Vice President Saulos Chilima on Friday called on Malawians to ceaselessly support veterans of the First and Second world wars who fought in support of the Brits, saying their sacrifice could not be appreciated enough.
Chilima was speaking at Lilongwe’s Golf Club where he graced the Veterans’ Charity Golf Tournament the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) organized.
“We enjoy this peace today because these people we call veterans sacrificed a lot, but although we call them veterans today, that’s not what they were on the battle field. They risked their lives,” he said.
Chilima said the golf tourney was only one small token of appreciation to the veterans’ noble cause.
He challenged Malawians to do more in form of donation to support the day-to-day welfare of the veterans.
The event also included fundraising activities such as sale of poppy ribbons and a raffle draw. Proceedings will go to the same initiative.
World War II
The involvement of the Nyasaland Protectorate (the modern-day Republic of Malawi) in the Second World War began with the declaration of war on Nazi Germany by the British Empire in September 1939. Though no combat occurred in Nyasaland itself, it remained an economic asset for the Allies and also contributed a significant number of soldiers to fight in the British Army.
Many Malawianss came to fight for the British during the war, primarily as – just like during World War I – soldiers of the King’s African Rifles (KAR). The Nyasas were not conscripted outright – instead, the colonial authorities threatened the local aristocracy with a reduction in privileges if they failed to provide sufficient numbers of men. As a result, many recruits either deserted or were rejected on medical grounds. Nonetheless, by August 1942 a total of 16,400 Nyasas were serving in the KAR, as compared to roughly 2,000 at the war’s start. Out of a total 43 KAR battalions, 12 hailed from Nyasaland. Others were recruited into the Artillery, Engineers, Service Corps and Medical Corps, placing the total number of enlisted Nyasas at around 27,000.
They would go on to fight in a number of theatres, first of all the East African Compaign, where Nyasas fought Italian troops. Initially expected to disappoint in combat, the success of the 1st Battalion KAR in defending the Kenyan town of Moyale – where a hundred soldiers from Nyasaland held out against 3,000 Italians – rapidly changed the British opinion. In 1940 the 2nd Nyasaland Battalion participated in the failed defence of British Somaliland against an Italian invasion. The following year Nyasa (Malawian) troops participated in routing the Italian forces from Somaliland and Ethiopia. In 1942 a battalion from Nyasaland participated in the Battle of Madagascar, capturing the island from Vichy France.
In 1944 four Nyasaland battalions (out of a total of 17 from the King’s African Rifles) fought in the Burma Campaign, opposing the Empire of Japan, the State of Burma, the Azad Hind and Thailand. Over the course of several months they experienced harsh jungle warfare, fighting their way down the Chindwin River meeting hard Japanese resistance