The Nubian Jak Community Trust's tribute to the British West Indies Regiment: it was unveiled at Seaford railway station by the town's Mayor, Linda Wallraven, and Jon Chapman, of Sussex Community Rail Partnership, with local historian Kevin Gordon (Photo: Centenary News)

New memorial to British West Indies Regiment on Sussex coast

Posted on on 13 March 2018
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Soldiers from the West Indies who served Britain during the First World War have been commemorated with a new memorial installed by the Nubian Jak Community Trust.

The distinctive blue plaque - unveiled at Seaford railway station on March 12, Commonwealth Day - honours the British West Indies Regiment, formed in this Sussex coastal town as the war entered its second year.

The troops, all volunteers from the Caribbean, arrived to begin their training in autumn 1915, after initial British War Office objections to their recruitment had been overcome.

Some 16,000 soldiers served in the BWIR on the Western Front and in the Middle East. Despite their wish to fight in support of the Allies, they still faced discrimination, being mostly restricted to labouring duties until the Palestine campaign in 1917. Troops of the BWIR won more than 60 medals for bravery and 49 Mentions in Dispatches. 

Beulah Coombs, who lost a relative in Belgium, said: "It is a great privilege to be included in the proceedings to commemorate and honour soldiers from the West Indies, who fought for Britain in WW1.  Recognition and acknowledgement of their brave contributions to the war effort have been long overdue.  

"My uncle, Private Robert Smith, of the 7th Battalion of the British West Indies Regiment, and whose grave is in Belgium, was one of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  My relatives and I are extremely proud of his and his comrades’ legacies."

The Seaford plaque honouring the BWIR is the latest WW1 memorial unveiled by the Nubian Jak Community Trust. It’s part of an initiative which has already seen dozens of blue plaques  erected around the UK to mark the impact of prominent figures in black history.

Jak Beula, CEO of the Nubian Jak Community Trust, said:  "We are delighted to have the support of Seaford, Lewes and East Sussex councils, as well as the local community, who will commemorate the role the town played in the historic formation of the British West Indies Regiment in 1915."

Nineteen soldiers of the British West Indies Regiment rest at Seaford Cemetery, their graves cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (Photo: Centenary News)

In 2017, after seven years of campaigning, the Nubian Jak Community Trust dedicated the new African and Caribbean Memorial in Brixton, London - commemorating thousands of servicemen and women from African and Caribbean countries who served Britain in both world wars.

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: CN Editorial Team