Proposed by A Williams STOCCA (Six Towns One City Carnival Association)

Euan Lucie-Smith is now believed to be the first black officer to be commissioned into the British Army in the First World War and sadly the first to die in the conflict.

He was commissioned into the 1st Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on the 17th September 1914, just six weeks after the outbreak of the War. He was killed in action, probably shot through the head, on the 25th April 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 2 to 3 of the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.

Previously it had been thought that Walter Tull was the first black officer to be commissioned on the 30th May 1917 and the first black officer to be killed in action on the 8th March 1918. In fact, Euan Lucie-Smith died almost three years before.

He came from a mixed heritage background. He was born at Crossroads, St Andrew, Jamaica, on the 14th December 1889. His father was John Barkley Lucie-Smith (the Postmaster of Jamaica and a retired Major) and his Mother Catherine ‘Katie’ Lucie-Smith (nee Peynado Burke). His father hailed from a line of distinguished white colonial civil servants. His mother was a daughter of the distinguished ‘coloured’ lawyer and politician Samuel Constantine Burke, who campaigned for Jamaican constitutional reform in the late 19th Century and for Jamaica to have greater control over her own affairs. His advocacy on behalf of both black and ‘coloured’ Jamaicans led him to be referred to in an essay by the renowned Black activist, Marcus Garvey.

He came from what we would call a traditional ‘Officer Class’ as he attended two Private Schools in England; Berkhamsted School and then Eastbourne College. He was commissioned into the Jamaica Artillery Militia on the 10th November 1911.

The memorial plaque for Lieutenant Euan Lucie-Smith is really significant as it rewrites British Black History in World War One, and tells a truly remarkable story.

The plaque shows the contribution of Commonwealth Countries in World War 1 and tells the story about an aspect of regimental history that should not be forgotten, but that is often hard to tell for a lack of information.

It also has direct links to today and the continued important role played by soldiers from Commonwealth Countries in the current Regiment, The Fusiliers.

The memorial plaque went on sale at auction on the 12th November 2020. Keen to obtain the plaque, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum (Warwickshire) bid for the plaque. It was successful and it will mean that people in Warwick, Coventry & Warwickshire and the West Midlands will now be able to view this rare object.

The museum paid more than 13 times the estimated pre-sale guide price. It is important that we keep our museums going.

Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum

The museum asked people to save and bring this unique memorial plaque for Lieutenant Euan Lucie-Smith to Warwick, the spiritual home of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, so that it is on display for everybody to see, rather than going to a private collector.

Before the auction, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum put out a request for help in funding so that it can acquire these rare and important relics. If you would like to donate to the museum, you can still do so.

Please give your support to us now to acquire this special and historic memorial plaque for the museum by donating on-line on our website. £2, £5, £10 or £20 would help us so much to save this invaluable cultural treasure.

Thank you so much.

http://www.warwickfusiliers.co.uk/pages/pg-35-online_donations/
Please also share with your friends. We already have some funds of our own, some from the Friends of the Museum, The Fusiliers, AMOT and have applied for an ACE / V&A purchase grant fund, but need your help too.

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II

Women Served Too: At home and abroad, women played their part

In December 1941 Conscription was introduced in Britain for unmarried women between the ages of 18 and 38. They had a choice of going into the Women’s service, civil defence or industry. Nursing, fundraising and administration were the other areas of work opened to civilians.

Lillian Bader (above) was born in Liverpool. Her father was from Barbados and had served with the royal Navy, her mother was white. By the age of 9 she had lost both her parents and was sent to live in a convent. Lillian joined the Women’s auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1941, and was promoted to the rank of Acting Corporal. During the war she met and married Ramsay Bader, a black British soldier. The couple had two sons and she later trained to be a teacher. 

Read more about Lillian’s war time experience in: West Indian Women at War – British Racism in WWII, ISBN – 0-85315-743 X, Publishers: Lawrence & Wishart. Suppliers, New Beacon Books

Military Service – Overseas Recruitment

The Auxiliary Territorial service (ATS) gave women the chance to serve in the army both in the UK and overseas. Outside the UK it was particularly active in the Caribbean and Palestine.

In India, the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WACI) was the equivalent to the (ATS)

The RAF formed the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and also enlisted women both in the UK and overseas. Local recruitment offices were set up in the Middle East and from 1942 onwards, recruits were taken from Egyptian, Palestinian, Jewish, Assyrian, Greek and Cypriot communities.

In 1942 India introduced the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS)

At first women from the colonies were mostly employed to do clerical work within the forces. However, with time other areas of work became opened to them. (Drivers, orderlies, store women and cooks)

From the islands of the West Indies, 600 women were recruited into the ATS. Of this number, 300 remained stationed in the Caribbean.  Two hundred were posted to America and 100 served in the UK.

Women of Palapye, Botswana knitting for the Navy

American entertainer – Mona Baptise

“England was our mother country and when Germany declared war against her…. that was fatal and we wanted to go in and help her because she’s our mother…. It’s as simple as that.”

Connie Marks, Jamaican ATS. (Source: A Ship and a Prayer, by Stephan Bourne)

The women of India go to war

Indian women had active roles in WWII

Often when we think of women from India and the sub-continent it brings to mind images of suppression and limited social contacts.  Therefore, it is all the more remarkable to see the active roles that these women played and their contributions to the war efforts.

