African participants in the First World War
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Africans from many countries served with the Allied forces during the First World War, as front line troops and in auxiliary roles. Participants came from Nigeria, the Gambia, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Nyasaland (now Malawi), Kenya and the Gold Coast (now Ghana).4th King's African Rifles fighting in the bush
© Imperial War Museum
 
Many saw active service in their home continent, taking part in the campaigns to capture the German-controlled territories of Togo, Cameroon, German South West Africa (now Namibia) and German East Africa (now Tanzania).
 
Of a population of some 30,000,000 in the African Colonies of the British Empire, 55,000 men served as combatant soldiers, and many hundreds of thousands more as carriers and auxiliary troops. An estimated 10,000 were killed or died while serving.
 
166 decorations were awarded to Africans.
 
Their Own Stories
 
German East Africa: Gallantry of three African soldiers
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On 13 September 1914, during a battle against German forces at Kisii, Sergeant Miydiyo of 4th Battalion, King’s African Rifles won the Distinguished Conduct Medal ‘for doing very good work and displaying great bravery when at close quarters with the enemy, although twice wounded’.
 
On October 7 1914, Colour-Sergeant Kumani of the 1st Battalion, King’s African Rifles won the Distinguished Conduct Medal in a battle at Gazi for his bravery ‘in leading his company in a charge after all his officers had been shot down, and drawing off the enemy’.
 
On 21 October 1917, while defending Lukeledi Mission against a German assault, Sergeant Adam el Hashim of 1/3 King’s African Rifles was sent at the head of a small detachment of soldiers into Lukeledi village to outflank the enemy. El Hashim’s men stumbled on a whole company of Germans, and were driven back. Finding himself surrounded and cut off on his own, el Hashim drew his revolver, shot three officers who were trying to capture him, and managed to rejoin his men.