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Today Is Nigerian Armed Forces Remembrance Day (2017)

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PostGold on Sun 15 Jan 2017, 9:07 am

Today is Nigerian Armed Forces Remembrance Day!




In Nigeria, Armed Forces Day, also known as Remembrance Day, is celebrated on 15 January. It was formerly marked on 11 November of every year to coincide with the Remembrance Day (Poppy Day) for the World War II veterans in the British Commonwealth of Nations, but it was changed to 15 January of every year in Nigeria in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the Federal troops on 15 January 1970 thus signalling the end of the Nigerian Civil War.

The day is marked with a Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph in Abuja and in the 36 state capitals. The ceremony includes 21 gun salute, playing of the Last Post, a minute's silence, laying of wreaths and release of pigeons to symbolise peace.


In the past month armed forces remembrance day emblems have been on sale across the country. Proceeds of the sale of the remembrance emblem go to the Nigerian Legion.

2017 Remembrance Day emblem.



The Nigerian Legion is the Nigerian association of ex-servicemen, i.e former members of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force.

Officers and men of the armed forces are trained to fight and kill. When they retire, they discover that there are no jobs for them (some of them have been in the armed forces since they were teenagers and military work is all they know). Others were forced to retire from the armed forces due to injuries sustained in battle. The Legion helps them to integrate into society and take care of themselves.

By law the Legion is permitted to operate certain businesses in order to raise money for its members. Members of the legion also serve as security guards at government establishments (you often see them in their brown uniforms). The Legion also raises money through the sale of Armed Forces and Remembrance Day emblems.

In recent years (especially since the return to civilian rule) members of the Legion have gone through great hardship while trying to collect their pensions and gratuity. Sometimes their pensions are not paid for many months. At other times, legionnaires, who could be as old as 60, 70, or 80 years old are made to travel long distances and queue in the hot sun, all in the name of pension verification exercise. Many legionnaires have died during this process.


Officers and men of the Nigerian Legion.

The Nigerian Legion Act (Laws of the Federation)
http://www.aksjlegalresource.com/resource/Laws_of_the_Federation%5CNIGERIAN%20LEGION%20ACT.pdf
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PostGold on Sun 15 Jan 2017, 9:09 am

Officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces have fought in various wars and taken part in many peace keeping operations, defensive duties and internal security duties. These include

Wars including:

* The First World War
* The Second World War
* The Nigerian Civil War

Peace keeping/enforcement operations in

* The Congo
* Tanzania
* Liberia
* Sierra Leone
* Lebanon
* Darfur
* The former Yugoslavia
* Mali


Defensive duties including

* The Bamileke Rebellion
* Chadian Rebels (1982/83)
* The Bakassi Peninsula

Internal Security duties including

* The Tiv Rebellion
* The Western Region Crisis
* The Niger-Delta Crisis (1966)
* The Agbekoya Rebellion
* The Niger Delta Crisis (1992-2009)
* The Boko Haram Insurgency.

Anti-Robbery operations, including:

* Operation Sweep
* Rapid Response Squad
* Operation Yaki
* Operation Messa

Etc.
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PostGold on Sun 15 Jan 2017, 9:09 am



Muhammad Abu Ali, a lieutenant colonel, whom Boko Haram dreaded, is dead.

Ali led one of the army’s fiercest-ever battles with Boko Haram, in February 2015, culminating in the recapture of Baga town in Borno state.

Sani Usman, army spokeman, said he was killed in an encounter with the insurgents on Friday.

The deceased was was granted accelerated promotion from rank of major to lieutenant-colonel in September 2015, for his courageous performance in a series of the army’s engagements with Boko Haram.

Usman added that four soldiers were killed, but that troops killed 14 of the insurgents who attacked a location of the army in Borno state.

“Yesterday at about 10.00pm suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked a 119 Battalion Nigerian army location at Mallam Fatori, northern Borno state. The troops fought gallantly and repelled the attack, killing 14 Boko Haram terrorists,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we lost an officer and four soldiers, while four other soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries during the encounter. One of those killed in action, was Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, the Commanding Officer of 272 Task Force Tank Battalion.”

During TheCable’s investigative trip to the theatre of war, soldiers, majority of whom have built an unwanted reputation for always criticising the army hierarchy, spoke highly of Ali’s professionalism.

One of the soldiers, who partook in the Baga operation, narrated his experience to TheCable .

“In the case Baga, when it was recaptured from Boko Haram, Abu Ali, who led that operation, told the soldiers that they should not worry, that they should only do five percent of the job, that he was going to do 95% of the job with the tanks,” he had said.

