African war heroes honoured with permanent display at Sandhurst

Nearly 150 guests who have served the British Crown in Africa were invited to see the exhibition in their honour unveiled

Viscount John Slim spoke at the unveiling of the display at the RMAS

Viscount John Slim spoke at the unveiling of the display at the RMAS

African soldiers who served in the British Army have been commemorated with a permanent display at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).

Eight storyboards have been put up in the Old College recalling the contribution of African soldiers in west, east and central Africa and the Sudan who have fought for the Crown.

The display was officially opened by Viscount John Slim, president of the Burma Star Association for veterans of the Burma Campaign in the Second World War, and RMAS commandant Major-General Paul Nanson.

The ceremony on September 15 at the famous academy near Camberley was attended by 140 guests, all of whom are variously associated with the Royal West African Frontier Force, King’s African Rifles, East African Forces, Northern Rhodesia Regiment and Rhodesian African Rifles.

Also present on the day were Captain David Nickol, who served with the 6th King’s African Rifles throughout the Second World War, and Joshua Ennin from Ghana, who fought with the Gold Coast Regiment in Burma.

Ghanaian Joshua Ennin fought with the Gold Coast Regiment in Burma during the Second World War

Ghanaian Joshua Ennin fought with the Gold Coast Regiment in Burma during the Second World War

Viscount Slim said the Old College already featured many artefacts honouring the contribution of the army of pre-independence India to the British, but now it was time for members of African colonial units to be recognised in a similar way.

“It is a great honour to unveil and dedicate these boards,” he said. “This is a wonderful moment and long overdue.”

The display spans 80 years of service by troops from 13 African nations, most of them Commonwealth countries, starting with the raising of local military forces in the 1880s to help establish and protect the borders of British colonies in Africa.

‘Huge debt’

It highlights the key role of African regiments in the First World War, where they bore the brunt of fighting in German East Africa when British, South African and Indian troops succumbed to extremely harsh conditions.

The combined death toll, including the African carriers who were an integral part of the military logistic chain, was 105,000 men – more than 50% higher than the number of Australian, Canadian or Indian troops who lost their lives in the Great War.

Included on the storyboards are the citations of the 10 Victoria Crosses awarded to European officers and senior non-commissioned officers, as well as 14 citations for African soldiers selected from several hundred troops awarded medals for conspicuous gallantry.

Major-General Nanson said: “These storyboards demonstrate the loyalty and bravery of the African soldiers who, led by British and colonial officers, brought exceptional strength and resilience plus innate soldierly skills on to the battlefield.

“They emphasise the historic links of the countries featured here to their military forces, which is important in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

“The forces of these countries are playing an important role in peace and security missions in Africa.”

He added: “I am well aware of the huge debt we owe colonial west, east and central Africa for their outstanding infantry units, which they provided during the two world wars.

“It is therefore very fitting that African regiments are commemorated in this building in the same way other soldiers who have fought for the crown have been.”

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