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Impacts - British Empire

How soliders of diverse ethnicities, from around the British Empire & Nepal, helped Britain in the First Wolrd War!

With the centenary of the First World War 1918- 2018, there are many others who have been overlooked in the history books and need to be acknowledged.

British West Indies Regiment

The British West Indies Regiment (BWIR) was formed as a separate Black unit within the British Army. The first recruits sailed from Jamaica to Britain and arrived in October 1915 to train at a camp near Seaford on the Sussex coast.

The 3rd battalion arrived in early 1916 in Plymouth while other battalions sailed direct to Egypt, arriving in Alexandria in March 1916.

British West Indies Regiment

West Indian troops stacking 8 inch shells at a dump on the Gordon Road, Ypres, October 1917

However, the Black soldiers of the BWIR were mostly led by white officers and used as non-combatant soldiers in Egypt, Mesopotamia and parts of Europe.

The BWIR spent much of their time at labouring work, such as loading ammunition, laying telephone wires and digging trenches, but they were not permitted to fight as a battalion.

They travelled to the ‘Mother Country’ from the Caribbean at their own expense, to take part in the fight against the Germans.


Their support was needed, and they gave it

By the war's end in November 1918, a total of 15,204 black men had served in the BWIR.

By the end of the war the BWIR had lost 185 soldiers (killed or died from wounds).

A further 1,071 died from illness and 697 were left wounded.

A further The British Empire called on people across the world to sacrifice themselves to the Cause.

Image of Walter Tull

WALTER TULL has become the most celebrated black British soldier of the First World War. He enlisted in December 1914, suffered shell shock, returned to action in the battle of the Somme and was decorated with the 1914-15 star and other British war and victory medals. He was commissioned as an officer in 1917.

Tull was mentioned in dispatches for his 'gallantry and coolness' at the battle of Piave in Italy in January 1918.

However, two months later he was killed in No Man's Land during the second battle of the Somme.

Indian Soliders marching - British Empire World War 1

World War 1 Enlist Poster
World War 1 Enlist Poster
World War 1 Enlist Poster
World War 1 Enlist Poster

Only 2% of people in the UK are aware that this force from an undivided India (consisting of present-day Pakistan, India and Bangladesh), fought and died alongside British troops, according to an ICM survey released by the thinktank British Future to coincide with the Living Islam event

Educating people about lesser-known narratives from the conflict is being viewed as a way of countering anti-Muslim prejudice and, potentially, tackling alienation and the lure of violent extremism among some young Muslims

Commemoration is a force of good in the community because it brings people together.

“It gives a sense of belonging in this country.

It gives young people a stake in this country.”

Approximately 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War One, and over 74,000 of them lost their lives.

But history has mostly forgotten these sacrifices, which were rewarded with broken promises of Indian independence from the British government, writes Shashi Tharoor.

Postcard comments from Indian Soldiers at the Front:

"The shells are pouring like rain in the monsoon," declared one.

"The corpses cover the country, like sheaves of harvested corn,"wrote another.

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