5 Nairobi War Cemetery facts for Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday Nairobi 2016
Remembrance Sunday service, Nairobi 2016. Photo: Facebook/UKinKenya

During the Second World War, Nairobi was the headquarters of the East African Force and the base for the conquest of Jubaland and Italian Somaliland, the liberation of British Somaliland and the sweep north-westwards to open Addis Ababa for the return of the Emperor.

It was also a hospital centre with No.87 British General Hospital arriving in June 1943 and remaining there until December 1945, while No.150 British General Hospital was there for a period in 1943.

  1. The war cemetery was opened in 1941 by the military authorities. Besides the original burials, numerous graves were transferred to this cemetery from African civil cemeteries and temporary army burial grounds at Garissa, Gelib, Kinangop, Marsabit, Mega and other inaccessible places, so that it is now the largest war cemetery in East Africa.
  2. Nairobi War Cemetery was designed by G. Vey and now contains 1,952 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. 11 are unidentified and there are also 76 non-war burials and one French grave.
  3. Within the cemetery is the East African Memorial, which commemorates men of the land forces who lost their lives in the advance from the south into Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia and during the occupation of those territories, along with those who have no known grave. Also, those who died during the operations in Madagascar in 1942 and who have no known grave are honoured.
  4. Besides those who died in these campaigns, many men who were lost in the sinking of the troopship ‘Khedive Ismail’ en route to Ceylon on 12 February 1944 are commemorated here. They include a great part of the 301st Field Regiment, East African Artillery.
  5. The cemetery also contains the Nairobi Memorial, which commemorates 477 men of the United Kingdom, South African, and East African Forces who died in the non-operational zones of Kenya whilst in training, or on lines of communication or garrison duty, and whose graves could not be located or are so situated as to be unmaintainable.

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