In Collaboration With Charles Griffin and Ian Parker

Origins of the Regiment
Kenya Regiment
Kenya Regiment in Nairobi, 1964
The Kenya Regiment (T.F.) was a white militia, the last to be formed in a colonial tradition spanning the British Empire, and commencing 376 years earlier with the settlement of Roanoke Island off North America's Carolina coast. It succeeded the 1905 East African Volunteer Reserve that morphed into the East African Mounted Rifles (EAMR) in 1914. In turn EAMR was followed by the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) in 1928 which the Kenya Regiment was designed to replace in 1937 but never did. The two units existed in parallel until the KDF was disbanded after the second world and the Kenya Regiment was stood down. While service in the KDF was compulsory for all fit white males between the ages of 18 and 60, it was very much a loosely administered militia. The Kenya Regiment (KR), on the other hand, was initially a volunteer force rather more tightly run with the very specific role of being a pool of officers and non-commissioned officers for expanded King's African Rifles (KAR) battalions in time of war. Both KDF and KR were run by the same small cadre drawn from the British Army's Brigade of Guards. The KR saw itself as the more elite and professional of the two. During the second world war the KR was dispersed through all the KAR battalions as officers up to company commands, and in that role saw action in Ethiopia against the Italians, Madagascar against the Vichy French and in Burma against the Japanese. KDF was not deployed in combatant or roles or outside East Africa. East African enlistments in the KR from formation until after WW2 were 3,754, with a further 152 men enlisted from the then Northern Rhodesia, giving a total of 3,906.

In 1950 the Kenya Regiment was resuscitated, the permanent British Army staff now coming from the 60th Rifles and the Rifle Brigade replacing men from the Brigade of Guards. Volunteers were encouraged, but a six month compulsory national service for all white males over18 years old followed by four years and/or the attainment of 30 years of age (whichever was the greater) was introduced. The first national service contingent commenced training in January 1952. In November of that year the Mau Mau rebellion broke out, a State of Emergency was declared in Kenya and the KR called up for full time service in which role it served continuously until the end of 1956. During that time it not only had at one time five service companies in the field, but also provided officers and NCOs for the KAR, seconded men to provide local knowledge to British Battalions deployed in the country, others to the Kenya Police as temporary Assistant Inspectors and Field Intelligence Officers, and yet more to the Administration as Temporary District Officers to provide military training and discipline to the Kikuyu who opposed Mau Mau (known as the Kikuyu Guards). Others were sent to bolster the Prisons Service. Had it been restricted to whites only as originally planned, the KR would never have had the manpower to fulfil these secondments, as well as having its own combat companies in the field. It did this by quietly recruiting Africans as 'trackers' until they outnumbered their white comrades in the KR field companies. Although its field companies with their local knowledge were the most effective of all military units against Mau Mau, its greatest contribution to the outcome of the Emergency lay in the secondments to other arms of government.

Going back to its territorial role after the end of 1956, the KR became fully multiracial through its national service intakes, though entry for races other than whites was voluntary. Throughout, the national service course was geared to produce officers. Within the KR itself there was a general rule that its own officers had to come through the ranks. The KR was disbanded after Kenya became independent, and those of its members continuing in military careers transferred into the Kenya Rifles - successor of the Kenya battalions of the KAR. Enlistments into, including national service men, the KR between 1950 and its closure were 3,010.

Kenya Regiment Badges
Colony Profile
Sitrep: Kenya Regiment Association's Journal
June 2016
November 2016
Kenya Regiment Association
Suggested Reading
Under Our Double Terais: A Kenya Memoir
by Philip Beverly

The Charging Buffalo: A History of the Kenya Regiment, 1937 - 1963
by Guy Campbell

Remembering the Regiment
by Leonard Gill

The Last Colonial Regiment: The History of the Kenya Regiment (TF)
by Ian Parker


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by Stephen Luscombe