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1st (African) Division
Active 24 July 1940 –
Disbanded 23 November 1941
Engagements East African Campaign
24 July 1940 – 13 August 1940 Brigadier G. R. Smallwood (acting Commanding Officer)
Ceremonial chief Major-General H. E. de R. Wetherall 13 August

The 1st (African) Division was a British Empire colonial unit during World War II. The division was formed on 24 July 1940 in East Africa. On 24 November of that year, the division was re-designated as the British Army's 11th (African) Division. The division were composed primarily of West African and East African troops. It was disbanded on 23 November 1941 and its component units reassigned.

The division should not be confused with 11th (East Africa) Division which was raised in 1943 using solely East African units and which fought in Burma.

Background[edit | edit source]

In 1938, the King's African Rifles (KAR) in Kenya had been composed of two brigade-strength units organized as a Northern Brigade and a Southern Brigade. The combined strength of both units amounted to 94 officers, 60 non-commissioned officers, and 2,821 African other ranks. After the outbreak of war, these units provided the trained nucleus for the rapid expansion of the KAR. By March 1940, the strength of the KAR had reached 883 officers, 1,374 non-commissioned officers, and 20,026 African other ranks. The size of a KAR battalion was established at 36 officers, 44 non-commissioned officers and other ranks, and 1,050 African other ranks.[1]

Initially the KAR deployed as the 1st East African Infantry Brigade and the 2nd East African Infantry Brigade. The first brigade was responsible for coastal defense and the second was responsible for the defense of the interior. By the end of July, two additional East African brigades were formed, the 3rd East African Infantry Brigade and the 6th East African Infantry Brigade. Initially a Coastal Division and a Northern Frontier District Division were planned. But, instead, on 19 July, the 1st (African) Division and the 2nd (African) Division were formed. On 24 November, these divisions became the 11th African Division and the 12th African Division.[1]

By July 1940, under the terms of a war contingency plan, the Royal West African Frontier Force provided two brigades for service in Kenya. One brigade was from the Gold Coast (Ghana) and one brigade was from Nigeria. The 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade, together with two East African brigades (KAR brigades) and some South Africans, formed 11th African Division. The 12th African Division had a similar formation with a Ghanaian brigade taking the place of a Nigerian brigade.[1]

Combat history[edit | edit source]

The 1st (African) Division fought in East Africa. Between 4 February to 26 February, during the East African Campaign, the division fought its only battle on the Juba. On 28 July 1941 the headquarters closed in Ethiopia, transferring to Nairobi, where it opened again on 20 August. It took command of new formations upon the transfer to Kenya. On 23 November 1941 the division headquarters ceased to exist.

Commanding officers[edit | edit source]

Organisation[edit | edit source]

The organisation of the division was as follows;[2]

Headquarters[edit | edit source]

This is a list of higher formations British 1st (African) Division served under.

  • Headquarters East Africa Force 24/07/40-14/09/41
  • Headquarters East Africa Command 15/09/41-22/11/41

See also[edit | edit source]

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Andrew Mollo, The Armed Forces of World War II, p. 133
  2. Joslen, pp. 118, 419–422, 427–428, 432–433

References[edit | edit source]

  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, ISBN 1-843424-74-6.

External links[edit | edit source]

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