In Nigeria, Armed Forces Day, also known as Remembrance Day, is celebrated on 15 January. It was formerly marked on 11 November of every year to coincide with the Remembrance Day (Poppy Day) for the World War II veterans in the British Commonwealth of Nations, but it was changed to 15 January of every year in Nigeria in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the Federal troops on 15 January 1970 thus signalling the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
The day is marked with a Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph in Abuja and in the 36 state capitals. The ceremony includes 21 gun salute, playing of the Last Post, a minute's silence, laying of wreaths and release of pigeons to symbolise peace.
In the past month Armed Forces Remembrance Day emblems have been on sale across the country. Proceeds of the sale of the remembrance emblem go to the Nigerian Legion.
2019 Remembrance Day emblem
The Nigerian Legion is the Nigerian association of ex-servicemen, i.e. former members of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force.
Officers and men of the armed forces are trained to fight and kill. When they retire, they discover that there are no jobs for them (some of them have been in the armed forces since they were teenagers and military work is all they know). Others were forced to retire from the armed forces due to injuries sustained in battle. The Legion helps them to integrate into society and take care of themselves.
By law the Legion is permitted to operate certain businesses in order to raise money for its members. Members of the legion also serve as security guards at government establishments (you often see them in their brown uniforms). The Legion also raises money through the sale of Armed Forces and Remembrance Day emblems.
In recent years (especially since the return to civilian rule) members of the Legion have gone through great hardship while trying to collect their pensions and gratuity. Sometimes their pensions are not paid for many months. At other times, legionnaires, who could be as old as 60, 70, or 80 years old are made to travel long distances and queue in the hot sun, all in the name of pension verification exercise. Many legionnaires have died during this process.
Let's take a moment to remember Lieutenant Oluwafemi Odushina.
He was killed on Tuesday, the 13th of May, 2014. Boko Haram ambushed the late Oluwafemi with his troops around the Chibok area where they had gone to search for and rescue the abducted Chibok girls.
Following his death, the news got to the military camp and reportedly led to a mutiny by some soldiers of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army against the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major-General Abubakar Mohammed who was then redeployed.
Lt. Odushina Oluwafemi was an old student of the Air Force Secondary School, Ikeja, Lagos State. He served with the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces in Darfur and later went to Pakistan for an additional training course. In March 2014, he was deployed to Maiduguri where he was killed defending the nation’s integrity.
Muhammad Abu Ali, a lieutenant colonel, whom Boko Haram dreaded, is dead.
Ali led one of the army’s fiercest-ever battles with Boko Haram, in February 2015, culminating in the recapture of Baga town in Borno state.
Sani Usman, army spokeman, said he was killed in an encounter with the insurgents on Friday.
The deceased was was granted accelerated promotion from rank of major to lieutenant-colonel in September 2015, for his courageous performance in a series of the army’s engagements with Boko Haram.
Usman added that four soldiers were killed, but that troops killed 14 of the insurgents who attacked a location of the army in Borno state.
“Yesterday at about 10.00pm suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked a 119 Battalion Nigerian army location at Mallam Fatori, northern Borno state. The troops fought gallantly and repelled the attack, killing 14 Boko Haram terrorists,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we lost an officer and four soldiers, while four other soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries during the encounter. One of those killed in action, was Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, the Commanding Officer of 272 Task Force Tank Battalion.”
During TheCable’s investigative trip to the theatre of war, soldiers, majority of whom have built an unwanted reputation for always criticising the army hierarchy, spoke highly of Ali’s professionalism.
One of the soldiers, who partook in the Baga operation, narrated his experience to TheCable .
“In the case Baga, when it was recaptured from Boko Haram, Abu Ali, who led that operation, told the soldiers that they should not worry, that they should only do five percent of the job, that he was going to do 95% of the job with the tanks,” he had said.
“And that was exactly what happened. He did most of the work with the tanks. He was a major at that time and his promotion after the operation was automatic because he performed very well. One smallish guy like that o.”
TRIBUTE: Abu Ali, Lt Col Who ‘doesn’t Brag’ But Is Killing Off Boko Haram
Muhammed Abu Ali is the name. You may have heard about him before: he is the officer who was granted accelerated promotion from rank of major to lieutenant-colonel in September 2015, for his courageous performance in a series of the army’s engagements with Boko Haram.
His elevation was first announced shortly after one of the army’s fiercest-ever battles with Boko Haram, in February 2015, culminating in the recapture of Baga from insurgents. But the official decoration was delayed until September when, after another monumental success — the capture of Gamboru-Ngala — Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, visited the war front.
During that decoration, Buratai praised Ali for his “courage, bravery and exceptional performance in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists”.
Tukur is not alone in his opinion; and it has now emerged that even soldiers, majority of whom have built an unwanted reputation for always criticising the army hierarchy, have tremendous respect for Ali’s professionalism.
PUREST GOLD FROM MIRY CLAY
For all of the army’s hardline public relations tactic, discontent is high among soldiers and officers DIRECTLY involved in the ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ (peace by force) in Borno state. But as Ali’s example shows, good work and truth require no trumpet; they always find their way to the public.
During TheCable’s recent investigative trip to the theatre of war, the first mention of Ali came at a time a sergeant was complaining about the crude equipment and archaic manner with which the army was prosecuting the war.
“Yes, the problem is that the Nigerian army still has this archaic idea of fighting, relying more in the numerical strength of its troops rather than on equipment,” he had said.
“There is nowhere in the world, a civilised or modernised army, where they want to lose soldiers in large numbers again, and that is where you need these equipment.
“If you have good equipment, it will reduce the number of casualities on your side but if the weapons are not there and you want to use the number of your soldiers, then definitely you are going to suffer casualties.”
He then cited the example of the recapture of Baga, but he was quick to recognise Ali’s “brilliance” in its success — even though the original intention was not to praise the officer.
“In the case of tanks, what one tank can do, 200 soldiers cannot do it; 300 soldiers cannot do it if the tank is functional and serviceable,” he said.
