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Barracks: The History Behind Those Names (Part 4)

continued from part 3




Nowa Omoigui




In the first three installments, we reviewed the history behind the names of US Army, AirForce, Naval and Marine Barracks. In this penultimate installment we shall discuss British Barracks, very briefly touch on Ghanaian Barracks and then introduce Nigerian Barracks. In the fifth and final installment, we shall discuss the names of Nigerian Barracks in depth, and then conclude with some observations and recommendations which tie in and learn lessons from all the examples we have used from other countries, taking Nigeria's peculiarities into account.


Since the Nigerian Army was created by the British, and early traditions were established by British officers, a review of naming practices for British Barracks is pertinent even if only as a template for evaluating Nigerian customs. Researching the historical and geographical maze of Military Barracks in Britain can, however, be a daunting task. 

In England Barracks include Tidworth Barracks, Windsor Barracks, Knightbridge Barracks, Salamanca Barracks, Moore Barracks, Berwick Barracks, Ravensdowne Barracks, Brookwood Barracks, Seton Barracks, Colchester Barracks, Brompton Barracks etc. 

In Scotland they include the Redford Cavalry Barracks, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the largest surviving cavalry barracks in the UK.  Others include  Redford Infantry Barracks, Kilchurn Castle, Fort George, Fort Augustus, Fort William, Ruthven Barracks etc.  Some of these have been closed and are of historical interest only.

In Ireland, because of the long period of Irish Republican Army (IRA) related unrest there, British Army Barracks (excluding the Royal Ulster Constabulary) include a great many which have only recently begun to be slowly dismantled.  Examples include Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn; Ebrington Barracks, Derry;  Drumadd Barracks, Armagh; Abercorn Barracks, Ballykinlar County Down; Lisanelly Barracks Omagh County Tyrone; Palace Barracks, Hollywood County Down; St Patrick's Barracks, Ballymena County Antrim; Alexander Barracks, Aldergrove, County Antrim; Mahon, Portadown, County Armagh; Shackleton Barracks, Derry; Bishops Gate (Masonic Hall) Barracks, Derry; North Howard Street Barracks, Belfast; Fort Jericho, Belfast; Girwood Barracks, Belfast; Musgrave Barracks, Belfast etc.   British Army Garrison Camps include Ballykinlar Camp, County Down; Magilligan Camp, County Derry; Kinnegar Camp, Hollywood, County Down; Long Kesh Camp, Lisburn and Moscow Camp, Belfast. 

Royal Irish Regiment Barracks include Steeple Road Barracks, Antrim; Magherafelt Rir Barracks, County Derry; Anderson Centre, Ballykinlar; Saint Angelo Barracks, Enniskillen; Saint Lucia Barracks, Omagh County Tyrone; Malone Barracks Windsor Park Belfast; Cookstown Barracks etc.


Until the early eighteenth century, British soldiers used to be billeted in homes with private citizens or in rented motels. Barns and inns, however, became insufficient for troop living and sleeping needs. Citizens complained about costs.  In addition, desertion was difficult to control.  Thus, the very first British barracks were built in Ireland in 1713. But barracks were not constructed in England until 1721. Berwick Barracks was England's first infantry barracks, designed by Mr. Nicholas Hawksmoor.

Construction and maintenance of barrack buildings was initially the responsibility of the Ordnance department until it was disbanded in 1855. Barracks varied in size and design but they were typically organized around a barrack square. Usually overcrowded, troops  were allocated only 200-300 cubic feet of air per man.  In comparison, prisoners were allocated a minimum of 600 cubic feet of air per man.  This state of affairs continued until the sanitation revolution of 1857 swept the military and experience during the Crimean War forced a change in policies. 


Royal Marines and Engineers Barracks are usually named after their place of location.   Examples include Royal Marine Barracks, Plymouth; Royal Marine Barracks, Chivenor; Royal Marine Barracks, Southsea; Royal Marine Barracks at Chatham, Kent; Royal Marine Barracks, Eastney; Royal Engineers barracks, Chatham or lower Gillingham etc.  Similarly, Royal Artillery Barracks are named geographically, e.g. Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich etc.

Royal Naval Barracks on the other hand, have ships' names.  Examples include HMS Drake Armada/Fleet in Devonport;  HMS Cambridge etc.

Royal Air Force Barracks are typically named geographically.  Examples include RAF Mountbatten, Plymouth; RAF Lakenheath; RAF Chivenor; RAF Instow; RAF Manston etc.

