Royal West African Fronter Forces.

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
RIP

Ethan

Crow
Forgot to caption the photos (I put them on the previous page) but they're of the RWAFF from Zaria, Nigeria, 1947 and 1948.

My grandfather fought in Burma, but with the Reconnaissance corps, he spent time in the RWAFF post-war, and Nigeria was my grandparents' first married posting.
 
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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.
One of my dad's mates did his National Service with the Sierra Leon Regiment in the 50's.




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Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
On Loan Service in Sierra Leone 2001, I was in Bumbuna trying to get some Chinese 75mm Recoillesss Rifles working, ("Challenging" is the word that comes to mind, as the chinks seem to believe that weapons should be made out of rice paper and dog shit, then held together with a lick of green paint - a bit like a Humber Pig or an RB44), and I was introduced to a very old gentleman proudly wearing WW2 medals and a RWAFF capbadge in the most threadbare beret I've ever seen. On exercising my even more threadbare knowledge of Krio and coaxing him to work on his dodgy English, it turned out he'd been in the service of HM King and then Queen up to independence in '63. I can't for the life of me remember what medals he had but there were at least two campaign stars, so he must have had an eventful time.
 
Forgot to caption the photos (I put them on the previous page) but they're of the RWAFF from Zaria, Nigeria, 1947 and 1948.

My grandfather fought in Burma, but with the Reconnaissance corps, he spent time in the RWAFF post-war, and Nigeria was my grandparents' first married posting.
It's the hockey connection that has prompted me to post.
My late parents-in-law were both in Nigeria at the same time. F-i-L had gone out to Nigeria with the Colonial Service in early 1939 and was subsequently drafted into the RWAFF for the duration of the war.
At the end of hostilities, he went back to the Colonial Service as a district officer, spending time up-country and in Lagos.
At the end of the war, my M-i-L was in Palestine (I believe commissioned in the ATS) and remained there until the bombing of the King David. She returned to London, then gained a post as a Nigerian Hansard reporter. She arrived in Nigeria sometime in 1948.
A keen hockey player, in her youth, on arrival in Lagos she noted that there were men's hockey teams, but no ladies playing.
She enquired as to why, was told that 'it was not the done thing' and that, if she insisted, she would have to take it up with a certain district officer, apparently O i/c Hockey, when he returned from up-country. But, she was warned, he would throw a blue fit at the notion of women's hockey teams.
Clearly, she won her argument, and they subsequently married in in Lagos in 1949.
 

judyp

Crow
I have only just discovered this site. My father was with the 82nd WA Division as a Signals officer. A couple of times he mentioned being in Rangoon, but that was all he ever said about his time during the war. I have a photo of his which is dated 1944, but that is all. Isn't it a shame that we didn't ask the questions when the men were still alive? I didn't know what he was doing in Burma until I saw the Griff Rhys Jones' programme, and started to so some research.
 

Drew5233

Old-Salt
A quick search of Royal West African Frontier Force shows 84 different unit war diaries at the National Archives. Happy to narrow it down for you if you have more details.

Cheers
Andy
 

judyp

Crow
Hi Andy. What sort of info would you like to narrow it down? I know the Unit he was with came from Sierra Leone, and that he was in Freetown and was in the Gold Coast at some point. I don't know his army number, but think there is a site where I can find that out, but not sure what it's called.
 
Dad's now 94, and has a strange mix of dementia & incredible memory of details of his Service history. He spent time in the Gold Coast (Ghana) & Nigeria/Lagos.

Shipped out of Freetown 28th May, 1944 via Gib, Alexandria, Suez Canal, to the intended destination of Bombay (East coast of India). Actually disembarked in Karachi (West coast) July 1944, then troop-train across India to Calcutta.

He may well have known my Uncle Geoff then.
Seconded from the Wiltshire Regt. joined RWAFF and went to Ghana to train up a battalion.
The strange thing is they shipped out for the fight against the Japs via Durban, South Africa.
I know this because he went down with Blackwater Fever soon after they sailed, died and was buried in Durban.
 

Drew5233

Old-Salt
Hi Andy. What sort of info would you like to narrow it down? I know the Unit he was with came from Sierra Leone, and that he was in Freetown and was in the Gold Coast at some point. I don't know his army number, but think there is a site where I can find that out, but not sure what it's called.
Looks like you need a copy of his service records. For example searching for Sierra Leone part of the RWFF for 1942 gives three returns

WO 173/445 1 Sierra Leone Regiment 1942 Jan.- Dec.
WO 173/446 2 Sierra Leone Regiment 1942 Jan.- Dec.
WO 173/447 3 Sierra Leone Regiment 1942 July - Dec.

