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Civilian Casualties from British Military: The East African Mutinies

This section provides a detailed account of recorded civilian casualties that resulted from the British military’s involvement in the East African mutinies.

When did this conflict occur?

20th January, 1964^ – 27th January, 1964*

^ – Violence first erupted on the 20th of January, 1964, when members of First Battalion, the Tanganyika Rifles, mutinied at Colito Barracks near Dar es-Salaam, seized key points around the capital, and captured Defence Minister Kambona to issue their demands. [1]

* – The final large-scale military act of the East African Mutinies occurred on the 25th of January, 1964, when a Royal Marine assault force launched a raid on Colito Barracks with an amphibious task group in support. [2]

What is the background to this conflict?

January of 1964 saw the eruption of three separate mutinies among the armed forces of newly independent Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. All three mutinies originated in the former battalions of the King’s African Rifles, a regionally based infantry regiment of the British Army with territorial battalions raised in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi. The regiment’s eight battalions were composed largely of unskilled Africans transformed into a disciplined fighting force through the manipulation of social and ethnic identities; British colonial officers isolated African enlisted men from wider society and encouraged them to view themselves as superior to the local civilian populace. [3] This, combined with economic incentives and strict discipline, forged a sense of exclusivity and a robust esprit de corps among African colonial soldiers. [4] The post-independence period in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, however, brought this sense of exclusivity into question. New national governments emphasised the need for economic, education, and healthcare reform, while measures such as improving pay or living standards for enlisted servicemembers remained a low priority. Simultaneously, resentment in the former KAR regiments grew as the process of Africanisation, whereby senior positions would be occupied by Africans as opposed to British officers, stalled due to a lack of secondary education among African infantrymen: on the eve of the mutiny in Tanzania, for instance, more than 50 British commissioned and non-commissioned officers had been retained to command the Tanganyika Rifles. [5] Violence finally erupted between the 20th and 24th of January, 1964, as the former KAR regiments of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania mutinied. Local troops quickly seized strategic points around all three countries, captured armouries, and detained their British commanding officers. The British government responded with force and quickly put down the three mutinies by the 27th of January, with just four mutineers killed. [6] In Kenya and Tanzania, the former battalions of the King’s African Rifles were disbanded and never re-raised while, in Uganda, numerous mutineers were reinstated by the national government and steps taken to improve pay as well as opportunities for local servicemembers to assume officer roles. 

What role did British military forces play?

By 1964, the British military in East Africa had been significantly reduced. Though the United Kingdom retained limited numbers of servicemembers in the region, the sudden outbreak of the mutinies forced the government to mobilise its strategic reserves. In Tanzania, the site of the first mutiny when members of both battalions of the Tanganyika Rifles mutinied in Dar es-Salaam and Tabora, the British intervention centred on a maritime task force which included the light carrier HMS Centaur as well as 45 Commando Royal Marines. Limited fighting erupted in Tabora, and three mutineers were killed in a brief exchange of fire with the 45 Commando assault force. [7] In Uganda, British troops from First Battalion, the Staffordshire Regiment, carried out a similarly brief assault on Jinja Barracks and succeeded in retaking the camp in under ten minutes with no mutineers killed. [8] The attempted mutiny Kenya, however, differed in its poor organisation and the rapidity of the British response; British servicemembers from the 3rd Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery arrived at Lanet Barracks within 20 minutes and immediately isolated the mutineers, firing at any who attempted to slip through British lines. One Kenyan troop, Pte Simon Kirpop, was killed in the process, and the mutiny quickly collapsed. [9]

Can a figure of civilian deaths due to British military action be determined?

Yes. Over the course of the East African Mutinies, there were 0 confirmed killings of civilians by British military forces. Similarly, 0 British military personnel died in the conflict. [10]

Are there any trends or incidents of note?

While no non-combatants were killed as a result of the British military intervention in East Africa, one Kenyan civilian was alleged to have been injured by fire from the 3rd Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery on the 24th of January, 1964. [11]


[1] Baynham, Mark, “The East African mutinies of 1964,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 8, no. 1 (1989): 159-160. doi: 10.1080/02589008908737487

[2] BRITISH PUT DOWN AFRICAN MUTINIES IN THREE NATIONS; London Sends Troops After Calls From Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda; 3 DIE AT DAR ES SALAAM; Action Lasts 40 Minutes—Warships in Indian Ocean Fire Blank Ammunition, The New York Times, 1964,

[3] Parsons, Timothy, “The Lanet Incident, 2-25 January 1964: Military Unrest and National Amnesia in Kenya,” International Journal of AFrican Historical Studies 40, no.l (2007): 58-59.

[4] Parsons, “The Lanet Incident,” 59.

[5] MacRae, Christopher and Tony Laurence, “The 1964 Tanganyika Rifles Mutiny and the British Armed Intervention that Ended It,” The RUSI Journal 152, no.2 (2007): 96. doi: 10.1080/03071840701350065

[6] Baynham, “The East African mutinies of 1964,” 163.

[7] MacRae and Laurence, “The 1964 Tanganyika Rifles Mutiny and the British Armed Intervention that Ended It,” 98.

[8] Baynham, “The East African mutinies of 1964,” 166.

[9] Parsons, “The Lanet Incident,” 62.

[10] Baynham, “The East African mutinies of 1964,” 163-167.

[11] BRITISH AID KENYA AS HER SOLDIERS MUTINY OVER PAY; Third Army Revolt in Week Occurs in East Africa—Nairobi Asks Help; TROOPS CLASH AT CAMP; London Sends Commandos—Also Lands Forces in Tanganyika After Plea, The New York Times, 1964,