East Africa

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East Africa. Also includes other parts of Africa, including West Africa, but see the separate page for South Africa.

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Also see

Information about the database African Newspapers, Series 1 and 2, 1800-1925; and African Newspapers: The British Library Collection, both part of Readex World Newspapers Archive, both of which are available at the British Library. Also information about a database containing a collection of African Blue Books from thirteen colonies across Africa, also available at the British Library.

British African regiments such as the King's African Rifles

Excludes South Africa.

After Uganda was declared a Protectorate in 1893, the colonial authorities formed a military force of some 600 regulars and 300 reservists, most of whom were Sudanese recruited in Egypt. A small number of Arabic-speaking British officers were responsible for training this force. In 1895 this force was organized into rifle companies, which collectively became known as the "Uganda Rifles".

Growing disillusionment in the Uganda Rifles over issues such as loneliness, poor food, poor pay and frequent reassignments to remote areas led to a mutiny in 1897. Several British officers were killed, and discontent amongst Uganda’s moslem community, which was sympathetic to the Sudanese, erupted into violence in several places. The British despatched troops from India to put down the mutiny and to stop the violence, although this took until 1899 to complete.

As a result of the mutiny, towards the end of 1897 the colonial government decided to reorganise the Uganda Rifles on an urgent basis, and a number of commissioned and non-commissioned officers for the task of reorganisation were recruited in London. A newspaper report of the day said ,,,The Soudanese forming the force will be greatly reduced, and the vacancies filled up by recruiting from the East African Protectorate and, possibly, also from India… The non-commissioned officers were ready to depart for Uganda around 20th-21st January 1898, and the commissioned officers followed in due course.[1]

The King's African Rifles (KAR) was formed on 1 January 1902 from various local regiments, and were responsible for the defence of British colonies and protectorates in East Africa, initially Nyasaland, Kenya, Uganda, British Somaliland, and later Tanganyika Territory and Zanzibar. Each colony was responsible for recruiting and maintaining its own battalions.[2] The 1st and 2nd (Nyasaland) Battalions [later Regiments] were established from the Central African Regiment, 3rd (Kenya) Battalion [later Regiment] from the East Africa Rifles, 4th and 5th (Uganda) Battalions [later Regiments] from the Uganda Rifles, and 6th (Somaliland) Battalion [later Regiment] from local Somaliland forces. In 1910 this was disbanded, though a 6th (Tanganyika) Regiment emerged in 1917.[3]At least during war time, each regiment could have multiple battalions. Men were recruited locally while officers, and at least some NCOs were from the British Army.

The Army and Navy Gazette 15 February 1902 (page 2) stated

"We alluded recently to the creation of the King's African Rifles, under the Foreign Office, embodying the East and Central Africa and Uganda Forces, as an example of an organisation having many features to commend it, since it brings all units under a single and controlling responsible authority, and will cause the whole to be disciplined upon a simple system under settled rules and regulations.[4]

Control of the King’s African Rifles appears to have passed to the Colonial Office in 1905.

From 1927 the administration of the King’s African Rifles, together with that of the Royal West Africa Frontier Force (previously The Niger and West Africa Frontier Force, known from 1900-1918 as the West Africa Frontier Force) was brought together in a new Military Branch within the Colonial Office. In September 1931 the appointments of inspector generals for the KAR and RWAFF were combined into one post; the Inspector General of African Colonial Forces.

The East African Mounted Rifles (EAMR) was a Volunteer regiment of settlers formed in Nairobi, Kenya, on 5 August 1914. Most of the members of the EAMR were expert riders, crack shots and they had the immense advantage of knowing the country, the conditions and the lingua franca of the country, Swahili. Within a few months many were transferred to other units to satisfy the demand for men who knew the country.[5] Due to transfers, the regiment had faded away by May 1917.[6]

The Rhodesia Regiment was in existence for various periods from 1899, including the Boer War and the First World War. Initially, many of the soldiers came from the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers. During the Second World War, the Battalions were only engaged in Home Service. Refer External links, below.


