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1st (African) Division
Active 24 July 1940 –
Disbanded 23 November 1941
Engagements East African Campaign
Commanders
24 July 1940 – 13 August 1940 Brigadier G. R. Smallwood (acting Commanding Officer)
Ceremonial chief Major-General H. E. de R. Wetherall 13 August

The 1st (African) Division was a British Empire colonial unit during World War II. The division was formed on 24 July 1940 in East Africa. On 24 November of that year, the division was re-designated as the British Army's 11th (African) Division. The division were composed primarily of West African and East African troops. It was disbanded on 23 November 1941 and its component units reassigned.

The division should not be confused with 11th (East Africa) Division which was raised in 1943 using solely East African units and which fought in Burma.

Background

In 1938, the King's African Rifles (KAR) in Kenya had been composed of two brigade-strength units organized as a Northern Brigade and a Southern Brigade. The combined strength of both units amounted to 94 officers, 60 non-commissioned officers, and 2,821 African other ranks. After the outbreak of war, these units provided the trained nucleus for the rapid expansion of the KAR. By March 1940, the strength of the KAR had reached 883 officers, 1,374 non-commissioned officers, and 20,026 African other ranks. The size of a KAR battalion was established at 36 officers, 44 non-commissioned officers and other ranks, and 1,050 African other ranks.[1]

Initially the KAR deployed as the 1st East African Infantry Brigade and the 2nd East African Infantry Brigade. The first brigade was responsible for coastal defense and the second was responsible for the defense of the interior. By the end of July, two additional East African brigades were formed, the 3rd East African Infantry Brigade and the 6th East African Infantry Brigade. Initially a Coastal Division and a Northern Frontier District Division were planned. But, instead, on 19 July, the 1st (African) Division and the 2nd (African) Division were formed. On 24 November, these divisions became the 11th African Division and the 12th African Division.[1]

By July 1940, under the terms of a war contingency plan, the Royal West African Frontier Force provided two brigades for service in Kenya. One brigade was from the Gold Coast (Ghana) and one brigade was from Nigeria. The 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade, together with two East African brigades (KAR brigades) and some South Africans, formed 11th African Division. The 12th African Division had a similar formation with a Ghanaian brigade taking the place of a Nigerian brigade.[1]

Combat history

The 1st (African) Division fought in East Africa. Between 4 February to 26 February, during the East African Campaign, the division fought its only battle on the Juba. On 28 July 1941 the headquarters closed in Ethiopia, transferring to Nairobi, where it opened again on 20 August. It took command of new formations upon the transfer to Kenya. On 23 November 1941 the division headquarters ceased to exist.

Commanding officers

Organisation

The organisation of the division was as follows;[2]