“And that was exactly what happened. He did most of the work with the tanks. He was a major at that time and his promotion after the operation was automatic because he performed very well. One smallish guy like that o.”

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PostGold on Sun 15 Jan 2017, 9:10 am

Remembrance day was previously held on November 11 (11:11) and there used to be a minute silence at 11am (11:11:11), but it was moved to January 15 to mark the end of the Nigerian Civil War. 

The ceremony will be held this morning at the Cenotaph, Abuja.


President Buhari lays a wreath at the 2016 Nigerian Armed Forces Remembrance Day ceremony.



President Goodluck Jonathan lays a wreath at the remembrance day ceremony. 


President Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, Speaker Dimeji Bankole and other senior members of government at the remembrance day ceremony.
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PostGold on Sun 15 Jan 2017, 9:10 am

Brigadier General Maxwell Mitikishe Khobe (Chief of Defence Staff of Sierra Leone) RIP


Born on January 1st, 1950 at Zeku, in Adamawa State, he attended the Native Authority Junior Primary School, Dong from 1958 to 1961 and Native Authority Senior Primary School, Numan, from 1962 to 1963. He later attended the Church of the Brethren Mission, Waka Secondary School, Biu, in Borno State from 1964 to 1968.  In September 1969, in the dying months of the civil war, he enlisted as a soldier.    He was subsequently enrolled in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Short Service Combatant Course 11 from March 29, 1971 until September 13, 1971 when he was commissioned 2/Lt with seniority effective from March 29, 1971. He was initially posted to the Infantry. He was awarded the Nigeria Defence Service Medal in 1973, promoted Lt. in 1974, and awarded the Republic medal in 1975.  
  
  
Following a heroic role during the Dimka coup attempt of 1976, he was encouraged to apply for transfer to the Armoured Corps as a Captain (which he became in 1977), having already attended the Young Officer’s Course (Infantry) and a number of support weapons courses at the School of Infantry.    After joining the Armoured corps, he attended the Armoured Officers Basic Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky (USA) and later, the Advanced Armour Officer's Course.   He also attended a Gunnery course at the Royal Armoured Corps School, Bovington Camp, UK.   His area of specialization was Gunnery.     
  
Khobe was 2ic of 245 Recce Battalion Ikeja under Capt. Martin Luther Agwai (the former Chief of Army Staff) and was responsible for coordinating the training program of that battalion.  He did all this under some pressure because the unit was constantly under close security surveillance, especially in the months leading up to October 1979 when General Obasanjo handed over to President Shagari.  
  
According to a former Army Officer, 
  
“He played a very key role in the deployment of Duty Officers to Radio Nigeria and State House Dodan Barracks. His claim to fame was his appetite for" the job". Throughout my years with him I never saw him in No. 4 Dress. He was forever in anklets and 99% of the time engaged in practical soldiering instead of staff work. He was not cast in the same mould with other Armour officers like the late UK Bello, Buba Marwa or Friday Ichide who were highly skilled staff officers and were literally adored by very senior officers. Khobe's magnetic pull for senior officers came from his practical ability and endearing qualities towards junior officers, NCOs and soldiers alike.” 
  
He attended the Staff College in 1983 and was promoted Major in 1984.  In August 1985, as Commanding Officer, 245 Recce Battalion, Ikeja, he led a unit of Tanks in Lagos during the palace coup that removed Major General Buhari from power, ushering in fellow Armoured Corps officer, Major General Babangida.   He was awarded the Forces Services Star in 1986 and became a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1989. 

Always leery of a political appointment (he turned down political appointments offered to him by General Babangida after the 1985 coup), the outbreak of the Liberian crisis in 1990 provided him an outlet for his martial inclinations.  He eventually served four tours of duty there, getting ECOMOG Liberia medals for each one.  In addition he won the coveted Nigerian Army Chief of Army Staff Commendation Award and became a Colonel in 1994.  
  
According to another ex-Army officer, 
  
“Bachama by tribe, (from the Numan - Demsa axis), Khobe was the archetypal warrior. Without a doubt, he was the most outstanding Nigerian soldier throughout the Liberian war. Some of the feats he performed are story-book like.  He was extremely fearless and motivated very many Nigerian troops who kept lobbying for postings to his unit where casualties were minimal.   In short, as the Commander of the 221 Tank Battalion (and later a Brigade Commander), he was the Etuk of the Liberian war. After his return from Liberia, he was personally asked by the late General Abacha to work out details for the establishment of a military task force which would be specifically tasked to bring an end to Armed Robbery in Nigeria. Of course when he submitted his requirements to "Baba", money matters "kpafukad" the plan as usual. It was after that he got the Sierra Leone job.  He was a completely detribalized Nigerian.”

