Royal West African Fronter Forces.


Any history buffs can add to my search re. my fathers W.W.2 mob the R.W.A.F.F. in Burma? I've never met any other man who served in this regiment.
Can't say I have. Know a man who served in the Royal West African Rearer Forces though.
Got a faint memory that David McCallum (of U.N.C.L.E) fame served in RWAFF but must have been after the war ended.


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
The RWAFF was made up of number of different Regiments:
2 Nigerian
1 Gold Coast
1 Gambian (Battalion)
1 Sierra Leone (Company)

These might be of some help, but they relate to the Gambian Co.

A quick search on Amazon brought up a few texts:
What I would recommend is that you contact the various Militaries as the regiments and Battallions of the RWAFF formed the Corps of the new Independent Colonies Militaries. There is still pride in their antecedent units, indeed the Ghanaians still have the Black Tarantula as their symbol. It may be best to go through their Embassies for information and records.

Ghanaian Army Website:

(or is that you hmm?)

Would also recommend scrabbling through the National Archives aswell.

Best of luck to you.

The West African Frontier Force (WAFF) was formed by the British Colonial Office in 1900 to administer the regular colonial forces of West Africa. The majority of the WAFF was raised from and based in Nigeria, but there were also units located in The Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone and The Gambia. The units were;
The Queen's Own Nigeria Regiment
The Gold Coast Regiment
The Royal Sierra Leone Regiment
The Gambia Regiment

In 1928 WAFF was retitled the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) and in 1940 reorganised as infantry; support elements being transferred to African Colonial Forces (with suffix "A.C.F." to unit titles). The RWAFF served in the 81st and 82nd West African Divisions, 14th Army against the Japanese in Burma. The 81st was composed of units from the Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast, while the 82nd comprised units from Nigeria and the Gold Coast. In 1946 the RWAFF was further reorganised as infantry combined with internal support elements
In 1953 Gold Coast Military Forces were established as the first national force within RWAFF and in 1959 Ghana (former Gold Coast) withdrew from RWAFF.
In 1960 RWAFF was disbanded after all the units were absorbed into Royal Nigerian Military Forces, Royal Sierra Leone Military Forces, and Ghana Army

There are a number of books about the regiment;

Anonymous. History of the 1st Battalion, the Sierra Leone Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force. Madras: N.P., 1945.

Anonymous. The Nigeria Regiment: Spearhead of Victory. Lagos: N.P., 1944.

Anonymous. History of the 3rd Battalion, the Gold Coast Regiment, RWAFF, in the Arakan Campaign, October 1944 - May 1945. Felixstowe: Premier Press.

Anonymous. West African Way: The Story of the Burma Campaign, 1943-1945. Obuasi, Ashanti: Ashanti Times Press, 1946.

Haywood, A. and F.A.S. Clarke. The History of the Royal West African Frontier Force. Aldershot: Gale and Polden, 1964.

Turey, E.D.A. and A. Abrahams. The Sierra Leone Army: A Century of History. London: Macmillan, 1987.



My thanks to you all for your help, My father like many W.W,2 vets. from the Far East battles never spoke about his experiences. Sometimes after a few pints he would give a bit of stick about being part of the forgoton army. He did not get home until early 1947with the rank of C.S.M. he was encouraged to go for officer rank but told them that he wanted out of the Army; not deeper into it. Later in life he told me that he sometimes wished he had done so.
I lived in the Gold Coast in the 1950s. The Gold Coast Regiment of the RWAFF had three Bns and a Regimental Depot at Kumasi. Bns rotated every two years between Tamale, Takoradi and Accra. Units were officered by Brits (some badged RWAFF some seconded) with ERE Brit WOs and SNCO PSIs in supernumary/training roles. There were a few African officers.