In addition to military services, large numbers of Indian women also worked behind the scenes, on the land, and in military supplies units.

In remembrance of those who died in both World Wars from the Indian sub continent, Africa and the Caribbean, in November 2002 a set of Commemorative Gates were put up in Hyde Park.

Image at the top: Noorunisa Inayat Khan is sometimes described as the Indian princess who became a British secret agent. See Black History Bootleg India in WWII

The Forgotten Victims of Hitler’s Final Solution

Compiled by S. Davis/J. Adams/K. Thomas

The fate of Black people from 1933-1945 in Nazi Germany and German – occupied territories ranged from sterilisation to straight murder.

Between 1885 and 1910 all of Africa was carved up by the more dominant European nations in particular, Britain, France and Germany. Of particular note is the Berlin Conference of 1884 where the European nations ‘carved-up’ Africa with a disregard of the different languages, social structures and cultures of the people who lived there.

Following Germany’s defeat in the First World War (1914 – 1918)  her colonies were confiscated by the Allies. France deployed colonial troops to occupy the Rhineland. This describes the racism that :

heightened anti-Black racism in Germany. Racist propaganda against Black soldiers depicted them as rapists of German women and carriers of venereal and other diseases. The children of Black soldiers and German women were called “Rhineland Bastards.”, brought about a fear among the Germans who elected Hitler in 1933 of being contaminated.

…..Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler charged that “the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardization.” ……

With the Nazi rise to power they became a target of racial and population policy. By 1937, the Gestapo had secretly rounded up and forcibly sterilized many of them. Some were subjected to medical experiments; others mysteriously “disappeared.”

Afro-Germans During the Holocaust United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Allied troops including French colonial troops and African soldiers stationed in the occupied territories often married and had children with German women. The Nazis fiercely opposed the mixing of the races, and believed in the superiority of the ‘Aryan race’ (white race). On coming to power Hitler ordered the sterilisation of every African or German mixed race man in the Rhineland and beyond.

Many black Germans were arrested and ended up in concentration camps, where they were made to work in the crematorium and labs. These detainees were killed every three months to prevent them from revealing the true horrors of the camps. 

Despite the huge numbers of African Germans massacred and mutilated during ‘the Final Solution’, unlike the Jews, none of their descendants received reparations because Hitler had revoked citizenship rights of every black German.

Black soldiers in the British, American and French armies were also mistreated and murdered in the camps.

Read more on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website

Political Prisoners

When Hitler came to power in 1933, he started first to incarcerate political opponents, socialists, communitists, trade unionists. Following the model the British set up during the Boer War that took place at the turn of the 20th centrury in South Africa, the Nazis set up concentration camps. Nearly 28,000 Boers perished in the British concentration camps, of those 24,000 children and young people died. They either starved to death or died from poor sanitation and disease.

Within 6 months 27,000 political opponents had been put in the concentration camps by the Nazis. Many perished, all suffered.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

For more information US Holocaust Memorial Museum

People with Disabilities

People with disabilities were also classed as undesirables. The Nazis started a program to euthanase children with disabilities living in institutions. The program extended to older children and adults.

The Euthanasia Program represented in many ways a rehearsal for Nazi Germany’s subsequent genocidal policies. The Nazi leadership extended the ideological justification conceived by medical perpetrators for the destruction of the “unfit” to other categories of perceived biological enemies, most notably to Jews and Roma.

Euthanasia Program US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Roma and Sinti

Europe’s Roma and Sinti people (often labelled as ‘Gypsies’ historically) were targeted by the Nazis for total destruction. The Porrajmos, or Porajmos, which translates to ‘the Devouring’, is the term used to describe the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population. Read more from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

The coding system for Roma and Sinti people was a brown. A quarter of the Roma and Sinti people, about 200,000 people perished under Nazi rule. International Remembrance Day of Roma Victims of the Porrajmos 2nd August.

See also Romani Culture & Arts Compamy. abd a very detailed account in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Genocide of European Roma (Gypsies), 1939–1945

Classification in Nazi Concentration Camps

Germans had a colour coding system for ‘undesirables’. Those they thought of as undesirable were forced to wear a coloured badge and in the camps they were tattooed with a number. A process of dehumanisation. It takes away a person’s identity. It marks a human being out for extermination, enforced hard labour, sterilisation, castration, cruel pseudo scientific butchering experiments.

Pink – homosexualsRed – political activist
Light Blue – statelessRed/yellow – political Jew
Green – criminalsYellow – Jew
Black – anti- socialBrown – Gypsies
Grey – pacifist 

Image at the top: American troops, including African American soldiers from the Headquarters and Service Company of the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion, 8th Corps, US 3rd Army, view corpses stacked behind the crematorium during an inspection tour of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Among those pictured is Leon Bass (the soldier third from left). Buchenwald, Germany, April 17, 1945.

Deep Rooted Racism

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams & K. Thomas – Contributions to WWI & II

Phil Vasili puts this well in his blog entitled The British Army, the First World War, enlistment, conscription and ‘race’

‘Not of Pure European Descent’

The policy of restricting entry of men of colour into the British Army in the First World War, as outlined in the 1914 Manual of Military Law, was a legacy of debates within the Establishment during the latter half of the 19th century over the desired ethnic composition of the armed forces.

