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World War One: Armed Forces - Rhodesia

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World War One: Armed Forces - Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the settler society in Southern Rhodesia, then administered by the British South Africa Company, received the news enthusiastically. The Company administrator, Sir William Milton's response was "All Rhodesia ... ready to do its duty".

Parties of white Southern Rhodesians immediately paid their own way to England to join the British Army. Most Southern Rhodesians who served in the war enlisted in this way and fought on the Western Front, taking part in many of the major battles with an assortment of British, South African and other colonial units, most commonly the King's Royal Rifle Corps, which recruited hundreds of men from the colony, and created homogenous Rhodesian platoons.

Troopers from Southern Rhodesia became renowned on the Western Front for their marksmanship, a result of their frontier lifestyle. Some of the colony's men served in the Royal Flying Corps, one of the two predecessors of the Royal Air Force. The Rhodesia Regiment, the Rhodesia Native Regiment and the British South Africa Police served in the African theatre of the conflict, contributing to the South-West African and East African campaigns.

It was one of the few territories not to raise fighting men through conscription. However, proportional to white population, Southern Rhodesia contributed more manpower to the British war effort than any other dominion or colony, and more than Britain itself. White troops numbered 5,716, about 40% of white men in the colony, with 1,720 of these serving as commissioned officers.

The Rhodesia Native Regiment enlisted 2,507 black soldiers, about 30 blacks scouted for the Rhodesia Regiment, and around 350 served in British and South African units. Over 800 Southern Rhodesians of all races lost their lives on operational service during the war, with many more seriously wounded.

Since the territory's reconstitution and recognised independence as Zimbabwe in 1980, the modern government has removed many references to the war, such as memorial monuments and plaques, from public view, regarding them as unwelcome vestiges of white minority rule and colonialism. The Zimbabwean cultural memory has largely forgotten the First World War; the country's war dead today have no official commemoration, either there or overseas.

This project aims to honour the Rhodesians who fought and/or died during or as a consequence the war. Please assist by linking the GENi profiles of Rhodesian WW1 armed forces to this project

References and Sources

List of Notable Scottish soldiers in alphabetical order

  • Lieutenant Daniel "Pat" Judson, the first airman of Rhodesian birth

Rhodesian soldiers

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