Kikuyu Home Guard

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The Kikuyu Home Guard (also Home Guard or Kikuyu Guard) existed from early 1953 until January 1955.[citation needed] It was formed in response to attacks by the Mau Mau.

History of the Home Guard[edit]

Named to invoke an association with its British 'equivalent' from WWII, the Home Guard began life as an amalgamation of several hundred Tribal Police (later called the Administration Police) and the private armies which were established by loyalist leaders in the wake of Mau Mau attacks.[1] Clayton calls these early, ad hoc anti Mau Mau groups the Kikuyu Resistance Groups, which appeared in the last part of 1952.[2] Its creation was an extremely divisive development within Kikuyu society.[3] Its divisive nature was absolutely ensured by Baring's government's tentative desire to give the Home Guard the appearance of being a Kikuyu-led initiative.[3] Officially sanctioned by the colonial government, at its peak, in 1954, the Home Guard numbered more than 25,000 men—more than the number of Mau Mau fighters in the reserves.[4] Many joined voluntarily for a variety of reasons, but particularly once the battle had begun to shift decisively against Mau Mau by late 1954; however, in some districts, up to 30% of Home Guard members were press-ganged.[5]

Major-General Sir William 'Loony' Hinde[6][7][8] put the Home Guard under command of European district officers—these district officers were not trained military personnel, but rather settlers or career, often quite junior, colonial-officers. Hinde recruited Colonel Philip Morcombe to head up the Home Guard. Once set up, it quickly began working alongside the British military. Within a month of the Lari massacre, 20% of the Home Guard were armed with shotguns and given a uniform, and eventually nearly all of them would be supplied with precision weapons of some kind and uniformed.[9]

By 1955 the majority of the Guard were stood down, since Mau Mau no longer constituted a major threat, and the remainder of the guard were absorbed into the Tribal Police.[citation needed]


As noted above, the Guard was organised by the Kenya Administration, rather than the Army or Police, and Temporary District Officers were appointed to officer the guard. In most cases, individual platoons and sections of the Guard were officered by junior administration officials, such as chiefs and headmen.

The Role of the Home Guard[edit]

The Guard undertook a variety of mission roles. For the majority of the time, they guarded the fortified villages that had been set up to protect the Kikuyu from the Mau Mau. In the early period of the Guard, it was common for the Mau Mau to overrun these fortified positions because the Guard lacked sufficient firepower to resist their attackers. In due course, as the Guard demonstrated its political and military reliability, the Kenya Government supplied shotguns and rifles to the Guard.

The Guard also took part in anti-Mau Mau sweeps and local patrolling. Their local knowledge and intimate understanding of the Mau Mau made them very effective in this role. It is estimated that the Tribal Police and the Home Guard were responsible for some 42% of all Mau Mau deaths, making them the most effective branch of the Kenya security forces.

The Tribal Police / Home Guard was behind the capture of the head of the Mau Mau, Dedan Kimathi.


  1. ^ Elkins (2005). p. 70.  Missing or empty |title= (help) The Tribal Police had been around since the late 1920s, and was a loyalist organisation "composed mostly of the sons and close relatives of chiefs and headmen."
  2. ^ Clayton (1976). p. 28.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b Anderson (2005). p. 240. The creation of the Home Guard turned a 'civil disturbance' into a civil war.  Missing or empty |title= (help) Kikuyu resistance to Mau Mau encompassed more than just security formations; things like counter-oathing also took place.
  4. ^ Anderson (2005). p. 241.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Branch 2007, p. 293.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Anderson (2005). pp. 179–80.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Elkins (2005). pp. 43–4.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Elkins (2005). pp. 62–90.  Missing or empty |title= (help)


  • Anderson, David (2005). Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-393-05986-3. 
  • Branch, Daniel (2007). "The Enemy Within: Loyalists and the War Against Mau Mau in Kenya" (PDF). The Journal of African History. Cambridge University Press. 48 (2): 291–315. doi:10.1017/S0021853707002812. 
  • Clayton, Anthony (1976). Counter-Insurgency in Kenya, 1952–60: A Study of Military Operations against Mau Mau. Nairobi: Transafrica. 
  • Elkins, Caroline (2005). Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya. London: Pimlico. ISBN 1-84413-548-9. 
  • Majdalany, Fred (1962). State of Emergency (First ed.). London: Longmans. 
  • Pinney, John (1957). David Lovatt Smith, ed. A History of the Kikuyu Guard (2003 ed.). Fort Hall: privately published. ISBN 0-9544713-1-8.