“In the case Baga, when it was recaptured from Boko Haram, the officer who led that operation, Abu Ali, a major at the time, told the soldiers that they should not worry, that they should only do five percent of the job, that he was going to do 95% of the job with the tanks.
“And that was exactly what happened. He did most of the work with the tanks. He was a major at that time and his promotion after the operation was automatic because he performed very well. One smallish guy like that o.
“After they recaptured Baga, the soldiers were so happy that they raised him up, telling the president to elevate him to the status of colonel, not even lieutenant-colonel, because he really performed; he tried. Even recent operations in Sambisa Forest, he led some of them.”
RESPECTED BY SOLDIERS
Ali’s elevation was not just the decision of the chief of army staff or the rest of the army hierarchy; the soldiers fully supported it. According to a soldier who witnessed his “leadership qualities” in Baga, and two others who were with him in Sambisa, soldiers were generally “very happy for him”.
“He led us with the T-72 when we advanced to Monguno and Baga, and he collected those places,” he said.
According to Wikipedia, the T-72 is a Soviet second-generation main battle tank that entered production in 1971. About 20,000 T-72 tanks were built, making it one of the most widely produced post-World War II tanks, second only to the T-54/55 family.
There have been at least three upgrades to the tank, the most popular being in 1988 and 1995, although they are unavailable in Nigeria.
A second soldier who extolled Ali’s virtues said: “After he collected those places [Baga and Monguno] in 2015, they brought someone else to replace him and they took him to Sambisa area; we went with him to Sambisa.
“He is a brilliant fighter. When he began hanging his promotion emblem officially on September 9, we were together on that day and we were all very happy for him.”
A third soldier, who had spent time with him in Sambisa, went as far as touting him as a potential helmsman of the army: “The man is very active; very active. And he is a very calm and intelligent person. He doesn’t brag, he knows his job and he is very simple.
“He is a future chief of army staff, if I may say, but he has to be wary of the corruption that is the shortcoming of many good hands in the army.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
It is interesting to know that Muhammed Abu Ali is the son of Colonel Abu Ali, who was governor of Bauchi state from August 1990 to January 1992 during the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida.
At this rate, no one would want to bet against the younger Ali surpassing his father’s achievements. He is already a lieutenant-colonel and should he continue his anti-Boko Haram heriocs, it won’t be long before he earns another elevation to the status of colonel, which his father was before retiring.
From then on, anything — just anything — is possible!
Major SK Umaru: Another Brave Hero Killed By Boko Haram Bullets
Major SK Umaru was killed yesterday Wednesday December 17th during a battle with Boko Haram militants. Described as a committed soldier, Umaru told friends when he was posted to the war front recently that he was ready for whatever his mission brings him. Sadly, it brought death. May his soul rest in peace Amen.
naptu2:Brigadier General Maxwell Mitikishe Khobe (Chief of Defence Staff of Sierra Leone) RIP
Born on January 1st, 1950 at Zeku, in Adamawa State, he attended the Native Authority Junior Primary School, Dong from 1958 to 1961 and Native Authority Senior Primary School, Numan, from 1962 to 1963. He later attended the Church of the Brethren Mission, Waka Secondary School, Biu, in Borno State from 1964 to 1968. In September 1969, in the dying months of the civil war, he enlisted as a soldier. He was subsequently enrolled in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Short Service Combatant Course 11 from March 29, 1971 until September 13, 1971 when he was commissioned 2/Lt with seniority effective from March 29, 1971. He was initially posted to the Infantry. He was awarded the Nigeria Defence Service Medal in 1973, promoted Lt. in 1974, and awarded the Republic medal in 1975.
Following a heroic role during the Dimka coup attempt of 1976, he was encouraged to apply for transfer to the Armoured Corps as a Captain (which he became in 1977), having already attended the Young Officer’s Course (Infantry) and a number of support weapons courses at the School of Infantry. After joining the Armoured corps, he attended the Armoured Officers Basic Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky (USA) and later, the Advanced Armour Officer's Course. He also attended a Gunnery course at the Royal Armoured Corps School, Bovington Camp, UK. His area of specialization was Gunnery.
Khobe was 2ic of 245 Recce Battalion Ikeja under Capt. Martin Luther Agwai (the former Chief of Army Staff) and was responsible for coordinating the training program of that battalion. He did all this under some pressure because the unit was constantly under close security surveillance, especially in the months leading up to October 1979 when General Obasanjo handed over to President Shagari.
According to a former Army Officer,
“He played a very key role in the deployment of Duty Officers to Radio Nigeria and State House Dodan Barracks. His claim to fame was his appetite for" the job". Throughout my years with him I never saw him in No. 4 Dress. He was forever in anklets and 99% of the time engaged in practical soldiering instead of staff work. He was not cast in the same mould with other Armour officers like the late UK Bello, Buba Marwa or Friday Ichide who were highly skilled staff officers and were literally adored by very senior officers. Khobe's magnetic pull for senior officers came from his practical ability and endearing qualities towards junior officers, NCOs and soldiers alike.”
He attended the Staff College in 1983 and was promoted Major in 1984. In August 1985, as Commanding Officer, 245 Recce Battalion, Ikeja, he led a unit of Tanks in Lagos during the palace coup that removed Major General Buhari from power, ushering in fellow Armoured Corps officer, Major General Babangida. He was awarded the Forces Services Star in 1986 and became a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1989.
Always leery of a political appointment (he turned down political appointments offered to him by General Babangida after the 1985 coup), the outbreak of the Liberian crisis in 1990 provided him an outlet for his martial inclinations. He eventually served four tours of duty there, getting ECOMOG Liberia medals for each one. In addition he won the coveted Nigerian Army Chief of Army Staff Commendation Award and became a Colonel in 1994.
