Military Bands of the KAR

Band of 3rd (East African) Bn KAR in pre-WWI uniform by modern model maker Beau Geste

The predecessor regiments of the King’s African Rifles all contained fife and drum bands when they were amalgamated to form the KAR in January 1902.  From the end of the First World War onwards the regular Battalions of the KAR’s peacetime establishment retained bands of various sizes for most of the time until Britain’s Central and East African colonies came to independence in the early 1960s.  However, it is very difficult to follow these bands through the limited historic records that still exist.

Band of 4th (Uganda) Bn KAR band by modern model maker Dorset Soldiers – painting and photograph by John Firth

The band of the 3rd (East African) Battalion KAR was probably the largest, longest-lived and best-known KAR band. In the inter-war years the 3-KAR band expanded to the size of a full military band with forty musicians.

In the Second World War many of the band members joined an entertainment unit that was formed to entertain troops in Burma with popular music.

Band of 4th (Uganda) Bn KAR by unknown modern model maker

The band of the 4th (Uganda) Battalion KAR was also well-known for wearing highland dress and is therefore particularly popular with modern model makers. The bands of the Central African and East African Rifles became the bands of the 1st and 2nd (Nyasaland) Battalions and the 3rd (East African) Battalion KAR. 

Drum band of 1st (Nyasaland) Bn KAR by modern model maker The Colonial Factor

The only band in my collection made as toy soldiers rather than models for modern collectors was made in Spain in the 1950s by Julio García Castresana, to represent the Regiment of Regulares of Melilla – the Spanish city enclave on the north coast of Morocco.


Horn player



Band of the Regiment of Regulares of Spanish Melilla by toy maker Julio García Castresana