The Caribbean’s Great War is a Heritage Lottery funded project to highlight the involvement of the Caribbean and her people in the First World War. The West India Committee was the heart of the Caribbean’s war effort in Britain and in 1915 established the West Indian Contingent Committee in response to the British Government’s decision to raise a West Indian army. The records held by the Committee provide a rare insight into the Caribbean’s role in the First World War, and much of what is now available has not been seen for a century. As a part of the project, a temporary exhibition has been put on at the Museum of London Docklands which features a Roll of Honour to the British West Indies Regiment. The exhibition is housed in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery at the Museum of London Docklands and runs from 6 November 2015 – 2 May 2016.
Official records on the service of the British West Indies Regiment were destroyed during the Blitz, and the Committee’s records help our understanding of this hidden history. 16,000 volunteered in the regiment and they served in all theatres of the war. Over 1,500 perished, mainly though disease. The British West Indies Regiment earned the following battle honours for their service:
Pursuit to Mons
France and Flanders 1916–18
Battles of Gaza
Nebi Samwil Jerusalem
Battle of Megiddo 1918
The War Diary of the 1st Battalion British West Indies Regiment, the Committee’s minutes from the war and the meticulously detailed West India Committee Circulars from 1914-1918 shed light on this story. The records feature in the Archive section of this website, and the West India Committee has shared its photo albums from the period which can be found in the Gallery section.
You can also find a free eBook, education pack and poster for young people in the Downloads section alongside databases for fallen West Indian servicemen courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The West India Committee’s unique resources allow the organisations and individuals involved in the project to foster a greater understanding of the Caribbean’s experience of the Great War, thereby strengthening our understanding of the millions of servicemen from the Commonwealth who bravely fought fought and died for Britain and the shared heritage which connects us all.
This project would not have been made possible without the invaluable support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Museum of London, Lord Ashcroft, Sir Hew Strachan, Richard Smith, the British Army, the Jamaican Defence Force and a band of hard-working and dedicated volunteers.
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