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Formation

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:

Entebbe – No 1 Company of the Uganda Volunteer Reserve (UVR).

Kampala – No 2 Company (European).

Kampala – No 3 Company – Indian.

Jinja – No 4 Company.

To see a map of the area in question go HERE

Above: British Askari in the rifle range butts, Entebbe

Volunteers appeared from Government departments, trading and planting companies and from religious Missions. 

Three Classes of service were offered:

Class 1:  Those members who were available for general service.

Class 2:  Those members who were available:                
a. for service within the Protectorate.                
b. 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.

Government officials were not allowed to be placed in Class 1 without the sanction of the Chief Secretary.  

The companies 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

an early 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

The Indian 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

The Uganda 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.  

On the 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.  

An irregular 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.  

Other employments

Uganda 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 Auditor.  

A Distinguished Conduct Medal

The Supplement 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.

The citation reads:

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 captured.

(Lieutenant Doran was also later awarded the Russian Cross of Saint George, 3rd Class.)  

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  survived.  


Without any 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.  

SOURCES:

Official History.  Military Operations East Africa August 1914 – September 1916 by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern.
Uganda Volunteers and The War by C.J. Phillips.
The Empire at War by Sir Charles Lucas KCB, KCMG.
The London Gazette.
Medal Index Cards.

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