General Wolseley, who was to receive honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge for overseeing ‘the most horrible war I ever took part in’ (Britain’s imperial conquest of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, 1873-4), argued that Africans were intended to be White men’s slaves.

The Negroes are like so many monkeys; they are a lazy good-for-nothing race.

At the War Office, he pleaded in 1886:

let us keep our British Regiments strictly British…If ever we begin to fill our ranks with alien races our downfall will most surely follow.

These deeply racist views were held by people like Wolseley, Winston Churchill (as reported by the BBC in 2015) and the British establishment. At the time when war broke out in 1914, Britain had colonised nearly a quarter of the world’s land mass and held sway over 23% of the world’s population.

As Ibram X Kendi in his article How Racism Relies on Arbitrary Hierarchies, connects the the invention of ‘race’ to justify enslaving humans to accumulate wealth:

Until his death in 1460, Prince Henry sponsored Atlantic voyages to West Africa by the Portuguese, to circumvent Islamic slave traders, and in doing so created a different sort of slavery than had existed before…..

Prince Henry’s (1394 -1460 – Portugal) racist policy of slave trading came first—a cunning invention for the practical purpose of bypassing Muslim traders. After nearly two decades of slave trading, King Afonso (of Portugal) asked Gomes de Zurara (royal chronicler who wrote about Henry the Navigator, whom he admired) to defend the lucrative commerce in human lives, which he did through the construction of a Black race, an invented group upon which he hung racist ideas. This cause and effect—a racist power creates racist policies out of raw self-interest; the racist policies necessitate racist ideas to justify them—lingers over the life of racism. 

In 1660 King Charles II returned from exile in Europe in after the English Civil War. In the same year he set up with the City of London the Royal Africa Company to exploit the gold fields up the Gambia River. To finance wars, the King needed money. The Company went on to trade in human beings and to formalise the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Britain was responsible for about a quarter of the trade in the 12.8 enslaved Africans. Up to 2.4 million of them died during the voyage to the Americas.

White slave traders, white people who benefitted from slavery needed to justify trafficing in human beings, murder, cruelty, enslavement and forced labour. Racism, a process of dehumanisation, helped them salve their consciences, relieve them of the feelings brought on by the horrors they committed, justify their crimes. As the wealth built industries and cities across Europe, racism evolved into the wider predominantly white European societies, through the generations with a complex web of lies and misinformation backed up by racist Government policies.

Walter Tull

Walter Tull faced racism both on the football field and off. In 1917 he created history by becoming a lieutenant, despite military regulations forbidding ‘any Negro or person of colour’ from doing so.

As Vasili points out in The British Army, the First World War, enlistment, conscription and ‘race’:

In a letter to his brother Edward written from France, 10th August 1917, Tull ends with: ps am applying for a transfer to the B.W.I. (British West Indian Regiment) when the Batt. Come out tomorrow. 

Its place as a footnoted afterthought belies its significance: why would the recently commissioned 2nd Lieutenant want to switch regiments after serving two and half years with soldier comrades where each had relied on the other for their lives? It suggests that he was acutely conscious of his ‘otherness’ as a Black officer in a White Battalion; that he did indeed face a residue of hostility even among his brother footballers; and that he would have felt more at ease in a force that had as its uniting element the common experience of racism. It speaks to Tull’s political awakening that he felt his presence would be of more use and better received among those with whom he shared an ethnic and political affinity rather than a cultural and professional commonality. Marx would have termed being determining consciousness: the war effort needing men and these, through their actions, proving up to the task.

Phil Vasili continues:

The achievements of Walter Tull and his fellow men of colour in arms profoundly contradicted the prevailing view of the military and political elites, embodied by the Army Council and the War Office that people of colour were genetically and biologically inferior; that White soldiers would not willingly serve alongside or accept orders from soldiers and officers of colour; and that having soldiers of colour in regular British regiments would be bad for morale and discipline.

Tull and his band of brothers undermined all these notions. He was promoted four times; led missions into enemy territory; was commended by his divisional commander for his bravery and leadership; was recommended for a Military Cross; inspired those around him to break military law and subject themselves to court martial; and, most incredibly of all, motivated – while dead! – his men to put their lives at risk in order to try and retrieve his body for burial. Many other men of colour were given medals and mentioned in dispatches for their bravery.

The Giving and Receiving of Blood

As a direct result of Dr. Drew’s work in the preserving and storing of blood, many thousands, if not millions of lives were saved in the Second World War, in the early phase, the American authorities did not want white people receiving black Blood.

When the military issued a directive to the Red Cross that blood be typed according to the race of the donor, and that African American donors be refused, Drew was incensed. He denounced the policy as unscientific, stating that there was no evidence to support the claim that blood type differed according to race. His statements were later confirmed by other scientists, and the government eventually allowed African American volunteers to donate blood, although it was still segregated.

Acts of Prejudice

Although lots of women from the Caribbean put themselves forward for military service, at first neither the Americans, nor the British wanted to accept them.  In Britain the subject came before Parliament many times, before the authorities finally conceded.  

