A moving tribute to thousands of men from the Caribbean has been put on display at the Museum of London Docklands .
A total of 16,000 West Indians volunteered to fight for the British West Indies Regiment in the First World War, and their story has now been told in a comprehensive museum exhibition for the first time.
Exhibition manager Sarah Creed said the motivation for The Caribbean's Great War was to inform people about how different cultures assisted with the war effort.
“It was the West India Committee who approached the museum with this idea,” she said. “It was part of a wider project they were doing with the Caribbean and its involvement with the First World War and they wanted to inform the public.
“We are thrilled to put their collection and archive on display – with it being the centenary of the war, there is a lot more focus on the stories that are under-told, with certain fronts of the war that are very little-discussed like in Palestine, the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East in general.
“When people talk about the First World War, they tend to talk about the Western Front so, unfortunately, the British West Indies Regiment’s story is very under-told.”
More than 16,000 men from the Caribbean went to fight for the British armed forces around modern-day Israel, Palestine and Turkey. As part of a direct intervention from King George V in 1915, a dedicated West Indies Regiment was formed.
“They were all volunteers,” said Sarah. “There was no subscription at all – it is a very interesting topic to look into and analyze to see what their interests and allegiances were.
“The entire collection came from the West India Committee – it is a very large private collection, so we feel very pleased to have it.”
After two minutes’ silence to remember those who lost their lives on November 11, director of the Museum of London Sharon Ament said the bravery of the men should lot be lost to the mists of time.
She said: “This display marks an important moment in all of our history. The Caribbean played an important role in men, machines and materials for the First World War.
“The Caribbeans volunteered in their droves, and the regiment, like the Caribbean itself, was a melting pot of men from every race, creed and class, all determined to do their bit for the empire.
“The regiment was not allowed to take part in the victory parade in London at the end of the war, which was really so awful – it makes me feel very emotional when I think about it.
“Despite its contribution and its tally of medals and awards, it was disbanded in 1921 and was forgotten from history until now.
“It is important on this Armistice Day that we remember the contribution and bravery and the debt we owe these 16,000 Caribbean volunteers.”
The exhibition is on at the Museum of London Docklands until May 2, 2016.