Looking up something on Uganda’s involvement in World War 1, I noticed the date 5 August 1914 and on closer investigation saw it was the day the Kibaka assumed full powers as ruler. This struck me as something to explore – it was the day after Britain declared war on Germany. Three days later, the Kibaka was made an Honorary Lieutenant of 4 King’s African Rifles.
This naturally led to questions and a bit of digging:
1. Did the Kabaka participate in the war other than in an official or honorary capacity?
2.If so, what did he do?
The following References helped piece together what we currently know about the Kibaka and Buganda’s involvement in the war:
TNA, Kew: WO 339/127215
Daudi-Chwa-II Buganda Royal Family
How Buganda Saved East Africa from German invasion London Evening Post
The Baganda Rifles Harry Fecitt
Daudi Chwa II, KCMG, KBE Kabaka of Buganda
Born: 8 August 1896 (Mengo)
Died: 22 November 1939 (Kampala)
Education: King’s College, Budo, Uganda
Awarded CMG – 1 Jan 1918
Awarded KCMG – 16 Feb 1925
Marriage 1: St Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe, 19 September 1914 (Abakyala Irene Drusilla Namaganda)
Children conceived during war years. Had a total of 33 children
1. Eva Irini Alice Zalwango (15 December 1915)
2. Uniya Mary Namaalwa (28 August 1916)
3. Airini Dulusira Nga’nda Ndagire (31 October 1916)
4. Kasalina Namukaabya Nassimbwa (11 November 1918)
5. George William Mawanda (10 January 1919)
6. Kasalina Gertrude Tebattagwaabwe Nabanakulya (30 June 1919)
Succeeded: father on 9 August 1897 (deposed);
Installed: 14 August 1897 with regency;
Assumed full powers: 5 August 1914;
Crowned: Budo 8 August 1914.
Honorary Lieut 4 KAR (Uganda) 8 Aug 1914
Honorary Captain with effect 22 September 1917
Baganda’s involvement in the war – What do we know?
The involvement of Uganda/Buganda in World War 1 is a little confusing because of the situation in the area before the war broke out.
In 1911, Britain had made some Kings’ African Rifle battalions redundant as part of a cost saving exercise. This resulted in men from Nyasaland (Malawi) joining the German Askari as they needed to earn a living. Allegiance to rulers was different in Africa to what it was/is in Europe.
Another complication is that Britain tended to use men from one area in another so that they were not having to fight or take action against their own people. The construction of the four King’s African Regiments in East Africa were made up of battalions which served in different places or were on leave while other battalions of the same regiment were serving.
When war broke out, it was the European summer holiday. The governments did not expect to go to war and so many officers and government officials were on holiday. In addition, the lack of communication from London (they were very busy sorting out what was happening in Europe), meant that local decisions were made which were uncoordinated. Over the first years of the war, these groups amalgamated or disbanded with many being a name in a book with little other known of what they did.
So, what do we know?
The following forces were raised or available from Uganda:
• 4 King’s African Rifles (KAR)
• Lieutenant AJB Wavell had two companies of Baganda employed in the coastal area. Wavell is most famously known for his command of the Arab Rifles. Was there a connection?
• Uganda Reserve Company about 90 strong of 4 KAR
• Auxiliary levies, such as the Maasai Scouts and a few
• Uganda European Volunteer Reserve
• Local units (Uganda Armed Levies) in southern Uganda later known as the Baganda Rifles to defend home territories against attack. Permission was given for 555 to be recruited.
First days of war:
Lieutenant-Colonel LES Ward – commanding officer 4 KAR, Officer Commanding Uganda was the most senior military officer in East Africa when war broke out (all his seniors on leave). In fact, Ward was on his way to Mombasa to leave on retirement for England when he heard that war had broken out. He therefore went to Nairobi to do what he could to help the Governor prepare.
Major LH Hickson of 3 KAR therefore took over as OC Uganda.