British Army barracks, as opposed to Naval or Marine barracks, are named on the basis of various principles, usually depending on the whim of the units resident there at the time of the naming ceremony.  This often occurs at the time they are built or undergo a major overhaul.   However, once named, it is highly unusual for the name to change - for any reason.   Interestingly, most Traditional Regimental Barracks are named after very important personalities or concepts associated with the regiment resident there at the time of naming.  Examples include Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, Surrey; Buller Barracks, Aldershot; Browning Barracks, Aldershot; Victoria Barracks, Windsor; Wellington Barracks, London; etc   These names carry  indisputable weight in British Political and Military History.  HRH The Princess Royal, is none other than Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter.  General Sir Redvers Buller was the Commander of British Forces in South Africa (1st Army Corps) during the Boer War until he was superseded by Field Marshal Lord Roberts following successive British defeats in December 1899 and January 1900.  Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning was the first GOC of the famous 1st Airborne Division during World War 2.  It was he who introduced the maroon beret as the headdress for the Division and adopted the Pegasus symbol - Bellerophon astride winged Pegasus - as the emblem of British Airborne Forces in general.  Queen Victoria needs no introduction.   The Duke of Wellington commanded British forces at the battle of Waterloo which effectively ended the Napoleonic Wars. Templer Barracks in Ashford  is named after a former Intelligence Corps Director.  Lieutenant-General Gerald Templer (also known as the "Tiger of Malaya") was High Commissioner and Director of Operations in Malaysia during the Malayan Emergency.  He is credited with the counter-insurgency military campaign and 'Hearts and Minds' policy which defeated the communist Malayan Races Liberation Army.   Tactics perfected for the SAS under Templer  have since been employed all over the world in low intensity operations designed to isolate  insurgents from their base of support while simultanously introducing reforms that can erode their appeal.     Mercury Barracks in Rothenbach/Birgelen was named after the planet Mercury - messenger of the gods. It was so named by the Royal Corps of Signals. The Corps Cap Badge shows "The figure of Mercury holding a Caduceus in the left hand, the right hand aloft poised with the left foot on a globe all silver above the globe a scroll inscribed 'Certa Cito' and below on each side six laurel leaves all gold, the whole ensigned with the Crown in gold."   The Corps motto "Certa Cito", means "Swift and Sure".

On the other hand, shortly after a war or military campaign, new barracks are typically named after a significant battle honour or some significant location during the war associated with the particular regiment or corps for whom the barracks is being built. Examples include Peninsula Barracks, Warrington; Salamanca Barracks, Aldershot; Bourlon Lines, Catterick; Cambrai Barracks, Catterick; St. Omer Barracks, Aldershot; Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn; Louisberg Barracks, Borden; etc.  

Most might associate the term "peninsula campaign" with Union Major General George B. McClellan's unsuccessful effort in 1862  to end the Confederate rebellion in the US by sailing the Army of the Potomac south to the peninsula between the York and James Rivers in Virginia, from where he planned to  assault Richmond, the Confederate capital and end the war. However, in British eyes, the term refers to a series of events during the first Empire of Napoleon I (1808-13).  The French had occupied Portugal and Spain. Therefore,  Britain sent General Sir Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) to the Iberian Peninsula with orders to evict them.  Five years later the French were eventually driven out of Spain and back into southern France. The Salamanca Barracks in Aldershot more specifically commemorates Wellington's victory at Salamanca on July 22, 1812 during the Peninsula campaign.  Wellington successfully occupied Madrid and then tried to advance to seize Burgos which he failed to do asa result of insufficient siege equipment.   This resulted in a terrible retreat, which he described as "The worst scrape". Nevertheless, he eventually prevailed and threw Napoleon out of most of Spain.

At the Catterick Military Community, North Yorkshire, Cambrai Barracks is named after the epic 1st World War battle of November 20th, 1917 when 300 British Mark IV tanks led by Brigadier Hugh Elles, broke through the German Hindenburg Line and almost reached Cambrai in northern France.  'Bourlon Lines' is more specifically named after the famous battle of Bourlon Wood in 1917 during WW1 on the Western Front.  The Wood was the left flank of the epoch-making British tank attack at Cambrai.  However, ground was lost.  Finally, on 27th Sept. 1918,  the Canadian Corps decisively carried out an assault river crossing of the Canal Du Nord, overran German defenders at Bourlon Wood, and later seized Cambrai, Denain, Valenciennes and Mons enroute to the Rhine. 

St. Omer is a little town close to the Channel Ports of France at Calais and Dunkerque.  It is on the Train route between Arques and Bologne enroute to St. Eloi and Armiens along the River Somme.   Contiguous to many World War 1 battlefields like Ypres, Somme, Messines etc., in World War 1 it was a major logistics point, tactical airfield and repair depot as well as strategic reconnaisance airbase for patrols over the north sea coast.  During World War 2, it formed part of the perimeter of escaping British Forces at Dunkirk.  The uncompleted underground German Wizernes V2 Bunker  was  later located near St.-Omer. Construction began after the destruction of the Watten bunker; but was captured by invading Allied troops before it became operational. 

Thiepval Barracks is named after the village of Thiepval in France.  It was a key component of the bloody battle of the Somme during World War 1 which started on 1st July, 1916. British, Commonwealth, and Empire soldiers died in their thousands trying to break out from Thiepval Wood up the hill towards the fortified Schwaben Redoubt.

