Unit History: British West Indies Regiment

British West Indies Regiment
Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 many West Indians left the colonies to enlist in the army in the UK and were recruited into British regiments. In October and November 1915 many of the contingents were brought together at Seaford, West Sussex, England and were formed into the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR). The regiment’s battalions saw service in East Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, France and Italy. Two battalions were involved in fighting against the Turks in Palestine and Jordan in 1918. A total of 397 officers and 15,204 other ranks served in the BWIR. The regiment totalled twelve battalions, and engaged in a number of roles and theatres. It was a volunteer regiment consisting of troops from the British colonies of the West Indies, which served on the Western Front and in the Middle East during the First World War. The Regiment was awarded 5 DSOs, 9 MCs, 2 MBEs, 8 DCMs, 37 MMs and 49 Mentions in Dispatches. Although two battalions of the BWIR were involved in fighting in Palestine and Jordan against the Turkish army (where they sustained many casualties and honours) the War Office determined that Black colonial troops would not fight against Europeans, consequently most members of BWIR functioned in non-combat positions, as labour battalions. Members of the BWIR also experienced discrimination in housing, promotion, treatment in demobilisation and even pay.

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