British West Indies Regiment

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On the Somme, September 1916.

In 1915 the British Army formed a second West Indies regiment from Caribbean volunteers who had made their way to Britain. Initially, these volunteers were drafted into a variety of units within the army, but in 1915 it was decided to group them together into a single regiment, named the British West Indies Regiment. The similarity of titles has sometimes led to confusion between this war-time unit and the long established West India Regiment. Both were recruited from black Caribbean volunteers and a number of officers from the WIR were transferred to the BWIR.

Initially the new regiment was made up of men from:

The British West Indies Regiment played a significant role in the First World War especially in Palestine and Jordan where they were employed in military operations against the Turkish Army.[1] During the Palestine Campaign. General Allenby sent the following telegram to the Governor of Jamaica: "I have great pleasure in informing you of the gallant conduct of the machine-gun section of the 1st British West Indies Regiment during two successful raids on the Turkish trenches. All ranks behaved with great gallantry under heavy rifle and shell fire and contributed in no small measure to the success of the operations".[2][3]

A total of 15,600 men of the British West Indies Regiment served with the Allied forces. Jamaica contributed two-thirds of these volunteers, while others came from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the Bahamas, British Honduras (now Belize), Grenada, British Guiana (now Guyana), the Leeward Islands, St Lucia and St Vincent. Nearly 5,000 more subsequently volunteered.[4]

High wastage led to further drafts being required from Jamaica, British Honduras and Barbados before the regiment was able to begin training. The regiment totalled twelve battalions, and engaged in a number of roles and theatres. The British West Indies Regiment was finally disbanded in 1921.

Battle honours[edit]

  • The Great War (11 battalions): Messines 1917, Ypres 1917, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Pursuit to Mons, France and Flanders 1916–18, Italy 1918, Rumani, Egypt 1916–17, Battles of Gaza, El Mughar, Nebi Samwil, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Battle of Megiddo 1918, Nablus, Palestine 1917–18


World War I 81 medals for bravery were won and 49 men were mentioned in despatches.[4]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of World War I By Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts (p.508)
  2. ^ Page 88, Part 198, "The Times History of the War"
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of World War I By Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts
  4. ^ a b "Caribbean participants in the First World War". Memorial Gates Trust. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 

External links[edit]

A White Man's War? World War One and the West Indies