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John A HAMILTON MA. a keen historian of the 81st WEST AFRICAN DIVISION, served with and commanded soldiers of both the GAMBIA and GOLD COAST REGIMENTS, the “Forgotten Formations” in the “Forgotten Campaign” in the KALADAN of the “Forgotten Army” and recalls the achievements of the expansion of peacetime’s ROYAL WEST AFRICAN, FRONTIER FORCE and the soldiers of NIGERIA, SIERRA. LEONE, GOLD COAST (later Ghana) and GAMBIA.
The 6th, 7th and 12th Battalions NIGERIA REGIMENT, as the 3rd West African Brigade, arrived in India Nov43 and quickly took part as 66 & 39, 29 & 35, 12 & 43 Columns in the Second CHINDlT’s Operation THURSDAY, Brig CALVERT praising the 7th ‘s “enthusiasm for action” (marching with the 12th Aberdeen to White City, where they provided distinguished defence – the 6th marched 70 miles from Broadway to Aberdeen and attacked en route by the Japs, continued successfully and garrisoned Aberdeen until its evacuation – it was Wingate himself who picked the Nigerians to help the garrison strongholds.
Besides the well-chronicled INDIAN DIVISIONS and the 100,000 or so BRITISH SOLDIERS who fought in BURMA, a full 90,000 also came from, Britain’ s WEST AFRICAN colonies listed, above and the EAST AFRICAN colonies of KENYA, UGANDA, TANGANYIKA Territory (Tanzania), NYASALAND (Malawi) BRITISH SQMALILAND (Somalia) aqd NORTHERN RHODESIA (Zambia), this EAST AFRICAN component being the KING’S AFRICAN RIFLES. Men were sworn in on the Koran, the Bible or for the pagans on the blade of a bayonet. KAR had platoon Sgt Majors and almost every Regiment of the British Army seconded officers. warrant officers and NCOs – there were also 2QO Polish Officers and many Rhodesians added to the West African forces. African soldiers proved more resistant to tropical diseases and the heat and in many ways more self-sufficient within the RWAFF.