Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Asian/West Indian/African Commonwealth Soldiers


crackingbloke
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello All

To start from the beginning my wife and I, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund produced a book and website about the men from two villages who died in the World War's. Very flatteringly a number of local school have used the material in their school work and also use the material in the Remembrance Service in November. During lock down things have obviously been quiet, but before lockdown and again now we are out of it one of the schools (secondary) have asked us for more input. What we would like to do is encourage the students to look back through their families and see if they had a relative who served. Now when you think about it they will be going back four or five generations, so should find someone if they are keen enough. Obviously we can give them a crib sheet to get them going.

Our problem is that with the ethnic diversity in the community we need to know if there is material available for other Commonwealth soldier. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are not an immediate problem, but what about Asian and African Soldier? For any number of reasons we feel that unless we can be inclusive we may do more harm than good.

We want to make youngsters  of all races feel included so we are asking what material is available for men who served in the British or Indian Army of the Great War period and where can we find it.

Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe forum member @MaureenE has a great deal of knowledge on the Indian side via the work she has done for the fibis website https://www.fibis.org/

 

When I've had cause to look in the past I believe many of the individual islands that made up the former British West Indies have websites dedicated to those who served the empire in both wars.

 

And while not wanting to stir things up given the recent heated debate on the forum, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission recent mea culpa about under-reporting and inappropriate commemoration of those who died from the non-white parts of the British Empire may see the information available on their website fleshed out.

 

Cheers,

Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Indian armed forces personnel records are held at the National Archives of India in Delhi with the contact email address given as: archives@nic.in

 

There is also reference to  service files held by the Adjutant General's Office in Delhi. Since both sets of files are held in Delhi it seems likely there is only one set of files but this is unclear. The files at the Adjutant General's Office are filed by the service record numbers, so it is necessary to have this information.

This information is from the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Indian Army https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_Army

Although this page focuses  mainly on  the British In the Indian Army, most of the information also applies to native Indians such as the page "Indian Army List online" , although mainly about officers https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_Army_List_online

 

There is also the page Medal Rolls https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Medal_Rolls which has some Historical books online relating to Deeds of Valour, Honours, Meritorious Service Medals etc.

 

The page First World War https://wiki.fibis.org/w/First_World_War  also has some information including the category The National Archives/War Diaries  and links under "External links" and "Historical books online".

 

Maureen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The books listed at the end of the post are what I have in the Medical Bibliography, though I'm afraid they may not be easy to get hold of. I know there's also some African testimony in Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis's compilation A war in words: the First World War in diaries and letters. (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

See also: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/leisure-and-libraries/parks-and-green-spaces/chattri-memorial

https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/places/surrey/woking/woking/woking_muslim_burial_ground/

https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/subjects/military/india-woking/

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/we-were-there-black-history-month

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/bhm-heroes/how-black-soldiers-helped-britain-in-first-world-war/

https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/race-racism-and-military-strategy

https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/class-clips-video/history-gcse-multi-cultural-troops-on-the-western-front/zk4vrj6

https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/black-servicemen-unsung-heroes-of-the-first-world-war/

Best wishes,

seaJane

Collins J. Dr Brighton’s Indian patients, December 1914–January 1916. Brighton: Brighton Books, 1997.

Das S (ed.). Race, empire and First World War writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[De la Pasture Mrs H] (ed.). Our days on the Gold Coast, in Ashanti, in the Northern Territories, and the British sphere of occupation in Togoland. Edited by Lady Clifford. Accra: Printed and produced by Mr. Charles Fairweather and his staff, in the Government Printing Office … in aid of the Red Cross, 1918; London: John Murray, 1919. https://archive.org/details/ourdaysongoldcoa00clif (1918), https://archive.org/details/ourdaysongoldcoa00clifuoft (1919).

Ford K, Shanahan L. ‘Treated like flowers: the Indian army at the Royal Pavilion Hospital, Brighton, 1914-1916.’ In: Wellcome Collection, Deutsches Hygiene Museum Dresden. War and medicine. Larner M, Peto J, Monem N (eds). London: Black Dog, 2008.

Howe GD. Race, war and nationalism: a social history of West Indians in the First World War. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers; James Currey Publishers, 2002.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Asians... Chinese Labour Corps.West indian soldiers ... British  West Indies Regiment.

Africans in British Army may be more difficult as I have Read names may have been given by the Recruiting Serjeant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just wanted to say that a combination of low education, wars (not the Great War), being refugees, emigration, and last but not least the language barrier between the new & old generations means that my family doesn't have a great handle on these family history things, so I doubt that I could complete such an assignment without hiring researchers & translators in the countries where my grandfathers were born. You might want to check with the school to find out if their students face similar challenges.