On February 12, 1998, he led the ECOMOG Ground Task Force assault that removed Major Koromah from power and restored the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.  He was promoted Brigadier and later assumed the position of Chief of Defence Staff of Sierra Leone.  In December 1998, after evasion measures, he slipped out of encirclement when the RUF attempted to take Freetown, barley escaping being captured at Hastings Airport General Khobe was injured during this campaign, but he waved away medics who tried to attend to him, telling them to go and take care of other soldiers. The injury eventually cost him his life).

On Tuesday, 18 April 2000, Khobe died of Encephalitis at the St. Nicholas Hospital in Lagos one week after being evacuated back home from Sierra Leone.

The BBC’s West Africa correspondent, Mark Doyle, wrote this obituary in honour of General Khobe:

LEAD-IN: Now this week’s profile which, unusually, is more of an obituary. General Maxwell Khobe, Nigerian commander of ECOMOG and the man considered by many Sierra Leoneans as the hero in ousting the rebels from Freetown, died this week in a Lagos hospital following a cardiac arrest. The ECOMOG commander had been made the chief of defence staff of Sierra Leone by President Tejan Kabbah when the government of Sierra Leone was reinstated. Here’s our West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle.

BBC WEST AFRICA CORRESPONDENT MARK DOYLE: I had a soft spot for General Maxwell Khobe. I think he may have saved my life. Early last year I was in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, when rebels were trying to oust the elected government. Half the city was on fire, and the rebels were committing unspeakable atrocities against civilians. I was in the small part of the city held by the government -- or to be more precise, since most of the government army had joined the rebels, I was in the part of town held by General Maxwell Khobe’s Nigerian troops. On this occasion I found Khobe, a stocky bulldog of a man, in a hilltop military barracks. I asked him if it would be relatively safe for me to take a look in the center of town. "I don’t think so," he said in his gruff voice. "Best to wait a bit." That was quite a statement. Khobe and I both knew what it meant, that his troops were not in control. Quite an admission for a general to make in war. But I was grateful for his honesty. Another foreign journalist who unfortunately hadn’t heard this advice was killed by rebels when he went into the center of town the next day. In the middle of that fierce battle for Freetown, Maxwell Khobe briefly lent the foreign press corps his only helicopter so that we could evacuate our colleague’s body. Many Sierra Leonean journalists also died in the battle. General Khobe and I weren’t always on good terms. Two years ago he was angry with me when I found myself on the rebel side of a front line which he was attacking. He listened to my BBC radio reports that the rebels were fighting back -- which they were -- and those reports infuriated him. At one point he telephoned me across the front line. He told me he was going to flush out the rebels and that I would be well advised to keep my head down. Khobe did as he had promised. He arrived with his men near the Freetown front line. According to a soldier who was there, he looked at the smoking battle front and then began walking towards it saying, cool as a cucumber, "Gentlemen, let’s go." Analysts will no doubt debate Khobe’s military record for years to come. The war in Sierra Leone has been at the centre of a major African power struggle. The stakes have been high. Some say Khobe was a brave soldier whose tough and wily tactics overcame the generally low level of training and equipment in the Nigerian army. Others say that he was beaten by the rebels who have now won a share in government through a shaky peace deal because he got sucked into Sierra Leonean political and business affairs. This, they say, weakened his military professionalism. But most Sierra Leoneans are very sorry that General Maxwell Khobe, the foreign head of their national army, their Nigerian "big brother," has died. Ordinary Sierra Leoneans fear that if the peace agreement were to break down, the UN troops might not show the same resolve or resourcefulness that the Nigerians used in fighting the rebels. That’s why the death of the Nigerian commander was such a blow to the confidence of many in Sierra Leone. Khobe had his flaws, but to most ordinary people there he was a hero, the man that protected their elected president. The mourning for the passing of Nigerian General Maxwell Khobe continues in Sierra Leone today.


Ben Asante who knew Gen. Maxwell Khobe personally writes about the exploits of the Nigerian general and chief of defence staff of Sierra Leone who died of a heart attack on 18 April.

Sometime around Christmas 1998, Brigadier General Maxwell Mitikishe Khobe invited us – a group of visiting journalists – to lunch with him at his official residence in Freetown.

It was a Sunday. He arrived late, and when his military convoy sped through the gate, he briskly jumped down from the jeep. With a quick apology, using words like, “he has been busy doing nothing and wasting other people’s time”, he proceeded to say the grace. It was unusual for even an ofFicer known to be deeply religious. For several minutes, Khobe prayed that President Kabbah be protected and allowed to complete his mandate against attempts by rebels to overthrow him.

