Uniforms of the Nyasaland Police, 1914

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Uniforms of the Nyasaland Police, 1914

Post  Per Finsted on Thu 05 Jun 2008, 5:46 am

I am looking for information on the uniforms worn by the Nyasaland (native) Police during the First World War.

"17 District Police, and 15 additional police" took part in the defence of Karonga, a small village in the northern part of Nyasaland (now Malawi) on 9 September 1914, together with 39 men of 'K' Coy, 1st King's African Rifles, and about 10 European members of the Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve. (From “A Short History of Karonga” P.J. Howson, Malawi Society Occasional Papers 1971-73)

Information on the Nyasaland Police, and especially their dress at the time, appears to be scarce, so I am hoping that members of this forum may be able to assist me.

Information on the Battle of Karonga can be found in The Battle of Karonga (Clash of Steel).

Information on the Nyasaland Police can be found in Mathieu Deflem's Law Enforcement in British Colonial Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Imperial Policing in Nyasaland, the Gold Coast, and Kenya
(University of South Carolina).

Further, Lieut.-Colonel G. M. P. Hawthorn's despatch in the London Gazette of 1 August 1916 contains the official report of the early actions in Nyasaland, see Hawthorn's Nyasaland Despatch (The Long, Long Trail)

Per


Last edited by Per Finsted on Thu 05 Jun 2008, 6:37 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Link update.)

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Uniforms of the Nyasaland Police

Post  Per Finsted on Fri 06 Jun 2008, 10:09 am

Since asking my question about the Nyasaland Police in 1914, I became aware of the Nyasaland Police Association web site.

It has unfortunately nothing on WW1, but a few interesting photos and a 1959 "video" from a shooting range. A photo in "Mike Bowery's Photos" shows the "Queen's Birthday Parade, Port Herald, June 1962". The police askari appears to wear the same "Helmet Shako" as worn by the native policemen in British South African Police from about 1941 to 1964 (ending in 1971). (Souce: Richard Hamley's "The Regiment - An Outline of the History of the Uniforms of the British South Africa Police", published by T.V. Bulpin and Books of Africa, Cape Town, 1971.)

Further, the front page of the web site shows a 1971 Malawian stamp, with a Police drum major. He wears a black fez (with a white hackle). Perhaps this indicates that the Police carried on the "black fez" tradition of the 1st King's African Rifles. However, in the Birthday Parade photo, a Native wearing a red fez is standing in the background (to the right).

Per

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Re: Uniforms of the Nyasaland Police, 1914

Post  T1 on Sat 07 Jun 2008, 8:26 am

Hi Per

The police in Nyasaland were definitely wearing red fezzes by 1901, as this was used in a major inquiry to distinguish them from black fez wearing soldiers of the Central African Regiment. Until 1899, the army wore black fezzes with their 'best' uniform and red fezzes with their fatigue uniform, so this may be the date at which the red fez became a police item. Photographs from circa 1905 show policemen wearing KAR style khaki uniforms, with the addition of coloured facings (on pointed cuffs, shoulder straps, and - unusually - on the pocket flaps and on a strip of cloth behind the buttons) and on broad stripes on the khaki shorts. A similar uniform was being worn in the early 1920s. The police seem also to have worn the typical blue jersey from about 1900, and this too was still being worn in the interwar period. Brown leather equipment, as worn by the Army in Nyasaland from the 1890s, was retained by the police throughout the period. I would imagine that the jersey would have been the most likely permutation for combat at Karonga.

It is hard to be certain of the colour of the facings, as the Nyasaland Police as an organisation was only formed in 1921. It was preceded by localised 'District Police', and the Blantyre Town Police. The latter apparently wore a blue uniform until 1916, when khaki with red facings was adopted.

The black fez with white tassel was worn by the police band in the 1970s (and probably earlier) and was doubtless copied from the army band, which then wore the black fez with a yellow tassel. Presumably the adoption of the BSAP style shako had already displaced the red fez as the special mark of the police.

Tim

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Uniforms of the Nyasaland Police, 1914

Post  Per Finsted on Sun 08 Jun 2008, 6:46 am

Hi Tim,
Thank you very much for this information, including the basic history of the Nyasaland Police before 1921.

Most helpful.

Per

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