Monday 14 November 2011

Forgotten Heroes?

Jonana Mungai, King's African Rifles, Burma
With matters domestic curtailing any wargames oriented activity I've been browsing the internet for 28mm Early War WW2 figures which is throwing up surprising gaps bearing in mind you are supposed to be able to buy any figure you want in any scale for any war (I can't find 28mm WW2 Dutch, Hungarians and Norwegians for starters).

For some reason as google-fuing often does I ended up reading some really interesting online articles on the East African campaign in 1941 (did you know the Congolese Force Publique fought against the Italians? No, neither did I...). What I found increasingly frustrating though was how little could be found on colonial units of both sides that fought in the campaign, especially when it came to photographs of these troops. Both the British and Italians employed African troops in this campaign but it is really hard to find much in the way of photographic evidence, especially of the Italian Askaris.

However the growing theme I found was how little respect there is for the colonial troops of WW2 and their contribution in the various theatres of the war. Since 'Empire' has become a dirty word it seems that the historic colonisers rarely celebrate the veterans of ex-colonies and in the independent countries the fact they fought in  the "white man's war" (a direct quote off one Kenyan website about Burma) means their sacrifice gets ignored there (especially in those countries who did not become independent until post-WW2).

King's African Rifles, East Africa, 1941
Whatever the rights and wrongs of colonialism it cannot be right that these brave soldiers are airbrushed out of history just because we are supposed to be ashamed of our Imperial heritage and ex-colonies feel that their pre-independence history is one were resistance to the Imperial power is good and taking the salt was akin to collaboration ("white man slave soldiers" is a common, and in my view derogatory, phase used about soldiers like the King's African Rifles).

So what has this to do with wargaming? Not a great deal I suspect, however I am now determined that I will make some effort over the next twelve months to raise some small units of WW2 colonial troops such as the KAR and Burmese Naga as a small reminder of those that lost their lives in WW2 fighting for the allied cause were not all of European heritage. If their homelands feel they cannot recognise their contribution in the war against the Axis, there is no reason why we should not, even if only on the tabletop.


  1. I think East Africa in WW1 incorporating the many colonial units involved would be fascinating to game.

  2. Your right, the first I knew about these units was your post, these people do deserve a bit more recognition for their efforts. I'll look forward to your figure updates for this period. I suppose at a pinch you could use 15mm FOW Aussies for the KAR, don't know who sells 25mm Aussies???

  3. @Ray - I think I've worked out a way to do 28mm KAR which might involved some headswaps. Easier for Burma with the Warlord and TAG ranges...

    @Paul - WW2 mate! :-) I've actually weakened and bought some plastic figures to convert into something very irregular! :-)