Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II
Contributions by people of ethnic minorities in Britain and people from the Commonwealth to World War I and World War II. Their Hidden in History is remembered here.
DO NOT FORGET US – WE WERE THERE TOO!
Two survivors prepare food outside the barracks. The man on the right is presumed to be Jean (Johnny) Voste, born in Belgian Congo, who was the only Black prisoner in Dachau. Dachau, Germany, May 1945.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”
Martin Luther King, 1929 – 1968
One of the lesser-known stories of World War One & World War Two is that of the active roles people from the West Indies, Africa, India and smaller Commonwealth nations played in both these wars.
The British media tend to focus on the wars in Europe, but this does a great disservice to the millions of men and women from all parts of the former Empire and present commonwealth nations who answered Britain’s call to arms, or who assisted by providing, labour, goods and financial aid. Their support was crucial to the success of the allied war efforts.
When Hitler went to war with Britain, he also went to war with the people of her vast Empire. In 1939, the start of the Second World War this was around some 500 million people – this is their story.
World War I
Veterans from the British Colonies including Walter Tull
Lieutenant Euan Lucie-Smith is now believed to be the first black officer to be commissioned into the British Army in WWI
Guardian Article by Prof David Olusoga 2018 – Black Soldiers were Expendable – then Forgettable
World War II
Dr Charles Drew invented blood storage and preservation, saving 1,000’s of lives
Donald Richards – Story of a Wolverhampton Veteran
Cy Grant – Like in the RAF and POW
Eustace Graham Medford – The Story of Birmingham Veteran
Radcliffe Johnson – Story of a Wolverhampton Veteran
Ena Collymore-Woodstock became the first black female radar operator defending the coast of Britain
The Tuskegee Bombers – The first all-black flying unit in the American military
India in WWII – includes Noor Inayat Khan – The Forgotten Heroine of WW2
Fighting for the Mother Country
When we read or listen to the stories of Empire and Commonwealth citizens who took part in the war, the idea of supporting the “Mother County” is one that is stated time and time again.
Soldiers from the ethnic forces were not just fighting for the “Mother Country” They were also fighting for themselves and their fellow country men. Had Hitler won the war and got his hands on Africa, the Caribbean and India, there is no doubt, that people from these countries would have suffered the most. There are many bad things happening in the world today; but had Hitler won the war the world has we know it would have been a far worse place. Many of us might not have been born.
The communities from which these servicemen came from, also owe these servicemen a great debt.
Members of the Royal West African frontier Force with Indian soldiers, India 1944
Nations United in War
DO NOT FORGET US – WE WERE THERE TOO!
ST. KITTS ~ PALESTINE ~ NIGERIA ~ BARBADOS ~ GREECE ~ ST. VINCENT ~ DOMINICA ~ CHAGOS ~ BRITISH HONDURAS ~ ADEN ~ FIJI ~ ST. HELENA ~ MALAYA ~ HONG KONG ~ ST. LUCIA ~ CYPRUS ~ *MALAWI ~ SOLOMON ISLANDS ~ MONTSERRAT ~ GAMBIA ~ TRINIDAD ~ MALTA ~ SIERRA LEONE ~ CAMEROON ~ *GUYANA ~ BERMUDA ~ MAURITIUS ~ NORTH BORNEO ~ VIRGIN ISLANDS ~ BAHAMAS ~ HONDURAS ~ *LESOTHO ~ TONGA ~ UGANDA ~ JAMAICA ~ KENYA ~ GRENADA ~ SEYCHELLS ~ INDIA ~ CHINA ~ *TANZANIA ~ BURMA ~ ANTIGUA ~ GOLD COAST ~ *SOMALIA ~ *ETHIOPIA ~ *BOTSWANA ~ ZIMBABWE ~ BARBUDA ~ SRI LANKA ~ PUNJAB ~ ELLICE ISLANDS ~ PAPUA NEW GUINEA ~ POLAND
*Since the war and Independence, some countries have changed their names. Others have been amalgamated with neighbouring countries.
NEW NAME OLD NAME
BOTSWANA ~ BECHUANALAND
SRI LANKA ~ CEYLON
LESOTHO ~ BASUTOLAND
GUYANA ~ BRITISH GUIANA
MALAYA ~ SARAWAK/MALAY
MALAWI ~ NYASALAND
SOMALIA ~ BRITISH SOMALILAND
TANZANIA ~ TANGANYIKA/ZANZIBAR
ZIMBABWE ~ RHODESIA
Caribbean at war – for further reading and research
Michael Anthony: The making of Port of Spain, vol.2: Port of Spain in a world at war, 1939 -1945. Port of Spain: Columbus Publishers – 1983
Ben Bousquet and Colin Douglas: West Indian Women at War; (British racism in World War II) London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1991
Ashley Jackson: The British Empire and the Second World War, Hambledon Continuum, 2006 (Highly recommended. A comprehensive study of WWII, and the vital roles played by black Africa and other Empire countries).
Gaylord T M, Kelshall: The U – Boat war in the Caribbean; (Port of Spain) Paria Publishing, 1988
Harold Mitchell: Europe in the Caribbean; (The policies of Great Britain, France and the Netherlands towards their West Indian territories in the Twenties Century) Edinburgh and London, 1963
E. Martin Noble: Jamaica Airman; (A black airman in Britain 1943 and after) London: New BeaconBooks 1984
Stephan Bourne & Sav Kyriacou: The Black Presence in Hammersmith and Fulham: Available from – Hammersmith & Fulham local History centre, Tel: 0208 741 5159, ISBN 1 871338 14X
Together – The Imperial War Museum: the “Together” multi-media resource pack is suitable for children and schools – Gives details of the contributions made to the war effort by African, Asian and Caribbean men and woman. The pack contains: A4 Booklet, Video, 32 black and white photographs plus four wall charts. Available from -The Imperial War Museum
Ken Post: Strike the iron. (A colony at war: Jamaica 1939-1945) Humanities Press & The Hague: Institute of Social Studies, 1981
Marika Sherwood: Many Struggles (West Indian workers and service personnel in Britain 1939-45) London: Karia Press, 1985
Elvey Watson: The Carib regiment of World War II, New Your: Vantage Press, 1964