  • 1st (African) Divisional Signals (40–40)
  • 11th (African) Divisional Signals (40–41)
  • 1st (East African) Infantry Brigade (40–40 then as 21st (East African) Infantry Brigade, 40–41, 41–41)
    • HQ 1st (East African) Infantry Brigade
    • 2nd (Nyasaland or Central African) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (39–40, 40–43, 43–45)
    • 3rd (Kenya) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (39–39)
    • 4th (Uganda) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (39–40. 40–41, 43–45)
    • 2/4th (Uganda) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (40–40)
    • 5th (Uganda) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (39–39)
    • 2/6th Battalion, The King's African Rifles (40–40)
    • 1st Battalion, The Northern Rhodesia Regiment (40–40, 40–45)
    • 162nd (East African) Field Regiment, East African Artillery (42–43)
    • 303rd (East African) Field Regiment, East African Artillery (43–43)
    • 53rd (East African) Field Battery, East African Artillery (42–42)
    • 54th (Nigerian) Field Battery, East African Artillery (42–42)
    • 58th (East African) Field Engineer Company, East African Engineers (42–43)
    • 21st (East African) Infantry Brigade Group Company, East African Army Service Corps (42–43)
    • 2nd (Z) Field Ambulance (42–43)
  • 3rd (Nigerian) Infantry Brigade (40–40 then as 23rd (Nigerian) Infantry Brigade, 40–41)
    • HQ 1st (East African) Infantry Brigade
    • 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade Reconnaissance Company (41–42 then Squadron from 41–42)
    • 1st Battalion, The Nigeria Regiment (39–45)
    • 2nd Battalion, The Nigeria Regiment (39–45)
    • 3rd Battalion, The Nigeria Regiment (39–41, 42–45)
    • 11th Battalion, The Nigeria Regiment (42–43)
    • 3rd South African Regiment, South African Artillery (43–43)
    • 5th (West African) Auxiliary Group (43–45)
    • 1st (West African) Light Battery, The West African Artillery
    • 1st (West African) Field Company, West African Engineers
    • Ancillary units attached from the West African Army Service Corps
    • 1st (West African) Field Ambulance
    • 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade Provost Section
  • 22nd (East African) Infantry Brigade (40–41, 41–41, 41–41)
    • HQ 22nd (East African) Infantry Brigade
    • 1st (Nyasaland) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (39–40, 40–43)
    • 5th (Kenya) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (39–43, 43–44)
    • 6th (Tanganyika) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (39–40, 40–43, 43–43)
    • 3rd Battalion, The North Rhodesia Regiment (43–45)
    • 1st Battalion, The Rhodesian African Rifles (44–45)
    • 9th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (42–42)
    • 56th (Uganda) Field Battery, East African Artillery (42–42)
    • 59th (East African) Field Company, East African Engineers (44–45)
    • 60th (East African) Field Company, East African Engineers (42–43)
    • 22nd (East African) Infantry Brigade Group Company, East African Army Service Corps (41–45)
    • 6th (East African) Infantry Brigade Workshop, East African Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (44–45)
    • 5th (Kenya) Field Ambulance (42–44)
    • 7th (North Rhodesia) Field Ambulance (42–44)
    • 110th Camp Reception Station (44–45)
    • 22nd (East African) Infantry Brigade Provost Section (41–45)
  • 28th (East African) Infantry Brigade (41–41)
    • HQ 28th (East African) Infantry Brigade
    • 2/1st (Nyasaland) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (41–43)
    • 4/6th (Tanganyika) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (41–43, 43–45)
    • 7th (Uganda) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (41–43, 43–43, 43–45)
    • 1st (Somali) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (43–43)
    • 2nd (Somali) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (43–43)
    • 71st (Somali) Battalion, The King's African Rifles (43–45)
    • 63rd (East African) Field Company, East African Engineers (44–45)
    • 28th (East African) Infantry Brigade Group Company, East African Army Service Corps (42–45)
    • 9th (East African) Infantry Brigade Workshop, East African Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (43–45)
    • 8th (East African) Field Ambulance (43–43)
    • 108th Combat Reception Station (43–45)
  • Commander Artillery, 1st African Division
    • 1st (Nigerian) Light Battery (40–40)
    • 52nd (Nigerian) Light Battery (40–41)
    • 53rd (East African) Light Battery (41–41)
    • 18th Indian Mountain Battery (41–41)
    • 22nd Indian Mountain Battery (40–41, 41–41, 41–41)
  • Commander Engineers, 1st African Division
    • 1st (Nigerian) Field Engineer Company (40–40)
    • 3rd (Gold Coast) Field Engineer Company (40–40)
    • 51st (Nigerian) Field Engineer Company (40–41)
    • 53rd (Gold Coast) Field Engineer Company (40–41, 41–41)
    • 54th (East African) Field Engineer Company (40–41, 41–41, 41–41)

Headquarters

This is a list of higher formations British 1st (African) Division served under.

  • Headquarters East Africa Force 24/07/40-14/09/41
  • Headquarters East Africa Command 15/09/41-22/11/41

See also

Citations

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Andrew Mollo, The Armed Forces of World War II, p. 133
  2. Joslen, pp. 118, 419–422, 427–428, 432–433

References

  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, ISBN 1-843424-74-6.

External links

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