Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
From "Glover’s Hausas" to 4 Guards Battalion - 141 years later
The month of June has special significance to the Nigerian Army. The oldest unit in what is now known as the "Nigerian Army" was born on June 1st, 1863. It was established as a force of 80 men by then Lt. (RN) John Glover, later Administrator of Lagos, when he had to travel overland to Lagos following a ship wreck at Jebba. This article chronicles the history of the unit over time, to the extent that available records permit. It is part of "research-in-progress" and can, therefore, be expected to be updated from time to time.
The original unit, comprised at the outset of runaway Hausa slaves and known initially as "Glover’s Hausas", then renamed "Hausa Militia" or "Hausa Constabulary" in 1865, and later the "Lagos Constabulary" in 1873, is currently known as the 4 Guards Battalion, Brigade of Guards, based at Lungi Barracks, Maitama, Abuja.
As far as the Lagos Colony was concerned, the period between 1863 and 1900 was very fluid politically. With the backing of the Constabulary, Sir John Hawley Glover, R.N., served as governor first from 1864-1866 and then as "administrator" from 1866-1870. The change of status was caused by the fact that Lagos was temporarily placed under Sierra Leone, and then subsequently, from 1874 until 1886, Lagos was placed under the Gold Coast Colony. In between, various so called "Administrators" took turns. However, after the Berlin conference, Lagos became a so called "Crown Colony". It was Sir Cornelius Alfred Moloney, who had been an administrator from 1878 - 80 and then served as Governor, first from 1886-1889, and then from 1890-91, that aggressively opened up relations in the hinterland, usually with a threat of or show without actual use of force, since British rule was mostly accepted without resistance in most of Yoruba land. Nevertheless, there was a major military expedition from May 12-15, 1892 against the Ijebu, in which elements of the Niger Coast Constabulary took an active part. With no further resistance, an order in council was later issued in 1899 to extend the protectorate over Yoruba land.
A detachment of the Hausa (Lagos) Constabulary had previously been mobilized and taken to Gold Coast (now Ghana) where they took part in the Asante war of 1873 – 74. Following the war, Lagos was politically administered under the Gold Coast. Meanwhile the "Hausa force detachment" was deployed at Elmina and subsequently formalized as a separate Gold Coast Constabulary (in 1879), which eventually gave birth to the Ghana Army and Police. The parent unit, however, remained in Lagos – and was itself "regularized" in 1879 by a formal Ordnance administratively defining a separate Constabulary for the Colony of Lagos, as opposed to that for "The Gold Coast". It did not for long, however, remain the only constabulary force in existence in what later became Nigeria.
In 1886, following the 1885 proclamation of a British protectorate over the "Oil Rivers", the "Oil Rivers Irregulars" came into existence. During the same year, the "Royal Niger Company Constabulary" was created as the private militia of the Royal Niger Company. The Royal Niger Constabulary set up its Headquarters at Lokoja.
When, in 1891, the "Oil Rivers Protectorate" changed its name to the "Niger Coast Protectorate" the "Oil Rivers Irregulars" became the "Niger Coast Constabulary" (NCC), later regularized in 1893 under the command of British officers, based at Calabar. It has been written that the indigenous component of the NCC force was made up of "one-third Yorubas and two-thirds Hausas".
Following the French occupation of Bussa in Borgu Emirate, the British government decided to make contingency plans for a military conflict with France, which it regarded as encroaching on British mercantile interests in what was known as the "Niger area". In these circumstances what became known as the West African Field Force was created by Colonel Lugard and expanded from a core of draftees drawn initially from the Royal Niger Company Constabulary. The 1st battalion of this force was created on August 26th 1897. Two additional battalions, the 2nd and 3rd, were created in 1898.
This particular Anglo-French face-off did not degenerate to military conflict, but there were already proposals on the table for the consolidation of all British constabulary forces in West Africa. Meanwhile, it had been suggested, on January 8, 1897, through a newspaper article by Miss Flora Shaw (who later became Lady Lugard) that the term "Niger-Area" be changed to "Nigeria" . That is how "Nigeria" got its name.