  • Also see External links, below.
  • Officers will generally be mentioned in the London Gazette, and British Army Lists. It appears they are more likely to be mentioned in the official War Office publications Quarterly and Monthly Army Lists, or listed with more detail, compared with the commercial Army Lists. For more details of these publications, including many available online, see British Army - Records. As an (online) example: September 1919 Monthly List, under "Special Lists", lists King's African Rifles officers in Staff, 1st-7th Regiments, Signal Company and Pay Department.[7] Monthly Lists , under "Special Lists" may also include a list of "Officers in [Colonial] Civil Employment".
  • A researcher found an officer of the Uganda Rifles 1901-2 mentioned in The National Archives record "Africa: Protectorate staff lists (East Africa, Uganda, Somali Coast, Central Africa, King's African Rifles), 1896-1905 FO 403/556"[8]
  • Catalogue entry CO 534 Colonial Office: King's African Rifles Original Correspondence TNA. This series contains original correspondence relating to the King's African Rifles 1905-1926.
  • Catalogue entry Subseries within WO 106 King's African Rifles, including Somaliland Camel Corps TNA. 1895-1937.
  • "Nominal Roll Of Warrant And Non Commissioned Officers Serving In The King's African Rifles. Quarter ending September 1918" for the Nairobi-based regiments. (The Nyasaland regiment, 1KAR, was administered from Zomba, Nyasaland and British personnel attached to it do not appear on this list). TNA, but reference not stated.[9] Note however the source is later stated to be NAM (National Army Museum)[10]
  • Search TNA Discovery for WW1 (East Africa, Cameroon and West Africa: WO 95/5289-5388) and WW2 War Diaries.
  • King's African Rifles Papers at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
  • There are some King's African Rifles records at the National Army Museum, London including
    • Miscellaneous documents associated with the 2nd King's African Rifles in East Africa, 1916-1918; associated with World War One, East Africa (1914-1918). Archives NAM Accession Number 1965-06-16
    • Correspondence and documents relating to the history of the King's African Rifles collected by Lt Col H Moyse Bartlett, nd. Archives NAM Accession Number 1967-05-60
  • Catalogue entry CO 445 Colonial Office: Niger and West Africa Frontier Force and West Africa Frontier Force Original Correspondence TNA This series contains original correspondence relating to the Niger and West Africa Frontier Force to 1899, the West Africa Frontier Force from 1900, and the Royal West Africa Frontier Force from 1918. It was raised locally in 1897 to protect the frontiers of the British protectorates in West Africa against the French. It was paid by the imperial government, and officered by the British Army. It took the title 'Royal' in April 1928, and was responsible for the defence of The Gambia, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
  • Catalogue entry CO 820 Colonial Office: Military Original Correspondence TNA. From 1927 to 1938, the files relate principally to two colonial military forces: the King's African Rifles and the Royal West African Frontier Force. From 1939 there is also correspondence relating to other African colonial forces,
  • Service records, should they still exist, would be found in African archives. Researchers have found emails to such archives have not been answered. For practical purposes, any potential service records appear unaccessable, unless perhaps you are personally able to visit the relevant African country. There is no information known about holdings, but any records which survive are likely to relate to later, rather than earlier periods.
  • For missing or POW soldiers, see the relevant section on the page British Army, including WW1 British Red Cross & Order Of St John Enquiry Lists For Wounded And Missing
  • For soldiers who died during WW1 (possibly also those who became disabled) see British Army - WFA WW1 pension record cards as a possible source of records.
  • See Cemeteries for Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.

Regimental histories

  • Also see Historical books online, below.
  • The King's African Rifles. A Study in the Military History of East and Central Africa, 1890-1945 by Lieut.-Colonel H Moyse-Bartlett 1956. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01001096707. Sample pages only, reprint edition Volume 1, Volume 2 Google Books. Includes Contents.
The history to 1914 by the same author published 1954 is available, see Historical books online, below.
  • Historical records of the 3rd Battalion [King's African Rifles] 1895-1933. TNA WO 106/270
  • Record of the 3rd Battalion [King's African Rifles] during the campaign in East Africa TNA WO 106/273
  • The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles by C.J. Wilson 1938. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01009620624. Also available in a reprint edition.[11]
  • The Rhodesian African Rifles by Christopher Owen 1970. Series: Famous regiments. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01002736055

