The Story of the King’s African Rifles

The King’s African Rifles are the colonial regiment of British East Africa. It was established on 2nd January 1902, to amalgamate the regional battalions within the colonies and Protectorates in East Africa – namely, Uganda, Somalia, Nyasaland and Kenya. Six battalions were formed in total, the 1st and 2nd from Nyasaland (Malawi), the 3rd from Kenya, the 4th and 5th from Uganda (although the 5th battalion was quickly disbanded) and the 6th from British Somaliland.

The KAR took part on campaigns against the ‘mad mullah‘ Mohammed Abdullah Hassan in Somalia soon after its inception, defeating him by 1920. The battalions were also involved in internal security functions, in order to maintain peace and order within the British territories.

When World War I broke out in 1914, the KAR were drafted in to fight the German forces from Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi (German East Africa), and to protect the railway line, an essential supply line from Mombasa. During the East Africa Campaign, which was largely fought in Kenya and Tanzania, over 5,000 soldiers lost their lives from the KAR.

The KAR once again participated in World War II, but as Germany had relinquished her East African territories, the fighting was further afield: Madagascar, Ethiopia and Burma.

After the conclusion of the war, KAR only saw fighting again in Kenya, during the Mau Mau rebellion in 1952, where they were instrumental in putting down the rising. As East Africa nations gained independence, the battalions were dissolved, and national armies took their place.