor acted swiftly. On the 4 April, 1936 he appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of Colonel J.A.Campbell DSO to ‘Consider Suggestions for the Reorganisation of the Defence Forces of the Colony’. It would seem likely that this five-man Committee, which included Lt. Col. Dunstan Adams, was also exhorted to report as expeditiously as possible. Ten weeks later, on 18 June 1936, the Campbell Committee published its report which is not only remarkable for its clear thinking and prescience but also admirably succinct in its findings and recommendations as can be seen from the following extracts


9. We are of the opinion that, in considering the part which the European community of this Colony is best adapted to play in the event of External Aggression, it is impossible to ignore the lessons of the East African Campaign of the late War- that for reasons of climate, knowledge of local conditions and mobility, European troops were less suited to war in tropical Africa than African troops officered by Europeans.

10. We have therefore come to the conclusion that in any future war in East Africa the primary function of the European community in the event of External Aggression should be to supply officers, non-commissioned officers, and instructors for the expansion of the Kings African Rifles which, in our view, must follow the threat of External Aggression.

17. We will now consider the defence force from the aspect of External Aggression and the training of officers, non-commissioned officers and instructors for additional African battalions.

We consider for the following principal reasons that the present Defence Force is unsuitable to provide the training outlined above:-

a.    The officers and non-commissioned officers are not themselves sufficiently prolific or conversant with recent developments to train the members of the force as potential officers or instructors.

b.    Even if they were sufficiently up to date, the maximum training laid down by the Ordinances is entirely inadequate for the required degree of military proficiency to be attained.

c.    That for financial reasons it not possible to provide the degree of training required to create officers, non-commissioned officers and instructors on a compulsory basis for all Class I men.

d.    That there is insufficient permanent staff available with the necessary knowledge to provide the training required.


33. We recommend that the Kenya Defence Force be disbanded and replaced by a Volunteer Force up to the strength of a battalion, to be known as “The Kenya Regiment (Territorial Force)” drawn from men between the ages of 18 and 35 and in special cases up to 45, with a Compulsory Force to be called “The Kenya Auxiliary Force” consisting of the balance of able-bodied European British male subjects in the Colony.

34.We recommend that service in the Kenya Regiment (Territorial Force) should be for a minimum period of four years, and that every member of this Force should put in twelve days’ camp every year, and at least 100 hours of training parade.47

The Campbell report was an astute political document. It hardly acknowledged the question of Internal Disturbance which had so dominated settler thinking at the time the KDF was created. It was also proposed that a permanent staff of instructors should be sought from the Brigade of Guards and that these be on a minimum basis of one PSI per Company in addition to a serving officer as Staff Officer or Adjutant.

The Regiment was most fortunate in its first Staff Officer, Captain the Lord Stratheden and Campbell (Coldstream Guards), whose initial role with the Regiment can perhaps be best described as that of a ‘midwife’. In a letter written to Sir Guy Campbell many years later on 25 September 1981 he comments on this unique experience:

Nearly the whole of my time was used in drafting with the Attorney General the Bill which we hoped would be the Act to allow a Regiment to be formed, and trying to get it through LegCo {The Legislative Council) A major task, as no-one had heard of such an idea before, and every detail seemed to have to go back to the Colonial Office in London.

As I was entirely new there were no arrangements about a quarter. The Governor, Byrne, kindly asked my wife and me to stay till something was found. He was a very unpopular Governor, he imposed the first Income Tax, and when I was asked by some of the settlers where I was staying and had to tell them they all said “You Bxxxxy Fool. The sooner you get out of that house the better or you can go straight home because we wont help you”48

Despite these difficulties Lord Stratheden made good progress with his drafting and the main recommendations of the Campbell Committee were implemented by the Kenya Government in the Kenya Regiment Ordinance and Regulation 1937, assented to in His Majesty’s name on 29th March 1937. Under this ordinance the Kenya Regiment was established on 1 June 1937.

Sir James Byrne was almost certainly the least liked Governor of Kenya and his unpopularity with the settler community over the earlier introduction of Income Tax was compounded by his behaviour over the KDF. It is ironical that, while his actions led to the creation of the Kenya Regiment, they numbered his days as Governor and he was not be present in 1937 to witness its formation. Lord Francis Scott, who was by now his implacable enemy, not only exploited his ties with the new Secretary of State, Ormsby-Gore, who was an old friend, but also developed his many contacts within British Ministerial circles. In November 1936, it was announced that Byrne’s successor would be Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham who took up his appointment in April 1937.

