Basuto Smoke Company

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Grant A, Nov 27, 2021.

  1. Grant A

    Grant A Member

    In 1944 my uncle was posted " a (Basuto) Smoke Company guarding a large Oil Refinery near Haifa."

    I would like to identify the Company and its location. Also, I wonder about the significance of the brackets round Basuto?
  2. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Company ID : 1912 (Basuto) Smoke Company AAPC
    Location : Nearby Haifa oil terminal
    Brackets : to signify the smoke company was manned by Basuto troops from Basutoland.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
  3. DannyM

    DannyM Member

  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Attached Files:

  6. Temujin

    Temujin Member


    The Pioneer Corps in the Second World War - Researching WW2 Soldiers

    Baustos is the name of the area that this company was organized “Baustos” (present day Lesotho)
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  7. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    The Basutos involvement in WW2 is an interesting one to me because a small group joined my dad's regiment (59th HAA) in 1944.

    From my dad's story:-
    The Regiments numbers were boosted by southern African soldiers posted to the 59th Regiment during June 1944. Around 20,000 men left Basutoland (now known as Lesotho) to fight in World War 2. These troops were known as the Basutos, people from the Bantu ethnic group.

    And from the Regiments Drama Report:-

    On 2 Jun 238 African ORs were posted to the regt to replace British gun numbers. All were trained in AA gunnery duties with 120 HAA Regt in Cyprus. On average, each Battery now had 215 British ORs (BORs) and 75 African ORs (AORs).

    The Basuto stayed with the regiment until 18th May 1945 when they were transferred to the Middle East.

    This shows that they often did more than just manual labour
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  8. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Quite a bit has been written about the 'African' contributions in WW1 and WW2 but knowledge of it is far from mainstream. People, in general, seem to have little interest in the subject, it seems.

    Somewhere on one of my HDs I have reams of information. I'm sure I have at least 2 papers or similar specifically looking at the contribution from Basutoland.

    Bechuanaland had 3 smoke companies serving in Italy. One was involved in the assaults at Monte Cassino. Swaziland also has a smoke company in Italy.

    Troops from Bechuanaland and Swaziland also converted onto HAA as well as some from Basutoland.
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  9. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Cut & paste from Supplying War: The High Commission Territories' Military-Logistical Contribution in the Second World War by Ashley Jackson


    Military policy shifted dramatically in 1943, when HCT troops were used to dilute white regiments. Successfully performing this role enhanced the reputation of IICT troops among senior officers. Other Pio- neers, like those from East Africa, were banned from dilution for politi- cal reasons. In preparation for the invasion of Normandy, British soldiers were recalled to Britain to join the 21st Army Group. As they were with- drawn from units in the Middle East and Italy, HCT soldiers filled their places. The first experiments, conducted with two thousand Basotho troops, took place in March 1942.111 Dilution necessitated careful nego- tiation and meticulous planning as IICT companies were broken up and mixed with British units similarly disrupted. The army was not in a posi- tion simply to dictate terms and do what it pleased with the manpower it had drawn from the empire. In the case of HCT troops, permission had to be sought from the colonial authorities of the territories. The chiefs had to be consulted, and their opposition would have stymied the pro- posal-as it did in the case of the Swazi.12

    On dilution HCT troops performed a multitude of tasks with all ser- vice branches of the army. Their most notable role was with Royal Artillery HAA Regiments, in which thousands of Basotho and Batswana trained as 3.7-inch mobile gunners. They operated in ground-to-ground and ground-to-air roles, like the 1944 Basuto Company, attached to 55th HAA Regiment, which gave American infantry ground support prior to the taking of Leghorn. "At one point," according to B. Gray, "there were thirty-two of these heavy 3.7-inch guns manned by Basuto, massed together within a quarter of a mile of each other and hammering the German line before Leghorn."113

    Service with HAA regiments allowed HCT troops to engage the enemy directly for the first time, and notably shifted the men's percep- tions of their role, making them feel like "real" soldiers. As one wrote to his chief in a letter accompanying a photo of a 3.7-inch antiaircraft gun:

    With the aid of this gun the enemy can hardly succeed in shooting or capturing us ... If the enemy gets lost and comes near us in his plane then it is his last day. ... As Pioneers [i.e., labourers] we were mere women and children, but today we are calm and collected under all circumstances, burning only with the desire to get to grips with the enemy and so great is our ardour that we feel like tearing him with our teeth.114 ​

    Companies, or sections of companies, were attached to British units from most service branches, though kept under the supervision of the APC, to which they still technically belonged. The officers of the host British formations were responsible for training and administration, whilst the officers of the IICT companies maintained control of disci- pline, promotion, and welfare. It is quite clear that dilution was a highly successful military utilization of imperial manpower resources. However, one historian has chosen to view it as a "social experiment" that was a "recipe for failure," seeing dilution as a source of white-black interaction undermining African respect for Europeans and heightening their aware- ness of racial discrimination.15 But dilution had nothing to do with social experimentation and everything to do with military expediency. There is no evidence to support the suggestion that IICT troops who experienced dilution were adversely affected (from the point of view of colonial control and reabsorption) and that they formed a disaffected cadre within colonial society upon their demobilization.

