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King's African Rifles Papers


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Memoranda and other papers, [1981-1982], describing the experiences of officers in various East African regiments, c1910s-1960s.


  • Creation: [1978-1984]


19 boxes

Language of Materials

  • English

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 1715

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 590

Biographical / Historical

This collection is the result of the work of the Oxford Development Records Project, c1981-1982, which aimed to preserve the memories of experiences of former British officers who had served in East Africa earlier in the 20th century. An aide-memoire was sent to potential contributors, which they were invited to answer in the form of a personal data sheet, adding any original papers they were willing to donate. The officers concerned had mostly served with the various battalions of the King's African Rifles, though some had served with other forces, including the Somaliland Camel Corps, Somaliland Scouts and Gendarmerie, and the Northern Rhodesia Regiment. The period covered was from World War One to independence, though most of the papers relate to World War Two and the following decade.

The King's African Rifles was formed in 1902 by the union of other regular colonial regiments in British East Africa. The 1st and 2nd (Nyasaland) Battalions were established from the Central African Regiment, 3rd (Kenya) Battalion from the East Africa Rifles, 4th and 5th (Uganda) Battalions from the Uganda Rifles, and 6th (Somaliland) Battalion from local Somaliland forces. In 1910 this was disbanded, though a 6th (Tanganyika) Battalion emerged in 1917. A further Tanganyika Battalion, the 26th, was founded in 1939. There were three Kenya battalions, the 5th formed in 1916, the 7th in 1952 and the 11th in 1941. The independence of various colonies spelt the end of the regiment as a whole. The 6th and 26th Battalions were redesignated the Tanganyika Rifles in 1961, 4th Battalion the Uganda Rifles in 1962, 3rd, 5th and 11th Battalions the Kenya Rifles in 1963, and 1st Battalion the Malawi Rifles in 1964.

There were approximately a further thirty temporary battalions raised during hostilities, and a territorial unit, the 7th (Uganda Territorial Force) Battalion, 1939-1946.

During World War Two the regiment achieved battle honours in Abyssinia, British and Italian Somaliland, Madagascar, the Middle East and Burma.

The Northern Rhodesia Regiment was formed from the military wing of the Northern Rhodesia Police in 1933 and was reconstituted in 1937 as a colonial infantry regiment. During World War Two the regiment totalled eight battalions, which served in Kenya, Somalia, Abyssinia, Madagascar, Burma, India and Palestine, as well as undertaking civil defence duties in Northern Rhodesia. The regiment also raised logistic and ambulance units. However, after 1945 the regiment was reduced to one battalion, which later served in the armed forces of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. At the independence of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1964 the regiment became 1 Zambia Rifles.

The Somaliland Camel Corps was formed in 1912 as a response to the rising of Maxamad Cabdulle Xasan (1864-1920), the 'Mad Mullah', but was disbanded in 1940 when the Italians overran British Somaliland. After the British reoccupation, the Corps was reformed with the intention of developing into an armoured car unit. In 1943 a new unit, the Somaliland Scouts, was created from existing companies of Somalis previously assembled for guard and patrol duties. The Somaliland Gendarmerie was also formed, to patrol occupied ex-Italian territory. The Camel Corps mutinied in June 1944 and was disbanded. The Somaliland Scouts continued in service until Somalia's indepence in 1960, when they were handed over to the new government.


The papers are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the contributor. Although brief details of the relevant military service of each officer is given in their administrative/biographical history, further biographical information can be found in their aide-memoires.

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 920 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Oxford Development Records Project

Related Materials

Royal West African Frontier Force papers, [c1983] (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1734).

King's African Rifles Papers
Paul Davidson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom