West Indian officers in WWI

I read recently on the BBC website about a man of Jamaican descent called David Louis Clemetson who volunteered to join the armed forces in WWI and became an officer in the Yeomanry in 1915 which is today’s equivalent of the territorial army.

The BBC suggests that this would make him the first black officer in the British army rather than Walter Tull although it does admit that Tull was an officer in the regular army which is an important distinction. But these two men along with another man of Jamaican descent called George Bemand (who apparently lied about his black heritage so he could get around regulations which forbid black officers in the British army at that time) were obviously incredibly brave and proud.

In fact according to the BBC article on Clemetson, 16,000 West Indians served in the rank and file in WWI in segregated units like the British West India regiments and I am extremely honoured that these soldiers were willing to die to secure a better future for generations unknown.

I also find it endlessly fascinating that so long ago people who were descendants of slaves were voluntarily fighting for the British and dying for the Empire.

These stories seem to be coming to light more and more because of the centenary of the first World War and I am glad that we are finding out about this rich history which shows the unbelievable contribution people of Caribbean descent have made to this island over many years in blood, sweat and tears.

Check out the full story of David Louis Clemetson on the BBC website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31796542

Stepping stones and milestones

Since November 29th 1978 through to the match against Scotland on November 18th 2014, 76 black players of either African or Caribbean descent have pulled on a white shirt and played for England’s international football side.

Below is a timeline of some of the major football highlights achieved in the UK by players who were either born in the Caribbean or are of Caribbean descent between 1881 and 2013.

1881 – Andrew Watson (born in British Guiana / Guyanese mother) won three international caps for Scotland

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1909Walter Tull (Barbadian father) signed professionally for Tottenham Hotspur for a signing fee of £10 (pictured above)

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1921 – Jack Leslie (Jamaican father) was the only professional black player in England during his time with Plymouth Argyle (pictured above)

1937 – Alfred Charles (born in Trinidad) was the first black player to sign for Southampton but only made one appearance

1948 – Lloyd Lindbergh “Lindy” Delapenha (born in Jamaica) joined Portsmouth

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1951 – Giles Heron (born in Jamaica) became the first Afro-Caribbean player to play first team football for Celtic (pictured above)

1960 – Tony Collins (black father – origin unknown but likely Barbadian) was the first black manager in the English Football League, taking charge at Rochdale A.F.C. from June 1960 until September 1967

1968 – Clyde Best (born in Bermuda) one of the first black players in First Division football and was awarded a MBE in 2006 for services to football and Bermuda

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1971 – Brendon Batson (born in Grenada) was the first black player to play for Arsenal’s first team and was awarded a MBE in 2000 and OBE in 2015 for services to football (pictured above)

1977 – Laurie Cunnigham (Jamaican parents) became one of the first black Caribbean players to play for England at any level when he turned out for the U21s v Scotland

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Nov 29th 1978 – Viv Anderson (Jamaican parents) became the first Black footballer to play as a full international for England and was awarded a MBE in 1999 for services to football (pictured above)

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1981 – Justin Fashanu (Guyanese mother) was the first black footballer to command a £1 million transfer fee with his move from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest (pictured above)

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May 1981 – Garth Crooks (Jamaican parents) became the first Black Caribbean player to score in an FA Cup final (pictured above)

1982 – Luther Blissett (born in Jamaica) was the first black player ever to score a hat-trick for England

1988 – Garth Crooks (Jamaican parents) became the first black chairman of the Professonal Footballers’ Association (picture see above)

1990 – 2010 Dwight York (born in Tobago) jointly holds the record number of participations in different World Cup competitions, including qualifying stages – six in total

1991 – Aslie Pitter (Jamaican parents) founded Britain’s first and most successful gay football club Stonewall FC (in 2010 he was appointed a MBE for his work against homophobia

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June 1993 – Paul Ince (Barbadian parents) became England’s first black captain (pictured above)

1997 – Uriah Rennie (Jamaican parents) became the first Black referee in the Premier League

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May 1998 – Sol Campbell (Jamaican parents) captained England at international level (pictured above)

1998 – Robbie Earle (Jamaican parents) scored Jamaica’s first ever World Cup finals goal in a 3–1 defeat by Croatia

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1998 – John Barnes (born in Jamaica / Trinidadian father / Jamaican mother) was awarded a MBE and in 2006 he was voted by Liverpool fans at number five in their poll of 100 players who shook the Kop (pictured above)

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2000 – Ian Wright (Jamaican parents) who was one of England’s most capped players was awarded a MBE for services to football (pictured above)

2006 – Shaka Hislop (Trinidadian parents) took part in Trinidad’s first ever World Cup finals appearance in 2006

Mar 2008 – Rio Ferdinand (St Lucian father) captained England at international level

June 2008 – Paul Ince (Barbadian parents) became the first black British manager in England’s Premier League

May 2013 – Ashley Cole (Barbadian father) captained England for one night only to mark his 100th England appearance

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2013 – Paul Elliott (Jamaican parents) became the first Black footballer to be awarded a CBE. The honour was for services to equality and diversity in football (pictured above)

An officer and a gentleman

Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in Kent in 1888 – his father was Barbadian and his mother was English. He became an orphan at the age of eight and was brought up at a national Methodist children’s home in Bethnal Green.

Tull became the second mixed race person to play in the top flight Football League when he joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1909. In 1911 he joined Northampton Town where he made over 100 appearances before WWI cut short his promising career.

Tull died on the battlefield in France after a military career that was as distinguished as his time as a footballer. His life is a unique, educational and moving story that is an inspiration to every person of Caribbean descent.

 

References / further reading:

http://www.vasili.co.uk/history-of-black-footballers.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2008/02/20/walter_tull_feature.shtml

http://www.100greatblackbritons.com/bios/walter_tull.html

http://www.centenarynews.com/article?id=3000