Although Lt. Col. Dunstan Adams had been a member of the KDF since its formation, he was much involved in the arguments for its disbandment. There seems little doubt that, as a military member of the four-man Committee of Inquiry into the KDF stores which the Governor established in 1935, he made a major contribution to the report which was of significant political value to Sir James Byrne. The Chairman of the Committee which compiled that damning report was the Solicitor General, The Hon. T.D.H. Bruce, who also sat with Lt. Col. Dunstan Adams on the Campbell Committee which recommended the disbandment of the KDF and the creation of the Kenya Regiment. It is difficult to avoid thinking that Lt.Col. Dunstan Adams’s subsequent appointment as the Commanding Officer of the new Kenya Regiment might have been a reward for services rendered.

Despite an unequivocal assertion from the Secretary of State and the recommendation of the Campbell Committee the KDF was not disbanded! Not only did it continue with recruitment and training but it is also quite ironical that Sir Robert Brooke-Popham’s views about the KDF were very different to those of his predecessor as evidenced in the following extracts from a secret Despatch from the Governor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Macdonald early in 1939:

I have the honour to inform you, in connection with the defence plans of the Colony, that an analysis of the British European personnel in this country has now been made. It has also been possible to draw up accurately a list of all the people required for the approved defence plan. After making further allowance for the unfit, for the members required to maintain the essential work of the Colony, including agriculture and communications and for a Labour Corps, it has been found that there are at least 700 men under forty still available, all members of the Kenya Defence Force.

It is probable that the most critical period of the war, as far as East Africa is concerned, will be first three months. On mobilisation a large portion of the existing Kenya Regiment will be used to bring the Battalions of the King’s African Rifles up to war establishment in white leaders. The Kenya Regiment will again have to be brought up to its former strength and in a crisis we might have to make use of it as a front line battalion, but no one can foretell whether or not this would be enough to cope with the situation.

I have therefore decided to form, as part of the organisation of the Kenya Defence Force, a special battalion, strength approximately 500. Men for this battalion will be detailed in peace and on mobilisation will join their respective companies in the Battalion and will start training immediately; arms, personal equipment and clothing are or can be made available, though I would emphasise that until we receive the 1120 rifles now on order, sufficient suitable weapons cannot be issued.

The policy being followed is, in fact, that all practical steps will be taken in peace to organise this Battalion whilst those who are in Class I of the Kenya Defence Force will receive their normal five days’ annual training, but its formation will not be allowed to interfere with the organisation, equipment or training of any other existing forces.49

The links between the old KDF and the new Kenya Regiment were very strong and they certainly contributed to the early success and rapid development of the new regiment. Four of the five officers gazetted on the formation of the Regiment had substantial previous service with the KDF – and the experience gained by two of the Permanent Staff Instructors, RSM Jimmy Cummins and CSM Charlie Broomfield, during almost ten years service with the KDF was to prove invaluable in ensuring the effective training of subsequent recruits who were to be highly individualistic and independently minded. Furthermore, a significant number of former KDF members decided to join the new regiment thereby boosting the recruitment process; many of these still cherished fond memories of the KDF and their attitude is perhaps well reflected by a comment which appeared in the Kenya Weekly News:

Old members of the K.D.F are glad to hear that Lt. Colonel A.Dunstan Adams, MC. has been notified that he is to proceed home in May next to represent the new Kenya Regiment (Territorial) at the Coronation ceremonies. This is an exceedingly popular selection because many old members of the about-to-expire K.D.F. feel in a minor degree, that this is a compliment to themselves.50

And so the Kenya Regiment emerged on 1 June 1937 out of a turbulent background of political intrigue, Whitehall intervention and military necessity but with the best wishes of both the settler community and the Government in Kenya. Most observers expected it to be more professional than its predecessors but felt confident that it would be imbued with the much the same espirit de corps and camaraderie. Few realised the immense contribution that members of the Regiment would be making in WWII and none imagined that it would exist for barely more than a quarter of a century but that during that brief timespan it would become a truly famous Colonial Regiment.

11298 words


1 Hobley, C.W. Kenya From Chartered Company to Crown Colony (London: Witherby, 1929) p. 67


2 Moyse-Bartlett, H. The King’s African Rifles (Aldershot; Gale & Polden, 1956) p.129


3 5 KAR was disbanded in 1904 when most of the Indians returned home, was reformed to garrison Jubaland and the NFD in 1916 but disbanded again on 31 December,1925. It was reformed again in 1930.
6 KAR was first formed to operate against the Mullah but were disbanded in 1910. It re-emerged in 1917 when two battalions were raised in the liberated areas of what was then still German East Africa


4 The Mad Mullah was an Ogaden Somali, Haji Muhammad-bin-Abdullah Hassan, who maintained a religious war against the British for more than 20 years and successfully eluded all the superior forces which the British and Ethiopians deployed against him. He died of influenza at the age of 56 in November 1920 and is still revered in Somalia as a great nationalist and freedom- fighter.