According to another ex-Army officer,
“Bachama by tribe, (from the Numan - Demsa axis), Khobe was the archetypal warrior. Without a doubt, he was the most outstanding Nigerian soldier throughout the Liberian war. Some of the feats he performed are story-book like. He was extremely fearless and motivated very many Nigerian troops who kept lobbying for postings to his unit where casualties were minimal. In short, as the Commander of the 221 Tank Battalion (and later a Brigade Commander), he was the Etuk of the Liberian war. After his return from Liberia, he was personally asked by the late General Abacha to work out details for the establishment of a military task force which would be specifically tasked to bring an end to Armed Robbery in Nigeria. Of course when he submitted his requirements to "Baba", money matters "kpafukad" the plan as usual. It was after that he got the Sierra Leone job. He was a completely detribalized Nigerian.”
On February 12, 1998, he led the ECOMOG Ground Task Force assault that removed Major Koromah from power and restored the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. He was promoted Brigadier and later assumed the position of Chief of Defence Staff of Sierra Leone. In December 1998, after evasion measures, he slipped out of encirclement when the RUF attempted to take Freetown, barley escaping being captured at Hastings Airport General Khobe was injured during this campaign, but he waved away medics who tried to attend to him, telling them to go and take care of other soldiers. The injury eventually cost him his life).
On Tuesday, 18 April 2000, Khobe died of Encephalitis at the St. Nicholas Hospital in Lagos one week after being evacuated back home from Sierra Leone.
The BBC’s West Africa correspondent, Mark Doyle, wrote this obituary in honour of General Khobe:
LEAD-IN: Now this week’s profile which, unusually, is more of an obituary. General Maxwell Khobe, Nigerian commander of ECOMOG and the man considered by many Sierra Leoneans as the hero in ousting the rebels from Freetown, died this week in a Lagos hospital following a cardiac arrest. The ECOMOG commander had been made the chief of defence staff of Sierra Leone by President Tejan Kabbah when the government of Sierra Leone was reinstated. Here’s our West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle.
BBC WEST AFRICA CORRESPONDENT MARK DOYLE: I had a soft spot for General Maxwell Khobe. I think he may have saved my life. Early last year I was in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, when rebels were trying to oust the elected government. Half the city was on fire, and the rebels were committing unspeakable atrocities against civilians. I was in the small part of the city held by the government -- or to be more precise, since most of the government army had joined the rebels, I was in the part of town held by General Maxwell Khobe’s Nigerian troops. On this occasion I found Khobe, a stocky bulldog of a man, in a hilltop military barracks. I asked him if it would be relatively safe for me to take a look in the center of town. "I don’t think so," he said in his gruff voice. "Best to wait a bit." That was quite a statement. Khobe and I both knew what it meant, that his troops were not in control. Quite an admission for a general to make in war. But I was grateful for his honesty. Another foreign journalist who unfortunately hadn’t heard this advice was killed by rebels when he went into the center of town the next day. In the middle of that fierce battle for Freetown, Maxwell Khobe briefly lent the foreign press corps his only helicopter so that we could evacuate our colleague’s body. Many Sierra Leonean journalists also died in the battle. General Khobe and I weren’t always on good terms. Two years ago he was angry with me when I found myself on the rebel side of a front line which he was attacking. He listened to my BBC radio reports that the rebels were fighting back -- which they were -- and those reports infuriated him. At one point he telephoned me across the front line. He told me he was going to flush out the rebels and that I would be well advised to keep my head down. Khobe did as he had promised. He arrived with his men near the Freetown front line. According to a soldier who was there, he looked at the smoking battle front and then began walking towards it saying, cool as a cucumber, "Gentlemen, let’s go." Analysts will no doubt debate Khobe’s military record for years to come. The war in Sierra Leone has been at the centre of a major African power struggle. The stakes have been high. Some say Khobe was a brave soldier whose tough and wily tactics overcame the generally low level of training and equipment in the Nigerian army. Others say that he was beaten by the rebels who have now won a share in government through a shaky peace deal because he got sucked into Sierra Leonean political and business affairs. This, they say, weakened his military professionalism. But most Sierra Leoneans are very sorry that General Maxwell Khobe, the foreign head of their national army, their Nigerian "big brother," has died. Ordinary Sierra Leoneans fear that if the peace agreement were to break down, the UN troops might not show the same resolve or resourcefulness that the Nigerians used in fighting the rebels. That’s why the death of the Nigerian commander was such a blow to the confidence of many in Sierra Leone. Khobe had his flaws, but to most ordinary people there he was a hero, the man that protected their elected president. The mourning for the passing of Nigerian General Maxwell Khobe continues in Sierra Leone today.
Ben Asante who knew Gen. Maxwell Khobe personally writes about the exploits of the Nigerian general and chief of defence staff of Sierra Leone who died of a heart attack on 18 April.
Sometime around Christmas 1998, Brigadier General Maxwell Mitikishe Khobe invited us – a group of visiting journalists – to lunch with him at his official residence in Freetown.
It was a Sunday. He arrived late, and when his military convoy sped through the gate, he briskly jumped down from the jeep. With a quick apology, using words like, “he has been busy doing nothing and wasting other people’s time”, he proceeded to say the grace. It was unusual for even an ofFicer known to be deeply religious. For several minutes, Khobe prayed that President Kabbah be protected and allowed to complete his mandate against attempts by rebels to overthrow him.
Little did we know at the time that what was uppermost on Khobe’s mind was rebel activities slowly threatening the government and the people of Freetown. Barely a year before, he had liberated the capital in a swift action against the AFRC military junta headed by Major Johnny Paul Koroma. Khobe was among a small core of Ecomog officers who saw action in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. I first met him in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1992.
Few soldiers trust civilians, and least journalists, especially during operations, but Khobe invited us to film battle action involving his tanks.
We were not disappointed For one moment by the experience and in seeing what impact our work was having on the morale of Ecomog troops. Several times soldiers came on our camera to send messages to their relatives. One 25-year-old gunner shouted a message on camera to his father. “Papa, I am a man now for I have fought in a war as a soldier!”
