In August 1914 Uganda,
unlike the British East Africa Protectorate, had a Volunteer Reserve unit. This had started on 28 April 1903 with the formation of a
Uganda Rifle Corps based at Entebbe
and composed of European volunteers. On 25 June 1914 a Kampala
Corps was formed for Europeans, and two months later another Kampala Corps was
formed for Indian volunteers. In October
1914 a Jinja Corps was formed for Europeans.
The organisation became:
– No 1 Company of the Uganda Volunteer Reserve (UVR).
Above: British Askari in the rifle range butts, Entebbe
appeared from Government departments, trading and planting companies and from
Three Classes of
service were offered:
Class 1: Those members who were available for general
Class 2: Those members who were available:
for service within the Protectorate.
for service only within the district in which they resided.
Class 3: Those members who were exempted from active
service (except in case of emergency) by order of the Governor.
officials were not allowed to be placed in Class 1 without the sanction of the
were divided into four sections each containing from 20 to 25 men. No 1 Company enlisted around a dozen Indian
artisans who served as armourers, mechanics, and blacksmiths. Numbers 2 and 3 Companies held ballots to
choose their officers. No 2 Company
included French, Dutch, Afrikaaner, Scandinavian, Greek and Armenian nationals
as well as British subjects. The Uganda
Volunteer Reserve never fought as a formed unit but the variety of military
employments that its members were deployed on illustrates the growth of Ugandan
military forces in the early years of the Great War.
Below: 4th King's African Rifles Guard Mounting at the Depot, Bombo.
The Kagera Line
As Uganda shared a common border with German East Africa in the south west the British military
priority was the defence of this border against possible German invasion.
Companies of the 4th King’s African Rifles and 200 men of the Uganda Police Active Service Unit were
quickly deployed onto the Kagera
River line. The Kagera
River ran into Lake Victoria just
inside Ugandan territory, but for the previous 90 miles it meandered and looped
to a distance of around 20 miles inside German territory before it touched Uganda
again and ran along the border. The
rough semi-circle of German territory within the loop was occupied by the
British, but both sides quietly crossed the river in canoes to reconnoitre,
ambush and raid each other’s military patrols and posts. Nearly every military unit raised in Uganda
was deployed at times along the Kagera Line, and many members of the Uganda
Volunteer Reserve fought there.
Sharpshooters, Motor Despatch Riders and Gun Teams.
After the unit
was called-out by the Governor of Uganda
deployment of UVR Personnel to the Kagera Line was that of six Sharpshooters
for sniping duties. Meanwhile those
Volunteers who possessed motor cycles were formed into a Corps of Despatch
Riders. Men with telegraphy experience
were used on communications duties, and linguists in appropriate native
dialects were used as liaison officers and interpreters. Most importantly suitable UVR
Non-Commissioned Officers were deployed into the Kagera Gun Teams where they initially commanded machine guns and
later also trench mortars, Hotchkiss guns and a field gun. The Askari who manned the guns came from
other Ugandan units serving on the Kagera.
No 3 Company
company had a majority of Sikh members plus several Muslims and Hindus. About 30 of the men were ex-soldiers from the
Punjab. When the 13th
Rajputs was deployed on the Kagera Line five men from No 3 Company worked
with the Rajputs as interpreters.
Several other No 3 Company men served in clerical appointments both with
the Field Force on the Kagera and in administrative units.
Duties behind the lines
The guarding of
interned enemy subjects and of prisoners captured at the front became a UVR
responsibility. These enemy personnel
were escorted to Kisumu by boat and there handed over to the British East
Africa authorities who arranged for their shipment to camps in India. Other Volunteers were deployed on local
defence duties and some made canoe patrols off Port Bell to secure the port.
Above: site of old Kagera river crossiing at Kyaka.
New Infantry or Scout units
Police Active Service Unit of 200 men was expanded into battalion strength and
became the Uganda Police Service
Battalion. Three UVR officers and
two Warrant officers served in this battalion.
declaration of war the Regent of Buganda in south west Uganda offered the British five chiefs and 500
spearmen to be sent to France
to fight the Germans. This splendid
offer was modified into the formation of a 555-man unit first named the Uganda Armed Levies and then renamed
the Baganda Rifles. The Baganda Rifles served prominently along
the Kagera and then on operations into German East Africa. Eleven of the fifteen officers in the unit
came from the UVR.
unit of around 100 men raised as part of the Ugandan forces was the Nandi Scouts. These men fought on the Kagera Line and
subsequently performed very useful reconnaissance duties on the British advance
down towards the Central Railway in German East Africa. Unit records have not survived but doubtless
UVR personnel also worked alongside the Nandi.
As the 4th
King’s African Rifles raised more battalions eleven UVR men were posted as
officers into these battalions.
Above: Belgian troops in the Kagera Marshland.
Assistance to Belgian Forces
In order to
assist the Belgian Congo forces move into German East Africa in 1916 Uganda
agreed to supply transport units to aid the Belgian advance. The East
Africa Transport Corps Congo Carrier Section (known as CARBEL), the Bukakata-Lutobo Ox Transport Corps
(known as BUKALU) and the Belgian
Advance Ox Transport Corps (known as BELOX) were formed and men from the
UVR Served in all three units. It has to
be said however that desertion rates from the carrier section were high as it
was widely believed, with some apparent justification, that when the Congolese
troops ran short of food they chose a suitable-looking carrier to cook and eat.
Volunteer Reserve men also served as Intelligence Officers, Chaplains, Doctors,
Veterinary Officers, Transport Officers, Public Works Officers, aboard vessels
on Lake Victoria, and one was a Military
A Distinguished Conduct Medal
to the London Gazette dated 16
May 1916 notified the award of a Distinguished Conduct Medal to
Serjeant Charles Thomas Campbell Doran for gallant action at the British post
of Kachumbe on the Kagera Line. Serjeant
Doran was commanding a small detachment of the Uganda Police Service Battalion.
125 Serjeant C.T.C. Doran, Uganda Volunteer Reserve (now
Lieutenant Baganda Rifles). For conspicuous gallantry when holding with a few
men a post, which he had constructed, against an overwhelming number of the
enemy with a machine gun. The enemy were
not only driven off with very heavy casualties, but their machine gun was
Doran was also later awarded the Russian Cross of Saint George, 3rd
Termination of UVR call-out
In August 1916
the Governor of Uganda terminated the call-out service of the Uganda Volunteer
Reserve. Many men served on as they were
now members of units located deep in German East Africa, and a gruelling two
years of active service lay ahead for those who
doubt the Uganda Volunteer Reserve had pulled its weight, having men with
leadership potential available for service before war was declared. The manning of the Kagera line and the
formation of new Ugandan units were helped considerably by the immediate availability
of these Volunteers, both European and Indian.
Military Operations East Africa August
1914 – September 1916 by
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern.
Volunteers and The War by
The Empire at War by Sir Charles Lucas KCB, KCMG.
Gazette. Medal Index Cards.