America brought over African American Red Cross nurses to tend to their black service men as many white American nurses did not want to do this.

Wherever they went US troops would try to impose a system of segregation similar to the one in operation in the US.

Reporting on the injustices encountered by people of colour, who had come to England to assist in the war effort, John Bull the political magazine of its day, summed up the situation when it stated, life wasn’t easy if you weren’t white.

Explaining that Colonial troops came to this country to help win the war, it went on to say, many are bitter because of the colour bar that still exists….They are shunned at service camps, banned from hotels and called intruders…

The editorial told the story of how, at one RAF station, just before a detachment of West Indian airmen was due to arrive, all the W.A.A.F’s on base were called together and told that, though they were to be polite to the coloured Colonials, they should on no account ‘fraternise’.

There was to be no sharing of tables with them in the N.A.A.F.I, or sitting beside them in the camp cinema. The West Indians were, in fact to be treated as pariahs in the community of the camp.

Disregard – Rudeness to Colonial service girls in this country is surprisingly common…A West Indian A.T.S. was refused a new issue of shoes by her officer, who added: ‘At home you don’t wear shoes anyway,’

In the summery it states, “Colour prejudice … still persists in the hearts and minds of many people in Britain”… Ending on the down cast note, the final sentence concludes; “and it may increase again as war memories fade”.

*Pariah – member of a low caste in S. India: social outcast

W.A.A.F – Women’s Auxiliary Air Force

A.T.S – Auxiliary Territorial Service 

The following books are recommended for those who want more information on Racism and the war.

‘West Indian women at war’, British Racism in WWII – by Ben Bousquet & Colin Douglas

When Jim Crow meet John Bull – By Graham Smith (Racism and how it affected Black American GI’s stationed in Britain)

The World at War

The Middle East

Palestine was deeply involved in the war. Enemy bombers routinely attacked Haifa and Tel Aviv. A third of this nations output was absorbed by the military – this was the highest proportion of any country in the Middle East. 

Brought together by war, Jewish and Arab personnel fought side by side.

China 

Thousands of Chinese sailors served on board British ships. Almost 1,700 of them were stationed at bases around the Mediterranean coast. It was said, that many almost came to regard Alexandria (Egypt) as their “home town.”

Out of their own funds and private donations they found the resources to open a Chinese Seaman’s Club where they could socialise, eat their own national dishes and hear the news from home.

Burma – The Mixing pot

Often seen on the peripheral, coming fourth behind the North African, west European and Italian campaigns, nevertheless, the battle to win Burma was fierce and relentless. In Burma the Japanese army suffered its most comprehensive defeat.  Victory was secured in this arena with a truly imperial fighting force of, a million plus men of every hue under the sun, coming together as one.

Canadian Pilots, Ghurkha naiks, British infantry, Sikh tank drivers, American Dakota air ground crew, rubbed shoulders with the fighting units of the King George the Fifth – Bengal Minors and Sappers, the Assam Rifles, the Mandalay-Burmese Frontier Force, the 72nd (Somali scouts) Battalion, The Kings Rifles and the Gold Cost Regiments of the Royal West African frontier Force.  

One soldier would later recall, “probably not even the legions of Rome embraced as many nationalities …”

Wars and Rumours of Wars – Ethiopia

In England the date of the start of the Second World War is given as 1939. However the fact should not be over looked that, throughout the 30’s there was great unrest both in Europe and in other areas of the world. All were indications that war might not be avoided – incidents like Mussolini’s army invading Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in October 1935.

Mussolini told his commanding general, he wanted Ethiopia ‘with or without the Ethiopians’. Ten thousand civilians in Addis Ababa were massacred in reprisal for a grenade attack.

Coming up against the best fighting units of the Italian army, a joint force of Abyssinian, West African and Indian troops finally won the day.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the return of the Emperor, His Majesty Haile Salassie, to his throne in Addis Ababa on May 5th 1942, a meeting was held in the Central Hall, Westminister, London. A “Book of Remembrance” was signed by representatives of the Allied Governments, in honour of the first Allied Government to regain its freedom from *Axis domination.

*Axis-alliance of 1939 between Germany and Italy, later extended to include Japan and others (the enemy)

India

In its decision to go to war, Britain could not afford to lose India, its most prized possession in the Empire. In 1939, the British Governor General of India declared India’s entry into the war without consulting any of its prominent leaders.

At the start of the war, the Indian army numbered, around 200,000 strong, by the end of 1941, this number had risen to 900,000. Numbers continued to rise, reaching a peek in 1943 of 2,600,000, the largest all-volunteer force in history. Just before the close of the war recruits were being taken up at 50,000 per month.

Commemoration days marking the end of World War II

V.E. DAY – Victory in Europe Day 8th May 1945

V-J DAY – Victory in Japan August 15th 1945 is the official V-J Day for Britain, while the official US commemoration is September 2nd

Pearl Harbour

J.F.K and the SOLOMON ISLANDERS By: Orville W Taylor

During WWII many fierce battles were fought in the South Pacific.

It was the bombing of the U.S. navel site based at Pearl Harbor, on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, in the South Pacific, that changed the course of the war for all concerned. Not only did this incident bring the American entrée into the war, it also spear headed their retaliatory measure of dropping the Atom bomb on the Japanese city Hiroshima.

