The Gold Coast Regiment in East Africa

Once operations in West Africa were over, and the Cameroons had been seized from the German forces there, West African troops were nominated for the East African theatre.

On 26th July the Gold Coast Regiment landed at Mombasa and joined General Smuts’ forces.  The Regiment was 1,428 men strong and had 12 machine-guns.  Also it incorporated two 2.95 inch mountain guns into its ORBAT, and brought 177 specially enlisted and trained gun-carriers for the artillery section and machine-guns.  204 other general carriers supported the companies.

The ‘Gold Coasters‘, who wore a green-knitted forage cap on operations, were the type of troops that the East African theatre needed.  They adapted to the climate and the bush conditions, and fought hard.  When the warning order for East Africa was received in West Africa the Regiment celebrated with war-dances.

Lieutenant Colonel R.A. de B. Rose DSO commanded the Regiment which contained four double-companies and a Pioneer Company.  He had 36 British officers and 15 British NCOs, 905 African Rank and File, 11 clerks, 1 store-man, the carriers mentioned above, and four officers from the Royal Army Medical Corps.  This was a very self-contained and effective unit, with replacement drafts being trained and prepared back in the Gold Coast.

The three-week sea voyage from Sekondi aboard the Aeneas was broken with calls at Cape Town and Durban.  The troops went ashore at Durban to parade and be inspected by the Mayor, and more importantly for them, to see for the first time a “movie” cinema film.

The landing at Mombasa was eventful, a sudden downpour drenching the Regiment.  The Kilindini dock-workers had disappeared, it being Sunday, and so the troops unloaded their baggage and re-loaded it into two waiting trains (one train was of covered goods wagons).  During the three-day journey through Voi, Taveta, Kahe Junction and down the Tanga line to Ngombezi the men, all coming from the interior of the Gold Coast (now named Ghana) north of Ashanti, experienced severe cold for the first time.  This climate combined with strange rations of cold bully-beef and very cold water (the brief train halts prevented the organization of central cooking) and the fact that the troops’ uniforms had not dried out, resulted in cases of pneumonia, some of them fatal.

At Ngombezi the Regiment was inspected by the Inspector-General of Communications, Brigadier-General W.F.S. Edwards, who, pleased with the physique, smartness and military bearing of the men, commented that no other unit which he had inspected had arrived in the country so well and efficiently equipped.

Before long the Gold Coasters would be operating in the same actions as the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment Machine Gun Company in landings on the southern coastline of German East Africa.

The Gold Coast Regiment sailed for home in late July 1918, leaving behind 215 men killed in action, 270 men dead from disease and 11 men missing.  725 others had been wounded in action and 567 invalided out of theatre.

Two DSOs and a Bar plus 11 MCs and 4 Bars were awarded to officers.

Five DCMs and a Bar plus one MSM were awarded to British NCOs and WOs.

Twenty DCMs and 2 Bars plus 24 MMs and 2 MSMs were awarded to Africans.

Note

The Gold Coast Mounted Infantry Company was a separate unit.

The Gold Coast Regiment in the East Africa Campaign – Charles H Clifford

  • Liz Ellis

    I’m looking for information about Lieut Reg Beech MC who was in the Gold Coast Regiment in 1918 who I believe was my great uncle.

  • Esther Quarcoe

    None of these was featured during remembrance months.There is no mention of African soldiers and impression is created as if Black Africans did not fight the second world war for the British. My uncle fought on the British side-The West African frontiers in Burma, he never stopped talking about the war, he died poor about ten years ago.

  • Metissharkattack

    Sergeant-Major Alhaji Grunshi, MM of the Gold Coast Regiment, West African Frontier Force may have been the first man to fire a shot in anger during the First World War. Has anyone seen a biography of him?

  • Harry Fecitt

    Esther
    You are very correct.
    That is why I like to write about African soldiers, the battles they fought and the medals that they won, on various forums.

    However it must be said that many African states appear not too keen to refer to colonial history, despite the heroic exploits of the forebears of some of those states during both World Wars.

    In one state I recently visited a plot of land given by the British for the benefit of former African colonial soldiers appears to have “disappeared”.

    I do hope that by the time that the centenary of the commencement of the First World War arrives (2014) more interest in the conflict, and the contribution and sacrifices of African soldiers, will be generated world wide.

    Harry Fecitt

  • Plumtree1

    I am trying to trace any information, photos etc of Lieut Ralph, Harold Bowen Gwynn, who was initially with Royal Garrison Artillery. He joined the Gold Coast Reg on 09 June 1915.
    Thanks in advance

  • Harryfecitt

    Plummers. Greetings. I’m away from home base presently, but I’ll be back there next week and will tell you what I can find out. Harry

  • Harryfecitt

    Plummers
    From what I can see of the two Medal Index Cards available, Ralph Harold Bowen Gwynn served in West Africa from May 1915 – it would be the Togo or Cameroons theatres – but I see no trace of him in East Africa.
    He was a Royal Garrison Artillery officer but he was also attached to the Royal Engineers.
    He was a Lieutenant in the Gold Coast Regiment from 15th June 1915.

    The Gold Coast Regiment history for East Africa – see: http://archive.org/details/goldcoastregimen00clif – does not mention him.

    Good Luck Harry

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