King's African Rifles

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A sergeant and three soldiers of the KAR (1902)

The King's African Rifles were an infantry regiment formed by the colonial power in British East Africa . It was set up in 1902 in order to centralize the existing colonial troops and to achieve synergy effects in terms of supply and training. It existed until the East African states became independent in the 1960s and was responsible for both military and police functions.


The regiment of the King's African Rifles (KAR) was formed on January 1, 1902 from the existing Central African Rifles, Uganda Rifles and East Africa Rifles . It was divided into six battalions :

  • 1st (Central Africa): 8 companies (previously 1st Central African Rifles)
  • 2nd (Central Africa): 6 companies (previously 2nd Central African Rifles)
  • 3rd (East Africa): 8 companies, including one mounted with camels for use in Jubaland (previously East African Rifles)
  • 4th (Uganda): 9 companies (previously the African part of the Uganda Rifles)
  • 5th (Uganda): 4 companies (previously the Indian part of the Uganda Rifles); Disbanded in 1905
  • 6th (Somaliland): set up in the following years from evacuated Somalis

The Indian troops were necessary as trainers and as fighters until the reliability of the locals was ensured. They were stationed in the entire then British area of ​​East and Central Africa.

In 1902 104 Europeans were subordinate to 4,579 local NCOs and men.

Ribbon of the King's African Rifles Distinguished Conduct Medal

The uniforms of indigenous teams were shorts and shirt in khaki and puttees ( puttees ), breeches ( breeches ) for Camel troops . In addition, a red fez with a black tassel was worn, which was replaced by a khaki one in combat. The insignia "KAR" were on the shoulder pieces, with the battalion number at the Fez added during combat. The units in Nyasa and later British Somaliland (6th) wore slightly different uniforms, which took into account the regional character. The uniforms of the officers corresponded to the pattern common to the British in Egypt , and the pith helmet was common in use from 1907 .

The Martini-Henry carbine , caliber .45, was initially issued as armament , soon replaced by the .303 Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield rifles. Teams were also equipped with a cleaver.


Between 1902 and 1914 the KAR were mainly used in "police actions" against insubordinate locals.

year Cause
involved troops
1902 Atonga in western Nyasa refused to pay tax 100 men 1st KAR
1902 Assault on a construction site by Kipsiki 300 men 3rd KAR
1902 Kikuyu (Maruka) murdered 5 Indian traders 115 men 3rd KAR, 60 police officers, 300 conscripts
1902 2. Campaign against the warrior mullah. 5 companies KAR (until 1904). Reinforcement of the local troops.
1903 Camel lift in the southeastern Nandi region ; Raids 30 4th and 5th KAR each, with MG. Later increased to 650 men and 700 "friendly" Nandi
1903/4 4. Campaign against the warrior mullah. 550 men in the column from Berbera
1904 Kikuyu (Iraini and Embu) 135 3rd KAR, 60 police officers, 300 conscripts
1905-6 Action against the Nandi , who revolted against the expropriation of their best land 6 companies each 1st and 3rd KAR, 200 armed police officers
1907 Fight between the Kitosh and Kabara 35 men 3rd KAR; 1908 increased to: 323 men with machine guns, police officers
1910 The Stoick erupted from their reservation 68 men with machine guns
1911 Assassination of a settler near Marakwet 98 1st KAR, 53 3rd KAR
1912 Turkana nomad raids 63 1st KAR, 42 3rd KAR, 2 MGs
1914 Raids of Mareham on KAR-Posten 150 1st KAR, camel company

From 1914

C Company, 7th. Mogadishu 1941

Battalions were reclassified or newly formed during the world wars.

  • 5th (Kenya) Battalion [1916-1963]
  • 6th (Tanganyika Territory) Battalion [1917–1961]
  • 7th (Kenya) Battalion [1952–1956]
  • 11th (Kenya) Battalion [1941-1946, 1956-1963]
  • 26th (Tanganyika Territory) Battalion [1939–1961]
  • 71st (Somali) Battalion [1942–1945]
  • 72nd (Somali) Battalion [1942–1945]

The regiment fought against the German troops of Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in German East Africa during the First World War . In 1918 KAR had a crew of 33,348, consisting of 1,193 British officers, 1,497 NCOs and 30,658 Africans.

KAR soldiers collect weapons from the defeated Italians at the Wolchefit Pass (Sept. 1941)

The regiment also fought against Italy in the liberation of Abyssinia in 1941 and against Japan in Burma during World War II .

It was then also used during the Malay Uprising .

The regiment was split up when the territories involved gained independence.

The individual battalions were transferred to the following of the new individual states:

Known relatives

Battle Honors

The regiment did not receive flags until 1924, as the British hunter troops traditionally did not lead them. They were renewed in the 1950s. The regimental color showed the following battle honors :

  • Ashanti 1900 (awarded to The Central Africa Regiment in 1908), British Somaliland 1901-04
  • First World War: Kilimanjaro, Narungombe, Nyangao, East Africa 1914–18
  • Second World War: Afodu, Moyale, Todenyang-Namuraputh, Soroppa, Juba, Beles Gugani, Awash, Fike, Colito, Omo, Gondar, Ambazzo, Kulkaber, Abyssinia 1940–41, Tug Argan: British Somaliland 1940 , Madagascar, Middle East 1942, Mawlaik, Kalewa, Seikpyu, Letse, Arakan Beaches, Taungup, Burma 1944–45


  • Edwin Herbert: Risings and Rebellions 1919-1939. Foundry Books, Nottingham 2007, ISBN 1-901543-12-9 , pp. 81ff.
  • H. Moyse-Bartlett: The King's African Rifles: A Study of Military History of East an Central Africa. Aldershot 1956.

Web links

Commons : King's African Rifles  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Edwin Herbert: Risings and Rebellions 1919-1939. Foundry Books, Nottingham 2007, ISBN 1-9015-4312-9 , pp. 81ff.