Little did we know at the time that what was uppermost on Khobe’s mind was rebel activities slowly threatening the government and the people of Freetown. Barely a year before, he had liberated the capital in a swift action against the AFRC military junta headed by Major Johnny Paul Koroma. Khobe was among a small core of Ecomog officers who saw action in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. I first met him in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1992.

Few soldiers trust civilians, and least journalists, especially during operations, but Khobe invited us to film battle action involving his tanks.

We were not disappointed For one moment by the experience and in seeing what impact our work was having on the morale of Ecomog troops. Several times soldiers came on our camera to send messages to their relatives. One 25-year-old gunner shouted a message on camera to his father. “Papa, I am a man now for I have fought in a war as a soldier!”

Khobe hardly entered a tank at the front but preferred to walk armed with nothing but a radio. In typical fashion, he and several officers and troops marched on foot to take town after town in Liberia until they captured Buchanan City in 1992.

Because of the utter confusion generated by Ecomog’s role in fighting to protect itself and the civil population in its areas of control, people began accusing the force of becoming a party to the conflict. The level of misgivings about Ecomog was such that a CNN reporter asked the then Ecomog chief of staff Brig-Gen Victor Malu, why his troops who were supposed to be neutral were fighting alongside other factions opposed to Charles Taylor’s NPFL and allowing them to operate freely in Monrovia.

We visited Khobe regularly at his Caldwell base in Monrovia where he kept an open door. He was an avid poultry farmer, a habit he brought to Monrovia.

After his tour of duty in Liberia, he went back home where in very quick succession, he held appointments first as head of a special unit formed to protect Lagos against armed robbers, then to Abuja, and to the Armour Brigade headquarters at Yola, not Ear from his hometown, Numan.

In 1985, he turned down a political posting from the military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. After serving in Ecomog in Liberia, another posting was to follow not long after. The May 1997 overthrow of President Kabbah by the AFRC junta in Sierra Leone offered Khobe another opportunity to work abroad. He was appointed the commander of the Ecomog Task Force in Sierra Leone.

In a lighting action, Ecomog troops marched into the capital and seized the centre of Freetown including the State House with Koroma’s junta in flight. In recognition of his efforts, President Kabbah asked the Nigerian government to second him as chief of defence staff of the Sierra Leone army.

Khobe had been promoted a full Brigadier-General but he hardly had enough time to re-build the Sierra Leone army before the rebels invaded Freetown again on 6 January 1999. In spite of repeated intelligence warnings, no-one would listen.

Weeks before the attack, Khobe went out one early morning and removed the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh from the Pademba Maximum Security Prison where he was on death row. Had he not removed Sankoh, the fate of Sierra Leone and the outcome of the 1999 invasion would have been different.

The rebels broke into the prison on G January and freed all the inmates, but they missed Sankoh who remained in the hands of the government and ended up negotiating for a ceasefire.

Khobe was a joy to watch at the front. He kept encouraging the troops to move forward. Several times we went to the front at first light only to discover that the men had withdrawn from the positions we left them the evening before. Many factors caused the pull back. Ammunitions were not delivered after they ran out or no food supplies came through. Other times rumours circulated that the rebels were coming with anti-aircraft guns, and lacking effective cover the men just pulled back. Wherever Khobe went, the troops seeing him surged forward and just kept going.

Late last year, Khobe came to London to undergo an operation to remove a shrapnel lodged in his back which he sustained on duty in Freetown. He came only after the rebels had signed a peace agreement. His back hurt him most times and he walked with a limp but he rather put up with the pain than abandon his post. The first operation was successful.

In December he had another operation which unfortunately had to be reopened after an abscess was discovered at the airport just as he was about to return to Freetown.

He returned to his post in January this year. His wife, Martina, who was in London throughout his treatment, went along to Freetown to nurse him.

In March, Khobe went to Harare, Zimbabwe, to address an NGO conference on the plight of civilians in a conflict situation. He passed through London on his way back From Harare, and told me that his British doctors had given him a clean bill of health. He planned to come back to London for further check up in April.

But while in Harare, someone had given him a photocopy of New African’s report (NA February) on how Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first premier, had been killed in a Western-backed plot in 1961 while UN peacekeepers looked on. He wanted the original copy badly because UN troops had recently been sent to Freetown to keep the peace in Sierra Leone.

I sent copies of the Lumumba report to him later, but according to Capt. Hassan who was with him in London, Khobe had been unwell since he returned to Freetown on 23 March. Until then, I knew nothing about his sudden poor health.

