Alhaji Grunshi of the Gold Coast Regiment fired the first shot on 12 August 1914 in the German colony of Togoland. Grunshi survived the war to become a regimental sergeant major decorated with the Military Medal, Distinguished Conduct Medal and a Mention in Despatches.
A reasonable amount is known about Alhaji Grunshi because of his decorations.
The first confirmed Commonwealth casualty under fire was his comrade Private Bai, who was killed on 15 August 1914, probably at Agbeluvoe, 50 miles north of the city of Lomé, capital of Togo. Virtually nothing is known of Bai – only one of his names is given – although his name is recorded on paper and online by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Bai’s name does not appear on any memorial, however, for no African names were engraved on the memorial to the Gold Coast Regiment’s fallen at Kumasi in Ghana.
On 21 February 1917, at 05:00, this ship was rammed in the English Channel near the Isle of white; it was cut almost in half by the 11,000 ton cargo liner the SS Darro, causing the SS MENDI to sink.
A total of 607 Black South African soldiers and nine of their fellow countrymen, drowned in the disaster. After the War, none of the black servicemen on the Mendi, surviving or dead, was awarded a UK war medal. Nor was any other member of the South African Native Labour Corps, although their white officers were decorated. This was the result of a South African Government decision.
Jagama Kello, middle, left home at just 15 to fight Italian invaders
Go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8344170.stm
In 1914, Southern Nigeria was joined with Northern Nigeria Protectorate to form the single colony of Nigeria. The unification was done for economic reasons rather than political—Northern Nigeria Protectorate had a budget deficit; and the colonial administration sought to use the budget surpluses in Southern Nigeria to offset this deficit.
The image below shows the document at the National Archives, London with which the amalgamation of Nigeria was done.
British War Department produced a number of publications marking the contributions of the colonies to World War II efforts. This is about Nigeria:-
“NIGERIA FOR VICTORY: COLONIAL RESOURCES ARE VITAL TO THE WAR EFFORT”
There is no part of the far flung British Empire which may not be called upon during this war to defend itself from attack. There is no part of the Empire which has not responded nobly to the call, and Nigeria is playing an important part towards achieving Allied victory.
Nigeria has her own regiment in the Royal West African Frontier Force. This Nigerian regiment has seen action in Abyssinia, Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. In the Abyssinia fighting, the Nigeria regiment has a wonderful record. One of its soldiers, No. 200123 Sapper Abdullai Fort Lamy, was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the successful crossing of the Omo River. Against a very strong current he swam with a rope, in constant danger of being swept away. He got the rope across safely, enabling a pontoon bridge to be erected and a successful crossing to be made. This is just one of the many decorations that have been awarded to Nigerians.
There are many Nigerians fighting with the Royal Air Force, and the first Nigerian to be commissioned with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve is Pilot Peter Thomas, whose sister was West Africa’s first woman magistrate. Men from Nigeria have also seen service in the London ‘blitz’ with the National Fire Service and Air Raid Precaution Services.
Compulsory military training for Europeans up toe the age of 45 has been introduced in Nigeria. The Nigerian MARINE, equipped as a Naval Defence Force, has bee giving active assistance to the Royal Navy. Nigeria is contributing to the war effort in other ways as well. Her extensive tin mines are helping to send more weapons to the battle areas. This tin is vitally important for making engine bearings for Army lorries and for the railway engines which transport finished armaments to the docks for shipment abroad. Nigeria is also an important producer of cotton, used for making tropical uniforms for desert warfare, and of the hides and skins necessary for Army boots and belts and flying kit for Royal Air Force pilots. Rubber production is increasing rapidly.
In many colonies, economic councils or development committees have been set up to organize the expansion of home grown agriculture in order to free more merchant shipping for the desperately important task of taking troops and supplies to battle zones. Nigeria is now producing her own wheat flour, rice, butter, sugar, dried fish and bacon under this scheme. Nigerians realize that shortage of certain commodities is unavoidable in war time, but that victory will mean the return of merchant shipping to carry their produce all over the world and bring good to Nigeria as well.
A wonderful modern achievement is the building of the great Lagos Harbour where ocean-going ships can be berthed, thus enabling convoys to call at this port and fetch the valuable tin and other exports needed so badly by Great Britain’s war factories.
Gifts from Nigeria have been both extensive and generous. The Emir of Katsina personally gave 5,000 GBP for a tank which has been named after him, the Government of Nigeria sent 100,000 GBP to the United Kingdom for the prosecution of the war and the ‘Win the War’ Fund sent 15,000 GBP to buy aircraft. Up to the end, of September 1942, the total subscribed by Nigeria for aircraft had reached 124,331 GBP. Other gifts comprised a mobile canteen, which saw duty during the bombing of London, and a Flying Food Squad. Nigerian have also invested large sums in National Savings.