3 KAR had the most troops readily available. The battalions were split into Companies.
• B Company – based at Mumia
• F Company – based at Baringo
o B & F were on route to Turkana but instructed to go to Nairobi
• A Company – based at Bombo
• G Company – based at Entebbe
o A & G were sent to Kisumu. One was later sent to Nairobi.
To replace these troops in Western Uganda, 2 of the 3 companies were moved from Northern Uganda. They were based at Masaka with a contingent of armed police. There was an outpost at Sanje.
Western Uganda remained quiet despite concerns because the Germans had withdrawn from Bukoba after a heavy defeat by Sese islanders. The German forces settled at Mwanza.
5 days before war broke out, about 31 July, the troops in Nairobi were moved to Tsvao and Voi to defend the bridges in the area and to patrol the railway lines. Two vehicles were adapted to be armoured trains. The troops consisted of:
• Half ‘D’ Company led by Captain TO Fitzgerald with one officer and 84 rifles
• Lieutenant H Home Davies (Royal Welch Fusiliers) arrive later with 21 rank and file of the half-trained KAR Mounted Infantry. They were stationed at Voi with a small post at Bura, near a group of hills some twenty-two miles out along the old caravan route to Taveta, close to the German frontier.
When war was declared in August 1914 The Regent of Buganda wrote to the British on behalf of four other Chiefs requesting that the five Chiefs & 500 of their men be sent to England to join the British Army. Is this what resulted in the Kabaka assuming his role independently and being appointed Honorary Lieutenant of the KAR?
The Baganda Rifles
Commanding Officer was Captain E Tyrell Bruce of the Uganda Volunteer Reserve.
Captain HB Tucker (98th Infantry, Indian Army) became commander in July 1916 when the Indian Army assumed command of the Baganda Rifles.
1914 and 1915 – Baganda Rifles employed on the Kagera River Front just south of the border between Uganda and German East Africa. Patrolled and supported army units holding the line. Assisted in securing Sango Bay on Lake Victoria where the Royal Navy Lake Flotilla landed supplies and reinforcements.
1916 – Baganda Rifles formed part of Lake Force.
9 June 1916 the steamer Usoga landed the Baganda Rifles, East African Scouts and the machine-guns of the 98th Infantry, Indian Army, on the eastern end of the Ukerewe Island, north-east of Mwanza. The island was an important rice-growing area for the German Schutztruppe and a wood-fuelling station for Lake steamers.
A German garrison was moving onto Ukerewe Island from the Musoma area to secure the rice crop. The British force bayonet-charged the 50-strong German advance party, forcing it back onto the mainland. 4 KAR (Uganda) landed further to the west and the island was cleared of Schutztruppe. The rice was harvested for use by the British troops.
12th July 1916 the British moved to the mainland to attack the German garrison holding Mwanza, the largest German port on Lake Victoria. Half the Baganda Rifles landed with Force B at Senga Point while the rest landed with Force Reserve near Kaienzie Bay. The British advanced overland from two directions, brushing aside small piquets of Schutztruppe.
14 July 1916 Mwanza was captured from the Germans. The German garrison withdrew south but left behind a 4.1-inch gun from the battle-cruiser Konigsberg. This gun was on a traffic-island in Jinja, Uganda.
The British pursued the Germans south towards Tabora on the Central Railway. During this advance the Baganda Rifles performed excellent long-range patrolling duties, but also suffered from a meningitis epidemic that caused many fatalities within the ranks.
On reaching Tabora, which had been captured by the Belgians on 16 September 1916, before the British arrived, Lake Force was disbanded. The Baganda Rifles, although effective and well supported by the Kabaka and chiefs, moved back to Uganda.
8 November 1916 the Baganda Rifles was disbanded at Entebbe. Many joined the KAR to serve in German and Portuguese East Africa.
There are medal cards for 230 Baganda Riflemen in Kew and recorded on the In Memory list on GWAA
This information was presented at the Diversity House Micro-nations event on 27 October 2017.