The 2nd (African) Division was a British Empire colonial unit that fought during World War II. On 19 July 1940, the 2nd (African) Division was formed in Kenya, British East Africa. On 24 November of that year, the division was redesignated as the British Army's 12th (African) Division. The 12th (African) Division was also known as the 12th (East African) Division when in October 1941 its West African brigade from the Gold Coast was reassigned and replaced with a third East African brigade. The division was disbanded in East Africa on 18 April 1943.
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.
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.
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 Nigerian 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.
By January 1941, the 12th African Division included the following brigades:
- 22nd (East African) Brigade
- 25th (East African) Brigade
- 24th (Gold Coast) Brigade
Combat history[edit | edit source]
The 12th African Division was one of the three divisions under Lieutenant-General Alan Cunningham in Kenya. During the East African Campaign, the 12th African Division attacked from Kenya into Italian Somaliland and then advanced into Ethiopia.
Commanding officers[edit | edit source]
- Major-General Alfred Reade Godwin-Austen - 1940 to 1941
- Major-General Charles Christopher Fowkes - 1941 to 1943
See also[edit | edit source]
- East African Campaign (World War II)
- 1st (African) Division (United Kingdom)
- Order of Battle, East African Campaign (World War II)
- Nigel Gray Leakey
References[edit | edit source]
- Andrew Mollo, The Armed Forces of World War II, p. 133
[edit | edit source]
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