On Sunday 11th November many people will pay their respects to the brave men and women who died in the First and Second World Wars and subsequent conflicts to secure the freedoms we enjoy today.
Remembering those people is the least we can do, and in a world that seems to be moving further away from its humanity, I think this day of reflection is an ideal opportunity to stop thinking about ourselves for a bit and contemplate the thousands of people who made the ultimate sacrifice.
My dad, who is from Barbados, served in the British Army. He doesn’t talk much about his service but I know he is proud of being in the military and I am proud of him too. I am also proud of the countless men and women from the Caribbean, or with Caribbean heritage, who have served the UK in uniform from WWI to the present day.
I’ve already written about black WWI soldier Walter Tull on this blog but there are literally thousands of Walter Tull’s throughout our history who haven’t even been recognised for their contributions to keep Britain and its allies safe.
I mentioned in a recent post about the famous ‘Windrush Generation’ how it was news to me that the Windrush ship was actually on its return leg, when it brought hundreds of West Indians to the UK with dreams of a better life.
On the way out to the Caribbean it was packed with soldiers who had fought in WWII and were returning home to their islands with physical and emotional wounds. It saddens me that we weren’t taught that side of the story at all in school.
An article which speaks of the continuing ignorance surrounding our contribution to the UK over the years through blood, sweat and tears, and the damage it has caused, is currently on the BBC website – The Caribbean honours its overlooked WW1 soldiers.
This is a well-written piece by Gemma Handy which specifically looks at servicemen from Antigua and Barbuda who volunteered to take part in the First World War and were still treated badly by the UK.
Speaking to the BBC, the chairman of the Ex-Servicemen’s Association in Antigua Pagget Messiah says: “Blacks were begrudgingly accepted into the war effort, but their support was absolutely essential. Without it, the outcome would have been very different.”
The article also mentions how the Cenotaph in Antigua still does not feature all of the names of the men from the island who died in the Great War between 1914-1918.
But I believe the fact that their story is being told now is still an important act of remembrance, and I hope more stories like this are uncovered and shared so that everyone knows the people of the Caribbean played our part – lest we forget.