The infantry advance at El Alamein, 1942

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The struggle for North Africa, 1940-43

The bitter struggle that rolled back and forth across the North African desert was the first major Allied victory of the Second World War.

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General Herbert Kitchener, 1899

Herbert Kitchener: The taskmaster

Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener was famous for colonial victories in the Sudan and South Africa. Later, he helped build Britain’s first mass army during the First World War.

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Carved figure of a sergeant of the King's African Rifles, 1917

East Africa campaign

Throughout the First World War, British Empire soldiers fought a guerrilla campaign against a small German force in East Africa. Led by Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, the Germans inflicted many casualties and avoided defeat in the field.

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Private William Bowyer of 1/1st Buckinghamshire Yeomanry (Royal Bucks Hussars), 1915

Senussi Revolt

During the First World War, the British position in Egypt was threatened by rebellious Senussi Bedouin tribesmen. The campaign against them took place in the unforgiving climate of the Western Desert.

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The Nigerian Regiment Artillery with a field gun,

West Africa campaign

In February 1916, the Allies finally completed the conquest of Germany’s West African colonies. One of the First World War’s forgotten sideshows, this campaign was fought in hostile terrain and disease-ridden jungles.

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The South African Engineer Corps bury a comrade, 1915

South-West African campaign

On 9 July 1915, enemy forces in German South-West Africa (now Namibia) surrendered to the Allies. This marked the final stage of a short but successful campaign of manoeuvre fought in extremely harsh conditions.

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Lieutenant Jock Lewes, 1940

‘Jock’ Lewes: SAS mastermind

As the co-founder of the Special Air Service (SAS), Lewes played a vital role in establishing the unit’s ethos and high standards of training and discipline.

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Major David Stirling, c1942

David Stirling: The Phantom Major

David Stirling was a pioneer of British Special Forces. In 1941, he founded the Special Air Service (SAS) in Egypt to undertake small-scale raids behind enemy lines.

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Sergeant Herbert Chambers with fellow Special Boat Service soldiers in Athens, 1944

Origins of the Special Forces

During the Second World War, Britain created a range of special units who undertook a variety of daring operations against the Axis Powers. The bravery and commitment of these forces has become the stuff of legend.

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Bagnold sun compass used by the LRDG, c1942

Desert innovator: Bagnold’s sun-compass

The Long Range Desert Group were masters of navigation. They owed much of their success to the scientific talents of Major Ralph Bagnold, whose sun-compass invention revolutionised desert travel.

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Lieutenant-General Sir Archibald Wavell, 1938

Archibald Wavell: Britain’s first wartime victor

Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell led an imaginative and flexible campaign against the Italians in North Africa. His triumph over their vastly superior forces was Britain’s first success of the war and paved the way for later victories.

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Field Marshal Viscount Garnet Wolseley, 1910

Garnet Wolseley: The modern major-general

Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley won important victories in several colonial campaigns. Because of his reforming zeal and attention to detail the phrase ‘All Sir Garnet’ came to mean everything’s in order.

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Brass bilge-pump valve salvaged from the wreck of HMT 'Birkenhead', 1852

Women and children first

Several objects from our collection reveal a remarkable tale of self-sacrifice and steadfast military discipline during one of the 19th century’s most infamous maritime disasters.

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Explore Africa events

Chasing the Lion: The First World War in East Africa
Talk

28 September 2018, 11.30am

FREE

Chasing the Lion: The First World War in East Africa

Robert Fleming, the National Army Museum’s Templer Study Centre Manager, discusses the First World War campaign in East Africa.

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Explore Africa learning resources

Army and Empire
Trail

KS4-KS5 (Age 14+)

Army and Empire

Follow this gallery trail to become a documentary filmmaker exploring the British Empire in Africa.

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Commonwealth soldiers in East Africa
Video

KS3 (Age 11 to 14)

Commonwealth soldiers in East Africa

Discover the diverse range of soldiers who contributed to the British First World War effort in East Africa.

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