He died of cardiac arrest in his hospital bed at 10.30 am on 18 April, aged 50. He was buried in his hometown of Numan in Adamawa State, Nigeria, on 29 April. NA

Rukuba Cantonment Jos was renamed Maxwell Khobe Cantonment in his honour.
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PostGold on Sun 15 Jan 2017, 9:11 am

Nigerian armed forces

The Nigerian Army grew out of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary and the forces of the old Lagos Colony and Niger Coast Protectorate.

When in 1886, the Royal Niger Company received its charter, it organised its constabulary which at first consisted of five British and two African officers and about 400 rank and file, of whom more than half were Fantis (from the Gold Coast). In view of the critical situation that followed French encroachments on the territory of the Niger Company in 1894-1897, the British Government decided to raise a local force and Colonel (later Lord) Lugard was sent out to raise and command it.

By the beginning of 1900, the force had become a thoroughly well-organised and disciplined corps which was called the West African Frontier Force. In that year, the greater part of it under Colonel (later General) Sir William Wilcocks took a very prominent part in the Ashanti campaign.

At the end of 1901, all the colonial military forces in British West Africa were modelled on the same basis and constituted into the West African Frontier Force, each dependency being responsible for the maintenance of its own regiment or battalion. The Northern Nigeria Regiment consisted of two batteries and two battalions, to which was added a third Mounted Infantry Battalion. At the same time, the Lagos Constabulary became the Lagos Battalion and the Niger Coast Protectorate Force, with a portion of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary, became the Southern Niger Regiment.


On the amalgamation of Lagos and Southern Nigeria, the Lagos Battalion became the second battalion of the Southern Nigeria Regiment.

When the Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated on January 1st, 1914 the two Regiments became one, which was designated the Nigeria Regiment.


First World War

On the outbreak of war with Germany in August 1914, steps were immediately taken for the defence of Nigeria and for offensive action against the neighbouring German colony of The Cameroons. The Nigeria Regiment and Police were mobilised and volunteers from the European community were enrolled as members of the Nigeria Marine Contingent and the Nigeria Land Contingent.


Colonial troops of the 1st Battalion, Nigerian Regiment, about to depart for action in German Kamerun (1914). 

An early advance into German territory along the Benue and Cross Rivers met with failure, our troops in the north being driven back from Garua, a strongly defended position and in the south being similarly overpowered by superior forces at Nsanakang, after inflicting very heavy losses on the Germans.

However, a large expedition under Brigadier-General (later General) Sir Charles Dobell compelled Duala, the chief town of the Cameroons, to surrender unconditionally on September 27th 1914. The expedition consisted of African troops from all the British West African Colonies and French African troops. It included two battalions and a battery of the Nigeria Regiment and a large number of civilians were attached as temporary officers and non-commissioned officers. Ships of The Royal Navy and of the Nigeria Marine co-operated with the troops. After the fall of Duala, General Dobells troops secured both lines of the railway, but the heavy rains prevented a further advance till the end of 1915.

Early in 1915 Colonel (later Brigadier-General) Cunliffe. Commandant of the Nigeria Regiment, who had taken over command of the troops on the Nigerian border, had invaded Garua. He was assisted by French troops from the Chad district by a naval gun, the moral effect of which so affected the native garrison that the German commander was compelled to surrender on June 10th, 1915.

Leaving a small force to watch the German garrison at Mora, an almost impregnable mountain position, General Cunliffe then marched south to Banyo, where a powerful German force had deliberately prepared a very strong position on an extended hill feature similar in many ways to Mora Mountain. Cement had been freely used in the construction of fortifications, there was an ample water supply and the Germans had announced their intention of holding out there till the end of the war.

General Cunliffe advanced on the position under cover of darkness and at daybreak became heavily engaged at close quarters. The attack was pressed for two days and nights, but on the third night, under the cover of a heavy tornado, the larger part of the Germans succeeded in making their escape from the hill. However, a considerable number remained and surrendered at daybreak the next day. General Cunliffe continued on his way south to effect a junction with General Dobell’s troops and a simultaneous advance was made by another column from the Cross River.

Towards the end of 1915, a general advance was made on Yaunde, the new German Headquarters.

General Cunliffe’s troops from the north, General Dobell’s from the west and French and Belgium troops from the south-east converging on the town left the Germans no option but to evacuate it and it was entered by our troops on January 1st. 1916. The German troops retired towards Spanish Guinea and in spite of a close pursuit, succeeded in escaping into neutral territory, where they were disarmed. Mora, the last stronghold of the Germans, capitulated on February 18th, 1916 and the conquest of the Cameroons was completed.

