Richmond WW1 Diary 25 November 1918

Fighting finally ends in Africa |

Two weeks after the guns fell silent in Europe, the commander of the German forces in East Africa finally surrendered.

The German colonies in east Africa covered the areas of modern Burundi, Rwanda, and mainland Tanzania. The military commander, Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck, led his African forces, known as askari in guerrilla warfare, raiding the British colonies in Kenya and Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe and Zambia).

Some 11,000 African men fought in the German army during the East African campaign, and thousands more fought on the British side, in African-only brigades such as the King’s African Rifles. However, in Europe, African soldiers fighting for the British were limited to labouring roles, such as digging trenches. Most of these soldiers were volunteers from South Africa and there were objections from White South Africans to fighting alongside armed Black South Africans.

Amongst the French forces there was greater equality, with men from the French colonies in North Africa fighting alongside French soldiers. The Senegalese tirailleurs were particularly celebrated for their courage and skills.

Three Senegalese soldiers in uniform, including red caps, resting between fighting.

 

In Africa, hundreds of thousands of Africans were also conscripted into labour roles, most notably the Carrier Corps (informally known as the ‘kariakor’). Neglect of the contribution of these men and boys means that information is only recently being revealed. In many cases, the thousands of Africans who died in service in Africa during the war were not commemorated nor records kept.

 

Carved bronze relief showing seven African men carrying sacks and boxes above their heads. The men wear a uniform with short trousers and all are barefoot.
Bronze Plaque depicting men of the Carrier Corps, part of the memorial to African soldiers of the First World War in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More information about the memorial can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves website.

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