Khobe hardly entered a tank at the front but preferred to walk armed with nothing but a radio. In typical fashion, he and several officers and troops marched on foot to take town after town in Liberia until they captured Buchanan City in 1992.
Because of the utter confusion generated by Ecomog’s role in fighting to protect itself and the civil population in its areas of control, people began accusing the force of becoming a party to the conflict. The level of misgivings about Ecomog was such that a CNN reporter asked the then Ecomog chief of staff Brig-Gen Victor Malu, why his troops who were supposed to be neutral were fighting alongside other factions opposed to Charles Taylor’s NPFL and allowing them to operate freely in Monrovia.
We visited Khobe regularly at his Caldwell base in Monrovia where he kept an open door. He was an avid poultry farmer, a habit he brought to Monrovia.
After his tour of duty in Liberia, he went back home where in very quick succession, he held appointments first as head of a special unit formed to protect Lagos against armed robbers, then to Abuja, and to the Armour Brigade headquarters at Yola, not Ear from his hometown, Numan.
In 1985, he turned down a political posting from the military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. After serving in Ecomog in Liberia, another posting was to follow not long after. The May 1997 overthrow of President Kabbah by the AFRC junta in Sierra Leone offered Khobe another opportunity to work abroad. He was appointed the commander of the Ecomog Task Force in Sierra Leone.
In a lighting action, Ecomog troops marched into the capital and seized the centre of Freetown including the State House with Koroma’s junta in flight. In recognition of his efforts, President Kabbah asked the Nigerian government to second him as chief of defence staff of the Sierra Leone army.
Khobe had been promoted a full Brigadier-General but he hardly had enough time to re-build the Sierra Leone army before the rebels invaded Freetown again on 6 January 1999. In spite of repeated intelligence warnings, no-one would listen.
Weeks before the attack, Khobe went out one early morning and removed the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh from the Pademba Maximum Security Prison where he was on death row. Had he not removed Sankoh, the fate of Sierra Leone and the outcome of the 1999 invasion would have been different.
The rebels broke into the prison on G January and freed all the inmates, but they missed Sankoh who remained in the hands of the government and ended up negotiating for a ceasefire.
Khobe was a joy to watch at the front. He kept encouraging the troops to move forward. Several times we went to the front at first light only to discover that the men had withdrawn from the positions we left them the evening before. Many factors caused the pull back. Ammunitions were not delivered after they ran out or no food supplies came through. Other times rumours circulated that the rebels were coming with anti-aircraft guns, and lacking effective cover the men just pulled back. Wherever Khobe went, the troops seeing him surged forward and just kept going.
Late last year, Khobe came to London to undergo an operation to remove a shrapnel lodged in his back which he sustained on duty in Freetown. He came only after the rebels had signed a peace agreement. His back hurt him most times and he walked with a limp but he rather put up with the pain than abandon his post. The first operation was successful.
In December he had another operation which unfortunately had to be reopened after an abscess was discovered at the airport just as he was about to return to Freetown.
He returned to his post in January this year. His wife, Martina, who was in London throughout his treatment, went along to Freetown to nurse him.
In March, Khobe went to Harare, Zimbabwe, to address an NGO conference on the plight of civilians in a conflict situation. He passed through London on his way back From Harare, and told me that his British doctors had given him a clean bill of health. He planned to come back to London for further check up in April.
But while in Harare, someone had given him a photocopy of New African’s report (NA February) on how Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first premier, had been killed in a Western-backed plot in 1961 while UN peacekeepers looked on. He wanted the original copy badly because UN troops had recently been sent to Freetown to keep the peace in Sierra Leone.
I sent copies of the Lumumba report to him later, but according to Capt. Hassan who was with him in London, Khobe had been unwell since he returned to Freetown on 23 March. Until then, I knew nothing about his sudden poor health.
He died of cardiac arrest in his hospital bed at 10.30 am on 18 April, aged 50. He was buried in his hometown of Numan in Adamawa State, Nigeria, on 29 April. NA
Rukuba Cantonment Jos was renamed Maxwell Khobe Cantonment in his honour.
The Nigerian Army grew out of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary and the forces of the old Lagos Colony and Niger Coast Protectorate.
When in 1886, the Royal Niger Company received its charter, it organised its constabulary which at first consisted of five British and two African officers and about 400 rank and file, of whom more than half were Fantis (from the Gold Coast). In view of the critical situation that followed French encroachments on the territory of the Niger Company in 1894-1897, the British Government decided to raise a local force and Colonel (later Lord) Lugard was sent out to raise and command it.
By the beginning of 1900, the force had become a thoroughly well-organised and disciplined corps which was called the West African Frontier Force. In that year, the greater part of it under Colonel (later General) Sir William Wilcocks took a very prominent part in the Ashanti campaign.
At the end of 1901, all the colonial military forces in British West Africa were modelled on the same basis and constituted into the West African Frontier Force, each dependency being responsible for the maintenance of its own regiment or battalion. The Northern Nigeria Regiment consisted of two batteries and two battalions, to which was added a third Mounted Infantry Battalion. At the same time, the Lagos Constabulary became the Lagos Battalion and the Niger Coast Protectorate Force, with a portion of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary, became the Southern Niger Regiment.
On the amalgamation of Lagos and Southern Nigeria, the Lagos Battalion became the second battalion of the Southern Nigeria Regiment.
When the Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated on January 1st, 1914 the two Regiments became one, which was designated the Nigeria Regiment.
First World War
On the outbreak of war with Germany in August 1914, steps were immediately taken for the defence of Nigeria and for offensive action against the neighbouring German colony of The Cameroons. The Nigeria Regiment and Police were mobilised and volunteers from the European community were enrolled as members of the Nigeria Marine Contingent and the Nigeria Land Contingent.
Colonial troops of the 1st Battalion, Nigerian Regiment, about to depart for action in German Kamerun (1914).
