Recruiting and training in the West Indies - a troop inspection prior to departure, Kingston, Jamaica, January 1916 (© IWM Q 52423)

'Away from the Western Front' seeks musical recruits for new WW1 song

Posted on on 17 October 2017
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A newly-composed song, reflecting the bitterness felt by West Indian troops at the end of the First World War, is being added to the more familiar WW1 repertoire.

Choirs, musicians, singers and brass bands are invited to get involved by contributing their own performances of the song. Entitled No Parades, it's based on events surrounding the Taranto mutiny of 1918. 

The venture is being launched by Away from the Western Front, a UK-based project aiming to raise awareness of the campaigns beyond France and Flanders.

No Parades - composed by Chris Hoban, who's written for the folk band, Show of Hands - is in the style of traditional First World War soldiers' songs. But it draws on the experience of West Indian troops assembling for demobilisation to explore issues around colonialism and race.

Away from the Western Front explains: 'Two battalions of the British West Indies Regiment served in Palestine and Egypt, and at the end of the war they joined the rest of the regiment in the Italian port of Taranto. 

"After poor treatment by their British officers the soldiers mutinied, demanding equal pay and conditions to the white troops they had served beside for four years. The mutineers were punished and the regiment disbanded, sent home under guard and barred from the victory parades.'

The song, No Parades, continues their story:

From the islands and mainland we came

To fight and to show our allegiance

But returned to our homelands in shame

While for some there'll be honour and glory

The West Indian will have no parades

Listen to 'No Parades' here.

There are  two ways for musicians, community choirs and brass bands to join the project.

They can either record their performances of No Parades, using the score and lyrics provided  - or use the song and accompanying information on the Away from the Western Front website to inspire their own compositions and submit those. 

Away from the Western Front will produce a CD of the best performances, as well as promoting the performances through its website and social media.

Robin Clutterbuck, the project’s National Coordinator said: “Colonial troops played a very big part in the campaigns away from the Western Front, in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), East Africa and the Balkans. The experience of West Indian men was similar to that of Indians and black Africans, and for some led to feelings of anger and disappointment after the war due to the way they were treated once their assistance was no longer required."

Away from the Western Front is a UK Lottery-funded project, aiming to increase understanding of what made the Great War a world war. Centenary News reported from its 2017 launch.

Source: Away from the Western Front

Images courtesy of Imperial War Museums © IWM Q 52423

Posted by: CN Editorial Team