Situated in the south west of the Pacific, are another group of Islands referred to as the Solomon Isles. These were of Strategic importance to the allies, and the worse of these battles were fought around this area, as the Americans and Australians struggled to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese.

Lieutenant John F. Kennedy was the commander of the ill fated patrol torpedo boat PT-109 that was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, near to the Solomons’ Pudding Island.

Assisting the allies, the Solomon Islanders were directly involved in the war effort and their police officers and other volunteers were enlisted to regularly patrol the common waters between Australia and their country, and to act as in-land scouts, spying on the Japanese.

As luck would have it, the shipwrecked Lieutenant and his crew were discovered by a couple of local Soloman Islanders, Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, who managed to smuggle a message inscribed on a green coconut to their colleagues at the nearest military base. Kennedy and his men were marooned for six days before they were rescued by Allied troops. 

Kennedy later invited Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana to attend his presidential inauguration in 1961, but the pair was duped en route in Honiara, the Solomon Islands capital, by British colonial officials who sent other representatives instead. 

Another version of the story is that they were turned back by British officials at the airport. The story from Biuku’s descendants is that the British officials did not want to send Biuku and Eroni because they were simple village men and not well dressed (by the British authorities’ standards).

This was a sad outcome for the two heroes, who had willingly helped U.S. forces with disregard to their own safety or wellbeing, and who had known full well what the retributions would have been if they had been discovered by the Japanese. The legend of these two men survives to this day among their descendants in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.

Wikipedia

We all know that John Fitzgerald Kennedy (J.F.K) went on to become the 35th president of America, and the youngest president to ever be elected. President John F. Kennedy is mostly remembered because of the tragic way in which he died, and the conspiracy theories that surround the incident.  He was shot in public, whilst being driven in an open car during a trip to Dallas, Texas.                                               

India in WWII

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II

Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are countries that are referred to, as the Indian Sub-Continent; during the course of both World Wars 5,000,000 troops from India and surrounding countries served and defended the British Empire.

Thousands of Indian men served in the British merchant navy, putting their lives at risk carrying vital cargo and supplies across the sea to where they were needed. 

Over 1300 women from India and Ceylon (Sri- Lanka) joined the Women’s Auxiliary Force. To support the navy, in 1944 the Woman’s Royal Naval Indian Service was formed.

The Royal Indian Navy (R.I.N) played a key role in patrols in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Three and a half years into the war, it was noted that, the people of India had given over £6.5 million towards the war effort.

The fight to regain Burma from the Japanese was vital for the Allied. 200,000 Indian troops were engaged in this campaign. Indian troops also fought in East Africa (against the Italians in Somaliland, Eritrea and Abyssinia), in West Africa, South East Asia and southern Europe.

Before October 1939 only British subjects of European descent could join the RAF. After this date, all Commonwealth citizens became eligible. 25,000 recruits served in the Royal Indian Air Force.

The civilian population faced the same hardships as people in Britain. They too faced air raids, extreme shortages of food and general supplies. As the war progressed, poor administration plus crop failure led to a state of severe famine in which millions died.  

World War II

Royal Indian Army Service Corps – England, July 1942

Indian Servicemen outside Brighton Pavilion

More Medals for India

The Victoria and George Cross are medals that are given to individuals for acts of bravery.

At the roll call of honours in 1995 (fifty years after the Second World War) the astonishing fact came to light, as recipients of these medals Indian servicemen out numbered the British.

Politics and War

War can unite a nation; it can also divide a nation.

After the fall of France to Germany, the Vichy* Government was installed. This was a body of French officials who openly supported the Nazis.

Those who were opposed to this government became known as the France Libre et les Forces françaises libres – The Free France movement or Free France.

In India there was a similar divide. In general, most Indian leaders expressed their concerns at the rise of Fascism and Nazism and supported the English cause. However, there was another group, The Indian National Congress (INC), who were opposed to British rule and thought that they could appease Adolph Hitler. The argument put forwards by the INC in its vehement stance against Britain was; there was a blatant contradiction, in the British argument of going to war with Nazi Germany over freedom, when they (the people of India) were not free.

* Vichy – A health resort in central France, famous for its mineral springs. During WWII, the area was the seat of the French government who joined forces with the Germans. 

Noor Inayat Khan – The Forgotten Heroine of WW2

By S. Davis/J. Adams

Noorunisa Inayat Khan is sometimes described as the Indian princess who became a British secret agent. 

Noor was of mixed heritage. Her father was from India of noble birth, her mother, an American. For a time the young family lived in Russia at the Kremlin at the extended invitation of the Tsar. This is where Noor was born on New Years day 1914.

The political scene around the time of Noor’s birth was very unsettled.   All over Europe diplomatic talks were taking place. There was much talk and indications that war might break out, because of this Noor’s father moved his family to England.

On reaching England the family fell upon hard times. Against the background and hardships of WW1, Noor’s family faced poverty and prejudice. With the birth of a second child, a son, Noor’s father, who was also called Inayat, came to the decision that they should move to France.

Noor loved music and she could play the harp.  After leaving school, she took a degree in child psychology. An accomplished writer Noor wrote articles and stories for newspapers and magazines. Some of her work was broadcast on the French radio. As well as this she could speak several different languages.