An early advance into German territory along the Benue and Cross Rivers met with failure, our troops in the north being driven back from Garua, a strongly defended position and in the south being similarly overpowered by superior forces at Nsanakang, after inflicting very heavy losses on the Germans.
However, a large expedition under Brigadier-General (later General) Sir Charles Dobell compelled Duala, the chief town of the Cameroons, to surrender unconditionally on September 27th 1914. The expedition consisted of African troops from all the British West African Colonies and French African troops. It included two battalions and a battery of the Nigeria Regiment and a large number of civilians were attached as temporary officers and non-commissioned officers. Ships of The Royal Navy and of the Nigeria Marine co-operated with the troops. After the fall of Duala, General Dobells troops secured both lines of the railway, but the heavy rains prevented a further advance till the end of 1915.
Early in 1915 Colonel (later Brigadier-General) Cunliffe. Commandant of the Nigeria Regiment, who had taken over command of the troops on the Nigerian border, had invaded Garua. He was assisted by French troops from the Chad district by a naval gun, the moral effect of which so affected the native garrison that the German commander was compelled to surrender on June 10th, 1915.
Leaving a small force to watch the German garrison at Mora, an almost impregnable mountain position, General Cunliffe then marched south to Banyo, where a powerful German force had deliberately prepared a very strong position on an extended hill feature similar in many ways to Mora Mountain. Cement had been freely used in the construction of fortifications, there was an ample water supply and the Germans had announced their intention of holding out there till the end of the war.
General Cunliffe advanced on the position under cover of darkness and at daybreak became heavily engaged at close quarters. The attack was pressed for two days and nights, but on the third night, under the cover of a heavy tornado, the larger part of the Germans succeeded in making their escape from the hill. However, a considerable number remained and surrendered at daybreak the next day. General Cunliffe continued on his way south to effect a junction with General Dobell’s troops and a simultaneous advance was made by another column from the Cross River.
Towards the end of 1915, a general advance was made on Yaunde, the new German Headquarters.
General Cunliffe’s troops from the north, General Dobell’s from the west and French and Belgium troops from the south-east converging on the town left the Germans no option but to evacuate it and it was entered by our troops on January 1st. 1916. The German troops retired towards Spanish Guinea and in spite of a close pursuit, succeeded in escaping into neutral territory, where they were disarmed. Mora, the last stronghold of the Germans, capitulated on February 18th, 1916 and the conquest of the Cameroons was completed.
In November 1916, a contingent from the Nigeria Regiment proceeded to East Africa under the command of Brigadier-General Cunliffe. It consisted of nearly 200 British and over 3,000 African and later 330 British and 3,000 more Africans were sent to reinforce the contingent. In addition to this, about 4,000 carriers were recruited in Nigeria for service in East Africa and a number of men were also recruited for service with the inland water transport in Mesopotamia. The Nigerian troops took part in some of the severest fighting in East Africa and they suffered heavy casualties, but their gallantry in action and the uncomplaining way in which they bore the hardships of a particularly arduous campaign won for them the highest praise. Over 80 decorations were awarded to the British and about the same number to the African ranks.
The contingent returned to Nigeria in March 1918 and received an enthusiastic welcome. After the return of the contingent from East Africa, it was reorganised as a brigade for further service abroad and was about to proceed to Palestine when the armistice was signed. The brigade was then demobilised and the regiment reduced to its normal size. In recognition of its services during the Great War, His Late Majesty, King George V of Britain awarded Colours to the Regiment, bearing the following honours: Ashanti 1873-1874, Ashanti 1900, Behobeho, Nyangao, East Africa 1916-1918, Duala, Garua, Banyo and Cameroons 1914-1916.
On March 14th, 1928, His Late Majesty King George V approved that the title of the forces be changed to the Royal West African Frontier Force.
During the Second World War, the Regiment served in many parts of the world and played a distinguished part in the defeat of the Italians in East Africa and the Japanese in Burma. The Royal West Africa Frontier Force provided the largest colonial expeditionary force to leave any colony and it was a West African division which was the first ever to be entirely supplied by air. The following paragraphs give, but a brief outline of the most complex and diverse operations in which the Nigeria Regiment took part.
Troops of the Nigeria Regiment, 3rd West African Brigade (Thunder), boarding a Dakota Transport plane (circa 1943).
At the outbreak of the war, the Nigeria Regiment consisted of five regular battalions with supporting arms and services. In the early part of 1940, plans were made for the move of the 1st West African Brigade to East Africa. The Brigade consisting of 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions, Nigeria Regiment, 1st Light Battery, 1st Field Ambulance, 1st Infantry Brigade, Signals, and the 1st Field Company, R.E.; left Nigeria on June 3rd, 1940, together with a Gold Coast brigade. After taking part in the defence of Kenya, these brigades distinguished themselves in the Abyssinian Campaign. The Gold Coast brigade secured the west bank of the Juba after defeating the Italians at Bulo Erillo, whilst the Nigerian Brigade, by the capture of Merca, played an all-important part in the capture of Mogadishu. On February 13th, 1941, in company with the 22nd East African Brigade, the Nigerian Brigade advanced on Brava.
Despite their training in bush warfare based upon the lessons of the First World War and their short training in mobile warfare, they covered 600 miles between Mogadishu and Harar in twenty-six days, pushing the enemy before them and taking a number of guns, machine guns and prisoners. In the opinion of experts, this advance was the most rapid in the history of the East Africa Campaign.
The Brigade returned to Nigeria on September 5th, 1941 when it received an enthusiastic welcome and it provided the leaven of war-trained men for the great Expeditionary Force which was later to take part in the final defeat of the Japanese in Burma.
In 1940 it had not been anticipated that further troops would be required except for reinforcements and no further units were raised in the earlier part of the year. On the collapse of France in May and June, 1940 however, it was immediately decided to expand the Royal West African Frontier Force on a large scale and an extensive recruiting campaign was started. By the end of 1941 the Nigeria Regiment had, apart from other services, raised thirteen battalions.