I remember watching a Queen's Birthday Parade in Takoradi a good many of the soldiers on parade wore the Burma Star. Uniforms were similar to that worn by the KAR though on ceremonial occasions RWAFF African ORs wore a scarlet sleeveless buttoned at the neck jacket rather like a cavalry mess jacket. Officers and Brit ORs wore KD and a bush hat buttoned on the left side with a black hackle.


My old man was seconded to the RWAFF 1958-60 and then Nigerian Army 1960-62. After independance the Brits stayed on in key positions with the newly formed Nigerian armed forces for a couple of years until they could run the show themselves. 3rd Nigerian Brigade deployed to the Congo in 1961 as part of the UN mission and gave a good account of themselves rescuing Belgian nuns and other expats. The Brigade Major was awarded a DSO for the daring rescue of some missionaries. The Bde Commanders were first Brig McKenzie and then Brig Lewis.
jesse said:
Any history buffs can add to my search re. my fathers W.W.2 mob the R.W.A.F.F. in Burma? I've never met any other man who served in this regiment.
I think some of these units were rebadged Reconnaissance Corps and served as Inf Div Recce Regiments in Burma. Not sure of the detail.

There are some good accounts available of the Burma campaign and these will tell you more.


My father in law served in the 50's as a reg Sapper subby, he was OC of the Engineer Sqn and although he sadly passed away this year he is remembered by a few others from there, (REME etc). He was there at about the end of Suez.
The Royal West African Frontier Force formed two divisions for service with XIVth Army, as well as a few anciliary units such as Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiments and the like for service in other areas of SEAC.

3rd West African Brigade, consisting of three battalions of the Nigeria Regiment, was separated from 81st (West African) Division and added to Wingate's Chindits.

81st (West African) Division (minus 3 WA Bde) went into action in December 1943, on the extreme left flank of Indian XV Corps, penetrating deep into the Kaladan Valley (which runs parallel to the Arakan coast, but about 50 miles inland and separated from it by a number of mountain ranges and the Kalapanzin Valley), with the intention of taking the river-ports of Kyauktaw and Myohaung, thereby cutting the Japanese 28th Army's MSR to the 56th Division in the Arakan.

The division travelled extremely light - the only MT was a small number of Jeeps and a few 4x4 15cwts carrying the ammo for the division's twelve 3.7-inch howitzers. Everything else was carried by the 'Human Carriers' of the West African Auxiliary Groups - these were not porters, but enlisted soldiers who carried everything on their heads, including 80-pound engines for recharging radio batteries and even huge jars containing battery acid... invariably with a bush hat perched on the top. Each man of the Auxiliary Groups also carried a matchet and a grenade or two, while every third man had a firearm. The Auxiliary Groups would collect air-dropped supplies along the route of march and also cut airstrips out of the jungle, which enabled casualties to be quickly casevac'd out by light aircraft and even allowed C-47s to fly in reinforcements - up to and including a troop of Bofors Guns and even a herd of white oxen, dyed jungle green (both of which were bloody useless and not what the division wanted or needed - although the oxen were welcome fresh rations)!

This division travelled on a scale of equipment so light that not even the Chindits matched it - and the Africans successfully survived on air supply for six months, which was double what the Chindits managed.

However, after initial successes and a phenomenal march through 'impassable' terrain, the Japanese 28th Army finally turned its attention to the Africans and mounted a counter-attack out of Myohaung. This, allied with GOC XV Corps' failure to provide promised support, allied to XV Corps' contradictory orders for the division to attack both west and east simultaneously, forced the division to withdraw from contact - most of the division withdrew to the west, into the Kalapanzin Valley, while part withdrew north, fighting a final battle with the Japanese/INA advanced guard at 'Frontier Hill' (Mowdok) before the monsoon set in.

After the monsoon, 81 WA Div returned to the Kaladan, retracing its steps all the way down to Kyauktaw. However, the Japanese had been busy in the intervening months and the approaches to Myohaung were heavily fortified. This time however, XV Corps' promises of support were partially met and close air support was much more in evidence than during the First Kaladan Campaign.