In November 1916, a contingent from the Nigeria Regiment proceeded to East Africa under the command of Brigadier-General Cunliffe. It consisted of nearly 200 British and over 3,000 African and later 330 British and 3,000 more Africans were sent to reinforce the contingent. In addition to this, about 4,000 carriers were recruited in Nigeria for service in East Africa and a number of men were also recruited for service with the inland water transport in Mesopotamia. The Nigerian troops took part in some of the severest fighting in East Africa and they suffered heavy casualties, but their gallantry in action and the uncomplaining way in which they bore the hardships of a particularly arduous campaign won for them the highest praise. Over 80 decorations were awarded to the British and about the same number to the African ranks. 

The contingent returned to Nigeria in March 1918 and received an enthusiastic welcome. After the return of the contingent from East Africa, it was reorganised as a brigade for further service abroad and was about to proceed to Palestine when the armistice was signed. The brigade was then demobilised and the regiment reduced to its normal size. In recognition of its services during the Great War, His Late Majesty, King George V of Britain awarded Colours to the Regiment, bearing the following honours: Ashanti 1873-1874, Ashanti 1900, Behobeho, Nyangao, East Africa 1916-1918, Duala, Garua, Banyo and Cameroons 1914-1916.

On March 14th, 1928, His Late Majesty King George V approved that the title of the forces be changed to the Royal West African Frontier Force.
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PostGold on Sun 15 Jan 2017, 9:11 am

The Second World War[/size]

During the Second World War, the Regiment served in many parts of the world and played a distinguished part in the defeat of the Italians in East Africa and the Japanese in Burma. The Royal West Africa Frontier Force provided the largest colonial expeditionary force to leave any colony and it was a West African division which was the first ever to be entirely supplied by air. The following paragraphs give, but a brief outline of the most complex and diverse operations in which the Nigeria Regiment took part.


Troops of the Nigeria Regiment, 3rd West African Brigade (Thunder), boarding a Dakota Transport plane (circa 1943).

At the outbreak of the war, the Nigeria Regiment consisted of five regular battalions with supporting arms and services. In the early part of 1940, plans were made for the move of the 1st West African Brigade to East Africa. The Brigade consisting of 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions, Nigeria Regiment, 1st Light Battery, 1st Field Ambulance, 1st Infantry Brigade, Signals, and the 1st Field Company, R.E.; left Nigeria on June 3rd, 1940, together with a Gold Coast brigade. After taking part in the defence of Kenya, these brigades distinguished themselves in the Abyssinian Campaign. The Gold Coast brigade secured the west bank of the Juba after defeating the Italians at Bulo Erillo, whilst the Nigerian Brigade, by the capture of Merca, played an all-important part in the capture of Mogadishu. On February 13th, 1941, in company with the 22nd East African Brigade, the Nigerian Brigade advanced on Brava.

Despite their training in bush warfare based upon the lessons of the First World War and their short training in mobile warfare, they covered 600 miles between Mogadishu and Harar in twenty-six days, pushing the enemy before them and taking a number of guns, machine guns and prisoners. In the opinion of experts, this advance was the most rapid in the history of the East Africa Campaign.

The Brigade returned to Nigeria on September 5th, 1941 when it received an enthusiastic welcome and it provided the leaven of war-trained men for the great Expeditionary Force which was later to take part in the final defeat of the Japanese in Burma.

In 1940 it had not been anticipated that further troops would be required except for reinforcements and no further units were raised in the earlier part of the year. On the collapse of France in May and June, 1940 however, it was immediately decided to expand the Royal West African Frontier Force on a large scale and an extensive recruiting campaign was started. By the end of 1941 the Nigeria Regiment had, apart from other services, raised thirteen battalions.

These wartime battalions were built around a nucleus of 150 men from the old Reserve Battalion. The 7th Battalion came into official existence on June 8th, 1940 and from a cadre of this battalion a few months later and by local recruitment, the 12th battalion was raised. 

Meanwhile the Reserve Battalion had moved to Enugu where the 9th Battalion, which was originally composed chiefly of Nigeria Police (including officers) with a few regular soldiers, was raised: after some time, some of the police were recalled and the battalion on its arrival at Sokoto in January 1941, (after a few months in Calabar) absorbed a large proportion of local recruits. At the same time, the battalions which were at first to make up the 6th Battalion, the 4th Brigade Group, were being formed at Kaduna and the 6th Brigade group was being established in Sierra Leone with the 4th and 11th Nigerian Battalions under command together with a Sierra Leonean and a Gambian battalion and mostly Sierra Leonean supporting arms and services. 

In the early months of 1914 the 3rd Brigade Group consisting of 7th, 9th, and 12th Battalions, 3rd Light Battery, 3rd Brigade Group Company W.A.A.S.C, was formed with headquarters at Zaria. Later the 9th Battalion transferred to the 4th Brigade Group at Kaduna and the 6th Battalion came from that group to join the 3rd.

