British-Caribbean Soldiers (02:57)
More than 10,000 men and women from Britain's Caribbean colonies volunteered to fight for Britain in World War II. Some believed if Adolf Hitler won, he would bring back slavery. After the war, they struggled to get recognition for their service and be accepted into British society.
West Indian Volunteers (02:29)
In 2014, the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton unveiled Britain's only Caribbean and Africa war memorial. Sam King, who was born in Jamaica and served in the Royal Air Force, believes most people have never heard of the contributions of soldiers from the West Indians.
Barred from Service (06:43)
When World War II began, Britain was only accepting soldiers of "pure European descendant", which stopped black citizens from joining. Students in British school in the Caribbean were taught a sense of loyalty to the kingdom. With Benito Mussolini's sacking of Ethiopia in 1935 and Hitler's actions at the 1936 Olympics, the fear of Fascism for black people had been increasing for years.
Caribbean Sailors (03:50)
Once the war started, Nazi U-boat attacks turned the Caribbean Sea into a war zone. In 1939, the Colonial Office announced that anyone born in the colonies could enlist, but the purity law was still in practice. Some sailors, like Allan Wilmot, slipped through the regulations and served on British ships in the Caribbean.
Merchant Navy Seamen (07:10)
By 1942, West Indian and African sailors were being recruited into the Merchant Navy. Victor Brown and Winston Murphy, both born in Jamaica, were serving on an oil tanker when it was attacked by Nazi U-boats off the coast of Nova Scotia. A third of black merchant seamen who served during World War II were killed.
Caribbean Airmen (04:47)
By 1940, the Royal Air Force had lost thousands of soldiers in the Battle of Britain and began accepting volunteers from the Caribbean. Ricky Richardson saw an advertisement in a Jamaican newspaper and became one of the 500 Caribbean airmen to make it through the selection process. Richardson and Roy Aujia flew bomber planes in bomb raids over Germany and received medals for bravery.
Civilian War Effort (01:23)
Sam Martinez went from Belize to Scotland to become a forestry worker, supplying lumber for the war effort. He considered himself a citizen of the British Empire and wanted to help protect it.
Caribbean Population (04:13)
As British armed forces began accepting more Caribbean soldiers, a mass migration of people from the Caribbean began. Many got a different view of Britain from what they had learned in school. At the time, many Europeans in Britain had never met a black person before.
American Racism (03:21)
Soldiers from the Caribbean were respected by others in the British armed forces. Most faced the harshest racism once white American soldiers began arriving. Unlike their British counterparts, black American soldiers were segregated.
Caribbean Veterans (05:10)
Once the war ended, the British government was unsure of what do to with the thousands of Caribbean soldiers who had relocated to Britain. Though some, like the forestry workers, were repatriated as British citizens, airmen and sailors were forced out and told to return to the Caribbean. Some found success back home, but many struggled to find jobs and returned to England to help the rebuilding effort.
Mixed-Race Couples (02:41)
By the 1970s, 500,000 people from the Caribbean resettled in Britain. Serviceman Jake Jacobs returned from Trinidad to marry his wartime girlfriend, Mary. Like the thousands of other interracial couples, they struggled to find a landlord who would rent to them.
West Indian Communities (05:10)
By the 1950s, British communities began celebrating their Caribbean heritage with carnivals and dance halls. Caribbean veterans organized a march through Brixton to honor their contribution to the British forces.
Credits: Fighting For King and Empire - Britain's Caribbean Heroes (00:33)
Credits: Fighting For King and Empire - Britain's Caribbean Heroes
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