    Aside from their artillery role, IICT troops were diluted to join impe- rial units performing an astonishing range of essential tasks. Some trained to provide smoke-screen cover, notably performing this duty as the Allied invasion of Europe began with the landings in Sicily and Italy. Some trained at the Army Fire-Fighting Centre in Abbassia:

    For three years Basuto fire-brigades of sixteen men each and two or three UK NCOs gave protection to vital points throughout the Middle East. Virtually every military fire-brigade in the Middle East was diluted with Basuto and it may fairly be said that they were the fire- men of the Middle East.116 ​

    Others became lorry drivers, mechanics, and hospital orderlies. Two companies were trained as salvage units to recover reusable wreckage from land and air battles. Basotho and Batswana troops joined the Corps of Military Police, passing out with the Corps's red sash, white puttees and brass shoulder titles.117

    Basotho soldiers were drafted into the Royal Artillery's mountain regiments, where "their knowledge of horses has been given full scope and has proved of incstimable value to units dependent on pack trans- port." Also useful was their familiarity with mountainous conditions, especially when they served in the Apennine region (the final German defensive line in Italy):118

    The 85th Mountain Regiment was to give infantry artillery support in mountains ... in Italy, where in many places there are no roads or tracks good enough for the normal tractors or lorry-drawn field guns. The 85th was therefore equipped with special light guns . . . that could easily be taken to pieces and packed on mules and so carried off along difficult narrow tracks and set up again in places quite inac- cessible to any other artillery. To look after the mules they needed men of confidence, naturally good with animals.l19 ​

    So 560 Basotho of the 1921 and 1929 Companies were trained as mule- teers in autumn 1943. The 1941, 1943, and 1944 Basuto Companies worked as porters for infantry brigades in the Italian mountains.120 Mule trains carried the supplies as far as they could go, but the latter stages of the journey had to be made by the men, each carrying sixty pounds of ammunition and supplies.121

    Some Basotho served for three years in the 19 Field Survey Com- pany Royal Engineers producing military maps, and were "all fit to be Printers Assistants in civilian life," according to their commanding ...

    And so on
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  10. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Thanks MarkN, that's a very interesting post. It indicates some of the political issues that required careful diplomacy.

    Another quote from this page of my dad's story: Sergeant ACK-ACK: Italy which was written decades after the war ended:-

    From Lieutenant T. W. Miller-Jones;

    I must pay tribute to the Basuto, it must have been most difficult for them to fit in. It was not long before they wanted to wear the Essex Cap Badge, thus showing they felt part of the Regiment, and their loyalty to the Crown was outstanding, they were fighting for their King.

    The way the Basuto fitted in to the Regiment pays a tribute to the British members who made them so welcome.

    I don't know if they were ever granted permission to wear the cap badge, but I like to think that they were!
  11. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    For those interested, there is alot of really good material out there - plenty of it just a few clicks away - to learn about the topic of the contribution of colonial African manpower.

    However, the majority of it is academic and/or history driven and thus often bypassed by those looking for an entertaining read.
  12. Grant A

    Grant A Member

    To all who have responded:

    I am astounded by the quality of the answers you have posted, so a big thank you to you all.

    I have an immediate answer and much to study. I am so glad I posted here!
  13. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Wiki has this on the Haifa Oil Refinery for the period:
    Link: BAZAN Group - Wikipedia and Italian bombing of Mandatory Palestine in World War II - Wikipedia

    Haifa port gets a small mention:
    From: The British Empire, Imperialism, Colonialism, Colonies

    Note one article indicates there were only three oil refineries in the Middle East, Abadan in Persia (Iran), Tripoli in French mandated Lebanon and Syria. Then Haifa and the pipeline from Kirkuk, Iraq also supplied Tripoli. See, partly read: Proposal Shira Pinhas - April 2018.pdf

    There is an academic article on JSTOR (free to view after registration): 'Haifa is still Burning': Italian, German and French Air Raids on Palestine during the Second World War. See: 'Haifa is still Burning': Italian, German and French Air Raids on Palestine during the Second World War on JSTOR

    An article on anti-submarine defences at Haifa, though it a map, photos etc. See: Haifa Indicator Loop Station WW2
  14. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    The internet is a great place, isn't it?

    It provides almost all the information you could possibly want at your very own finger tips - and legions of well-meaning people that will even do your research for you and then gift wrap it all up at no expense.

    davidbfpo likes this.

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