 

I also think that depending on how the assignment is framed it could end up highlighting the racism faced by POC soldiers, rather than their service. That's probably more of a matter for the teachers, though.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please let me thank you all for your advice and input. As knittinganddeath has pointed out so well, it could be a minefield, and the last thing we would want to do is make any student feel out of place. I do not pretend to know the diversity of the schools in the area, but it's the West Midlands so I'd be shocked if there wasn't some students who traced their family history back to the East. I can plug it now as there are only 10 books left for sale, but the Lost Sons of Wall Heath and Kingswinford has done very well, talk of low education, I've spent my working life laying bricks and my wife is a professional carer, no degree's here. The local schools use the book in a number of ways, concentrating on the men who lived in the villages and honoring them each armistice. There is a local social history teacher who goes round the schools funded by English Heritage and he has used the book as an example of what can be achieved.  Teachers have encouraged their students to ask family members about any service there might have been by their forbears and it made me feel my age and brought it home to me with a bump when one your man of 13/14 ish told me his Nan remembered as a very your girl being in an air raid during the last War. He hadn't thought to ask any more, where she was living was her father serving etc. So to help these youngsters to trace their roots in the Great War they will have to go back 4 or more generations, a big ask. But if they don't then in time these lost service men and women will be forgotten. Of ourse, the teachers that come up with these ideas don't really have any idea the amount of hours research like this takes.

Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, crackingbloke said:

well, talk of low education, I've spent my working life laying bricks and my wife is a professional carer, no degree's here.

My apologies -- I did not intend to imply that one needs a degree to do good work in history or genealogy. I was thinking about how low levels of literacy & language barriers (among other things) must have impacted intellectual curiosity in earlier generations of my family, hence there was little inclination to either ask about or record personal stories/family history. By the time someone did develop an interest in such things, all the ones with the most relevant information were dead.

 

I hope that your projects for these kids will help them appreciate their personal histories, and maybe encourage them to talk to older relatives before it's too late. Only when my grandfather died did I really understand all that I had lost.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, crackingbloke said:

I do not pretend to know the diversity of the schools in the area, but it's the West Midlands so I'd be shocked if there wasn't some students who traced their family history back to the East.

 

However there would need to be some expectation setting. We've had threads on the forum before where stats have been bandied around that less than a third of the eligible male population of each of England, Scotland and Wales actually served in the armed forces - and those countries were subject to conscription. In the case of Ireland which was a volunteer only regime it was barely more than one fifth. Yes there may have been specific sentiments there that potentially kept the rate down, but I suspect if equivalent percentages were available for the white dominion colonies it probably would be below that of Ireland. While there may have been a strong native element to the Indian Army, in relative terms it would probably be in the single digits of the potential eligible male population. Given the size of the China Labour Corps and amongst the Merchant Marine, a Chinese student in your locality might have similar odds of finding someone in their family tree who served the British Empire. I say "suspect" - would be great to know if anyone has done a documented estimate.

 

The British Empire has history of identifying martial races - Gurkha's and Sikhs spring to mind, so actually increasing the chances for a descendant of those communities while reducing it for others. Elsewhere the chance that those enlisting would actually be likely to see combat - the British West Indies Regiment was almost exclusivley used as Line of Communications troops - may have actually served as a discouragement.

 

On the other side of the equation, four generations \ Great Great Grandfathers would give you 8 individuals, and five generations \ Great Great Great Grandfathers would give you 16 individuals, thus increasing the possibility that at least one of them or one of their siblings might have served.

 

Cheers,

Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again thanks for the input. Firstly, Knittinganddeath (what made you chose that handle I can't imagine?) No offense perceived or taken. I'm a very early dyslectic, picked up in the 60's, my only claim to fame. I am very aware of my short comings and it has led me over the years to "ask the stupid question, rather than make the stupid mistake" and that's what I'm doing here. MaureenE has given me a great heads up and I have a far better idea of what lies ahead.

Peter you have hit the nail on the head. If you go back far enough you will find something. As a side point, my father was called up from school in 1944 and told me how lucky he was to get into the Royal Signals and be at signal school during the d-day landings. On the other hand his father, my grandfather took part in the landings, but as a trinity house pilot, so not actually a service man. My maternal grandfather was a RN regular.

Now I know about my great grand parents, but I am pretty keen. How many secondary school children are going to be prepared to go back that far and further, a rhetorical question. But, if we elder people don't encourage them then the fallen and the endeavour of that generation will be forgotten.

Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The following website is excellent regarding Caribbean contribution https://westindiacommittee.org/historyheritageculture/

 

It is funded by amongst others The National Army Museum, Lord Ashcroft, CWGC and the Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by Hugh Strachan.

 

During the WW1 Centenary I did do some work in Bradford in a secondary school with a 95% BAME intake. The response from the students was very positive and a number were able to bring family experiences of both world wars as well as the aftermath especially the partition of India. One girl had an ancestor who had won the VC during WW1 and several had photographs of family members during their military service

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, ilkley remembers said:

The following website is excellent regarding Caribbean contribution https://westindiacommittee.org/historyheritageculture/

 

It is funded by amongst others The National Army Museum, Lord Ashcroft, CWGC and the Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by Hugh Strachan.

 

During the WW1 Centenary I did do some work in Bradford in a secondary school with a 95% BAME intake. The response from the students was very positive and a number were able to bring family experiences of both world wars as well as the aftermath especially the partition of India. One girl had an ancestor who had won the VC during WW1 and several had photographs of family members during their military service

That is very encouraging. Thanks for the heads up. It's appreciated.

Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...