The 81st and 82nd West African Divisions were then formed for service in India and Burma. The Nigeria Regiment provided the 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade (1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions) the 3rd (West African) Infantry Brigade (5th, 9th and 10th Battalions) whilst the 4th and 11th Battalions had gone to Sierra Leone as part of the “mixed” 6th (West African) Infantry Brigade. When the Divisions went to India, the 11th Battalion remained in Sierra Leone and the 8th Battalion in Nigeria as holding battalions: the 13th Battalion was eventually disbanded and used to strengthen the 8th. In addition to these units with them supporting arms and services, the Royal West African Frontier Force also raised 43 Pioneer Companies and other group of 20 Garrison Companies which saw service in the Middle East, Palestine, Morocco and Sicily.

On their arrival in India in 1943, the 3rd (West African) Infantry Brigade was detached from the 81st (West African) Division and came under the command of General Wingate who was forming a “Special Force” to carry out the Second Chindit campaign. The remainder of the two divisions took part in the campaign in the Arakan.

A detailed and authentic history of the 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade in the Arakan has been published in “A Short History of the 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade in the Arakan 1944-45”.

It has been seen how the brigades came into being and that the history of the Arakan campaign is available for the students of the roles played by the 1st and 4th Brigades, but this account would be woefully incomplete, as there is nothing published without some special preference to the 3rd and 6th Brigades. The two West African Divisions were made up as follows: The 91st from the 3rd Nigerian Brigade Group, the 5th Gold Coast Brigade and the 6th Brigade with the 4th battalion of the Nigerian Regiment and Brigade groups from Sierra Leone and the Gambia and their supporting services, the 82nd from the 2nd Gold Coast and 1st and 4th Nigerian Brigades and the Nigerian Recce Regiment which became one of the greatest thorns in the Japanese side in Burma.

The original role of the 3rd Brigade was defence against Vichy French to the north and north-west of Nigeria and training was pursued with a view to fighting in open country and orchard bush. A similar role was the part of the 6th Brigade in Sierra Leone.

In August 1914, the 3rd Brigade Reconnaissance Company was formed and by January of the following year it had become a complete unit with a full complement of equipment. Meanwhile the first Auxiliary Group was being formed in Ibadan. They were originally W.A.A.S.C and enlisted as first-line carriers trained to arms and as stretcher-bearers: their services earned much praise later on in Burma and in Nigeria they undertook important duties on works of construction.

Training was interrupted intermittently from the middle of 1941 due to supposed threats of French invasion. The most important of these alarms was at the time of ‘Richelieu’ incident at Dakar and the last at the time of the British and American landings in North Africa in November, 1942. At that time, a brigade with a squadron of Free French Tanks was massed along the northern frontier of Nigeria ready to start a counter-offensive if the Vichy French should attack. All however, went off peacefully.

Following exercises in January 1943, the news of the future employment of the West African Expeditionary Force was divulged and from then onwards till embarkation there was feverish activity. Training in thick jungle fighting was carried out at the Olokemeji Battle School and in swamp fighting around Lagos.

On September 27, 1943 the brigade embarked at Lagos and landed in India on November 5, 1943.

The 3rd Brigade which was detached from the 81st (West African) Division was introduced to a very specialised form of warfare. Shorn of its Field Battery, Recce Squadron, Group Company and Auxiliary Group, the remaining units were reorganised into ‘columns’ two to each battalion. The columns were trained for long range penetration. Equipped with unfamiliar weapons including flame-throwers and carrying their heavier weapons on mules they were required to operate behind enemy lines dependent on air-supply drops and living for long periods on the rations they carried in their packs.

The brigade went into action alongside British and Ghurkha troops in March 1944. The Special Force’s object was to establish itself in the heart of Burma on the Japanese lines of communication supplying the Japanese forces including Assam and those retreating slowly in front of General Stilwell’s Chinese-American Army advancing on Myitkina from the north. Third Brigade’s initial role was to hold ‘fortresses’ on the lines of communication, based on which other columns operated against the Japanese.

The six Nigerian columns, having being flown into Burma from Assam, were concentrated near Mawlu in two fortresses, ‘Aberdeen’ and ‘White City’, 6th Battalion was at the road and rail block at White City, and 7th Battalion was allocated a mobile role in the White City area. White City was almost immediately subjected to a very strong Japanese ground and air attack which was successfully resisted during the whole of April. In May it was decided that Special Force should move northward to join forces with General Stilwell. White City, was evacuated, a column of 12th Nigeria Regiment being the last to leave and the brigade moved northward, fighting a series of actions on the way.

