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Destroyed by Fire - Medals of a proud African officer & Ruler go up in flames.

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

Captain Daudi Chwa II with his Aide Lieutenant Prince Yusuf Suuna Kiweewa

Kabaka Daudi Chwa II of Buganda

Daudi Chwa II was born in August 1896, the fifth son of the Kabaka (ruler) of the Kingdom of Buganda in Uganda. Twelve months later British forces deposed his father and appointed Daudi Chwa as the Kabaka; when his coronation took place he was just one year old.

On 8th August 1914 he requested a commission in the British Forces and was appointed an Honorary Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion of the King’s African Rifles, which was based in Uganda. The London Gazette entry read: “His Highness Daudi Chwa, Kabaka of Buganda, is granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant in the Army. Dated 8th August, 1914.”

When war broke out in France and Germany Buganda offered 5 Chiefs and 500 spearmen to go and fight the Germans. This generous offer was modified by the British to raising a force of levies, the Uganda Armed Levies, which was then retitled to be the Baganda Rifles, and their service was confined to East Africa. The Baganda Rifles was trained and equipped as an infantry battalion with a strength of 555 all ranks. Most of the officers came from the Uganda Volunteer Reserve.

For the first two years of the war the Baganda Riflemen were employed on the Kagera River Front just south of the border between Uganda and German East Africa. Here theypatrolled and worked in support of army units holding the line, and the Riflemen assisted in securing Sango Bay on Lake Victoria where the Royal Navy Lake Flotilla landed supplies and reinforcements.

Medal Index Card of His Highness Daudi Chwa II

In 1916 the Baganda Rifles and His Highness Lieutenant Daudi Chwa II took part in the advance into German East Africa as part of the British Lake Force, starting with an amphibious landing on Ukerewe Island which was an important rice-growing area for the German troops, and a very useful wood-fuelling station for Lake steamers. On 9th June 1916 the steamer Usoga landed the Baganda Rifles, East African Scouts and the machine-guns of the 98th Infantry, Indian Army, on the eastern end of the island, which lies north-east of Mwanza.

The previously published article “The Capture of Ukerewe Island, Victoria Nyanza” describes the action.

On 12th July 1916 the British moved onto the mainland to attack the German garrison holding Mwanza, the largest German port on Lake Victoria. A description of the capture of Mwanza and the pursuit of the Germans down to the German East African Central Railway appears in the previouly published chapter “The Capture of Mwanza and the British Advance to the German Central Railway”.

The German gun recovered from the sunken cruiser “Konigsberg” and used to defend Mwanza was doubtless moved back to Uganda at the request of His Highness Daudi Chwa II. Photo shots of the gun both at Mwanza and Jinja, Uganda, appear in the above mentioned article.

The exterior of the main Kasubi Tomb before the first fire

On reaching Tabora, which had been taken by the Belgians before the British arrived, Lake Force was disbanded. The Baganda Rifles, although effective and well supported by their Kabaka and Chiefs, moved back to Uganda and disbanded at Entebbe on 08 November 1916.

Many Riflemen from the disbanded unit then joined the King's African Rifles and continued their active service in German & Portuguese East Africa.

Sadly it appears as though the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has not yet commemorated the deaths of any members of the Baganda Rifles. However over 230 Medal Index Cards for Baganda Riflemen can be found in the Public Record Office, Kew, England.

His Highness Daudi Chwa II, a staunch supporter of the British war effort, was appointed Honorary Captain in late 1917. The London Gazette entry read:

“The date of the appointment of Honorary Lieutenant His Highness Daudi Chwa, Kabaka of Buganda, to be Honorary Captain is 22nd September 1917”.

The interior of the Kabaka's Tomb before the first fire

His Highness Daudi Chwa II was awarded the British 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. In recognition of his efforts for the Allies, on 1st January 1918 he was appointed an Honorary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG). On 29th November 1918 the Belgian Government appointed him Commandeur in the Ordre De La Couronne. In 1925 the British Government promoted him to be an Honorary Member of the Second Class, or Knights Commander of the of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG). The British honours continued and in 1937 he was appointed to be Honorary Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE).

The Honours and Awards received by His Highness Daudi Chwa II, before the fire

His Highness Daudi Chwa II died on 22nd November 1939. He had fathered 36 recorded children, 20 boys and 16 girls. He was buried in the Kasubi tombs near Kampala with his awards and medals on display. After independence Bagandans had an uneasy and often difficult time with the Ugandan central government. In 2001 UNESCO declared the Kasubi Tombs to be a World Heritage Site.

In March 2010 some of the major buildings in the Kasubi Tombs complex were destroyed by an unexplained fire, fortunately this writer had visited the Tombs prior to the fire and had taken the coloured photographs that you see here. With the assistance of donors the Kasubi Tombs are being reconstructed, but another unexplained fire in June 2020 destroyed an important building in the complex.

Kabaka Daudi Chwa II

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