5 Meinertzhagen, Col. R. Kenya Diary 1902 –1906 (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1957) p.152



6 Cranworth, Lord, Kenya Chronicles (London: Macmillan, 1939) p. 181



7 Huxley, Elspeth, White Man’s Country (London: Macmillan, 1935) Vol. II, p.3-4



8 Paice Edward, Lost Lion of Empire (London: Harper Collins, 2001) p.259



9 Wilson, Captain C.J, The Story of the East African Mounted Rrifles (Nairobi: The East African Standard, 1938) p.8



10 White Man’s Country Vol. II, p.8



11 A poem was written to commemorate this sad event and two verses are repeated below:

So the Settlers gathered round him, and Captains renowned in War
And Bowker’s Horse came into being, and it was a hell of a Corps
The hottest of stuff at bush fighting, they knew all there was to know
And Bowker’s were perfectly ready to take German East on their own
They robbed the Uganda Railway, they raided Magadi store
At Kisumu they looted the steamers, they certainly were some Corps

Oh! Bingley where is thy cunning? Where B.F. is thy craft?
Done in the eye by three square heads! Lord! How those Huns must have laughed!
Publish it wide in Nairobi! From Kisumu right down to the coast
How are the mighty fallen! Yea! The Heathen have had them on toast
And the sound of a mighty weeping goes up from Lonely Hill
Where Bowker’s are mourning their horses, but the Germans are laughing still
And that is the end of my story, and of Bowker’s horse to boot,
For Bowker’s Horse is now horseless, and there is only Bowkers Foot!
(KRA Mini-SITREP XVIII p.33)




12 The Story of the East African Mounted Rrifles p.12



13 Lost Lion of Empire p.260



14 Meinertzhagen, Col. R. Army Diary 1899-1926 (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1960) p.86



15 Miller, Charles, Battle for the Bundu (London: Macdonald and Jane’s, 1974) p. 97-8



16 Battle for the Bundu p.99 p.268



17 The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles p.86



18 The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles p.88



19 Lost Lion of Empire p.268



20 Lost Lion of Empire p.268



21 Buchanan, Captain Angus, Three Years of war in East Africa (London: John Murray, 1919) p.199



22 The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles p.90



23 White Man’s Country vol.II p.15



24 The Story of The East African Mounted Rifles p.8



25 Lettow-Vorbeck, General Paul von, My Reminiscences of East africa (Nashville: Battery Press, n,d.) pp. 325-26



26 The Swahili spoken in Tanganyika is widely regarded as the purest form of that language.



27 Kenya Regiment archive



28 KRA Mini-SITREP XVIII, May 2001, p. 40



29 When I relayed this comment back to Guy Campbell he laughed aloud and stated it was the best compliment he had received for ages



30 Ross, W. McGregor, Kenya from Within (London: George Allen & Unwin,1927) pp.446-7



31 Brodhurst-Hill, Evelyn, So this is Kenya! (London: Blackie & Son,1936) pp.232-3



32 Hansard, 5th series, vol.69,c.572 Lords, 7 December,1927



33 Bennett, George, Kenya A Political History London: OUP, 1963 p.69



34 CO 533/384/4



35 Kenya Regiment Archive



36 Campbell, Guy, The Charging Buffalo (London: Leo Cooper, 1986) p14



37 White Man’s Country vol. II p.312



38 Kenya A Political History pp.73-4



39 Kenya Weekly News 18 August 1933



40 Kenya Regiment Archive



41 CO533/458/5 Sir J. Byrne to Rt. Hon. J.H.Thomas 15th September 1935



42 East African Standard 6 March 1936



43 East African Standard, 6 March 1936



44 East African Standard, 11 March 1936



45 East African Standard 11 March 1936



46 CO533/460/7



47 Report of the Committee appointed by his Excellency the Governor on the 4th April, 1936 to Consider suggestions for the Reorganisation of the Defence Forces of the Colony (Nairobi: The Government Printer, 1936)



48 Kenya Regiment Archive



49 CO820/34/15 In accordance with the Governor’s proposals the KDF was established as a Battalion and in 1942 comprised some 850 men in the following six companies:
HQ Coy Signals Transport Recce Admin Nairobi
A Coy Platoons 1,2,3,4 Nairobi
E Coy Platoons 5,6,7,8 Nairobi
A/A Coy Platoons W,X,Y,Z, Nairobi
B Coy Platoons 9,10,11,12 Kabete -Limuru –Kiambu
C Coy Platoons 13,14,15,16 Ruiru –Thika
My father A.W.”Bill” Weaver (KDF 55726) served in B Coy where S. K. Gillett (later Sir Stuart) was Coy Commander



50 Kenya Weekly News, p.20, 15 January 1937










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