These wartime battalions were built around a nucleus of 150 men from the old Reserve Battalion. The 7th Battalion came into official existence on June 8th, 1940 and from a cadre of this battalion a few months later and by local recruitment, the 12th battalion was raised.
Meanwhile the Reserve Battalion had moved to Enugu where the 9th Battalion, which was originally composed chiefly of Nigeria Police (including officers) with a few regular soldiers, was raised: after some time, some of the police were recalled and the battalion on its arrival at Sokoto in January 1941, (after a few months in Calabar) absorbed a large proportion of local recruits. At the same time, the battalions which were at first to make up the 6th Battalion, the 4th Brigade Group, were being formed at Kaduna and the 6th Brigade group was being established in Sierra Leone with the 4th and 11th Nigerian Battalions under command together with a Sierra Leonean and a Gambian battalion and mostly Sierra Leonean supporting arms and services.
In the early months of 1914 the 3rd Brigade Group consisting of 7th, 9th, and 12th Battalions, 3rd Light Battery, 3rd Brigade Group Company W.A.A.S.C, was formed with headquarters at Zaria. Later the 9th Battalion transferred to the 4th Brigade Group at Kaduna and the 6th Battalion came from that group to join the 3rd.
The 81st and 82nd West African Divisions were then formed for service in India and Burma. The Nigeria Regiment provided the 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade (1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions) the 3rd (West African) Infantry Brigade (5th, 9th and 10th Battalions) whilst the 4th and 11th Battalions had gone to Sierra Leone as part of the “mixed” 6th (West African) Infantry Brigade. When the Divisions went to India, the 11th Battalion remained in Sierra Leone and the 8th Battalion in Nigeria as holding battalions: the 13th Battalion was eventually disbanded and used to strengthen the 8th. In addition to these units with them supporting arms and services, the Royal West African Frontier Force also raised 43 Pioneer Companies and other group of 20 Garrison Companies which saw service in the Middle East, Palestine, Morocco and Sicily.
On their arrival in India in 1943, the 3rd (West African) Infantry Brigade was detached from the 81st (West African) Division and came under the command of General Wingate who was forming a “Special Force” to carry out the Second Chindit campaign. The remainder of the two divisions took part in the campaign in the Arakan.
A detailed and authentic history of the 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade in the Arakan has been published in “A Short History of the 1st (West African) Infantry Brigade in the Arakan 1944-45”.
It has been seen how the brigades came into being and that the history of the Arakan campaign is available for the students of the roles played by the 1st and 4th Brigades, but this account would be woefully incomplete, as there is nothing published without some special preference to the 3rd and 6th Brigades. The two West African Divisions were made up as follows: The 91st from the 3rd Nigerian Brigade Group, the 5th Gold Coast Brigade and the 6th Brigade with the 4th battalion of the Nigerian Regiment and Brigade groups from Sierra Leone and the Gambia and their supporting services, the 82nd from the 2nd Gold Coast and 1st and 4th Nigerian Brigades and the Nigerian Recce Regiment which became one of the greatest thorns in the Japanese side in Burma.
The original role of the 3rd Brigade was defence against Vichy French to the north and north-west of Nigeria and training was pursued with a view to fighting in open country and orchard bush. A similar role was the part of the 6th Brigade in Sierra Leone.
In August 1914, the 3rd Brigade Reconnaissance Company was formed and by January of the following year it had become a complete unit with a full complement of equipment. Meanwhile the first Auxiliary Group was being formed in Ibadan. They were originally W.A.A.S.C and enlisted as first-line carriers trained to arms and as stretcher-bearers: their services earned much praise later on in Burma and in Nigeria they undertook important duties on works of construction.
Training was interrupted intermittently from the middle of 1941 due to supposed threats of French invasion. The most important of these alarms was at the time of ‘Richelieu’ incident at Dakar and the last at the time of the British and American landings in North Africa in November, 1942. At that time, a brigade with a squadron of Free French Tanks was massed along the northern frontier of Nigeria ready to start a counter-offensive if the Vichy French should attack. All however, went off peacefully.
Following exercises in January 1943, the news of the future employment of the West African Expeditionary Force was divulged and from then onwards till embarkation there was feverish activity. Training in thick jungle fighting was carried out at the Olokemeji Battle School and in swamp fighting around Lagos.
On September 27, 1943 the brigade embarked at Lagos and landed in India on November 5, 1943.
The 3rd Brigade which was detached from the 81st (West African) Division was introduced to a very specialised form of warfare. Shorn of its Field Battery, Recce Squadron, Group Company and Auxiliary Group, the remaining units were reorganised into ‘columns’ two to each battalion. The columns were trained for long range penetration. Equipped with unfamiliar weapons including flame-throwers and carrying their heavier weapons on mules they were required to operate behind enemy lines dependent on air-supply drops and living for long periods on the rations they carried in their packs.
The brigade went into action alongside British and Ghurkha troops in March 1944. The Special Force’s object was to establish itself in the heart of Burma on the Japanese lines of communication supplying the Japanese forces including Assam and those retreating slowly in front of General Stilwell’s Chinese-American Army advancing on Myitkina from the north. Third Brigade’s initial role was to hold ‘fortresses’ on the lines of communication, based on which other columns operated against the Japanese.
The six Nigerian columns, having being flown into Burma from Assam, were concentrated near Mawlu in two fortresses, ‘Aberdeen’ and ‘White City’, 6th Battalion was at the road and rail block at White City, and 7th Battalion was allocated a mobile role in the White City area. White City was almost immediately subjected to a very strong Japanese ground and air attack which was successfully resisted during the whole of April. In May it was decided that Special Force should move northward to join forces with General Stilwell. White City, was evacuated, a column of 12th Nigeria Regiment being the last to leave and the brigade moved northward, fighting a series of actions on the way.
