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Museum of London Docklands highlights the role of the British West Indies Regiment in the First World War

Posted  19 November 2015 in News  
By Kate Clements
Troops of the West Indies Regiment in camp on the Albert - Amiens road, September 1916. © IWM (Q 1202)

The Caribbean’s Great War, a new display at the Museum of London Docklands, will acknowledge and celebrate the little-known role played by the Caribbean during the First World War.

The region’s main contributions to the war effort included supplying natural resources, donating cash contributions raised by committees from the region and London, and in providing more than 16,000 much-needed soldiers, each of whom volunteered.

These volunteers were initially drafted into a variety of units within the British Army, until the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR) was established in 1915. It consisted of men of every class, creed and colour, reflecting the Caribbean as one of the most diverse places in the world.

Housed within the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery, the new display showcases a variety of items. These include recruitment posters, photographs of the BWIR, commemorative stamps and war honours awarded to the soldiers. Many served on the Western Front in labour battalions as well as in front lines roles in Africa and the Middle East, taking on the Ottoman Empire.

The display was created in partnership with the West India Committee. The organisation opened up its vast archive and 500-year-old collections as part of its ongoing project, The Caribbean’s Great War: The West India Committee’s Unique Perspective – an HLF-funded project that reveals the hidden history of the Caribbean during the First World War.

Blondel Cluff, Chief Executive of the West India Committee, said:

“The Caribbean’s Great War project is a prime example of the colossal hidden, mutual and positive heritage shared between the Caribbean and the wider British community, much of which is reflected in the collections held within London.”

The Caribbean’s Great War display will be open from Friday 6 November until Monday 2 May 2016.

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