In 1939, the world was again at war. It was clear that the Nazis would capture France and make it occupied territory.  In 1940 Noor Inayat Khan was 26 years old, the family had returned to England with the intention of assisting the war effort. Noor’s brother joined the navy, Noor and her younger sister both trained as Red Cross Nurses. However, Noor was not happy doing this, so she applied to join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. (WAAF) Noor’s first application to the WAAF was turned down but her second application was accepted.

As Aircraftwoman 2nd class Noor was trained as a wireless (radio) operator. She was amongst the first group of women to be trained in this area of work. In 1941 she was selected for further specialised technical training in signals transmission. 

In order that our intelligence service should be constantly informed about the various movements and secret operations of the enemy, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister realised that there was a need to have more special agents working behind the enemy’s line. As well as this recruits with additional skills were also needed to work alongside organised resistant groups. As an additional section to the secret service, the Special Operational Executive (SOE) was established by the Prime Minister for this purpose.

Wireless (radio) operators were vital to this area of work. Noor’s training in radio and signal work made her an ideal candidate.  However, the job as a radio operator in the enemy field was a very dangerous assignment.  Radio operators risked their lives every time they went on air, as transmitted signals could easily be picked up and traced back to the source.  The length of time most operators lasted in the field before detection, on average, was six weeks.

Noor like all the other SOE recruits received additional security training.  Noor did not do very well in this area. Her instructors thought she was unsuitable for the job and stated this in their reports. The words that were used to describe her were, “Not overburdened with brains, clumsy and easily flustered.” As a pacifist Noor did not like handling weapons, and later she would leave behind the small handgun that was issued as a part of her survival kit.  

There was an acute shortage of experienced radio operatives.  Given her poor performance we are left to wonder, had this not been so, would Noor have been chosen?

It was the summer of 1943, three years after leaving France; Noor was back again with the given code name, Madeline. As an agent in the field, Noor was assigned to ‘F’ section of Prosper SOE network. Along with three other special agents, she arrived in the early hours of the morning on Thursday 17th June.

Unbeknown to the British, there was a double agent working for them and feeding confidential information to the Gestapo. Henri De’ricout was the man who met the special agents as they arrived on French soil. He was also responsible for handling the mail. Henri was the double agent.

Within days of Noor’s arrival in Paris many of our SOE agents had been caught. Realising that she was one of the last still in operation, to avoid detection, Noor had to keep on the move. Noor was small and petite in frame, the radio transmitter a ‘B Mark 2’ that she carried disguised as a suitcase weighed around 33lbs.

Throughout the summer months until early October, Noor moved around Paris and the surrounding area transmitting her signals whenever she could. This was twice as long as was the expected, ‘field life’ for a radio operative. She was on borrowed time.

Missing

Nobody knows for sure the full details of the ending of Noor’s Life. What is known came to light and was pieced together after the war had ended.

Knowing that Henri De’ricout was a double agent, it would be reasonable to think that he had some part in Noor’s capture. But this is not so.  A woman betrayed her. Jealousy appears to be the motive.

Early in October 1943, here in Britain at the SOE headquarters a message saying “Madeline was in hospital” was received. This was a special code that meant that either Noor had been captured or that she was in danger. The message had come from a locally recruited French agent who was not known personally to any of the officers at the SOE HQ, and so the message was ignored.

When captured, Noor put up such a fight that the arresting Officer threatened to shoot her. Held as a prisoner at the Gestapo Headquarters in Paris, twice she tried to escape, but was caught. On one occasion, Noor escaped from a bathroom window on the fifth floor and got up onto the roof. When interrogated, Noor   did not tell her captors any important secrets or other information other than the name Noor Baker. Considering that during the course of her training her superiors had thought she was poor SOE material, now Noor displayed extreme valour.

At British HQ, Noor was not missed. Each SOE operator had their own special security code. This was called a bluff code and should have been included on all transmissions. Two weeks after the initial information was received saying Madeline was in hospital, other messages were again being transmitted by ‘her’. The fact that the bluff code was omitted and it was not Noor but the Germans, who were using Noor’s transmitter to send fake messages, raised no concern.

Because of her attempts of escape, and the fact that she had not broken down during integration, Noor was classified as “a very dangerous prisoner”. In November 1943 she was moved from Paris to a prison deep within the boarders of Germany. Here the woman who called herself Noor Baker was kept in solitary confinement and bound in chains, she was secured in such a way, that she was unable to feed or wash herself. There is some indication that she was brutally tortured.

In September 1944, almost ten months after she was first arrested, Noor Baker was taken to another prison. From there, along with three other women, these too were ‘F’ Section agents; the small group of prisoners were sent on to the Dacheu Concentration Camp.  The day after they arrived, they were shot.

Hans Kieffer was the head of the Gestapo. At the Paris HQ he had tried to get Noor to confess to being a spy. After the war Kieffer made a sworn statement, confirming that “Madeline, after her capture showed great courage and we got no information whatsoever from her. I am sure that she also lied to us. We could never rely on anything she said.”

In 1949 Noor was posthumously awarded the George Cross (Britain’s highest award given for acts of gallantry),  It was one of only three that were awarded to women in World War II, for their bravery and courage.