Concentrating in the area near Mogaung at the northern end of the “Railway Corridor”, later to be the main axis of the final victorious southward thrust into Burma, the brigade mounted a series of attacks on a strong Japanese defence position known as “Hill 60”. This position had orders to resist to the last man and succeded in holding out until eventually reduced by the British 36th Brigade heavily supported by artillery and air craft. Third Brigade had almost succeeded in capturing the feature on one occasion and only failed through lack of artillery and air support.
By this time the brigade had suffered heavy casualties. It had fought in the most appalling conditions through the heaviest rain for four months, living on hard rations – sometimes lucky to get five days rations in a week – and seldom having a roof over its head. When hill 60 had been taken, the brigade was therefore withdrawn and after a period of recuperation, started training again in Central India at the end of 1944 for a further campaign. This time, the three battalions were divided up among composite brigades of British and Gurkha troops, with whom the Nigerians established excellent relations.
The third Chindit campaign did not, however, materialise. The successful British advance in Burma had made long-range penetration no longer necessary or practicable, so Special Force was disbanded
Reorganised once more on orthodox lines, the brigade joined the 81st (West Africa) Division in an arear near Madras, where training was commenced for a sea-borne invasion of Malaya.
The 6th Brigade, including the 4th Battalion, Nigeria Regiment and the 6th Light Battery and a Field Survey Section, were in August 1943, the first West Africa troops to land in India. After training they proceeded to the Burma frontier area in the Arakan and before the end of the war, the 4th Battalion was established over the frontier on the headwaters of the Kaladan River valley which was the scene of its operations for nearly 14 months. The 4th Battalion was supplied entirely from the air , whilst a jeep track , known as “West Africa Way”, was constructed behind it through what seemed impossibly precipitous country. This remarkable feat covered no less than 73 miles. The rest of the Brigade and a Gold Coast brigade (the 5th) together forming the 81st Division, from which the 3rd Brigade had been detached to serve with the Chindit under General Wingate, followed and together were the first large force ever to be supplied entirely by air.
In the early months of 1944 the brigade advanced down the Kaladan valley as a left flank guard to the main 15th Indian Corps’ attack on Akyab. This attack for various reasons failed and though the 4th Battalion reached further south that year than any other large body of troops on the whole front. The division had to withdraw with the rest of the corps; after delaying tactics supported by detachments of the Reconnaissance Regiment, which up to this time had been undertaking aggressive landing operations along the coast towards Akyab, it held positions near the frontier throughout the monsoon and so forestalled the much vaunted Japanese advance on Calcutta.
The 4th Battalion led the return to Burma after the Monsoon by driving the Japanese off the precipitous slopes of Frontier Hill and the brigade advanced again down the Kaladan and parallel valleys. So successful was this outflanking movement, which was joined in January 1945 by the 82nd West African Division and resulted in joint capture by the two West African Divisions of Myohaung, that little resistance was put up in Akyab to the rest of the Corps. After the capture of Myohaung, the 81st Division, including the 6th Brigade, returned to India for rest and further training for an attack on Malaya, but an armistice was signed before this was launched. During the operation in the Kaladan Valley, the troops lived and fought in extreme jungle conditions, the only adjuncts of civilisation in the way of weapons, food, clothing, or shelter, being what they could carry themselves or what could be dropped from the air they faced these conditions for months on end in a way no other troops were ever called upon to do for such long periods. They acquitted themselves well and played a major part in driving the Japanese out of the Arakan.
The end of the war came before the West African Divisions could carry out their plans for the attack on Malaya and so, after a period of rest and vocational training in India, they returned to their home countries in 1946 with a record of which they could be well proud.
The Japanese were usually contemptuous of their foes and the following extract from a captured Japanese war diary is therefore worth recording.
The enemy soldiers are not from Britain but from Africa. Because of their belief, they are not afraid to die, so even if their comrades have fallen they keep on advancing as if nothing had happened. It makes things rather difficult. They have an excellent physique and are very brave, so fighting against these soldiers is somewhat troublesome.
The following are some of the honours won by Nigerian troops of the Royal West African Frontier Force during the Second World War 1939-1946: Distinguished Conduct Medal, 8; Military Medal, 58; British Empire Medal, 20; Mention in Despatches, 243; Certificates of Good Service, 39; Act of Gallantry, 1.
Myohaung Day ( January 24th) is the annual day of remembrance in honour of Nigerian soldiers killed in Burma. November 11th of each year is the annual commemoration day of Nigerian soldiers killed in the two World Wars
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin and his wife and the chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas attended the interdenominational church service to mark the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day.
Defence Minister Pledges FG Commitment to Families of Fallen Heroes The Minister of Defence (MOD), Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd) has reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government (FG) towards improving the welfare needs of families of the nation’s fallen heroes
This, the Minister said is in honour, appreciation and recognition of the selfless sacrifices of the fallen heroes towards the peace and unity of the nation.
Speaking while fielding questions from journalists during the Jumaat prayer in Abuja, to commemorate the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration (AFRDC), Maj Gen Magashi explained that the FG has continued to support and cater for the dependants of fallen heroes.
He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari while launching the 2020 AFRDC Emblem last year, emphasized that a major priority of government is to ensure that it caters for families of fallen heroes.
The Defence Minister lauded the effort of the AFN in supporting families of personnel who paid the supreme price, through economic empowerment programmes for their widows and educational scholarship for their children. He urged Nigerians to remain patriotic & committed to the unity, peace and progress of the nation. He enjoined all to support the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) in performing its constitutional role of defending Nigeria's sovereignty
The Chief Imam of the National Mosque, Professor Shehu Galadanci in his sermon, described the Nigerian military as an embodiment of courageous, gallant and discipline personnel, whose performance in internal security & peace support operations within and outside the shores of the country has received global encomium. The Chief Imam, implored Nigerians to show appreciation to members of the AFN for tackling national security challenges, particularly in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the country. He urged the military not to relent in ensuring that terrorism is completely eradicated. He also called on Nigerians to encourage, support and pray for troops in the various theatres of operations.
