Men of the British West Indies Regiment cleaning their rifles, Albert-Amiens Road, September 1916, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, © IWM, Q 1201

UK marks role of West Indian First World War soldiers during Black History Month

Posted on on 18 October 2013
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The UK Government has announced that during Black History Month 2013 it will "reflect on the role of men from the West Indies during the First World War".

The British Government describes the First World War as witnessing "soldiers from the Commonwealth coming together in defence of the British Empire".

Prior to the First World War, West Indian soldiers had been serving with the West India Regiment – an infantry unit in the regular British Army – since 1795.

Following the outbreak of war, many West Indians volunteered to serve. In 1915, the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR) was created and over 16,000 men from the West Indies served as part of this in the First World War. They were posted to many locations including the Western Front, Italy, Palestine, East Africa, Cameroon and Togo.

The British Government highlights the case of Walter Tull, "Britain's first black officer", whose father was Barbadian.

Walter's father played for the football team Tottenham Hotspur in 1909, the second black/mixed heritage player to play in the top division.

Walter became the first ever black/mixed-heritage officer in the British Army, and the first to lead white men into battle. He fought in Italy in 1917-1918 and was cited for gallantry. He was killed in action in northern France in 1918.

The British Government states that "the sacrifices of the men from the West Indies – and the torch bearing actions of Walter Tull as he crossed racial barriers – are part of the shared history of multi-cultural Britain".

More details of how West Indian First World War soldiers will be recognised during Black History Month 2013 are expected.

Source: Inside Government UK press release

Date of press release publication: 17/10/2013

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News