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A Malawi Hero of World War I

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Corporal Stima DCM, 1st King’s African Rifles

Corporal Stima rare and interesting group of medals (photograph courtesy of John Arnold’s book The African Distinguished Conduct Medal)

Corporal Stima was a soldier who served in many campaigns in Africa. Recruited into The British Central Africa Rifles he sailed around southern Africa to fight in Ashanti (now Ghana) during the 1900 campaign. He then fought against dervishes in Somaliland with the newly-formed King’s African Rifles in 1903 to 1904, and one of the clasps on his medals shows that he was in action at the tough battle of Jidballi when over 600 enemy were killed. But it was during the First World War that he excelled himself, displaying tremendous bravery and being awarded two of the coveted African Distinguished Conduct Medals.

When the Germans from German East Africa (now Tanzania) invaded northern Nyasaland in September 1915 there was stiff fighting at Karonga and Kasoa. Corporal Stima, serving in 1st King’s African Rifles, fought at Kasoa, taking over and firing a British machine gun when the Nyasaland Volunteer gunner, Gordon Merriman, was mortally wounded. Before he died Gordon was insistent that Corporal Stima should be recognised for his skill and bravery, as machine gunners very quickly became targets for the enemy to kill. This led to the award of an African Distinguished Medal with the citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and tenacity at the action of KASOA on 9th September 1914, in handling a Maxim after Mr. Merriman, Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve, who was in charge had been mortally wounded.

Corporal Stima, now with the letters DCM written after his name, soldiered on in 1st King’s African Rifles, and in 1917 he was fighting as a machine gunner with his comrades at Tandala in German territory. A German column had broken away from its main body in south-east German East Africa and was heading northwards, but in its way was Corporal Stima’s company of KAR Askari commanded by Captain Alexander Masters. The Germans were much stronger than the KAR, the fighting was fierce and half the KAR became casualties, the remainder having to withdraw. Two Askari remained with the machine guns, Corporal Stima and Private Saiti and although the guns were too heavy to carry away under enemy fire, the two Askari disabled them. For their gallantry both Askari were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation for both men read:

These two men at TANDALA (German East Africa) on 19th February 1917 were sole survivors of two maxim (machine gun) teams with a Company of King’s African Rifles which was attacked by four hundred enemy. They did their utmost to destroy the guns under heavy rifle and maxim fire. Corporal Stima eventually brought in the lock and feed-block of one gun, Private Saiti being wounded in the head. Their action was a magnificent example of devotion to duty without consideration of personal danger, and was beyond praise.

Alexander Masters was awarded a Military Cross for his leadership and bravery during the battle.

Corporal Stima survived the war, and his rare and interesting group of medals (photograph courtesy of John Arnold’s book The African Distinguished Conduct Medal) show the Distinguished Conduct Medal on the left with a bar on the ribbon for the second award; the Ashanti Medal 1900; The African General Service Medal showing clasps for service in Somaliland and Nyasaland; three medals denoting service in the First World War, the third one displaying a bronze oak leaf to signify a Mention in Despatches; and finally a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

Well Done Corporal Stima DCM – a true Malawi warrior!

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