The Commonwealth war graves section of Harare (Pioneer) cemetery is a  small oasis of well-maintained calm inside a huge, semi-derelict civilian graveyard close to the slum of Mbare.

pioneer cemetery
The civilian side of Harare (Pioneer) Cemetery

I found it more by accident than design when in Zimbabwe for the recent elections. According to the CWGC website, the cemetery contains 259 identified casualties, 224 of whom are from WW2.

harare small
Most of the graves in Harare (pioneer) cemetery are air crew.

Having a fairly decent grasp of the geography of WW2 I was keen to find out why so many war-dead were here in southern Africa, well away from the battlefields. A quick scan of the graves, quickly made it clear…They were nearly all aircrew.

It turns out that many British and Empire pilots (and those from other countries such as Greece) were sent to the far reaches of the Empire for their training. Locations included Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa and Canada. The reason for this was because Britain was considered unsuitable for training due its proximity to the enemy, the strain of managing the war time air traffic and the unpredicatble weather.

Air Askari corp small
The grave of Flying Officer H. C. Morgan, Rhodesia Air Askari Corps

I also found local casualties in the graveyard, such as Flying Officer H. C. Morgan of the Rhodesia Air Askari Corps. A quick google of this unit shows that they were recruited for airfield defence meaning that Flying Officer Morgan presumably died of disease or natural courses (he was 58 years old).

Nigeria regiment
Colour Sergeant W. R. S. Amm, The Nigeria Regiment

 

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