Reinforcements arrived - the 82nd (West African) Division. The two divisions launched a concerted assault on Myohaung and finally took the town, cutting the Japanese line of retreat out of the Arakan. Duty done, the 81st Div was withdrawn and returned to Africa while the 82nd WA Div carried on - linking up with the 3 Commando Bde landings at Kangaw and sealing the fate of the Japanese 56th Division.

As mentioned, while all this was going on, the 3rd West African Brigade was fighting as Chindits. Many histories pooh-pooh their contrbution as merely 'guarding the strongholds', but this is patently untrue - the Nigerians executed a campaign of manoeuvre against the Japanese as well as any other Chindit Brigade.

One other unit was 81st (West African) Recce Regiment. Being equipped with Carriers and LRCs, they were unsuited to operations in the jungly Kaladan, so remaind with XV Corps as the Corps Recce Regiment, seeing considerable action alongside 5th & 7th Indian Divisions at Maungdaw and Razabil. Afterwards, they became a water-borne recce regiment, operating alongside 3 Commando Brigade and others in operations along the Arakan coast and up its many creeks and mangrove swamps. The regiment rejoined the 81st Division in time for the 2nd Kaladan Campaign.

'War Bush' by John A L Hamilton is the history of the 81st WA Div and is one of the best divisional histories available for the entire Burma Campaign.

Does that help any?


My grandfather served with the 82nd division from 1939-1947,never really talks about his time in burma but did show me his palmtree badge with rwaff on it and a silk pilots map he skivied from a plane one time,also he said the nigerians were bulls of men and never complained about the conditions!


Book Reviewer


I am brand new at this but here goes - help me if I should trip up.
I recently came into possession of a small suitcase of photographs belonging to an uncle and aunt, now deceased. Among all the packages was a collections of pictures belonging to my uncle of his time with RWAFF during the last war.
Very few of the pictures have any identification, but after some rooting about it was clear that my uncle had served some time, up to the rank of sergeant, in what looks like somewhere in Nigeria.
The number of photos is considerable, including many of himself along with some of his mates; his 'boy' (his term) and other 'boys'; as well as various group shots - including a higher ranking officer. But there are no names or locations!!
One in particular is shown taken at what I presume was the entrance to a particular camp, and shows a flagpole at the foot of which is a concrete plinth with the regiment's design (a palm tree) and the name of the regiment underneath.
Is any of this of interest to this particular discussion group? If so, how should I proceed?
I have scanned some pictures now into my computer. These are available for attaching.


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Attach them, attach them, I'd love to see them:

When you make a post, or reply to a post, you will see a number of icons above the text box, click on the square with 4 black corners and what looks like a tree in it. It will give you the option of uploading an image from either your computer or from an online source eg. your photobucket account.


I will have to put you on hold for a bit as I see that this website does not support 'tiff' files, which includes the majority of my pictures. I will have to re-scan all my pictures to 'jpeg' files instead. That will take a while.
I was at the Remembrance Sunday parade in Lagos, Nigeria last November at the CWGC plot and took a few photos. There were a variety of Regiments though I only took pictures of Sapper graves, being my main interest. Mostly RWAFF though. If anybody wants them emailed to someone who is better able than I to upload pics then pm me.


I have just made this one as a start. It shows two unknown men standing at what may be the entrance to a barracks/camp, alongside a flagpole at the foot of which is a plinth showing the regimental insignia and the regimental title -"West Africa Wing".

I hope this works.


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I have just made this one as a start. It shows two unknown men standing at what may be the entrance to a barracks/camp, alongside a flagpole at the foot of which is a plinth showing the regimental insignia and the regimental title
I hope this works.
Try again your PERSEC just went straight out the window, I take it you tried that via your computer?

If you want, forawrd them to me via e-mail (I'll PM you my addy if you want) and I'll post them for you. Do you have a photobucket account?

CaptainCalamity check PMs

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