The Caribbean’s Great War – Project Update

The West India Committee invites you use the free material available in our Caribbean’s Great War project that highlights roles played by the people of the Caribbean in the First World War. The West India Committee was at the heart of the British Caribbean’s war effort, and in 1915 it established the West Indian Contingent Committee in response to the British Government’s decision to accept the voluntary service of West Indians. The records held by the Committee give a fascinating insight into the Caribbean’s role in the First World War and are the premier primary source on the subject.

The story of Caribbean during the period is often overlooked. As a part of the Centenary commemorations of the formation of the British West Indies Regiment comprised of over 16,000 volunteers from the region, the West India Committee will reveal its extensive and unique archive that includes unseen records of the Caribbean’s Great War. The Committee was pivotal in delivering the British Caribbean’s war effort. Its West Indian Contingent sub-committee administered to the needs of tens of thousands of West Indian servicemen and their families.

Official records on the British West Indies Regiment were damaged during the Blitz in 1941, making the West India Committee’s vast collection the only comprehensive primary source material on this aspect of the First World War. Moreover, the meticulously maintained records of the Committee provide insight into the broader picture of the Caribbean’s role in the war, detailing home front efforts such as donations and recruitment rallies while keeping track of West Indians who joined the British Armed Forces.

The West India Committee undertook this yearlong project in partnership with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and in partnership with the Museum of London Docklands, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Jamaican Defence Force. The project includes:

- A six-month exhibition at the Museum of London, Docklands;
- A short documentary film (see above);
- An interactive eBook;
- An education pack and poster; and
An interactive website that includes the following:
- The War Diary of the 1st Battalion British West Indies Regiment
- The West India Committee Treasurer's Minute Book
- Online galleries from the West Indies and the conflict
- A Newspaper cuttings book from the war
- The West India Committee Minutes from 1916-22
- A digitised version of ‘Jamaica's Part In The Great War’ by Frank Cundall
- The West India Committee’s General Meetings Minute Book 1916-22
- The West Indian Contingent Committee’s Minute Book 1915-20
- The West India Committee Circulars from 1914-18