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The Carrier Corps was a military organisation created in Kenyamarker in World War I to provide military labour to support the British campaign against the German Military forces in East Africa, commanded by Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.

Whereas von Lettow armed and trained African Askaris to create an effective guerrilla force able to live off the land; the British attempted to deploy Indian Army troops under General Smuts and keep the King's African Rifles as internal security troops, with limited success. Not only were they unused to the terrain, the need to feed a large body of foreign soldiers presented severe logistical problems, as troops in the interior had to be supplied over long distances without rail or road lines of communication. To deliver one kilogram of rice to the interior it could take 50 kilograms of rice at the coast—most of it being consumed en route to feed all the porters needed to carry it inland.

The British Administration formed a military labour organisation, the Carrier Corps, which ultimately recruited or conscripted over 400,000 African men for porterage and other support tasks.

The effect on many of the native East African population, then still largely tribal, of being mobilised and then enduring considerable suffering for a remote and largely irrelevant foreign cause had significant effects in the long term, both highlighting the fallibility of the European presence in Africa (as armed askaris readily killed white men), and raising the political awareness of Africans as to the need to stand up for their own interests.

The organisation of the carrier corps was a remarkable feat of improvisation by a small number of officials of the East African Protectorate's administration, under a District Commissioner Lt Col Oscar Ferris Watkins. Watkins and his officials faced a constant struggle against the British military's excessive demands upon the Carriers and to conscript further native manpower.

The Carrier Corps is commemorated on the War Memorial in Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobimarker.

Several East African towns have quarters named after the carrier corps presumably because members of the corps were given housing in these places. Such quarters include "Kariakor" in Nairobimarker and quarters called "Kariakoo" in Dar es Salaammarker and Dodomamarker.

See also

Further reading

  • Hodges, Geoffrey The Carrier Corps - Military Labour in the East African Campaign 1914-18. Greenwood Press NY 1986
  • Paice, Edward, Tip and Run: The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007, ISBN 0-297-84709-0.

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