Prof Galandaci paid tribute to fallen heroes and veterans for their patriotic and selfless sacrifices.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Tanko, ministers, Members of the National Assembly, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, diplomats, senior military & paramilitary officers attended the Juma’at prayer. The Armed Forces Remembrance Day is scheduled to hold on 15 January 2020 across the nation.
Bravo guys! God rest for those who have passed on in the course of serving fatherland.And for those who still have their boots on, may you find courage & strength to keep the flag flying.
The armed forces are the baston of Nigeria's nationhood. The politicians are abysmal failure.My father was a soldier too, who fought in & also told me horrid account of his involvement in the Nigerian civil war and peace keeping missions within and without.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lordfrom Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
naptu2: Isaac Fadoyebo was a Nigerian soldier that fought against the Japanese in Burma in World War 2. His unit was ambushed while moving in the Kaladan River Valley and Fadoyebo was badly injured. He was rescued by Burmese villagers who hid them from the Japanese for 10 months.
A British journalist called Barnaby Philips, who had been the BBC's Nigeria correspondent and later worked for Al-Jazeera, made a documentary about Fadoyebo's exploits. He was able to track down the Burmese family that hid Isaac Fadoyebo and deliver a letter of gratitude from Isaac Fadoyebo to them. The documentary, called Burma Boy was shown in 2012. This is the documentary.
Page last updated at 23:32 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 00:32 UK
British documentary makers Robin Forestier-Walker and Oliver Owen have been tracing Nigerians who fought against the Japanese in Burma during World War II.
On VJ Day, the anniversary of victory over Japan, they tell the veterans' story.
Private African Banana also served as a peacekeeper in Congo and Chad
Mohammed was just 16 when he was pressed into British military service in northern Nigeria against his will.
Now, almost 70 years on, the old war veteran claims he hid his true identity from the recruiting officer.
It was as Private African Banana that he went on to travel 6,300 miles (10,100km) to the jungles of Burma in the Royal West African Frontier Force.
And he has been known as African Banana ever since.
The contribution of West Africans was played down in official versions of the Allied war in Asia, and until now, few have had an opportunity to tell their tale.
In fact, only two in 10 of the soldiers who fought in Burma were white.
The role of Indians and Gurkhas is known. But when Allied commander General William Slim thanked his 14th army at the end of the campaign, he did not even mention the Africans.
Nigerians made up more than half of the total force of 90,000 West African soldiers deployed to South East Asia after 1943 as part of the British Army's 81st and 82nd (West Africa) Divisions.
Although the Burma campaign ended 64 years ago, many remain bitter that their contribution was never adequately recognised.
They were central to the push to clear Japanese forces out of the jungle and mountain ranges of Burma, from where they threatened British India.
This was achieved through a gruelling campaign of jungle marches, battles and ambushes, in which supplies were delivered entirely by air.
Usman Katsina remembers it well.
"Everything that was meant to be used - your food, your clothes, everything - was given to you and you were required to carry it, on your head and back. Some even died from exhaustion, from travelling long distances, with a heavy load," he says.
Some of those who earned the coveted Burma Star had already fought against Mussolini's forces in East Africa.
West Africans also joined special Chindit units under the command of General Orde Wingate.
The Chindits fought deep inside Japanese-held territory to disrupt lines of communication.
Their enemy was an extremely dangerous opponent. Japanese soldiers were trained well in the art of jungle warfare, where the first rule was concealment.
It was a skill the Nigerian troops had to learn too.
"The Japanese in the jungle were just like snakes - they hid before you could see them, it was very hard," recalls 97-year-old Hassan Sokoto.
'Lack of recognition'
Umaru Yola fought in the 4th Battalion, Nigeria Regiment. He described how he was hit in the head with a piece of shrapnel that left him with a hole in his skull.
"I didn't die, so God must have decided to give me a long life," he says.
Many of the veterans feel they were failed by the British after the war
African recruits served as drivers, artillerymen, engineers, medics and clerks, as well as infantrymen and carriers.
Officer positions were reserved for white expatriates from Britain and other parts of the empire, with only one notable exception: Lieutenant Seth Anthony from the Gold Coast was the British Army's first African officer.
Despite the hierarchy, the war in Burma played some part in breaking down the race barriers of the era.
"Initially I saw the white man as someone better than me. But after the war, I considered him an equal," recalls former infantryman Dauda Kafanchan.
In post-war Nigeria, the colonial government gave some veterans land to begin new lives as farmers. The project was also a scheme to reduce their potential impact as a new political force.
"We wanted work. But what could we do? We were under colonial rule and we couldn't change anything," said veteran Dangombe, who found himself without prospects at the war's end.
Nigerian soldiers who chose to continue their military careers went on to form the core of independent Nigeria's national army, which retains the 81st and 82nd Divisions to this day.
Private Banana later served as a peacekeeper in the Congo and Chad. And he returned to the frontline alongside many of his former comrades in Nigeria's bloody 1967-1970 civil war.
But many of his former comrades feel the British abandoned their responsibilities to their former servicemen.
Although they were paid off for their service, some claim they were promised allowances which were never paid, despite their repeated efforts over the years.
And it is not only the money - some veterans are still bitter over what they see as a lack of recognition.
"We were supposed to get Long Service and British Empire Medals" says Dangombe.
....... Kudos to those Officers and Men that went through the thick and thin to safeguard the life of Nigerians. The Civil War time and many other crisis down the current insurgency. The Great and Gallant men are today being remembered for their brave deed. Either dead in line of duty or maimed and still living, garland to you all. To the fathers, mothers, brothers, sister, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, niece and friends. More especially the Husbands, Wives, Sons and Daughters who have being widowed or orphaned just for this country to remain secured our heart would always be with you.
We also at this point remember our able and non-amiable soldiers that goes about the street beating up the unarmed and weak members of the society that they are to defend, a very BIG SHAME to them, they should learn from our fallen HEROS.