(Note, relating to Noor’s brother military service – some sources give this as being the RAF and others, the Navy.)

References

BBC Timewatch

‘The Princess who would be Spy‘ World War II SOE Agent – Princess Noor Inayat Khan 1 January 1914 – 13 September 1944 by Andy Forbes

Noor Inyat Khan on the BBC  

Image at the top: India Quetta Platoon – These women were the first to enlist in the British Indian Army. Around 11,500 women worked as typists, drivers, switchboard operators, cipher works and general services, such as ferrying supplies for the troops. They would travel with the soldiers working behind the front lines. They were devoted, fearless yet unsung. Source Apne Desh Ko Jano          

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II

Africa’s contribution to the war was outstanding in that:

A number of major battles took place on the African continent.

Colonial Africa provided a fighting force of over half a million soldiers, hundreds of thousands more were engaged in this large continents’ naval, armoured and air force units. 

In Somaliland (Somalia) and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) Colonial Africa troops along with personnel from India, came up against the very best Italian fighting Battalions and defeated them. 

All over the Empire war time shortages were normal, Africa was the exception. It was the only region in the world that supplied a surplus of food and raw materials on an unprecedented scale for both the military and civilian population alike.

Goods such as: agricultural products and machinery; armaments; manufactured goods; cotton; sisal (used for making rope and twine); timber; rubber; minerals and precious metals, such as coal, copper, tin, diamonds and gold.

Her surpluses were exported to other parts of the colonial Empire where there were acute shortages. 

African Chiefs and Kings were also vital in the part they played in encouraging various tribes’ people to fight for the Empire.

A fact that is often over looked is, whilst the people of Britain were conscripted, (war service was made compulsory), and there was forced labour in some parts of the Empire; the vast majority of those who gave their service to the war effort from the Empire/Commonwealth countries, were volunteers. 

As well as fighting on African soil, colonial African servicemen were deployed in Burma, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Palestine.

Hardships: due to the fact that all the labour force was geared specifically towards the war effort and export, the people were unable to tend to their own plots of land; as a result, there was a shortage of food.

In it’s regular commentary and up-date on the war efforts around the empire, on Saturday 13th January 1940, The Times newspaper wrote:

…The contributions from the African Colonies are remarkable as any, for they are made by rulers and races who are considered to be among the more backwards of mankind, and yet they show the same …understanding of the issue as… those of the Asian and American continents.

Showing how these people of ‘basic understanding’ debated the issue of war the following was reported:

On the Gold Coast local chiefs put forward the case for Britain and that for Germany. At the close of the debate the judgment was in favour of King George and Britain. The head chief declared, ‘if the worst comes to the worst, he would take off his sandals and walk barefooted side by side with British soldiers right into the firing line’.

East Africa – Supporting the war effort, this man is hard at work in mechanical workshop.

Image at the top of the page: Radio operator of the Royal West African Field Force


ON THE HOME FRONT

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II

Empire citizens working in Britain

ASSISTING THE WAR EFFORT

1. Up to a million foreign troops could be stationed here in Britain at any one time  

2. This included, thousands of personnel from the Empire  

3. Many came to work in industry, some of these were skilled technicians

4. 5,500 West Indians were recruited by the RAF for ground crew duties, and 300 as pilots

5. A forestry unit of 525 men from British Honduras were employed by the ministry of Supply to work as Timber Jacks in the Scottish highlands  

King George VI inspecting African Merchant seamen in Liverpool

Not forgetting the merchant seamen from India, Africa, Malaya, Burma, the West Indies, China, Yemeni and Malta who risked their lives every time they went to sea carrying vital supplies for Britain and her Allies.  

*Most British people can only recall American GI’s. Occasionally this is extended to personnel from Australia, New Zealand and Canada – mainly those of European decent.

Ulric Cross

As a 24-year-old in 1941, Ulric Cross sailed from Trinidad to join the RAF to fight Nazi Germany. He trained as a navigator and excelled to the extent that he joined the elite Pathfinder squadron of Mosquito bombers.

By the end of the war, he had flown more than 80 bombing missions, including 21 over Berlin, and crash landed seven times.  He later told how his plane once limped back to Britain after losing an engine. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order before becoming a lawyer and eminent judge.

In 1956 Ulric went to Ghana to work for the Attorney Generals Office, then to the Cameroon to take up the post of Attorney General. From here, he went on to Tanzania where he first served as a High Court Judge and then the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University. In 1974 he returned to Trinidad as a High Court Judge.

And in his own words, Ulric Cross

More than 100 West Indians were decorated for courage

Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji

Statue of Mahinder Sigh Pujji at St. Andrew’s Gardens, Gravesend, England

Mohinder Singh Pujji joined the Indian Air Force in 1941 when he was twenty-two, the youngest of his group that came over from India to complete their pilot training. He refused to remove his turban to wear a helmet, and was told that he would be sent home, but he stood his ground.

The RAF needed good fighter pilots such as Pujji, so a special leather helmet was designed that would fit over his turban. It was tested and worked.  Mohinder Singh Pujji successfully won countless dogfights against German fighter planes.

