Joseph Inima was born in Kenya in July 1918. He started his education in 1933 and was at college in 1939 when the war broke out. His English school principal, a Mr Chapman, asked him to join the army to help the British fight the Italians in Somaliland, which Germany’s fascist ally Benito Mussolini’s troops had overrun.
He was enrolled as an “African clerk” before being enlisted as a soldier. Inima joined Field Marshal Montgomery’s Eighth Army in Africa. He remembers capturing Italian prisoners of war and sending them to work, building roads in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
Inima belonged to the 1,900-strong 17th Ugandan battalion of the King’s African Rifles and reached the highest rank an African was allowed to hold, Warrant Officer Class One. British military were the commanding officers.
In 1943, he was sent to Burma to help the British fight the Japanese, for two years until the end of the war. Inima said: “War was really hot. We really suffered.” He recalled the combat was “tough” because the Japanese were “very strong”. Inima added: “They killed very many of our people.” But he enjoyed the travelling army life allowed him to do.
Kenya had changed when he returned from war because, previously, “no African was given a responsible job” by the white colonial administration. But, after the war, that changed. He said: “They at least gave us some responsibility.” Inima was given a clerk’s job in the Governor of Kenya’s office. He achieved the position of commandant, responsible for training the National Youth Service.
At the end of the war, Inima went to England with other East African soldiers, to attend a victory parade in front of King George VI.