The War Office in London, citing well-known principles of war, had been putting pressure on the Colonial Office using the argument that centralization of military command would lead to better coordination, economy of force and military efficiency in the scramble for West Africa. This resulted in the establishment of a committee under Lord Selborne. The work of the committee led to the formal separation of Police (irregular) from Military (regular) functions and the consolidation of all colonial forces – Lagos Constabulary, Gold Coast Constabulary, Sierra Leone Frontier Police, Niger Coast Constabulary, Royal Niger Company Constabulary and the West African Field Force into what became known as the West African Frontier Force, under an Inspector General.
In late 1899, therefore, the Niger Coast Constabulary, 3rd Battalion West Africa Field Force, and the Royal Niger Company Constabulary were merged to form what became known in early 1900 as the Southern Nigeria Regiment, West African Frontier Force.
In May 1900, the consolidation of the 1st and 2nd battalions of the West African Field Force and Royal Niger Constabulary companies based in Northern Nigeria, led to the formation of the Northern Nigeria Regiment, West African Frontier Force, under Lugard.
The Gold Coast Regiment, West African Frontier Force, was not formed until August 1901. The Gambia Company, The Sierra Leone Battalion, West African Frontier Force, and The Sierra Leone Battalion, West African Frontier Force were not formed until November 30, 1901. In order of precedence, therefore, the Southern and Northern Nigeria Regiments were senior to the others.
Meanwhile, at least in part a response to War Office pressures, since January 1896, a "Lagos Police Force" had been created, separated from the more military "Lagos (Hausa) Constabulary." Subsequently, as part of the new Frontier Force arrangements, in 1901, the "Lagos (Hausa) Constabulary" formally became known as the Lagos Battalion, West African Frontier Force. The remnants of the Niger Coast Constabulary and the Royal Niger Company Constabulary companies were merged to form the Calabar Battalion, West African Frontier Force.
In February 1906, when the Colony of Lagos and Southern Nigeria were merged, the Lagos Battalion was redesignated as the 2nd battalion, The Southern Nigeria Regiment. The rest of the The Southern Nigeria Regiment (including the Calabar battalion) became known as the 1st Battalion, The Southern Nigeria Regiment. In spite of the change of name from "Hausa Constabulary" to "Lagos Constabulary" and then "Lagos Battalion", the unit continued to be viewed and described by the British as a predominantly "Hausa" unit. Forty Eight (48) years after its creation, according to the 1911 edition of "Encyclopedia LoveToKnow",
Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that the term "Hausa", like "Sepuy" in India was sometimes used, not in an absolutely accurate ethnic context, but as a generic term for "soldier."
On January 1st, 1914, consequent upon the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, The Southern Nigeria Regiment was merged with The Northern Nigeria Regiment to form The Nigeria Regiment, West African Frontier Force. From this point on, the various colonial battalions (initially comprised of eight companies each) took on new designations, with specific numbers, which they have retained to this day, with minor modification.
The 1st Battalion of 1914 was the former 1st Bn Northern Nigeria Regiment. The 2nd Battalion of 1914 was the former 2nd Bn Northern Nigeria Regiment. The 3rd Battalion of 1914 was the former 3rd Bn Northern Nigeria Regiment. The 4th Battalion of 1914 (which is the subject of this paper), was the former 2nd Bn, Southern Nigeria Regiment (and thus the former Lagos Battalion, former Lagos Constabulary, former Hausa Constabulary, former Hausa Militia (or Guard) and original "Glover’s Hausas.") On the other hand, the 5th Battalion of 1914 was the former 1st Battalion, Southern Nigeria Regiment.
Various re-designations have occurred since then. The 4th battalion, however, retained its number, as part of The Nigeria Regiment, although, along with other Nigerian battalions it was rotated from time to time from one part of the country to another. During World War 1, when the number of battalions was expanded to nine (9), it was known as the 4th regiment, West African Frontier Force, attached to the Kings Own Lancaster Regiment. In 1920, after the war, the number of battalions were reduced to four but then expanded back to five, several years later. The West African Frontier Force itself later became the Royal West African Frontier Force in 1928. Just prior to WW2, the unit was known as the 4 Bn, Nigeria Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force. During World War 2, it was known as the 4th Battalion Nigerian Rifles. The Nigeria Regiment became The Queen's Own Nigeria Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force in 1956, Royal Nigerian Army in 1960 and The Nigerian Army in 1963 (when Nigeria became a republic).
