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The Somali Scouts

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the Somali Scouts

Amongst the new units formed in British East Africa after the start of World War I was a mounted unit raised by a well-known settler named Berkeley Cole, a younger son of the Earl of Enniskillen & a brother-in law of Lord Delamere, the man who pioneered commercial agriculture in British East Africa (BEA, now Kenya).

The initiative for the unit came from Somali residents of BEA who met on the outskirts of Nairobi at Muthaiga & marched down to Nairobi House to offer their services to the Governor. This patriotic gesture was thankfully received and Berkeley Cole, formerly of the 9th Lancers, was tasked to organise a company of Somalis into mounted scouts. He did this with the assistance of other settlers who joined him as officers, one of them being Denys Finch Hatton, son of the Earl of Winchelsea, whose later death in an aviation accident was depicted in the film "Out of Africa".

Initially the company was formed as a Mounted Infantry company of 3rd (Kenya) King’s African Rifles & was known as the Somali Scouts. The company was used in the area southwest of Kiu Station to protect the Uganda Railway by patrolling the ground towards the German East African (GEA) border.

South-west of Kiu was the operational area of the Somali Scouts

Regrettably some of the Somalis took a dislike to some of their officers and bouts of indiscipline followed. The blame was not all on the Somali side because Lord Cranworth, who wrote a very illuminating account of the situation in his book Kenya Chronicles could not understand why Cole & his officers did not contain this situation. (Somali troops could be extremely effective when in action but they were never the easiest to command, however King'a African Rifles, officers did the job satisfactorily, & soon Lord Cranworth would be doing it also.)

The regrettable result of the disciplinary problems was that the Somali Scouts was disbanded and many men were discharged, but those that remained were enlisted in a new unit titled Cole's Scouts.

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