Concentrating in the area near Mogaung at the northern end of the “Railway Corridor”, later to be the main axis of the final victorious southward thrust into Burma, the brigade mounted a series of attacks on a strong Japanese defence position known as “Hill 60”. This position had orders to resist to the last man and succeded in holding out until eventually reduced by the British 36th Brigade heavily supported by artillery and air craft. Third Brigade had almost succeeded in capturing the feature on one occasion and only failed through lack of artillery and air support.

By this time the brigade had suffered heavy casualties. It had fought in the most appalling conditions through the heaviest rain for four months, living on hard rations – sometimes lucky to get five days rations in a week – and seldom having a roof over its head. When hill 60 had been taken, the brigade was therefore withdrawn and after a period of recuperation, started training again in Central India at the end of 1944 for a further campaign. This time, the three battalions were divided up among composite brigades of British and Gurkha troops, with whom the Nigerians established excellent relations. 

The third Chindit campaign did not, however, materialise. The successful British advance in Burma had made long-range penetration no longer necessary or practicable, so Special Force was disbanded

Reorganised once more on orthodox lines, the brigade joined the 81st (West Africa) Division in an arear near Madras, where training was commenced for a sea-borne invasion of Malaya.

The 6th Brigade, including the 4th Battalion, Nigeria Regiment and the 6th Light Battery and a Field Survey Section, were in August 1943, the first West Africa troops to land in India. After training they proceeded to the Burma frontier area in the Arakan and before the end of the war, the 4th Battalion was established over the frontier on the headwaters of the Kaladan River valley which was the scene of its operations for nearly 14 months. The 4th Battalion was supplied entirely from the air , whilst a jeep track , known as “West Africa Way”, was constructed behind it through what seemed impossibly precipitous country. This remarkable feat covered no less than 73 miles. The rest of the Brigade and a Gold Coast brigade (the 5th) together forming the 81st Division, from which the 3rd Brigade had been detached to serve with the Chindit under General Wingate, followed and together were the first large force ever to be supplied entirely by air.

In the early months of 1944 the brigade advanced down the Kaladan valley as a left flank guard to the main 15th Indian Corps’ attack on Akyab. This attack for various reasons failed and though the 4th Battalion reached further south that year than any other large body of troops on the whole front. The division had to withdraw with the rest of the corps; after delaying tactics supported by detachments of the Reconnaissance Regiment, which up to this time had been undertaking aggressive landing operations along the coast towards Akyab, it held positions near the frontier throughout the monsoon and so forestalled the much vaunted Japanese advance on Calcutta.

The 4th Battalion led the return to Burma after the Monsoon by driving the Japanese off the precipitous slopes of Frontier Hill and the brigade advanced again down the Kaladan and parallel valleys. So successful was this outflanking movement, which was joined in January 1945 by the 82nd West African Division and resulted in joint capture by the two West African Divisions of Myohaung, that little resistance was put up in Akyab to the rest of the Corps. After the capture of Myohaung, the 81st Division, including the 6th Brigade, returned to India for rest and further training for an attack on Malaya, but an armistice was signed before this was launched. During the operation in the Kaladan Valley, the troops lived and fought in extreme jungle conditions, the only adjuncts of civilisation in the way of weapons, food, clothing, or shelter, being what they could carry themselves or what could be dropped from the air they faced these conditions for months on end in a way no other troops were ever called upon to do for such long periods. They acquitted themselves well and played a major part in driving the Japanese out of the Arakan.

The end of the war came before the West African Divisions could carry out their plans for the attack on Malaya and so, after a period of rest and vocational training in India, they returned to their home countries in 1946 with a record of which they could be well proud.

The Japanese were usually contemptuous of their foes and the following extract from a captured Japanese war diary is therefore worth recording.

The enemy soldiers are not from Britain but from Africa. Because of their belief, they are not afraid to die, so even if their comrades have fallen they keep on advancing as if nothing had happened. It makes things rather difficult. They have an excellent physique and are very brave, so fighting against these soldiers is somewhat troublesome.

The following are some of the honours won by Nigerian troops of the Royal West African Frontier Force during the Second World War 1939-1946: Distinguished Conduct Medal, 8; Military Medal, 58; British Empire Medal, 20; Mention in Despatches, 243; Certificates of Good Service, 39; Act of Gallantry, 1.

Myohaung Day ( January 24th) is the annual day of remembrance in honour of Nigerian soldiers killed in Burma. November 11th of each year is the annual commemoration day of Nigerian soldiers killed in the two World Wars.

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