The last colors of the RWAFF used by the unit were reportedly presented to it in 1952 by Sir John Stuart Macpherson, GCMS, then the Governor General of Nigeria. The colors were retired in 1960 when Nigeria became independent and remain to this day preserved in the Battalion Officers Mess.
To the best of my knowledge, the descriptor phrase "4th" was re-simplified to the number "4" in late 1956. The unit was based in Kaduna in the early fifties, and thus responsible for the honor guard parade when Queen Elizabeth visited the Kaduna Race Course in February 1956. However, as of October 1st, 1960, when Nigeria became independent, the old 4th battalion (then known as the 4 Queens Own Nigeria Regiment (4QONR)) was back again at Ibadan, capital of then Western Region, it’s original location just prior to the Second World War. On June 1st, 1963 it celebrated its centennial anniversary and was presented with the Freedom of the city of Ibadan (West African Pilot, June 10 1963). This was symbolized by a key presented by the late Sir Isaac Akinyele, then Olubadan of Ibadan, to then Lt Col. Kur Mohammed, the first indigenous Commanding Officer of the battalion, who was later murdered in cold blood during the January 1966 coup by Major Christian Anuforo.
After Nigeria became a republic the unit became known as "4NA" or "4 Battalion." Subsequent minor alterations in nomenclature (while still retaining the number "4") have been driven by changes in its role and responsibilities, as will be apparent as we delve deeper into its history. Indeed, it is the only battalion in the Nigerian Army that has served as Infantry on foot, motorized Infantry, Airborne and most recently as a Guards Battalion.
Over the years (since Independence) it has served under the 2nd Brigade, 1st Brigade, 1 Division, 3 Marine Commando Division, 3 Armoured Division, 82 Division (in the Bakassi Peninsula) and most recently under command of the Guards Brigade, Nigerian Army. Following a complete breakdown in discipline, the battalion was redeployed from Ibadan to Kaduna in September 1966, and then repositioned at the border of then Benue-Plateau and East Central States in June 1967, just prior to the civil war. It operated along the Oturkpo – Umuahia axis under the 1st Division during the war. Its last major battle in that unfortunate conflict was the capture of Ovim. At the end of the civil war it was located at Nkwere (in present day Imo State) until 1974 before it redeployed to Owerri (present Imo State). It later moved to Ogoja (Cross-River State) in 1981. It moved from Ogoja to Takum (in Taraba State) in 1992. The unit moved from Takum to Archibong Town in the Bakassi peninsula in April 1995 before being redeployed to its present location in Abuja in 2000. The unit mascot is the Lion, symbolic of strength.
To place its evolution over time in better perspective, however, let us return to the colonial era.
THE COLONIAL ERA
During the colonial era, usually bare-footed troops were outfitted in shirts and shorts as were other units of the WAFF (later RWAFF). This later transitioned to trousers with boots. As might be expected, the progenitor "Lagos Battalion (ie "Hausa Constabulary") took part in many colonial battles and wars of occupation and colonial enforcement, for which its officers and men received the African General Service Medal and Clasp. The last of these was the Egba uprising of 1916. (I have not yet been able to establish whether the battalion was the one that opened fire during the suppression of the so-called "Aba Women’s riots" of 1929-30). Externally, in addition to its earlier role during the 2nd Ashanti war of 1873, "honors" were conferred for its role during the 3rd Ashanti war of 1900. Internally, there were 43 "punitive expeditions" between 1900 and 1914. Soldiers of the Lagos Battalion received British "honors" for their role in the Aro campaign from 1901-02.
World War 1
As the 4th regiment, they were drafted in late 1914 to take part in the British invasion of German Kamerun, which ended in 1916 after which they were later deployed as part of the campaign against Von Lettow in East Africa until 1918. On the home front, in 1916, Lugard deployed troops in an internal security role to crush an Egba uprising, killing 500 - 1000 Egbas over two months.
Between World Wars
Between the world wars, like other Nigerian units, the 4 Battalion, Nigeria Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force, occasionally helped to enforce tax collection. That aside, first in 1926, and then in 1932, the battalion won the now defunct "Machine Gun Trophy". In June 1936, the unit conducted the "Trooping of the Colour" ceremony on His Majesty King George V's birthday. In early 1943, it won the Enugu Garrison Athletic Championship shield - permanently.