On one mission, of the seven pilots that went out he was the sole survivor. He remained in Britain until the end of September 1941. From London he was stationed in the Western Desert (North Africa) for six months, followed by Afghanistan and Burma where he was made Flight Commander.

In 1945 Pujji was given a special assignment of locating 350 American troops who were lost in the jungle. In both locating and rescuing these troops, he was successful.

He was the only RAF pilot to fight in all three main theatres in the Second World.

Read more about Mohinder Singh Pujji in Kenley Revival

The Newham Recorder reflects on the life of Mohinder Singh Pujji

On the Home Front, Black Britain’s Assisted Too!

Major Charles Moody and the war service of the Moody family

Dr. Harold Moody came to England from Jamaica at the age of 22, to study medicine he qualified as a doctor and set up his practice in Peckham. (See Hidden History-Medicine file) During the Second World War, five of Dr. Moody’s six children (all were British by Birth) received army or RAF commissions. In 1940 his eldest son Charles Moody, born at 111 kings Road, Peckham, became the first Black British officer in the British Army during the Second World War when he joined the Royal West Kent Regiment.

Charles served in the infantry and the artillery in England and Africa, then in Italy and finally in Egypt, where he became a Major in 1945. At the end of the war he settled in Jamaica with B Company of the Caribbean Regiment. Charles Moody became Colonel in 1961, and was awarded an OBE in 1966 as the first Commanding Officer of the Jamaican Territorial Army.

Dr. Moody’s son Ronald served in the RAF. His daughter Christine, and son Harold, both qualified as doctors and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. Christine was promoted to the rank of captain and Harold to that of major. His youngest son, Garth, was a pilot-cadet in the RAF.

In 1944 Dr. Harold Moody (pictured on the right) was the first on the scene at New Cross in London, after a German V2 rocket landed in the area. Nearly 200 were killed and hundreds are injured. The dead and injured were mainly mothers and their children out Christmas shopping.

Esther Brice

Born in Fulham in 1912, to a black father and a white mother, Esther Brice was a black working class girl. During World War Two, Esther worked as a cleaner and a fire watcher at Brompton Hospital in London. She recounts, ‘Times were hard during the war. Food was rationed … things were so bad that they began to sell whale meat, but I wouldn’t eat it. I didn’t like the look of it’.

Esther’s father, Joseph Brice, was the son of a Guyanese slave. Joseph arrived in England around the turn of the century. He was killed in March 1941 whilst making his way to work in blackout. After her father’s death, a kind neighbour gave Esther a home.

Esther wrote to her father’s brother in Guyana and asked him if he could send her some food. Two weeks later a large big box filled with goodies arrived. It was the first of many.

Book: Mother Country: Britain’s Black Community on the Home Front 1939-1945, by Stephen Bourne, Published by: Greenwood World Publishing 2009 

The Tuskegee Bombers

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II

America, Britain’s ally

The first all-black flying unit in the American military, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was formed in 1941. During World War II the servicemen trained at the segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.

The squadron were trained using single-engine plains at the Tuskegee base. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. became squadron’s commander, and their first mission was on June 2, 1943.

The Tuskegee airfield programme later expanded to train pilots and crew to operate two-engine B – 25 medium bombers. Most of the black aviation cadets were college undergraduates. In total 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee airfield course. The man flew 1,578 missions and 15, 533 sorties, and won over 850 medals.

George Spencer “Spanky” Roberts

Roberts, one of the first of the famed “Tuskegee Airmen” to fly and commanded fighter planes during World War II. After a long and decorated career with the U.S. Air Force, Roberts embarked on a second career as a Wells Fargo banker from 1968 to 1982.

In total, over one million African Americans served their country in WWII, including several thousand women. Despite the proven abilities of these troops, the U.S government kept its practice of segregation in place, right up until the close of the war.

**It is not our white brother’s fault that our story has not been told, but ours for not having an interest. Our media and church leaders, those who should lead us and help us remember our history; often let these occasions pass in blissful ignorance. We were not responsible for yesterday; however, today is in our hands. If we have a part in today, we too have to share the responsibility for tomorrow.

Dedicated to Charles Brown

A poem of courage for the British Nation in its darkest hour

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II

In World War II, when Britain had her back against the wall and it looked as though Germany was on the brink of invading; in an effort to prepare the British people for this outcome, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister, in his broadcast to the nation quoted the following poem.  

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honour us though dead!
Oh, kinsman! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murders, cowardly pack
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

What is remarkable, is, that few people at the time realised that the composer of this poem was Black. Written in 1919, it was in fact written by Claude McKay, a Jamaican by birth. It was written to urge black Americans to rise up against the persecution and racism of the time.

Books on McKay

Claude McKay, a black poets struggle for identity, by – Heather Hathaway

Relocating Claude McKay and Paul Marshall, by – Tyrone Tillery

Claude McKay: Selected Poems, Dover Thrift Editions (Paperback)

Claude McKay was one of the most distinguished poets of his time. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem (1928), a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo (1929), and Banana Bottom (1933)……. Often identified as McKay’s finest novel, Banana Bottom tells the story of Bita Plant, who returns to Jamaica after being educated in England and struggles to form an identity that reconciles the aesthetic values imposed upon her with her appreciation for her native roots.

My Black History

Claude McKay – Sparticus Educational