Coastweek-- Commonwealth War Graves Commission has
been busy in Mombasa rebuilding the damaged Cross of Sacrifice
at the CWGC Cemetery at Mbaraki and scanning the African
Memorial to the Missing at Mwembe Tayari.
“The African Memorials to the
Missing,” says David McDonald, Technical Manager
(Works) Africa at the Commonwealth War Graves
Commission (CWGW), “which are also known by other
names such as “the Askari Memorials” or “African War
Memorials”, were constructed after the First World
War to commemorate all African soldiers and carriers
who had died and whose final resting place was
McDonald was in Mombasa this week with
Luke Abbott and Ben Williams from 3D Scanners UK Ltd,
for the first phase of an exciting conservation project
to record and preserve the Memorials in perpetuity.
Starting at the African Memorial in
Dar es Salaam and finishing in Nairobi, the team have
been using specialist equipment and extreme expertise,
to create 3D digital replicas, accurate to within 1mm.
of each memorial.
In addition to allowing CWGC to
preserve a permanent record of the memorials appearance,
the 3D Scanning process will allow for the accurate
manufacture of pieces that have been broken over past
McDonald [right], Technical Manager (Works) Africa,
Commonwealth War Graves Commission with James Willson
author of ‘Guerrillas of Tsavo’ get up close and
personal to the African Memorial to the Missing at
Mbwenbi Tayari during the 3D scanning of the monument.
“Visitors to the Memorial will notice
for example that the Carrier no longer has the staff which
he was leaning on,” McDonald continues “we would very much
like to restore this to make him look more comfortable.”
Specialist cleaning and repairs are
expected to begin in June this year to bring all the Memorials
back to their former pristine glory.
This project is particularly important
as it offers us all the opportunity to remember those Kenyans
who lost their lives in East African Campaign of the First World
Although Europe is where the majority
of the ‘Great War’ was fought, the people of Africa and the then
Colonies of Britain, Germany, Belgium, France and Portugal were
not spared from the four years of conflict. It was inevitable
that the German and British colonies which shared common
frontiers would clash.
British East Africa, today Kenya, and
neighbouring German East Africa now Tanzania, both had similar
numbers of European settlers, who quickly formed and organised
themselves into field companies.
10 days after Britain declared War on
Germany and her Allies, the German colonial forces;
under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Paul von
Lettow-Vorbeck, invaded British East Africa through
Taveta pitting 16,000 German Colonial troops against
nearly 300,000 British Colonial Troops.
In Kenya nearly 25 per cent of the
then African population of 4 million was recruited to
service with the forces in some form.
Four years and three months after War
was declared, an Armistice was signed at the 11th
hour of the 11th day of the 11th
month in 1918 bringing the ‘Great War’ to an end.
Statistics for the number of military
and civilian casualties as a result of the war vary
greatly, but an estimated 18 million died and 23 million
wounded across Europe, Africa and the Middle East,
making it the deadliest conflict in history at that
Approximately 34,000 East African
combatant troops and around 600,000 non-combatant
porters, stevedores and followers of the Military Labour
Corps were lost, killed in action, died of sickness or
James G Willson, Author of “Guerrillas
of Tsavo” states that “this is why the memorials located
in Mombasa, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are so important
in helping us all to remember the service and hardships
endured by so many during 4 long years of bitter
fighting in the dense bush, forests, mountains and
plains of East Africa”.
In 1917 the Commonwealth War Graves
Commission (CWGC) was formed through a Royal Charter to
help us honour the men and women of the Commonwealth
forces who died in the First World War (and later the
Second World War) and to ensure their sacrifice would
never be forgotten.
The CWGC in Kenya are now responsible
for First and Second World War commemorations to 8,282
named individuals at 37 beautifully kept cemeteries and
memorials throughout Kenya.
On 25th November 2018 the
final centenary event, commemorating the end of the
First World War will take place at Mbala, Northern
Zambia, where it is hoped that contingents from the
African countries involved in the conflict, will come
together to commemorate the sacrifices made by their
War Graves Commission Technical Manager Graham Walder
supervising the replacement of the Cross of Sacrifice at
the CWGC Cemetery at Mbaraki led by CWGC Stone Masonry
Trainer David Lamb. The project was a huge success and
saw the broken pieces removed and replaced in just over
3 days. The original arms of the cross were reinstalled
along with the iconic sword. While in Kenya Mr. Lamb was
able to provide invaluable training for the Kenyan
masonry team. A first for the current CWGC team who had
not undertaken works of this nature previously in East
Why Mbala and why the 25th and not the 11th
Willson explains that “By November
1918 the German forces that had been chased through East Africa
and Mozambique were in Northern Zambia but without any radio
communications with Berlin.
“When the Armistice was signed on 11th
November, von Lettow-Vorbeck did not believe the British
claims that the war was over until some days later when
using a British wireless set to get confirmation from the
German High Command in Berlin.
“Von Lettow-Vorbeck was then ordered
by the British to march his troops up to Mbala (then called
Abercorn) where the official laying down of arms was
arranged for the 25th November 1918, 14 days
after the Armistice.”
This made the East African Campaign
the longest campaign of the First World War.
The CWGC Kenya team are also
investigating plans to install a visitor’s interpretation centre
near the monuments, to showcase the important history of the
memorials and the people they commemorate.
For more information:
Visit the CWGC comprehensive website
www.cwgc.org where you can learn about what and how
they do their work,
explore their archives, and find the locations and
backgrounds to the cemeteries and memorials that they
Combine a trip to the First World War
exhibition at the Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge with an exciting
historical adventure through some of the forts, battlefields and
memorials in the area.
Buy a copy of “Guerrillas of Tsavo”,
James G Willson’s illustrated diary recording the actions and
tribulations of the East African Campaign in East Africa.
Books are available from Paper
Connections in Nyali; Kant’s Stationers, opposite
Mombasa Law Courts and online at