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Formation badge of 81st West African Division, 'Black Tarantulas', 1943 (c)

Cloth badge with black spider on yellow ground.

The 81st West African Division was formed in Nigeria on 1 March 1943. It was composed of units from the Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast (now Ghana). The emblem of a black tarantula spider on a yellow background was chosen as their formation badge. The badge continues the long tradition of using animals to represent qualities with which an organisation would like to be associated. The 81st hoped to have the attributes of the mischievous part-spider part-man African folk hero known as 'Anansi'.

The 81st West African Division fought most notably in Burma during World War Two (1939-1945). It arrived in India in August 1943. The 3rd (West Africa) Brigade was detached to the Chindits, intended to garrison jungle bases for the raiding columns. The remainder of the division took part in the Second Arakan campaign during 1944, operating in the Kaladan Valley on the flank of Indian XV Corps. Paletwa is located in the Kaladan Valley near the Indian frontier.

NAM Accession Number

NAM. 1991-10-74-1


National Army Museum Copyright


National Army Museum, Study collection

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