There's also Gold Coast Regiments etc. So in short you need to know the exact regiment, the date with it and the battalion of that regiment.
 

judyp

Crow
Thank you for that. The only photo I have is dated 1945, but not sure when he got there. I will try to get his service number and any other records I can. Thank you for your help
 
Hi

My mother's cousin, Arthur Clarence Newling, served with the RWAFF in a heavy AA unit in the Burma campaign. All I know about this is a note from my late aunt which mentioned my Uncle Geoff (who was a regular Engineer attached to the 14th Army) meeting him on a ferry from Calcutta to Chittagong around 1944.

Has anyone got any pointers as to where best to start following this up?
 
My grandfather was a Captain (Maj acting) with Gold Coast troops in Burma during the war. I think he was a signals officer. I have his medals, cap badge, and service number, but beyond there not sure where to start looking up even which division he was in, although I imagine it was the 81st. I'm certainly going to get the War Bush book so thanks for the recommendation! Where should I start looking? I know he was mentioned in dispatches on the 5th of April 1945, but I'm not sure for what. I grew up with him in the house, but he never talked about the war. He had already served ten years in the RAF until 1938 on the North West Frontier, but in 1939, de-mobbed, he took a boat to the Gold Coast with his wife. War was declared while at sea and he went straight to the recruiting station from the docks, before even going home, but alas they wouldn't let him re-join the RAF from that place. Quite a man to have had in the house.

Here he is, clearly in the jungle, in a photo dated 1943 on the back.

 
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@BennettC - you can track him in the London Gazette, for both his commissioning dates and his MiD: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/

Or through The National Archives:

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

Having said that, the LG search engine is not user-friendly: use Google and search 'London gazette' followed by his full name and service number if known.

As a direct descendant, you can apply for his full Service records:

https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records/apply-for-someone-elses-records

though you will need to provide a copy of his Death Cert (assuming Dad is no longer with us?!)
 
@FourZeroCharlie - Cheers! I have found his MiD in the Gazette (where I found his service number) but it just gives the date (5th April 1945). Additionally I found the date he received his commission, and the rank status of his 'War Subs' (was this his pension?). There is something you might be able to help me with - in the Gazette issue that mentions his MiD, he is listed as being in the 'General List' not the RWAFF - what does this mean?

I've tried the National Archives site, but the site can't load the pages I'm looking for when researching West African units.

I think I'll apply for his full records - I'm afraid he passed away in 1999.

Thanks for the help!
 
@BennettC - glad to have been of some help.

War Subs = War Substantive rank: that is, he was a 'Hostilities Only' Commission (possibly commissioned from the ranks?) - nowt to do with a pension, I'm afraid!

'General List' was a catch-all phrase, usually reserved for those officers who had yet to be confirmed to a Regt or Corps.

As to researching how he was awarded an MiD...........meh-you may never get a full answer, particularly if it was awarded for good work over a period of time.

However

You may find this site of interest: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/55325-rwaff-in-india-burma-1944/

Plus, buff up your Google Fu and search 'RWAFF World War 2/Two': there are some books out there. Also, you may want to look at TNA (National Archives), particularly WO 172/6590 series.

Edit: My bad: the WO number I quoted is for the other Division, though I'm sure both War Diaries are in there somewhere.
 
Thanks again @FourZeroCharlie !

He was an enlisted airman from 1928-38, but reenlisted in 1939 in the army, I think directly to 2nd Lieutenant - at least the gazette gives his commission date as Jan 1st 1940. He was promoted to acting Major during the war, so probably related to that I think.

I've ordered 'War Bush' ( ) from Amazon and I'll get my Google Fu on this evening! Many thanks!
 
I found the following links fascinating as context. They go a long way towards explaining why the West African Frontier Force is probably the most forgotten of all the units in Slim's 'Forgotten Army':

Sound recording:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8201717.stm. West African veterans of Britain's World War 2 Burmah campaign recall their exploits and lament a lack of recognition of their bravery.


Thesis:
Pylväinen I: ‘Bwanas in Burma’ BA Hons Thesis April 2010, Wesleyan University , Middletown, Connecticut . http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1420&context=etd_hon_theses (a really fascinating exposition of British Colonial attitudes towards African troops in WW2).
 

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