Tag Archives: Merchant navy

Caribbean contribution in the First World War

This is an introduction to a number of short blogs on sources for researching Caribbean service personnel in the First World War.Bahamas enlistment poster from wikicommons

At the outbreak of the First World War there were Caribbean and people of Caribbean descent already serving in the British army in British regiments and the West India Regiment, the Royal Navy and the merchant navy.

In the Caribbean the war was seen by many as a ‘white-man’s war’ or a European war and not their problem. But many wanted to serve to protect the Motherland and to fight as equals. Caribbeans living in Britain enlisted locally; people living in the Caribbean at first needed to travel to Britain to enlist. In Barbados and Trinidad the public arranged for citizens’ contingents to travel to the UK – these were ‘white’ middle-class men – planters, merchants, public servants and clerks, though correspondence with the Colonial Office suggests many were not pure-European. Many black men also made their way to Britain but the War Office resisted recruiting black Caribbeans and even suggesting repatriating some back to the Caribbean. Continue reading

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