The Bechuanaland Pioneers and Gunners

The Bechuanaland Pioneers and Gunners

by Deborah Schmitt

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Overview

Relying on extensive oral interviews with WWII veterans in Botswana, Schmitt argues that British military policy during the Second World War directly impacted Bechuanaland's entry into the war, the nature of the soldier's service, and the lives of the individual soldiers. Because Bechuanaland was considered a small, rather unimportant backwater of colonial possessions, policy decisions were often influenced by the political situation in South Africa and by its attitudes towards arming Africans. Unwilling to cause friction with South Africa, Great Britain mirrored that policy with the recruitment, training, and deployment of soldiers from Bechuanaland during the Second World War. Once Great Britain realized that army recruitment strengths were below operational levels, recruiting began in Bechuanaland for many different types of support roles including anti-aircraft gunners, medical transport drivers, and pioneer duties. Over 10,000 soldiers from this small British protectorate served under British command and contributed significantly to operational readiness and effectiveness during the war.

Relying on extensive oral interviews with WWII veterans in Botswana, Schmitt argues that British military policy during the Second World War directly impacted Bechuanaland's entry into the war, the nature of the soldier's service, and the lives of the individual soldiers. Because Bechuanaland was considered a small, rather unimportant backwater of colonial possessions, policy decisions were often influenced by the political situation in South Africa and by its attitudes towards arming Africans. Unwilling to cause friction with South Africa, Great Britain mirrored that policy with the recruitment, training, and deployment of soldiers from Bechuanaland during the Second World War. However, once Great Britain realized that army recruitment strengths were below operational levels, recruiting began in Bechuanaland for many different types of support roles including anti-aircraft gunners, medical transport drivers, and pioneer duties. Over 10,000 soldiers from this small British protectorate served under British command and contributed significantly to operational readiness and effectiveness during the war.

Schmitt notes that African leaders were given quotas to fill based on population figures within the different provinces, but it was stressed that enlistment was to be voluntary. When African leaders had a difficult time meeting the demand, some methods of coercion were used. New recruits were enlisted, trained, and then shipped off to North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe to begin their assigned duties. Interviews conducted with veterans highlight the nature of their service and the many challenges they faced with difficult weather, discriminatory policies, and as a result of being near the front lines of combat. The soldiers of Bechuanaland adapted well to military life under the leadership of white officers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780275979058
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/30/2005
Pages: 278
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Deborah Ann Schmitt earned her M.A. and PhD in history from Indiana University under the mentorship of Dr. Phyllis Martin. Upon completion of her degrees, Dr. Schmitt taught at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado in the Department of History for eight years. She retired from the AF in 2002, and is currently the Dean of Communications, Humanities and Technical Studies at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs.

Table of Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Overview: British Military Policy and Imperial Defense Prior to 1939

A unique Tripartite Relationship: Bechuanaland, Great Britain, and South Africa

The BaTswana Military Experiences Before WWI

The African Auxillary Pioneer Corps: Mobilization and Responses in 1940

The Nature of AAPC Military Service

The AAPC in europe and Demobilization

Conclusion

Select Bibliography

Index

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