Regimental articles

Records, other than military

  • The British Library holds the book Handbook for East Africa, Uganda & Zanzibar, 1904 UIN: BLL01001149896. Stated elsewhere to contain lists of “past and present officials”. Also available at the Society of Genealogists.
The British Library holds the book The Swift Directory of British East Africa, Uganda, and Zanzibar ... [1915] published Calcutta : Thacker, Spink & Co. UIN: BLL01000944752 . It is possible this title may be similar in format to Thacker's Indian Directory. There is reference elsewhere also to a 1912 title Directory of British East Africa, Uganda, and Zanzibar, possibly from a different publisher, (perhaps in the Red Book series) although the BL does not appear to hold it.
The British Library holds the title The Red Book," 1919 [etc.]. The Standard British East Africa & Uganda Handbook and Directory. UIN: BLL01002858959 . It is catalogued as a Journal, however exact BL holding is not stated.
There is a similar book for 1909 Snippet Google Books, possibly available full view in USA etc. HathiTrust Digital Library.
Also catalogued, "The Red Book,": The Directory of East Africa, Uganda & Zanzibar 1922 appears to be available to those in North America etc. Google Books. Actual title, from thumbnail of cover appears to be The Red Book 1922-23: Handbook and Directory for Kenya Colony and Protectorate, Uganda Protectorate, Tanganyika Territory, and Zanzibar Sultanate, which is available at the Libraries of the University of Cambridge, which also holds a title The Red Book : the "Standard" British East Africa & Uganda handbook and directory compiled by the "East African Standard" c 1919-1920.
The East African red book 1925-26 is held at the SOAS Library, University of London and The East African red book, 1930-31 is held at the University of Oxford Libraries.
The British Library hods the book Saben's Commercial Directory & Handbook of Uganda, 1947/48 UIN: BLL01003215925 . Catalogue note says "Wanting the supplements". Also held at the Society of Genealogists. The BL also holds an edition for 1960-61.
  • For doctors who qualified in the United Kingdom, see Doctor. Also there are entries for British East Africa Protectorate and Africa Protectorates (varies according to date) in editions of The Medical Directory of India, Burma and Ceylon ... Compiled by the editorial staff of the Practical Medicine, published at Delhi. There are known editions for 1908, 1910 and 1924 available at libraries in London. See Doctor - Lists of medical officers - Other lists for details.
  • The book Scots in Africa Pt 1 by David Dobson 1999. Available at the National Library of Scotland, catalogue entry, and some Scottish universities. Also held by Senate House Library, University of London, according to Library Hub Discover. Also held by Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah USA. FamilySearch catalogue entry with details of the book ..."the information has largely come from contemporary Scottish newspapers, and data culled from documentation in Scottish archives".

External links

  • FamilySearch, a free website provided by the LDS (Mormon) Church has a category Africa, mainly consisting of transcribed records. Alternatively, from the Map, click on Africa, then select relevant country. It is necessary to be signed in to FamilySearch to view any records. In addition, Search the Catalog for digitised microfilms relating to Africa, ensuring you are signed in to FS, as results can differ if you are not. Countries are catalogued according to their modern name. For more about digitised microfilms, see FamilySearch and FamilySearch Centres.
  • Findmypast and Ancestry, both pay websites may have relevant records. See South Africa for links to record sets/databases.
  • Europeans In East Africa. The database holds information on people of European origin who lived and worked in East Africa from about 1880 to 1939. It concentrates mainly on Kenya, but there are some entries for Uganda and Tanzania.
  • East African Cemeteries and Memorials. Includes cemeteries from
    • Kenya
    • Tanzania
    • Uganda
  • Find a Grave includes some African records.
  • South Africa War Graves Project The goal of the South Africa War Graves Project is to archive photographs of every single South African & Rhodesian war grave located in countries worldwide, from the 2nd Anglo-Boer War onwards, including WW1 and WW2. Currently a work in progress. Includes a database to Search.
  • There may be a relevant Ancestry Message Board
Search all Ancestry Message Boards. You do not need to be an Ancestry subscriber, but to post, you must register with Ancestry.
  • Rootsweb Mailing Lists. From March 2nd, 2020 all Rootsweb Mailing Lists have been discontinued. Mailing list archives will remain available and searchable.
Search all Rootsweb Mailing List Archives
Search the Kenya List Archives
Search the Tanzania List Archives
Search the Africa List Archives
Government Gazettes, some of which are available at the National Archives, Kew are mentioned as a good source of information in the above links.
These pages c 2008 are from the archived website “Empire’s Children”, a website connected with the 2007 Channel 4 television series of the same name. Note, some of the information may now be outdated. Many of the internal links have not been archived.
There is a "Resources" chapter in the book Empire’s Children: Trace Your Family History Across the World by Anton Gill 2007, available at the British Library UIN: BLL01013623894 . This book accompanied the television series Empire's Children.