Louisberg Barracks is named after Fort Louisberg, an important strategic objective during the French-English War in North America.  Britain needed the Fort in order to enable her gain control of the St. Lawrence sea way as the first step in an attack on Quebec. An armada of British Ships took the Fort in June 1758, nearly destroying it in the process.  After the capture of Ohio Valley, in 1759 British units under General James Wolfe tried unsuccessfully to take Quebec via an approach from the St. Lawrence sea way.

In a major military encampment, say, for example, where a number of different unit barracks are co-located in one area, it used to be the practice that each one would be named after a battle in the same general campaign or area of operations. For example, all the barracks in Tidworth were named after Indian battles and locations like Lucknow, Kandahar, Meerut, Delhi etc. 

Many barracks are named after the location in which they are situated. When this happens they are often (but not always) referred to as "Camps", "Lines" or "Garrisons", rather than Barracks.   Examples include Blandford Camp; Longmoor Camp; Rheindahlen Garrison; Lo Wu Camp. In Germany, the British of the Rhine (BAOR) barracks was named along similar lines. However, there are exceptions.  For example, Maindy Barracks, Cardiff is located in Maindy and is the home headquarters of the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (Welsh Cavalry).  Lumsden Barracks at Fallingbostel, between Hanover and Hamburg houses the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment as part of the 7th Armoured Brigade (Desert Rats).   In the case of the Barracks in the Ruhr area taken over by 43rd Welsh Division in 1945 (mainly former Luftwaffe flak kasernen) they were named after the home towns of the Territorial Army regiments in the division. Thus, one can see records of names like Glamorgan Barracks, Duisburg; Wrexham Barracks, Mulheim; Carnarvon Barracks, Dusseldorf; (all of which have been closed).

Criteria can also be combined.  Garats Hay Barracks in Leicestershire is an example, with the Barracks named by location, but blocks and lines within the Barracks are named after Battles.  In Catterick, the accommodation blocks/lines are also named after battles.   Other Barracks are named after functional Army Corps regiments, like 11 Signals Regiment barracks and 8 Signals Regiment barracks.


In Ghana, the main Army base in Accra is now called Burma Camp, commemorating the WWll Burma Campaign in which West African forces (including Nigerians) served. It used to be known as Giffard Camp, named after General Sir George Giffard who was GOC-in-Chief, West Africa in 1940. He later commanded the 11th Army Group under Mountbatten in Burma from November 1943-44.  The name was changed when Ghana became independent. Within Burma camp, there are Barracks - such as the Arakan Barracks, named after the Arakan campaign in Burma.  (Interestingly, the Zambia National Defense Headquarters in Lusaka is located in an Army Base that is also called 'Arakan Barracks' - and Nigeria has an Arakan Barracks as well.)

On the other hand, in Ghana, Tamale and Tema Barracks are geographically named.  There are also other Barracks in Ghana but there will not be the focus of this essay.


We will now end the essay by returning to Nigeria to discuss the historical basis of the names of various Barracks in the country.

There are very many Barracks in Nigeria and, as in other countries, some are now disused.  Disused Barracks (and Barrack names) will, however, be discussed, particularly if there is some historical value to the discussion.  It should be noted that Nigerian Air Force Bases are geographically named, e.g. NAF Base Makurdi, NAF Base Ikeja, NAF Base Abuja, NAF Base Jos etc. Most Naval Barracks are also geographic - although the Tamandu Barracks in Lagos is historical, named after the town of Tamandu in Burma during the WW2 Arakan campaign.  Army Barracks and Cantonments include (but are not limited to):


Abalti Barracks
Ikeja Cantonment
Ojo Cantonment
Bonny Camp
Dodan Barracks
An Barracks
Myohaung Barracks
Arakan Barracks
Tego Barracks
Colito Barracks


Bori Camp


Adaka Boro Barracks


Awkunanaw  Barracks


Bukavu Barracks
Janguza Barracks


Giwa Barracks
Maimalari Barracks


Ribadu Barracks/Cantonment
Kotoko Barracks
Dalet Barracks
Mogadishu Barracks


Kachia Barracks


Sobi Barracks


Bassawa Barracks
Chindit Barracks


Obienu Barracks


Lafenwa Barracks


Benin (Ekenwan) Barracks
Benin (Ikpoba) Barracks
Benin (S &T) Barracks


Auchi Barracks


Rukuba Cantonment


Letmauk Barracks


Warri (David Ejoor) Barracks


Camp Wu Bassey
Fort IBB (former Fort Obasanjo)
Sani Abacha Barracks
Yakubu Gowon Barracks
Aguiyi-Ironsi Barracks
Gado Nasko Barracks
Zamani Lekwot Barracks
Imani Barracks, Suleja 
Katsina Barracks
Keffi Barracks
Okitipupa Barracks
Calabar Barracks
Onitsha Barracks
Makurdi Barracks
Yola Barracks
Sokoto Barracks
Badagry Barracks
Owode Barracks




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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.