World War 2
Although some official Nigerian sources claim it did, there is some controversy over whether or not the 4th battalion actually took part in the Ethiopian campaign (against the Italians) to restore Emperor Haile Selassie to power. There is evidence that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions of the Nigeria Regiment fought in the Ethiopian campaign as part of the 23rd (Nigeria) Infantry Brigade based at Mitubiri. Small detachments of Nigerian troops also reportedly served with British forces in Palestine, Morocco, and Sicily. But I have not been able to pin down their parent units. Perhaps a detachment of the 4th battalion (rather then the entire unit) played a role in Ethiopia as well but this requires additional research.
Nevertheless, it is not debatable that the 4th battalion took an active part in the campaign in Burma.
Along with other elements of the 6th (West Africa) Infantry Brigade (initially under Brigadier J. W. A. Hayes, DSO ) of the 81st West African Division, the 4Bn arrived in Bombay, India, on August 14th, 1943, after a sea voyage from Nigeria. After training and refitting, the Brigade deployed to Burma on December 8th 1943 and took part in the Arakan campaign. Along with its parent division, the 4Bn finally left Burma for India on March 18th, 1945.
The 6th Brigade consisted of the 4th Battalion, The Nigeria Regiment, the 1st Battalion, The Sierra Leone Regiment and the 1st Battalion, The Gambia Regiment. The 4th Battalion, The Nigeria Regiment was then under the command of T/Lt. Col. Charles Walwyn. It played a key role during the advance down the Kaladan valley.
According to eye-witnesses, the advance began on January 18th 1944 with the 6th (West Africa) Brigade leading along the east bank of the river. Troops got their baptism of fire on January 24th near a town called Paletwa. By mid-February the 6th (West Africa) Brigade had occupied the village of Kaladan. On February 25th, during an assault river crossing of Pi Chaung river, the 4th Battalion, Nigeria Regiment, seized Kyauktaw and Apaukwa.
Later on, following a lull during the campaign, the 4th Battalion, Nigeria Regiment, supported by the Royal Air Force, unsuccessfully attacked a 2940 feet high and very steep jungle mountain, Mowdok Taung, on October 11th. A few days later, on October 14th, supported by another ground attack sortie, the battalion finally seized the feature when the Japanese slipped away to avoid complete encirclement. At this point the battalion, nursing many casualties, was tasked, along with the 22nd Anti-Tank Regiment, to protect the rear of the advance in that area of operations.
In a letter of commiseration dated October 13th, 1944, written by the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 4th Battalion (Lieut. Colonel C. E. D. Walwyn ) to the wife (Mrs. Reeve) of a wounded NCO, Sgt. James A Reeve of "A" company, (and shared by the now late NCO’s son, Stewart Reeve) the CO remarked,
This comment by Lt. Col. Walwyn should be seen in the context of an observation made by General Slim, then Commander of the Burma Corps, when he visited West African Troops of the 81st Division when they were training near Bombay in India before deployment to Burma. According to Slim,
AFTER WORLD WAR 2
In 1958, the unit won the now defunct Nigerian Military Force (NMF) inter unit combined weapons match.
Beginning in October 1959, Nigerian battalions were sent to Southern Cameroons to pacify the area following reports that Bamileke cadres involved in an uprising against the French in Francophone Cameroun were crossing the border into the Anglophone area (Bamenda) and using it for rest, recreation, training and staging. The first unit deployed there was the 1QONR from Enugu. However, from February 1960 (until May), the 4QONR (now under the command of Lt. Col. Rolo E. C. Price) was tasked to go by sea from its base at Ibadan to a small town called Kumba, 50 miles from Buea, to protect the southern flank of the 1QONR based at Bamenda. The 4QONR was later replaced by the 3QONR while the 1QONR was replaced by the 5QONR. Both of these units were replaced by the 2QONR.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s actions were viewed as supportive of the hated French. When Nigeria became independent in October 1960, therefore, the Premier of Southern Cameroons, citing the possibility of partiality of Nigerian troops during the upcoming UN supervised plebiscite asked all Nigerian troops to leave the Southern Cameroons region (including the Bakassi peninsula). Nigerian troops, having withdrawn to the border between Nigeria’s Eastern region and the Southern Cameroons, were then replaced by British troops from the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment.
Viewed through the prism of distinct historical periods, the operational history of the 4 Battalion after Independence in October 1960 encompasses,
TO BE CONTINUED
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.