Historical books online

  • The Kenya Gazette Issues from 1899. (broken range). There is a small tool bar which enables you to scroll the volumes available. There appear to be no editions for 1916 . There is a Search facility for all issues. Google Books
The Kenya Gazette is an official publication of the government of the Republic of Kenya. It contains notices of new legislation, notices required to be published by law or policy as well as other announcements that are published for general public information. It is published every week, usually on Friday, with occasional releases of special or supplementary editions within the week.
Wrinkles; or, Hints to sportsmen and travellers on dress, equipment, and camp life by The Old Shekarry [Henry Astbury Leveson], a New Edition 1874. Archive.org
Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, 1896-7: a study in African resistance by T. O. Ranger 1967 Archive.org
The reorganisation of the military in Uganda c 1900 page 252 The Uganda Protectorate; an attempt to give some description of the physical geography, botany, zoology, anthropology, languages and history of the territories under British protection in East Central Africa... by Sir Harry Johnston, Volume 1, 1902 Archive.org. Includes a brief reference to Indian troops.
Britain across the seas. Africa: History and description of the British Empire in Africa by Sir Harry Johnston 1910 Archive.org
The Benin Massacre by Captain Alan Boisragon 1898 Archive.org
Life of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson by Geoffrey Rawson 1914 Archive.org. Includes information about operations in East Africa 1896 which led up to the storming of Mweli.
Article "Macdonald's Expedition and the Uganda Mutiny, 1897-98" by R. W. Beachey The Historical Journal Vol. 10, No. 2 (1967), pp. 237-254. Register with jstor.org and read online for free.
The is also a personal account of this Expedition by "One who was there" in Royal United Services Institution Journal Volume 43, 1899 - Issue 255, pages 534-542.
The Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo by Lieut.-Col. J H Patterson 1925 Archive.org.
John Henry Patterson (author) Wikipedia. For other books by Patterson see Gallipoli and Egypt, Palestine, Syria (First World War)‎.
The seven lives of Colonel Patterson : how an Irish lion hunter led the Jewish Legion to victory by Denis Brian 2008. Archive.org Books to Borrow/Lending Library. There are several chapters on his time in Africa c 1898-1914. He joined the British Army 14 March 1885 age 17. C 1892 he was a sergeant in India, where he later studied engineering.
It appears he was first commissioned as a Lieutenant, in the Imperial Yeomanry 16 March 1900 (London Gazette) with the name J H Paterson (corrected in a later edition).
The Great War in West Africa by Edmund Howard Gorges, Commandant West African Regt, originally published c 1916, is available on fold3.com, a pay website owned by Ancestry, located in Military Books (locate from the Search)/West Africa. This is an online version of a Naval & Military Press reprint edition.[12]
The African Dream by Brian Gardner 1970. Archive.org Books to Borrow/Lending Library.


  1. nhclark. 2nd Lt John Simeon WARD - Uganda Rifles (1899-1903) Victorian Wars Forum 14 May 2018, now archived. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  2. CO 820 Colonial Office: Military Original Correspondence TNA.
  3. King's African Rifles Papers at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
  4. LeoHickman. 2nd Lt John Simeon WARD - Uganda Rifles (1899-1903) Victorian Wars Forum 6 June 2018. now archived. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  5. stevebecker. East African Mounted Rifles Great War Forum 14 June , 2014, quoting The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles by C.J. Wilson 1938. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  6. Nine Faces Of Kenya by Elspeth Huxley. Google Books
  7. September 1919 Monthly List, page 2518 digital.nls.uk.
  8. LeoHickman. 2nd Lt John Simeon WARD - Uganda Rifles (1899-1903) Victorian Wars Forum 5 June 2018, now archived. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  9. bushfighter. Kings African Rifles Great War Forum 8 July 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  10. bushfighter. W H Coventry in the 2nd Kings African Regiment Great War Forum 1 May 2021. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  11. The Story of the East African Mounted Rifles by C.J. Wilson leonaur.com.
  12. Great War in West Africa by Edmund Howard Gorges, originally published c 1916. Naval & Military Press reprint.
  13. War Journal Of The Fifth (Kenya) Battalion The King’s African Rifles 1939-1945 Naval & Military Press reprint.