All change August 1914

Apart from life as people knew it then changing due to the outbreak of war, life went on as usual, at least for a while. On the outbreak of war, many British officials working in Africa had gone ‘home’ to England on leave. This was usual after a three-year stint in the colonies, although more senior staff could do the trip annually to take advantage of sorting out issues face to face rather than by telegram or letter. For Britain’s immediate war effort, this was probably a blessing in disguise as men such as Lord Kitchener, Reginald Hoskins and others were on hand to defend the motherland. However, for the outlying areas, such as the African colonies, West Indies and India, this presented a bit of a challenge. The officers who knew their men and the prevailing conditions were not on the ground leaving less experienced men to pick up the pieces. The fact that Britain didn’t rush the senior officers back to their territories in Africa tends to support the case that Britain wasn’t keen to involve its colonies in the conflict.

Other changes were taking place locally too, which until recently I hadn’t been aware of. A file at TNA (CO 536/70 36106) revealed that Buganda welcomed the Kabaka (King) to the throne in his own right on 8 August 1914; the date Daudi Chwa ‘attained his majority on reaching the age of 18 years.

As a major event, the Kabaka’s pledging of oaths took place in public at Mengo, ‘in front of the Kabaka’s enclosure’. It was attended, by amongst others, the Acting Governor (HR Walllis) and staff, regents, members of the Kabaka’s family and representatives of the three Missionary societies. It is recorded that ‘some 250 Europeans, 300 Chiefs, and upwards of 5,000 Natives’ attended. Having given an overview of the 17 years preceding the Kabaka’s coming of age, the Acting Governor’s speech ended with:

You are aware that Great Britain is engaged in a European struggle which may involve this country. If the occasion should arise for defending Uganda, it will be your duty as Kabaka of Uganda and as an officer in the King’s African Rifles to give your loyal co-operation as well as that of your people in repelling any attack which may be made of the enemy.

The file also contains two original signed copies of the oaths the Kabaka took: one official-

I, Daudi Chwa, do swear that I will well and truly serve His Majesty King George the Fifth in the Office of Kabaka of Buganda. So help me God.

the other judicial-

I, Daudi Chwa, do swear that I will well and truly serve Our Sovereign Lord King George the Fifth in the Office of Kabaka of Buganda and will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the Protectorate of Uganda without fear or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God.

Both were said and signed in English and Luganda.

(The dates on this history don’t clearly tie up with the above document. The most likely explanation is that Daudi Chwa was king from the age of 4 but on reaching the age of 18 he made the promises in his own right rather than his regents doing so on his behalf.)

Other changes seen at the outbreak of war which would have happened in any event included the arrival of South Africa’s new Governor General, Sydney Buxton and the appointment of a new administrator to Southern Rhodesia, Drummond Chaplin.

 

@UKNationalArchives #WW1 #Africa

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